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10 Years on Linux

Posted 01-28-2018 at 12:09 PM by wagscat123

Hi all,

What was once an annoying series of questions that pestered some of the dads in my Boy Scout troop has evolved into a way of life and passion for me.

In the few years before, I had gotten into messing with the inerds of Windows. Dual-booting XP and 2000 was enigmatic, setting up workgroups, and setting up things like mmc snap-ins that formatted floppies or defragmented the computer were fun past times. After having a childish allegiance to Windows and defending Microsoft defaults, however, I maintained a curiosity of the 3rd operating system.

After pestering every person who had a bit of a computer background about this OS, my uncle bought me a Brainshare "LInux Starter Kit" in early December 2007 - it included a DVD with SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop 10 ("SLED" 10), a manual, and on that DVD a package that placed a flash tutorial of how to use Linux (a *.swf that played in Firefox).

The fact it was on a DVD prompted me to install a DVD drive on my machine (which wasn't that old at the time, but was a rather cheap 2005 Celeron Dell Dimension), and learn how to switch the master and slave jump switches, by about Dec. 29. Thereafter, it took about a month of occasionally booting to the install disk after school to understand that the installation wouldn't destroy my computer.

On January 28, 2008, I took the plunge - I dared to shrink my Windows data and its not-backed up data, and installed it. I took the box's 500 MB installation space minimum too literally (probably for a CLI-only setup), and assigned like 1.1 GB or something like that - not enough to run GNOME and KDE at the same time. So I would jump between KDE and GNOME, uninstalling the other.

A few months later I tried to really push back my Windows partition (no new back-ups), and got myself what I dubbed "The Data Massacre of 2008". I cried, called all my uncles, and was about 5 years away from learning data forensics. But I reinstalled everything, started backing up my data, and pressed on. During this dark age I even evangelized it to a 16 year old camp counselor whose younger brother relayed to me how much he loved to tinker with it in the years after. I had already fallen in love with Linux, hence the saying "I once loved Microsoft and Windows. Then I turned 12".

The summer after I delved into the wonderful world of LiveCDs. The original LiveCD collection was openSUSE 11.0 GNOME, Ubuntu 8.04, Fedora GNOME & KDE 9, Gentoo, and OpenSolaris 2008.05. Ubuntu stood out as being particularly elegant and easy to use, Fedora's KDE seemed unreasonably slow and bloated yet futuristic (twas KDE 4.0, SLED 10 was KDE 3.5), Gentoo wasn't successfully installed until almost High School, and OpenSolaris was an immense curiosity - it looked like Linux, but the boot screen and commands worked so differently.

I live in a rural area, where even the bandwidth can't escape being stuck in time - we had dial-up until 2011 and are harassing Comcast to finally upgrade us from our distant DSL stations - and these LiveCDs were smuggled in from places where I could barrow the bandwidth. I did at least get an upgraded openSUSE 11.1 DVD - and its increased RAM usage that prompted me to install RAM the first time.

At about the same time, I wanted to connect online with Linux set up on my Dad's computer - so I joined LQ to figure out a way to get Linux to dial into AOL's byzantine system. I never actually found out how to do that, but I did establish myself in this community, and have loved it since the 30 post mark when the ads disappeared.

Before High School I got wine up and running, was starting to learn the basics of the command line, and got into virtualization. I first did kvm since the DVD included it then downloaded the VirtualBox 3.0 binary for Windows and found how easy it was. I also had my first F/OSS heartbreak - Oracle's acquistion of Sun, and have not forgiven them since for what they did to OpenOffice, and *especially* OpenSolaris. I really loved OpenSolaris - to this day, the mention of their name brings about protest from my shrilly voice, especially after a few. beverages that I discovered on my recent 21st birthday

Eventually we got DSL and I was able to install codecs from repos, and in general install anything not on the 11.1 DVD (including updates) without shuttling downloaded packages and dependency lists between computers (upgrading to gedit 2.26 took work). The minds of my peers were starting to emerge from the dark ages of Middle School, and found a few kids with whom I could share a computing passion and not be ostracized. When GNOME 3 came out, I stopped switching between the two and became a KDE elitist, although recently I've found GNOME is handier on my touch screen laptop.

Mentioning my experience in Linux certainly caught the attention of my first few NASA mentors when I started with them in High School, and has led to the coding heavy research I do now. Around this time I also got a decent computer upgrade, and found myself where I am today with like 100s of VirtualBox machines and a drop down Guake or Yakuake terminal that fires up at boot time. I moved almost all of my life to Linux in this period.

Today I do mostly coding stuff, occasionally try new distros, demo my 1999 Bronze Keyboard Apple PowerBook G3 with Debian, or blow into the campus Linux Users Group with my show laptop and the accompanying crazed Linux-addicted face. Random IT and research folks and directors get a kick out of my unusual passion for Linux and tendency to be a walking DistroWatch table.

Playing with my collection of OSes from Windows 1.0 to System V to SuSE 6.0 to BSD-based Debian is probably my main weekend ambovert self-care activity, besides stacking on random spoken languages (like Spanish, Italian, French, Greek, etc) or living in the campus Astro Club. I banish myself to my almost VM-free laptop or a Mint installation when I need to do something that will actually get me to a grad school.

Out of my deepest love reserved for Linux, anniversary sentiment, and boredom of a sick day, I present with this TL;DR blog post some screenshots of modern day openSUSE Leap 42.3 GNOME compared with my original SLED 10.
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