Recently I have rekindled my love affair with Linux. Here is my story. I hope it inspires you to go out and do something that you used to love but haven’t done in a while.
When I was younger I was an exclusive Linux user. Going back to high school I would always run duel boot systems, and then in college I went exclusive. I remember how awesome I used to feel when I got Linux to run on whatever computer or laptop I had at the time! Those of you that are under 25 probably do not know what I am talking about, but I will explain as I go along.
Even though Towson University gave us all the free Microsoft development software we wanted I elected to use Anjuta, KDEvelop, NetBeans, or even just plain old GCC and a text editor (KWrite) to do my projects. I felt pretty awesome! In college I was pretty damn broke, and I was determined to stay on a low budget. I always needed hardware, not only as a Computer Science Major but as a total Geek as well (I mean, come on, I needed my toys as well). I fondly look back on the days where I scoured the Internet for refurbished or damaged computers, hardware, or laptops at bottom of the barrel prices and eagerly awaited their arrival at my door step.
Then, I put on a pot of coffee, grabbed my tools, built (and in some cases rebuilt) the hardware, and installed Linux. Then the fun part began… Getting it to work! In those days (not that long ago) it wasn’t very easy to get Linux up and running. Before all the advanced application repositories and dependency reconciliation technology you had to do all of the work on your own. You wanted some software, you had to find the source code and compile it yourself. If a dependency was missing, you had to spend however long it took to find the specific version that was necessary and build it (many times from source), and then try to rebuild again! Then many times your dependencies had dependencies, and then after a month or so BOOM you had something bad ass to show your nerdy friends. There was nothing more satisfying then emulating Windows wireless drivers with Ndiswrapper, or building GUI applications for school projects using QT Designer and KDEvelop. I was such a huge Linux geek, I used nothing but! When I showed up to class with a laptop running Linux and I was successfully connected to the WiFi there were always ooing and awing and questions like “How did you get it to work?” – “What WiFi card are you using?” – “What version of Linux are you running?”
Then, something happened… I graduated college, and started a career. Even though my career path has put me in the path of Unix development from time to time, I have had many more opportunities to develop for Windows over the years. I ascended from Jr Engineer to Sr Engineer to an Architect and then into management. Once the timelines and pressure of a high stress job came along I had less time to “play” with computers and needed to “use” computers to get the job done!
I do many projects on the side (like WiBit.Net for example) and I prefer to use in Open Source to keep costs down (so I am using Linux Servers and software) but my machines at my house have been Windows and Mac for the last 10 or so years. I would fire up a Linux VM from time to time, but that was about it.
After college my relationship with Linux became sort of like the movie “50 First Dates”, so I had to keep trying to remind myself every day why I loved Linux. Except, the difference is (unlike Adam Sandler in the movie) I gave up! I ended up giving up because I had less time for fun because I chose to focus on my career. My love for nerdy things has never subsided, and during these years I have always spoken highly of Linux and always wanted to get back into it. And then, all of a sudden, as if it has been pre-ordained something happened.
Earlier this summer my dad was having issues with two of his computers, his desktop and his laptop. He asked me to take a look at them if I had a second. Well, I am a busy man, so it took me a very long time to “have a second” so he ended up buying new computers because he got tired of waiting on me. My dad’s broken computers were collecting dust in my basement for a few months until recently I rediscovered them. I tried to install Windows on them, but I kept getting errors during installation at the same point on both machines on versions 7, 8, 8.1, and 10. There was definitely some sort of hardware issue. I tinkered with the hardware a bit, replaced a few parts and same issue. I was about to scrap the machines for parts and throw the remains away until an old thought came to mind: “Just put Linux on it”.
I started to get gitty! I got excited looking at distrowatch.com at all the Linux Distributions that are available today, which are all pretty much exactly the same as they were when I was a Linux Head. I decided to install Kubuntu on one, and Elementary OS on the other (both Ubuntu based distributions). I love Ubuntu base but I really don’t like the new Ubuntu UI and I have always loved KDE, and Elementary OS is similar to Mac OS X, which I have become accustom to. I burned the ISOs to disk, and the OS installed with no problem! Whatever hardware problem was giving Windows fits was no issue for Linux.
It did take me some time getting all the hardware working as I wanted it to, and I did need to use Ndiswrapper to get the wireless to work on the laptop but it was so much fun returning to my roots as a true computer nerd. I had so much fun getting Linux to work on these old banged up machines, just like the good-ol-days. I set these machines up in my home office and I am now using them! I have one set up as a traditional desktop and software development workstation, and the other acting as a server running automated tasks and hosting virtual machines running software that doesn’t run in Linux.
This experience has reopened my eyes to how awesome Linux is and how much damn fun it is to play with. Even when I hit a point where I got stuck on something the pain and frustration was immediately dissipated and replaced with intense gratification once I figured out the problem. There are so many more resources online for Linux help then there was when I was into it, so it is a lot easier now-a-days although, I did run into several things that did not have a simple solution for. But it didn’t matter! It was fun solving the problem.
Over the last week I have preferred to use Linux over my other machines. I don’t know if this is a love affair, or love for real, but I feel the deep infatuation that I felt many years ago. I feel the same happiness that I felt when I used to boot up my busted up laptop that I paid $40 for running Fedora in my crowded college apartment.
If you have not had the experience with this lovable operating system I would hope that you give it a chance to give you something back. If you have no experience with Linux I recommend you visit distrowatch.com and download some distributions that look intriguing to you. If you don’t have additional hardware to install them on just install them virtually using with VMWare or VirtualBox or some other virtual machine software.
Thanks for reading my story. I hope you enjoyed it, and I hope it inspired you to go out and do something that you used to love but haven’t done in a while.