My First Boyfriend Was Windows -- I Married Linux

by Ostatic Staff - Apr. 24, 2009

When did you use Linux for the first time? The question was posed at the Linux Collaboration Summit earlier this month, and has prompted many Linux users to take a trip down memory lane.

I'm not sure if the admission that I remember my first Linux installation much more clearly than any date with my first boyfriend or my first date with my husband is a really wise thing to put in writing. I will freely admit it wasn't quite as anxiety-inducing as a date, and the long-term relationship that sprang from it taught me quite a bit about myself, how I learn, and how to passionately load kernel modules at boot.

September of 2001 is seared into more than a few peoples' memories, but not exactly for the same reasons it's stayed with me through the subsequent years. On September 12, 2001, I ventured into Boston, greeted by the clacking of the subway and the revving engines of taxis stopped at the mercy of jaywalking pedestrians, while overhead the skies were silent, save the occasional unsettling roar of fighter jets. I had an interview as part of the graduate school admission process.

The interview went well, and by October I knew I'd need (of course!) a new computer when classes started in January. I decided I'd try a home build, and because my husband jokingly said it would be total overkill and uber-geek, I ordered two hard drives for the new machine. Somehow, between my husband, my brother-in-law (a Slack man from way back) and I, it only seemed logical that two hard drives called for two operating systems.

I settled on SuSE Linux (at that point, in its 8.2 release). The installation wasn't the smoothest process, let's say. I tried installing older Radeon drivers that didn't quite mesh with my newer Radeon card and battled for a few days with the command line and text-based YaST installer, until, finally, a kind soul online pointed me toward pico, so that I could (quite easily!) put "vesa" in the correct place in Xorg.conf. My WinModem didn't work, and my sound was absolutely backwards (sound heard only through the microphone jack, anyone?), but thanks to the gentle kindness of the unknown soul who showed me how to edit a configuration file, I was completely hooked.

I switched distributions. I did regularly then. I still do. It's not so much that one doesn't fit the bill, it's that others look interesting. Up to that point, I never thought of myself in any way, shape or form as a logical thinker. In some sense, I'm really not. But I learned something about myself. I learned that things go wrong in even completely logical settings for no apparent reason -- but there is a reason, and searching it down, identifying it, and solving it is actually fun and rewarding. I can't write code, but I am quite skilled in digging around in it and bending it to my will -- something I never dreamed I'd like doing.

The two operating systems gave way to one, eventually -- and it was invariably some flavor of Linux. That original desktop has long since burst into flames (all right, it was more of a smoky smell that ultimately retired it), but it paved the way and made the Linux boxes and appliances in our house outnumber the Windows machines nearly 3 to 1.

So what was your first Linux experience? If it hasn't happened yet -- it is easier than ever to give it a spin without disturbing your existing operating system or data. With so many new-user friendly distributions offering liveCD and liveUSB options, trying Linux for the first time -- or for the first time in a while -- is risk-free and easy. Easier than dating, anyway -- unless, of course, you're dating the person who pointed me to the "vesa" drivers.