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I used to run UNIX in the old days when the source code for the kernel was 6 files of assembly code. And the maximum file size was 66635 bytes or something like that. Later it was converted to C, and when Steve Johnson wrote The Portable C Compiler, it was a relatively simple matter to retarget that compiler for another machine and move the UNIX kernel to a new machine. Not trivial, but relatively simple. I think that was in the early to mid 1970s. I did not like UNIX at the time because it was terrible at doing real-time process control, and that was one of the things I needed to do. I had a DEC PDP-11/45 with 48 KBytes of RAM, and two hard drives that ran about 2500 rpm and held 40 megabytes. Each the size of a top-loading washing machine.

It was pretty reliable.

Around 1996 I got my first PC and it has Windows 95 on it. I did not know I could get UNIX on it, or a $10,000 license for it from AT&T or I would have.

In about 1998, I switched from Windows 95 to Red Hat Linux 5.0 because I just could not stand the terrible reliability of Windows, the awkward development environment, and such. Also incompatibility of various programs all supplied by Microsoft.

At the time, RHL 5.0 was pretty good, but the desktop software did not function fully. I.e., those three little square buttons at the top of each window did not work. Also it crashed once in a while (no where near as often as Windows), mainly in the graphic windowing interface; i.e., the kernel stayed up. Things like that. Things got a lot better with RHL 6.0 and 6.2. By RHL 7.3, it worked perfectly at all times and never crashed. I am now running Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5 (and RHEL 6 is out). It costs about $1/day for a license, but is probably a bit much for a beginner to use. I have never run Ubuntu or any other distro, but my friends who are primarily Apple users, also run Linux and Ubuntu is probably used by most of them..

If you are picking a distro, my suggestion is to pick whatever one is used by most of your friends, or whatever is most used by knowledgeable members of your local computer group.

Your non-repeatable problems you should not tolerate. The Linux kernel is extremely reliable. I have been running RHEL 5 for 5 years or so (soon after it came out); I run it 24/7 and it has never crashed.

Settings tend to be kept in either your home directory (the ones you are having trouble with are probably there), or somewhere under /etc.

You should set up a separate login for each user, and have a separate one for root. Do not tell your son the root password or the one to your account. Then you can be pretty sure your son is not monkeying with your settings.
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