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Old 05-12-2011, 07:21 PM   #1
Registered: Mar 2011
Location: Rochester, NY
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How did you get into Linux/UNIX and what made you stay with it?

Also, a question to other Newbies like me, what made you guys switch from Mac OS X or Windows to a Linux Distro or a UNIX "Flavor" or variant of BSD? Which distro is your favorite, why and why not? Do you think Linux is better than Windows and Mac OS X, if so, why? How did you familiarize yourself with the Linux distro of your choice? Are you more of a GUI-user or a Command-Line-User? This is just an honest question I'm asking people. Is it for Desktop purposes, programming purposes, experimental purposes, etc.?
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Old 05-12-2011, 07:34 PM   #2
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I'm no longer a new user, but I got started when I was trying to squeeze some life out some old hardware. Installed several distros and finally settled on Debian (Woody at the time). Then I just like playing, recompiling the kernel, fiddling with stuff. I've stuck with Debian and upgraded straight through Squeeze, even using dd to move it from one drive to another and up through several different machines (both purchased and built). I actually haven't installed fresh since Woody. At some point I should install a 64-bit version, but since everything is setup the way I want, I've been too lazy to reinstall.

I think linux and Windows are just different. I use each for different things. Win7 at work for CAD and whatnot. Debian at home for most things there, including desktop use, an internal file server, Mythtv backend, media server, etc. I like Win7 enough, but occasionally wish I had Squeeze at work for scripting stuff. I'm pretty well split between gui and cli at home. Having gone from Woody on up, there's still things that are easier for me to do via the cli, because that's how it was done when I started.
Old 05-12-2011, 09:12 PM   #3
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per chance.
I have bought a PC with WinXP.
To learn a bit about it i borrowed magazines from the library.
At that time they came with CDs with Linux (ubuntu-wubi and suse).
I bought a few Linux-magazines with more distros... borrowed some books about Unix or Linux...
And that was that for my WinXP (3 months, and it was gone).
I had the luck that i did not need to relearn things as i didn't know anything (besides writing texts).

I don't know much, but do most of the things (say burning audio-cds) from the cli. But the cli is huge... very huge...

For me the best way to familiarize are forums. For others its man-pages, docus or other resources.
Old 05-12-2011, 09:15 PM   #4
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Well, as for this almost-fiftysomething old-phart ... ... I never "switched," and I have absolutely no intention of doing so now.

If you wander through my "circuit cellar" (and if you don't know what that means... Google (poor thing...) "BYTE Magazine"), you will find ... a Windows box, several Macintoshes, and Linux (which, these days, happens to be running in a virtual machine until the "real" Linux machine can be repaired).

Many years ago, I recognized that "Linux and Unix" were destined to become the predominant systems-of-use in the areas that most interested me (financially speaking and otherwise), and so I made it my business to learn all that I could about them. I took a "then cast-off" machine that wasn't doing anything useful, wiped it clean, and then spent many productive hours/days/weeks/months "self-educating myself" about it.

"Go, and do likewise."

Learn about what makes a (OS/X-based...) Macintosh tick. Learn about what makes Linux tick. Heck... learn about what makes Microsoft Windows tick!

(Believe it or not, those folks in Redmond really do know what they are doing!)

Fair Warning: You will feel like you are "taking a sip from a firehose!" Deal with it.

I happen to do this sort of thing because I (still...!) genuinely enjoy it. I guess that, when it comes to computer software, I actually am one of those folks who likes to stand around at a car-show, lift the hood, and talk about the (software...) engine. (And it just so happens that I've made a ... well ... "much better than 'okay'" ... living at it.)

Last edited by sundialsvcs; 05-12-2011 at 09:17 PM.
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Old 05-12-2011, 09:26 PM   #5
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I called a bulletin board in CA. to get BSD. Took me a few weeks at night rate. That was just the source. Seems it may have took me another two weeks to compile it just to get to a shell prompt.

I think it was general computer interest not really any anti-MS or other reasons.

I have used many OS's on many different hardware over the years. From a Sperry Rand to PDP-11 to Alpha's and DEC's and many more. I always got a big kick out of HP BASIC being used for something I can't say. Who knew that something so simple would be used for that?

At one time I was a BeOS user and thought it should have had a chance.

Last edited by jefro; 05-13-2011 at 08:12 PM.
Old 05-12-2011, 10:36 PM   #6
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I had heard about this Linux thing and decided that, if I ever had a spare computer, I would give it a whirl (at the time there was the family desktop and my laptop and that was it).

Then a co-worker, who had had a side business buying up surplus computers from his wife's employer (Princeton University, NJ, USA) and turning them into what he called "Granny machines" (basic Windows with web browsing and email capabilities) wound up his side business and gave me three computers: Two IBM PC300s and an HP. The HP was a carcase, but I got the PC300s working, slapped Slackware 10.0 on them, and haven't looked back.

I shipped one of them, along with one page of instructions about how to log in and start X, to second daughter, who used it for years and never called me for support (so much for the "Slackware is hard" thing).

About the same time I met a guy in a class I was teaching who told me about running a website out of his home with Linux. That sounded like fun. So I set the other box up as a LAMPP server, brought my existing website in from, and started a blog, because I could.

That was six years, three home servers, and 9,000 blog posts ago. I no longer self-host, because my database outgrew self-hosting.

I learned this along the way:

Linux is not Windows. Don't expect it to act like Windows. It's different.

Once you know how to use it, Linux is easier than Windows.
Old 05-13-2011, 04:14 AM   #7
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Mostly I stuck Linux on an old machine because it was either that or throw the machine away It certainly didn't have enough grunt for Windows 7 and I always hated XP. Once I'd done that, I just found extra uses for it like self-hosting a website, writing scripts for backup, using Samba for a file server for my Windows laptop and so on...when I found myself actually spending more money and time upgrading that server than I did for my Windows machines, I simply switched Never looked back.
Old 05-13-2011, 04:48 AM   #8
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I came across Linux and other systems like Solaris and BSD in 2004 while I was discovering the joys of creating static HTML webpages. It wasn't until the following year that I tried it out. At the time though it seemed like too much effort to make the switch from Windows so I left it. A few years later I started a computing degree which had a module about Linux so I started dual booting on my laptop. What's helped the most is that during my final year I started working for a hosting company that used Ubuntu and FreeBSD on their servers so I was in a situation that forced me to use cli on a daily basis. I've tried various distros but have found Fedora and Ubuntu to be my preferred choice. I now work for a software company that are completely Mac based and have to say that during the time I've done this role I've swayed towards OSX a lot. I do still use Fedora often though.
Old 05-13-2011, 08:45 AM   #9
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I started working with Linux by the expedient of having it hurled at me at work. I'd been a mainframe sysprog for several years, and it has a Unix Systems Services subsystem that I'd always tinkered with more than most. Plus, once in my dark past, I'd been assigned to a project for HP Openview on HP-UX that never really got off the ground due to contract squabbles, but we at least got things installed, and I picked up some training.

Some genius decided our mainframe was going away (it's not anymore) and threw a Power6 platform at the mainframe team, to stand up some i5/OS and Linux partitions. Based on the fact that I was the only one with any real experience in *nix environments, I became the full-time Linux guy, and the baptism by fire began. I've only been working with it for a couple years, so I'm no expert by any means, but I know what I know, and I try to help out here where I can, and learn from others where I can.

I've got a home PC I'm looking to retire as soon as I buy its replacement. When that's done, I intend to wipe that PC and install Linux. I'm currently using that PC as a file and print server, and we've identified a future use for a web server. Whenever the word "server" comes up, I shudder when it's combined with the word "Windows."

I'll go with openSuSE because I'm already working with SLES, so it's what I know. But if I have issues with it, I'll start looking at other distros.
Old 05-13-2011, 09:28 AM   #10
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I unsuccessfully tried Linux a few times before, and I expected it to be similar to Windows. The method of installing software was very confusing for me, and I rushed to install antivirus (even though I knew nothing about what I was doing) because I thought it was necessary, like in Widnows. Finally, I felt like why have a computer when you can't use most software on it? I gave up, thinking Linux was a useless toy and wondering why people with so much knowledge would waste their time developing it.

Then I found out about VirtualBox, and decided to try Linux again, and really learn about it this time, from a "I want to learn Linux to find out what it is", instead of a "I want to get away from Windows" standpoint. I spent all day reading online documentation and tutorials, installed Fedora in VirtualBox, and fell in love with it. Soon, I wiped Windows off my drive and installed Linux.
Old 05-13-2011, 09:30 AM   #11
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I saw a screenshot of a linux desktop using Enlightenment 0.x years ago, and it was skinned with some kind of Geiger-esque pics.

I immediately wanted my computer to look like that, so I ended up downloading it and installing it. Got a few books, been using it ever since.

Now days, I use it because I administer mainly linux servers, and I like the underlying bash shell for that.

Last edited by szboardstretcher; 05-13-2011 at 09:31 AM.
Old 05-13-2011, 11:24 AM   #12
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I too never switched from Windows. I had MSDOS at work, then Linux. At home, I had a rare beast, the Q60, which came with both SMSQ and Linux installed. When I switched from that to a home-built PC, carrying on with Linux seemed the obvious thing to do. I bought a secondhand laptop last year, and the vendor had already replaced Windows with Linux. It seems I'm destined never to have a Windows computer: I think I can live with that!
Old 05-13-2011, 07:13 PM   #13
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I don't quite remember how it all started for me, but I will admit that I was drawn into Linux by the looks of a certain OpenGL-based compositing window manager…

I started with this little old LiveCD-based thing (based on a 2.4 kernel) called "Cool Linux CD". Mostly I loaded it up because I liked to watch the screensavers, LOL.

Then I found Ubuntu (mostly due to that certain window manager; I'd seen screenshots/screencasts on the 'net of people's tricked-out customizations). I initially installed it in a virtual machine under Windows XP…I had experimented with MS Virtual PC (with that Cool Linux CD thing), then VirtualBox, because I thought it would be neat to be able to run old versions of Windows or something in an "emulated" environment. Such was not the case; old Windows versions ain't free. I think this is part of how I discovered Linux actually: I was looking for something to run in VirtualBox! I think I discovered VB before the company that originally developed it (innoTek GmbH IIRC) was bought out by Sun, and long before Sun was taken over by Oracle, LOL.

Moving on…

My first "native" install was with Ubuntu's "Wubi" installer, wherein it boots the OS from a disk image file located in your existing Windows filesystem (so it makes disk access a little slower). I was having serious wireless issues with it, and so I was asking around different places (family, LQ, Ubuntu forums, etc.…in fact, that's how I ended up joining LQ), and I got a recommendation from my uncle to maybe add another HDD and install Ubuntu to that…so I did. Of course, that didn't really solve the wireless issue, but it did allow me to have a "fully native" install of Ubuntu.

I just loved messing around with all the Compiz/Emerald/GTK visual themes on it, and I even thought I was gonna start writing Compiz animation plugins at one point (yeah right ). Needless to say I was very graphically oriented at the time.

However, and again, don't ask me how , I started gaining more interest in the CLI. I found myself in that wobbly, shiny, bright orange terminal window with alpha-blurring enabled () more and more often.

I'll go ahead and skip the long interim between then and when I got a new machine (a second-hand one; a friend of my mom's was more than happy to let me have it), and start with how I found out about Arch, and why I still use it today.

I think I discovered Arch mainly because I was looking for something in between Ubuntu and Slackware (I wanted automatic dependency management, but not the bloat of Ubuntu). So I grabbed an i686 ISO of the Arch "core" installer, and I threw it on the old second-hand machine. My first steps weren't perfect, but after actually *reading* the Arch wiki documentation (which IMO is still an awesome Linux wiki, not just for Arch) on how to set up Xorg, a DE, etc., I was more than happy with it.

At some point down the road, my mom got me this laptop as a sort of "graduation present" for completing my GED, and I was like, "oh boy modern hardware! 64-bit dual-core with HT FTW!", and since I already liked Arch on the old desktop machine, I was glad to be able to finally download an x86_64 Arch ISO and give the whole 64-bit thing a try.

At another point I decided I wanted Arch on my main desktop, too (was getting bored with/tired of Ubuntu 9.04; things were getting dated compared to Arch's bleeding edge stuff, which I liked), and it's pretty much been that way ever since.

Oh, and in case you're wondering what I did with the second-hand "frankencomputer", I recently put FreeBSD on it…LOL?

Okay, (computing) life story post complete. Must…stop…typing…
Old 05-13-2011, 07:22 PM   #14
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I heard that using Linux prevents hair loss - that's how I decided to use linux. The thing about the hair turned out to be a lie. I am almost bald, but I got to like linux.
Old 05-14-2011, 02:10 AM   #15
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DOS on an old i386 with WordPerfect 5.1 was how I started into the PC world, so command line was not intimidating. Eventually, I got into raster-based GIS apps and burnt out on Windows NT & W2K in a GIS shop after five years tweaking the OS registry to make it perform as desired. Originally, I wanted to get into UNIX but Sun sold out, so I went with Linux, instead.

Starting with Ubuntu Jaunty, I went to PCLinuxOS, then distro-hopped using mostly Ubuntu-based, Debian-based and Slackware-based distros: Sabayon (the only Gentoo-based distro tried); openSUSE; Unity (Mandriva-based); Fedora and Xange; Zenwalk, Vector SOHO, Absolute and Salix; MEPIS, antiX, Debian net-install; Mint; Element, Pinguy, SuperOS, Lubuntu and peppermint; Puppy, Sli-taz, U-lite and ULTILEX (which includes Slax, TinyCore, Puppy).

Of all of them, I like peppermint, antiX and Salix, in that order. Why?
a) I dislike KDE immensely (except for K3b)
b) Performance is a top priority, so LXDE and lite WMs attract me
c) Older machines like P4s are a necessity for those who cannot afford new (as with many friends)
d) Customizability and non-conformity make Slackware-based distros an appealing challenge
e) Debian affords itself to time-saving scripts like smxi and has huge repos

Out of necessity (mainly due to wireless issues), I recently went with my first dual-boot using Win7 and peppermint on a new laptop. If it were not for mobiles and wireless, I would not have gone back to even my currently limited use of Windows.


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