I’ve had a long and weird relationship with Linux. When I was in High School, you could buy various distributions of linux at Wal-Mart, mainly Mandrake and possibly a few others. I would Every once in a while I would buy a distro and try loading it on my computer, but I could never really get it to work. This was almost certainly due to the fact that I was running very cheap PC hardware and there probably weren’t drivers available. When I got into college, I stumbled upon a distribution called ‘Lycoris‘ and around 2002 and 2003 I was very active in that community, but I still didn’t have a good understanding of Linux and what it was all about.
I was able to buy my first laptop a in late 2003, and I took the plunge deep, installing Gentoo, where you compile everything from source. This was my first real peek at how linux really works. But I struggled with it for a while, and the X server never really worked right on the laptop hardware, and soon I returned to windows. In October 2004, apparently I installed Ubuntu, shortly after it’s first release, but I must not have ran it for very long. In the years since, I have ran linux every once in a while. I got very frustrated with the lack of hardware support, and so I made the switch to OS X in 2006 (“a unix that ‘just works'”) and then I got frustrated by the absurd prices of Mac hardware and discovered gaming, so I just ran windows.
Then about 9 months ago, I took the plunge again. This time, I interact with Linux on a daily basis at work, and I figured it was time to really learn it this time. So I installed the latest ubuntu on my home computers, and have been using it since then as my main operating system. When I run into trouble, I’m forcing myself to really learn. This time it’s been much easier, mainly due to resources like the ubuntu stack exchange site, working with very knowledgeable people at work, much improved hardware support, and just being emersed in it all the time.
One book that is really helped me is “How Linux Works: What Every Superuser Should Know.” I’m still reading this book, but it’s been great for explaining the nitty gritty details of what is going on. Like what does the
sudo command actually do? Well this book explains that.
The question that gets asked is Why? Why do this? Running Linux is definitely more work than running Windows or MacOS. What do you get out of it? For me, it’s about knowledge and understanding. Windows and MacOS try their best to hide the complexity of the underlying components away from you, and if you try to peer underneath to see what’s really going on, it’s not really possible. But on Linux, I can look. I can have finer control over how the computer is running, and what it’s running, and why it’s running what it does. It does come at a cost of more time, especially at the beginning, but that’s okay. As I’ve grown more familiar with it, I can do what I need to do faster, so it doesn’t take as much time as it used to. Perhaps eventually it will not take that much time for me at all.
And in the mean time I’m having a blast learning more about how all this craziness actually works!