I am always amazed at how much effort is required to setup and maintain a clean computing environment. I think back on my earliest days of computing on my Kaypro II, with its dual 5 1.4 inch floppy drives and its CP/M operating system. The majority of the Console Command Processor (CCP) was dedicated to managing the disk to maintain a “clean” environment with available space. During those days the ultimate way to create a clean environment was to get a new floppy disk and run the sysgen command to install a clean copy of CP/M on it. Then boot the computer with that disk and viola!
Forward to MS-DOS, where the situation doesn’t really change much except you now have a 10MB hard disk to store all your junk. Of course sooner or later the drive fails and you lose anything that wasn’t on the floppies in the first place but after the first or second time it happens you get in the habit of backing up your real stuff. And with a new drive comes a new OS and a clean environment.
Then there was NetWare. Finally some real storage to play with. I remember buying a physically massive 1G drive, loading it up with tons of stuff downloaded from Compuserve, Prodigy, PCTOOLS and OS2TOOLS (of course you had to be inside IBM for the last two). Now, I could install lots of great/marginal/bad software and really screw up my environment. I got into the habit of wiping out my environment, once a year, simply to clean it up.
Enter the Matrix, the Internet and the ability to download as many viruses as you please. Forget about a clean computing environment and worry about how to avoid real theft. Open access points, unsecured networks, unencrypted passwords, etc. Wireless, faceless and costly.
So now its 2010, and my wife just gave me an iPad for my birthday. A new "computer" and another chance to maintain a clean computing environment. I have watched my son and daughter play with their iTouch versions of is device for a while now and I could never really understand why they liked it so much. I simply assumed that it was because they are young / hip and I am a PC (kudos apple marketing).
Well maybe that’s not really so true anymore as I have evo-loved into a daily ubuntu user, fluent in Linux and the way of the web. It turns out that this device is really a debian variant and as my honor student son, enthusiastically tried to explain to me the concept of jail breaking, I finally fell in real like. It’s funny, he thinks of it as free as in beer, and I think of it as free as in liberty.
So now I have a dilemma. Do I hack away like many others and treat this device as another real computer to master and mess up. Get a shell and login as root and go to work. Or do I us this device as a true consumer. A terminal would be real nice. And maybe, just maybe, I could stop lugging around my laptop, maybe.