My Linux Story – Part 1 – The Beginning

These days I use Linux almost exclusively, I don’t have a Windows partition on my PC any more and it feels great I have to say. It was a long process reaching that point though and it wasn’t always easy I have to be honest.

Since I called this blog “Adventures In Open Source” I thought it was time I concentrated on talking about some Open Source stuff, where better to start than at the beginning.

My Linux journey started at the end of 2003/early 2004 when I was given a SUSE 9 Linux cd by someone I knew. I’d seen Linux before but never actually installed it myself. So out of pure curiosity I took the plunge, booted from the CD and installed the system. It wasn’t a Live CD though so I couldn’t try it off the disk, I don’t even think they did Live CDs back then. I can remember thinking to myself “I bet this system wi
ll be awful, a free operating system haha”. To my surprise, when the installer started and the screen came to life it looked amazing, truly amazing compared to the nasty blue screen installer you got from Windows at that time (and probably still do). There were nice graphics and a slick GUI, suddenly Windows was the OS that looked amateur in comparison.

I installed the system and re-booted, I saw the nice GRUB boot loader menu allowing me to choose Windows or SUSE, this was far more than I’d expected. I loaded SUSE and had a play with the KDE desktop, it was all so good, it looked and behaved just like a real OS 🙂

At this point in the story I would like to say “Linux was easy and I never needed Windows again – The End”, unfortunately that would be a complete lie. It was only the beginning of the journey and I still had much to learn.

From there I played around with SUSE for a few weeks and even took the CD to work with me to show other people. I was working as a programmer/developer for a large hospital at the time and we ran a Microsoft-only shop because of the deal Bill Gates had made with the NHS. We had about 30 or 40 servers and 5000 desktops to support so as you can imagine it was no small operation. I managed to procure a test machine and set it up in the office with the help of my manager who fortunately shared my Linux curiosity. We installed SUSE from the CD and had great fun testing it, we got it onto our Windows domain quite easily and even managed to setup remote desktop access with VNC. Things were going well.

We then decided that we should experiment with different Linux distributions because there was so much choice. It was quite a mind-blowing thing to go from having a choice of only Windows 2000 or XP to having a choice of Red Hat, SUSE, Mandrake, Debian, Gentoo, Slackware and many, many more.

At home I then tried Red Hat, Fedora core 1 was new and I decided to give it a go. I found it heavy going to be honest. I could use the system fine for experimentation but couldn’t seem to do even simple tasks because of my lack of knowledge. At this time I was still booting into Windows to do all my day-to-day tasks like email, web browsing, multimedia, gaming etc. I found that Linux was still too much of a mystery to me after 10 years of Microsoft brainwashing.

I think a lot of people hit this barrier and I have certainly heard the same story many times. I went from being an “expert” user and developer in Windows to being an absolute beginner in one fell swoop. I didn’t even know how the file system worked. It was scary and I ran back to the comfort of Windows many times.

I then went from Fedora to Mandrake (as it was still called then) and found things a little easier but it still wasn’t a viable option for my full time system. I had discover RPMs for installing software but most of the stuff I wanted still required you to compile and install through the command line which was daunting to say the least. It all seemed so difficult. I was stuck in XP for the forseeable future…..


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