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I gave Linux a try purely because I wanted to learn something (challenge the mind, you know). Fedora Core 1 would not install on an old P133 sitting in my closet (which previously had Win95), so I got my hands on Slackware 10.0 and gave that a shot. The computer has 64 megs of ram and a 2.0GB hard drive. I put pkgtool on "expert" and selected things to install. I was surprised that it installed all of it without complaining.
There were a few hitches, mainly due to my own lack of knowledge (on my first install, I did not install LILO, thinking it was unnecessary, and sat there for a few minutes when Linux wouldn't boot wondering if I should have installed LILO after all). Much like, in my quest to get Slackware to fit in under 2 gigs, I left out everything related to ALSA (then wondered why the sound would not work). There were a few "oh, maybe I DID need that..." moments during those first days of using Linux.
At first I ran KDE, and though it was slow, it wasn't unbearable--it enabled me to poke around for a few days. Change the settings, practice a few basic commands in Konsole that I learned from a book, and so forth.
After surfing the web and seeing screenshots of what was being done with the various window managers, I decided to give Blackbox a whirl, then I moved on to Fluxbox. Then to XFCE then to IceWM then back to Fluxbox again.
Eventually, I decided I liked the screenshots of those transparent terminals, and downloaded the aterm source. Then I compiled aterm, afterwards thinking "holy crap, I compiled something." Compiling things didn't stop there--days later I compiled torsmo, because I thought it looked cool to have that in the corner of the screen. Then I compiled Dope Wars. I don't recall if Slackware .tgz packages are/were available for these applications, but who cares--I compiled something!
If I ever got stuck, I'd come to this site, and do a search. Usually there was someone else with the same problem, and someone helpful had posted a solution.
Well, I've got it all working. I've got sound coming from that old Soundblaster 16 card, pumping out Jimi Hendrix mp3's through xmms. I edited the Fluxbox menu so I can change background images at will. I left the KDE base in so I can play Katomic, Kpoker and run Konqueror. And because I stripped out everything I don't need or that which would be impractical on such a machine (for example, anything related to USB, since there are no USB ports on it), I have about 550mb left on that old hard drive. Yes, anything that uses GTK+ is slow. Yes, it only displays a max of 800x600 resolution at depth 16. But so what--I've learned A LOT and that was the point.
I've still got a lot more to learn, and am going to build a modern system to learn it on. I think Fluxbox is very cool, but I also think KDE is gorgeous, so I'd love to have a peppy system to run it on. Anyway, many thanks to sites like LinuxQuestions.org for helping me along my Linux journey.