Learning Linux

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, 595px-gentoo_linux_logo_matte-svgwhere 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!

Five Principles and One Law

Taken from http://www.agileopennorthwest.org/.  I really like these as general principles.

The Five Principles

  • Whoever comes is the right people.
  • Whatever happens is the only thing that could have.
  • Whenever it starts is the right time.
  • Whenever it’s over, it’s over.
  • Wherever it happens is the right place.

The Law of Personal Mobility

If you find yourself where you can’t learn or contribute, move yourself to a place where you can.

Stealing Ideas

Disclaimer: I think this is going to be an easy post to write, because it’s something I feel pretty strongly about, but I have to recognize going in that this also means I’m more likely to be wrong and not be able to see it. If you think I’m wrong, or if I’m being mean, or anything like that I certainly want to hear about it so I can change and improve.

If you’re worried about someone stealing your idea, you’re worried about the wrong thing. Ideas are a dime a dozen. Ideas happen all the time. I tend to have four or five ideas before breakfast. The problem is that most ideas are crap. If something just pops into your head, it’s almost certainly a bad idea. The only thing it can possibly have is potential.

The first trick to master, and I think this is a skill that takes a lifetime (I certainly don’t have it yet), is to be able to tell which ideas actually have potential. At this point though, they are still almost worthless. All the value will be in what happens next: how much work are you going to put into it. To make an idea worth something, it takes work, whether it’s careful and methodical thought, or programming, or practice, or anything, it’s going to take dedicated effort.

And effort is not easily stolen. If I have an idea for something, I can probably explain to you in a few sentences, but those sentences won’t mean much. You might be able to take those sentences and build something with them, and it will almost certainly be different from what I would build with them.

But here’s the thing. I don’t want your ideas. I wouldn’t take them if you tried giving them to me. I have enough ideas on my own. I have ideas for computer programs, books, photos, hikes, movies, so many things. I have enough ideas to keep me busy for a lifetime. If I have an idea similar to your idea, I might propose that we work on it together. But I’m not going to just take your idea.

So please, don’t tell me you’re worried about me stealing your idea. It’s simply not true.

If there is something that you’re thinking about, that you’re excited about, then I would love to hear about it. I want to share in your excitement. I want to encourage you to pursue things that you believe in. Perhaps we’ll share a passion, and our minds will meld. Perhaps I’ve had a similar idea, or you blow my mind, and we work on it together, building something much better than either of us could build on our own.

That’s the world I want to live in.

Thanks for tolerating this little rant.