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connectedness is not just about the web

Some of you might have seen the graph that’s recently been circulating on the web, which shows how over the past decade the number of people using the Internet has been growing (no surprise there) but the percentage of people using the world wide web in the total number of Internet users  has in fact fallen dramatically. Sorry I don’t have a link to that graph so you’ll have to just trust me on this one. Now, just to make things clear and in case anyone’s wondering – the Internet and the World Wide Web are not the same thing. The world wide web is the hypertext thingy that you access through a web browser. Essentially is the sum total of all the static and dynamically generated html pages served by http servers (like apache) all over the world. The Internet, on the other hand, is what the world wide web runs on top of. And on the Internet http (which stands for hyper text transfer protocol) is just one of many communications protocols that can be used to share and transmit bits and bytes over the global network known as the Internet.

Now, for someone who was introduced to the Internet in the 1990’s, it’s easy to confuse the Internet and the world wide web. Back then if you were a geek you knew there was also ftp, and you probably knew about smtp and pop3 (those are the protocols commonly used by email clients and servers to this day) and then there was also telnet and so on and so forth but let me just say it again, only geeks knew about those things. 90% of the people that used the Internet in fact only ever used the world wide web – they surfed, which is a fancy way of saying that they basically opened a web browser and stared at web pages.

However, the Internet offers a lot more than just staring at web pages( even if they’re rich content web pages), at the most basic, fundamental level it offers connectedness. Enter smart phones with their apps and smart consumer electronics placing groceries orders for you online. The thing about all these new gadgets is that they don’t use the world wide web, they use their own other protocols, often proprietary, to talk to their servers and do stuff behind the scenes, like placing those orders for groceries I already mentioned or upgrading their firmware on the fly in the background without you even noticing.

And ironically as far as geeks are concerned – they’ve already had a truly connected system for quite some time – I’m talking about linux here. A good linux distro is several orders of magnitude more connected than even the latest version of Windows, Win7. I mean in Windows when your system detects hardware it doesn’t recognize it tries to find drivers for it online but, at least in my case, it has invariably failed to find any suitable drivers. It’s a completely different story in Ubuntu – it’s got huge online repositories of all sorts of software and it actually finds stuff in those repositories, downloads and installs it for you, without splashing those ridiculous install shields all across the screen.

Now here’s an illustration – a fresh Windows install doesn’t have Adobe Reader, naturally. So how do you go about installing Adobe Reader on a new Windows system – you open a browser, you go to http://www.google.com and search for Adobe Reader, or you may go straight to http://www.adobe.com, but the point is that you’ve got to use the world wide web in Windows, you’ve got to use a browser.

You can do that in Ubuntu also, but you don’t have to, you can go to the Software Centre and install it from there without even opening a browser. Now that’s what I call connectedness. Ubuntu, like any Linux distro worth its salt, is a true Internet operating system, unlike Windows. Windows may look nice and shiny but it’s a thing of the past, it’s not connected in the sense that Linux is always connected. If anything Windows, especially WinXP, breaks and soon becomes unusable if you use it to even just surf the Internet, unless you’ve got all sorts of anti-virus and anti-malware software installed on it and running twenty four seven, but even then it still breaks occasionally.  The only thing Windows is reasonably good for is gaming.

So what’s my point – it is this, if you considering getting a new computer, (especially if it’s a laptop for surfing the web and doing other stuff other than playing resource hungry video games) then you should really think about installing a free Linux distro on it instead of shelling out upward of 100 bucks on that old software relic of the 20th century known as Windows.

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