Chapter 6. A Place to Stand, with Access to Tools

The Linux Operating System and the Tools That Shape the Way You Work

Archimedes, the primordial engineer, had a favorite saying: "Give me a lever long enough, and a place to stand, and I will move the Earth." The old guy was not much given to metaphor, and was speaking literally about the mechanical advantage of really long levers, but behind his words there is a larger truth about work in general: to get something done, you need a place to work, with access to tools. My radio bench down in the basement is set up that way: a large, flat space to lay ailing transmitters down on, and a shelf above where my oscilloscope, VTVM, frequency counter, signal generator, signal tracer, and dip meter are within easy reach. On the opposite wall, just two steps away, is a long line of shelves where I keep parts (including my legendary collection of tubes), raw materials such as sheet metal, circuit board stock, and scrap plastic, and equipment I don't need very often.

In some respects, an operating system is your place to stand while getting your computational work done. All the tools you need should be right there within easy reach, and there should be a standard, comprehensible way to access them. Storage for your data should be "close by" and easy to browse and search. The Linux operating system meets this need like almost nothing else in the desktop computing world today.

Ancient operating systems like DOS gave us our "place to stand" in a limited ...

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