I got some more questions in the comments for last time. Rather than just answer in the comments, I figured I’d make a new post.
Coke vs Pepsi: I actually don’t drink either, I’m a Dr Pepper/Mountain Dew kinda person.
iPhone vs Android phone: No real interest in either. My current phone is the cheapest one I could get at the phone store. I use it to make calls, check my e-mail when I’m bored at work, and, since I lack a digital camera for some reason, take crappy pictures. I don’t really need or want anything else. (Except possibly a twitter client.)
If I had to get one I’d probably go with Android if only because I am not a big Apple person. The one product of theirs I had was an (old) iPod, and my experiences with it were pretty iffy.
Edit: I have been informed that Android runs Linux; that’s another reason I’d go with that one. /fangirl
MS Office vs OpenOffice: Seeing as I am a Linux and F/OSS junkie I’m pretty sure this one is a given. Open Office for life!
Laptop vs Desktop: I have both. I use the desktop the most– better screen resolution and I can play more games on it. I used to use the laptop a lot more than I do now, but these days it’s mostly been relegated to the role of backup computer if something happens to my desktop and I need to Google the problem.
I have to give my laptop credit, though; it was the first thing I ever installed Linux on! It has run Kubuntu and only Kubuntu for three and a half years.
Yahoo Messenger vs. MSN Messenger: I use Pidgin. Back in the day I used to have AIM, MSN, and YIM all hooked up to it but I dropped YIM a couple years back when the last holdout on my buddy list who still used it switched to MSN.
Back when I was on Windows I actually liked the MSN interface. But yeah, haven’t seen it in years; I just use Pidgin now, so all the messengers look the same to me…
Gmail vs. Yahoo Mail vs. Hotmail: Gmail, obviously. I do have fond memories of Hotmail and my first e-mail address (this was back before they were owned by Microsoft), but I have since moved on. Yahoo Mail I never used.
Picasa vs Flickr: I don’t use either. =X
WordPress vs Blogspot: I actually have a pretty strong opinion on this. It goes WordPress Self Hosted > Blogspot > WordPress.com.
The only reason I can think of to pick wordpress.com over Blogspot is if you plan on switching to self-hosted later.
Anyways I know I’m going to get all the “But I love WordPress!” comments, and you know, I love WordPress too. Self-hosted WordPress. But yeah >.>
Facebook vs Twitter: I signed up for Facebook five years ago or so. I lurked around for about a month, then got bored and quit using it.
I logged in again about two or three years later, looked around, still had no interest, and logged out again.
A couple of days ago I logged in for the first time in two-ish years, primarily because I’d had some 50 friends’ requests in that period of time and I felt bad about ignoring them. I logged in, added (most) everybody, left some sort of “I never log in” notice and tossed up a couple of pictures, and then disappeared again.
I guess I just figure: I’ve got LiveJournal (since 2004), DeviantArt, two blogs, and a Twitter… I don’t really see anything that Facebook has that I don’t already have elsewhere!
So yeah, my vote here goes to Twitter.
Star Wars: What order to watch the movies? IV – V – VI – I – II – III. Honestly when I have kids they’re not gonna see the prequels until they have the first three good and memorized. *cough*
Asimov vs. Heinlein vs. Clarke: I’m an Asimov junkie. “The Last Question” is the greatest short story that has ever been written. Ever.
I was thinking the other day about my positions on various Geek Holy Wars. Then I figured I’d might as well blog about them, since, well, I’ve been a bad blogger lately. It’ll be fun, right?
Star Wars vs. Star Trek: I HATE THIS QUESTION. When people ask me this, I usually tell them not to make me choose between my children. I grew up with both series and I love both series dearly. That said, if I was forced to pick, I’d have to go with Trek, just because it has more sentimental value to me. I’ve often said that Star Trek was a second set of parents to me– and I mean it.
Kirk vs. Picard: This one is interesting, because when I say “I grew up with Star Trek”, what you have to understand is that from, well… from as-early-as-I-can-remember up until I was about 13 or 14 years old or so, what that meant was “I grew up with The Original Series and the movies”. I didn’t really get into TNG until my teenage years. Kirk was my original captain, and the crew of the NCC-1701 was my original crew. I actually have a picture of myself with George Takei somewhere.
…BUT I’ve gotta give this one to Picard. Kirk is who we want to be but never will be, but Picard is who we want to be and can still aspire to. Plus he’s classy.
And drinks Tea. Earl Grey. Hot.
DC vs. Marvel: I’m a Marvel fan, sorry all you Batman lovers. Spidey + XMen + Iron Man = No contest.
Now let’s move on to some Linux goodness:
KDE vs. Gnome: We all know by now that I’m a KDE fan, but what most people don’t realize is that this is largely by circumstance. Way back in the day when I was first discovering Linux, it was KDE-based distros that just happened to work with my wireless internet where Gnome-based distros did not. So it was KDE that I started with and became comfortable with.
As time went on I would attempt to use Gnome every so often but I inevitably found it to be very buggy and far from the stable desktop environment that everyone kept telling me it was. It wasn’t until earlier this year when Gnome finally became stable enough for me to use. I used it for about two months because KDE4 was being stupid, and enjoyed it, but switched back to KDE once they had their own bugs worked out.
Currently I use KDE for two big reasons: 1.) it’s familiar, and 2.) I like to customize my desktop to look like a Gnome/KDE hybrid, and it’s much easier to do that with KDE, which is designed to be endlessly customizable.
Ultimately I have no problems with Gnome anymore, as I said my experiences with it used to be pretty universally negative but they seem to have fixed all their problems so I’m okay with them now.
(As an aside I would love to like XFCE but it’s still buggy for me.)
Emacs vs. Vi: I don’t use either very often but when I do I use vi.
“Open Source” vs. “Free Software”: A quick backstory behind this for those who are not aware: “Open source” and “free software” are pretty much interchangeable terms when it comes to a technical definition– i.e., software with the code freely available to view and modify. Where they differ is the political ideologies behind the two: use of the term “free software” implies the belief that “software should be free” and that this is a moral issue, whereas “open source” implies that it is strictly a matter of business and getting good results.
What I have found in day-to-day geek life is that most geeks fall somewhere in the middle of this “belief” spectrum and choosing which term to use largely comes down to just how crazy you think Richard Stallman really is. (Spoiler: he’s pretty crazy.)
As for me, I see both sides of the issue. Yes, I’m a Freetard. Yes, I’d love to see all software be free to tinker with, as an extension of my deep-seated inkling that anything restricting creativity is Bad. But I’m also a realist and, let’s face it, a world based completely off of “Free Culture” is not gonna happen anytime soon. Plus, it’s easier to get this stuff into the hands of people if you can pass it off as a business decision.
Ultimately I use the two terms interchangeably or just call it “F/OSS”.
Okay, what’d I miss? I know I missed some epic Geek Holy Wars. Ask me stuff and I’ll toss it up here!
Yesterday I decided to update my Kubuntu to the latest version. I did this whole process from within the operating system itself.
However, I, knowing that Linux will be Linux, was very prepared for this. I burned a copy of the newest version to a CD, fully expecting that everything would be broken and that I’d have to clean install. I backed up my entire /home folder to an external hard drive, a process which took about three hours by the way. I started early so as to give myself the entire day to fix my computer if something went wrong, which I was sure something would. I mean, this is Linux, after all.
Then I hit the Upgrade button.
Two uneventful hours passed while the upgrade did its thing. I tried to stay away from the computer at this point, because I worried I would do something to mess it up, but to be honest the computer was nice and usable the entire time. After the two hours were complete it asked me to restart the computer, so I did.
I was in shock. I honestly couldn’t believe it. The upgrade had gone flawlessly. It even cleared old kernel versions out of Grub for me. What’s more, it seems to have fixed the sound issues I’ve having since a few months back (where half of my sound/music related programs one day decided to stop working.)
Oh, speaking of which, Amarok is now scrobbling correctly to Last.fm. It hasn’t done that in MONTHS. I would burst into hallelujahs at this point but I’ve already moved on to Clementine which is Amarok without the new over-the-top interface.
The only thing I had to fix was that upon logging in for the first time the bottom panel was missing. I solved this problem by right clicking on the top panel, selecting “Add Panel” and then dragging the various widgets there that I wanted. That was it. Five minutes, tops.
I couldn’t tell whether I wanted to be happy or horrified. Like, I wanted to scream “WHO ARE YOU AND WHAT HAVE YOU DONE WITH LINUX” at the screen. Regardless, it’s a big victory for what the Ubuntu folks want, so that’s pretty exciting.
This cracked me up.
The ultimate test will be when I move in a couple weeks and have to set up *gulp* wireless…
…terrible pun in the title aside, I use a LOT of Free/Open Source software. It comes with the territory when you’re a Linux user.
In no particular order, here are some of my faves:
1. Mozilla Firefox
Possibly THE gateway drug that introduced thousands of us newbies to this newfangled Open Source thing, Firefox is far from perfect (and its memory usage blows up like a balloon if you leave it open for too long), but is still the best we’ve got. Chrome is giving it a run for its money, but while I’ve embraced Chrome as a good secondary browser, it a.) lacks Firefox’s insane addon vault, and b.) still has some weird glitches on Linux.
I loves me some ‘fox.
I’ll come right out and say it: when I was still on Windows (back in the day), I was a Trillian user. Trillian does not have a Linux version, though, so I was forced to switch to Pidgin. At first I did so rather begrudgingly but as time has gone on I’ve become more attached to it and now I don’t think I could go back to Trillian. Pidgin is nice, simple, clean, and has some fun plugins.
3. Clementine(aka OldSchool Amarok)
Typical Pike Playlist
I’m going to tell you a story. Long ago in a galaxy far, far away, I used WinAmp. But when I switched to Linux, I fell head-over-heels in love with Amarok. Amarok and I lived together happily for many years, and then something horrible happened: Amarok “upgraded” to 2.0. Problem: Amarok 2.0 came packed with a new GUI I was less than thrilled with, tons of weird sound quality issues, and unstable Last.fm scrobbling. This would not do. So with a heavy heart I bid farewell to Amarok and bounced around music players for a while, trying to find a new home. Exaile and I had a nice little affair, but the void still wasn’t quite filled.
…then I remembered yet another reason why I love Open Source. Because some people had taken the OldSchool Amarok source code and forked it into a new (old?) music player: Clementine. Discovering that this existed was basically the best day of the year for me.
It’s still very much a beta and missing a lot of functionality but if you’re an Amarok refugee like I was I highly recommend this program. <3
4. Open Office
Secret Deleted Scene from Pike's Novel
…it’s basically Microsoft Word, but for free. Works like a charm; I’ve never had a problem with it.
Oh look, I'm drawing furries in waistcoats again...
GIMP is one of those programs that you either love or you hate. The two main reasons I hear for hatred are a.) It lacks a bunch of Photoshop’s features, and b.) It is notoriously difficult to learn to use.
My reaction to those two points are: a.) I have never used Photoshop (no, seriously), so if I’m missing out on stuff, I haven’t noticed, and b.) … okay, it is difficult to learn to use. I won’t deny that one.
But if you’re willing to climb the steep learning curve, I think you’ll find that this is quite a splendid program with lots of functionality. I mean, I’m not a professional artist or anything, but I’d like to think I do more art-stuff than the Average Joe and I’ve done it all in GIMP.
As a side note, when I first started using GIMP, I HATED the way it would open up a bunch of different windows for each part of the program: one for your picture, one for the toolbox, one for layers, etc. … but as time has gone on I’ve become so spoiled by it that anything else would make me feel terribly claustrophobic.
So yeah. GIMP. I <3 it dearly.
I'm a nerd.
I actually prefer “Sophocles” as a screenwriting app. But Sophocles has a ton of drawbacks. Drawback #1: Trialware (a good half the features are locked unless you’re willing to shell out tons of money.) Drawback #2: …not in development anymore, from what I can tell. Drawback #3: Proprietary formats that can’t be exported to anything else unless you pay money.
Enter Celtx, which is still a bit buggy, but is ASTOUNDINGLY promising. This goes beyond a mere screenwriting program and allows you to do storyboards, script breakdowns, et al. I really can’t wait to see where this program is in a couple years.
As everyone and their dog knows by now, I love Twitter. It fills a chatty void that my inner IRC Junkie has been missing for years. I spent a good long time searching for a Twitter client that fulfilled criteria like not requiring Adobe AIR (I have my reasons for not liking Adobe AIR) … which, trust me, is easier said than done.
So after lots of searching I decided a while back to give Choqok a shot. And folks, I am in LOVE. This is a fully featured Twitter client that supports everything from re-tweets to favorites to following convos to searching to… yeah, you name it, Choqok does it. You can even customize your color scheme.
The only reason I don’t wax poetic about this program’s virtues more is because it is– as far as I can tell, anyway– a ‘nix only program, and I figure most of my readers/followers aren’t ‘nix users.
…man. I mean, I haven’t had any intention of “going back to Windows” for years, but this program seriously puts the nail in the coffin, it’s that good. <3
8. VLC Media Player
It plays everything. ’nuff said.
I made mine green text on black so I can pretend I’m Trinity from the Matrix.
When I was blogging at Aspect of the Hare I had the rather unique privilege of becoming one of the most well-known Linux users in the WoW blogging community. I talked about it a lot, made techie posts, and made no secret of the fact that Linux was my main (and for quite some time, only) operating system.
This had an interesting side effect: a LOT of people were inspired by me to try Linux for themselves. I got tons of e-mails and comments to this degree.
And this, in and of itself, had another interesting side effect, one that took me a little while to get used to: a good 80% or so of these comments and e-mails were people documenting their negative experiences with Linux.
Imagine, if you will… that you love something a lot and are excited when people want to try out that thing you love. Now imagine most of them hating it. Now maybe you understand why this was always a bit awkward for me.
Where am I going with this?
A few places. First of all, I feel there is something I should say as an unofficial spokesperson of the Linux community in this little corner of the Blogosphere:
LINUX ISN’T FOR EVERYONE.
Now before you go all crazy on me, I’m not trying to be elitist and say it’s only for programmers/leet hax0rs/hardcore geeks/etc. Rather, I’m trying to say that there are a lot of people who, I think, come to Linux with the completely wrong expectations and end up being disappointed.
* If you can’t live without iTunes/Photoshop/the latest super-shiny computer games, guess what: don’t install Linux. Seriously. It’s probably not worth the hassle unless you’re a freetard like me who is willing to make sacrifices.
* If you don’t like using the command line, don’t install Linux. Now, granted, stuff like Ubuntu is making it easier and easier to do lots in Linux without the command line, but it is still very much CLI-oriented compared to, say, something like Windows.
* If you don’t like stuff randomly breaking, don’t install Linux. That’s not to say that Windows doesn’t break either, cause good ol’ XP broke on me plenty of times. But one of the best analogies I ever heard was that Windows is like a die-cast toy car, and Linux is a car made out of Legos. They can both break. The Lego car is much more likely to “break”. But that’s the point. You’re supposed to break it and put it back together.
I’m kind of mental (and possibly masochistic) when it comes to this sort of thing; dealing with computer problems gives me a strange sort of high that little else can give me. So I embrace the Lego-OS. If you are not of that mindset, or at least don’t want to deal with it at home, don’t install Linux.
* If you aren’t willing to spend hours on Google getting something simple like wireless working, don’t install Linux. In defense of Linux, this is frequently a driver support issue more than a Linux issue. But the end result remains.
* If you are looking for a clone of Windows that is somehow mysteriously “better”, don’t install Linux. Linux is not Windows. Just because you saw some YouTube movie of a guy showing off his shiny Compiz cube and desktop effects, doesn’t mean it worked entirely out-of-the-box for him. It probably didn’t. Is the tradeoff for having the Compiz cube really worth the effort, especially now that most people are using Vista/Win7? …well, that one’s up to you, but think about it.
“Piiiiike. I thought you loved Linux. Now you’re just trying to talk everyone out of trying it. What gives?”
I’m not trying to talk everyone out of it. I just want people to be aware of the commitment. Sort of like the animal rescuers who screen anyone who is thinking of adopting one of their “babies”. If you want to try Linux, that’s awesome, and I’m excited for you. Trying new things is always good, as far as I’m concerned. But you have to go into it with an open mind. Maybe you’ll end up really liking it.
But if you decide it’s not for you, that’s fine too. Use whatever operating system you feel comfortable with and suits your needs.
And remember the other side of the coin, too: for some of us, Linux is what suits our needs. Yes, some of us actually like this crazy mysterious operating system. Some of us like it for the utility, some of us for the bash terminal, some of us for the security, some of us for the F/OSS philosophy, some of us for two or more of the above, or myriad other reasons.
Oh, and the penguins. Can’t forget the penguins…
(Disclaimer: This ramble is not directed toward anyone or any event in particular. It’s sort of an amalgam of thoughts that have been floating around in my mind for months, and more than one LJ entry I’ve written on the same subject over the years.)
This is part three of my “Discovering Linux” series. Here’s Part One and Part Two.
2007 was a busy year. I was graduating from university and as such, that February I was smack in the middle of senior projects, all of which seemed to be happening right at the same time. Still, I was coming up with excuses to sneak away and use my Linux-ified Laptop. I lurked around on Ubuntu Forums and idled on Linux-related IRC channels. And more and more, having Windows XP on my desktop was starting to bother me. It was compounded by discovering that downloading an mp3 from Apple would play on my iPod but not Winamp, and downloading an mp3 from Microsoft would play on Winamp but not my iPod. This irritated me beyond belief. How could these companies expect to justify not-pirating-stuff if they made it so difficult to listen to music? I didn’t think I could do much about it, though. I needed Windows for games, right? And all those other programs that Linux couldn’t use, right?
I can’t recall what I was doing with my computer, exactly, that fateful day in February. It was the week that all of my senior projects were happening. Film shoots, theatrical plays. I wasn’t working at the time, having saved up a lot of money to take the year off, and yet there were days that I was gone from 9am until well after midnight.
And somehow, amidst all of this, I managed to royally screw up my computer. I think I must have known that what I was doing would screw it all up, because I conveniently happened to back up all of my important files the day before. Maybe I was trying to set up a dual-boot… who knows, really. I can’t remember. Regardless of what I was doing, though, I destroyed my Windows XP. Here’s how I wrote it on my Livejournal at the time:
I was just going around minding my own business (okay, maybe I was sorta messing with things… >.> shh!) and I had to restart my computer and when it came back up I was greeted with all sorts of fun “OMG CAN’T BOOT, OMG NO DISK, OMG RESTART, OMG STUCK” errors. Going into the BIOS didn’t help me at all, and a Google search on my trusty laptop informed me that the solution for this particular error was essentially this: “Nobody knows exactly what causes this error. Here is a list of 5,389,126,734 things you can try that may or may not randomly fix your computer. If none of those work, you’re screwed.”
So what did a very exasperated and rather un-amused Pike do?
Stuck the Kubuntu 6.06 CD in the drive and reformatted, of course.
Granted, it wasn’t all fun and games and smooth sailing. I had tons of display and graphical issues and I became very well-acquainted with the dpkg-reconfigure xserver-xorg command. And, if I recall correctly, I actually had to go out and buy a new wireless card. All of this in the middle of my senior projects that determined whether or not I’d graduate.
And yet, it was worth it. For the first time in years I felt like I was doing something really and truly productive and, dare I say, fun involving my computer. It was challenging and frustrating and it was a blast, and within two days I was all set up and ready to go.
…and that’s how it happened. Since then I’ve been a Linux user. Three years as of last month.
A lot of things have happened since then. I began playing World of Warcraft in May of 2007. I am forever grateful that I was a full-time Linux user before I started playing because I can guarantee you now that I would never have considered a full-switch to Linux if I was on Windows when I started playing and I thought that maybe Linux might do something to my precious WoW. (Um yeah, I was a serious addict for a while. *cough*)
WoW on Linux/Wine was relatively easy to set up– although I had no sound the first day or two that I played– but this was quickly fixed and I leveled to 70 (the then-level cap) without ever logging onto a Windows box. Things got tricky when I started raiding and suddenly Ventrilo was a must; Ventrilo, try as I might, never ever worked for me on Linux.* So it was that February of 2008– after one year of being an exclusive Linux user– I caved and turned my computer into a dual-boot machine. I’ve dual-booted since then, although I don’t particularly like it. I give Linux the lion’s share of my hard drive and only ever use Windows for Ventrilo or FRAPS, and since those are very situational uses I still do consider myself to be a “Linux exclusive” user in the end.
(In fact, right now my Windows partition is quite gimped– no sound, broken graphics, and it won’t connect to the internet. Linux did it all out of the box, so I’ve no desire to go mess with my Windows partition, especially now that I no longer play WoW.)
And so it is that we reach this point. I’m not a computer wizard. I’m not “elite”. I’m not a programmer (though I yearn to be one so I dink around with Python.) I’m just a girl who fell in love with open source one day and decided to see how deep the rabbit hole went.
And so begin my stories…
* Ironically I finally started to get it to work about two weeks before I quit WoW. My last ever raids were done, perhaps fittingly, on Linux, so I’d come full circle.
This is part two of my three-part “Discovering Linux” story. Like the last post, this was written up at some point last year.
I don’t recall exactly where I first found out about Ubuntu, the rising new star in Linux distros at the time, or what it was that inspired me to download the LiveCD. Actually, now that I think about it, I think it may have been the unknowing “fault” of a poster at a forum I frequented at the time. She would post up her Ubuntu in those “Post Your Desktop” threads, and I was… jealous, to say the least. That should be me, I thought. I was the one who did the research on Open Source and oldschool hackers… why couldn’t I have Linux too?
I do remember downloading the Ubuntu LiveCD, putting it in my computer, and being extremely disappointed to find out that try as I might, I couldn’t get it to play nice with my wireless internet.
Why I also had the Kubuntu LiveCD (Kubuntu being, well, Ubuntu with a different desktop environment), I honestly can’t remember, and why I tried it out after Ubuntu I can’t remember either. I do know, though, that wireless internet worked flawlessly and out of the box on Kubuntu, and that I fell deeply in love with this beautiful operating system that was pleasing to the eyes and that was so very deliciously “open source”… all the ideals I’d found myself falling in love with.
But then I went back to Windows. Because the Linux LiveCD was just a LiveCD in my eyes; I’d never get to actually install it. I didn’t think I was that talented. Besideswhich, I figured I’d need to use Windows for video games. (Never mind the fact that I only very rarely played PC games at that point).
I soon got to a point where I was using the Kubuntu LiveCD anytime I had the excuse, though. Mostly on my laptop; I would cozy down on my bed with the lights dim except for maybe a candle, and do my stuff on Linux. It felt so… right. Does that make me a giant dork? Probably. But hey.
I moved on to the next step in my little obsession, which was the determination to get Linux installed on something. I chose my old computer which I no longer used. One day I pulled it out, popped the LiveCD in, and… failed to get it to boot the LiveCD. Doublechecking the BIOS and trying out Smart Boot Manager literally got me nowhere. So, after several hours… I gave up.
Happy New Year
I gave it another shot a few months later. Why I thought I could succeed that time when I hadn’t before, I don’t know, but I spent hours trying to get it working. It was something I wanted so badly, I could taste it.
And so it was that about a week later I pulled out my laptop, surrounded myself with penguin plushies for luck (dork, remember?) put in the Kubuntu LiveCD… and clicked “install”.
I partitioned the drive so I would be able to dual-boot Windows and Linux. Afterward I leaned back and took a look at the finished job: Linux, running much more quickly and smootly than it had with the LiveCD. And Windows still booting fine as well. Success?
Somehow I had messed up my install, and given myself a gigantic Linux partition and a teeny tiny Windows one. This was the opposite of what I initially wanted. Now at this point, I was still a giant nub and had no idea about partition editors like GParted so I assumed that my only option would be to wipe everything, reinstall Windows, and start from scratch.
I had a copy of Windows XP laying around, so in the disc went into my laptop and after a bit I was good to go. Or so I thought. I had no internet and no sound. See, these were drivers that came pre-installed with the laptop’s Windows XP and they didn’t give them to you separately. I went on a massive search for said drivers, with no luck. Before long, night had arrived, and I went to bed with tears in my eyes, convinced I had ruined my laptop and rendered it completely unusable. I knew I shouldn’t have tried to mess with Linux. I knew I would mess something up. I knew it was out of my league.
I woke up the next morning hoping that it had all been a bad dream. But no, I still had a laptop running a gimped version of Windows XP. I glanced over at the Kubuntu CD. I glanced back at my laptop. I thought for a while.
And then Kubuntu went into my laptop and I wiped XP and installed Linux onto 100% of my hard drive. No more of this dual-booting crap with an OS that I couldn’t get working if it didn’t happen to be installed by default.
And then it was done; I booted up my computer and up came Linux.
The sound worked by default.
The internet worked by default.
It was January of 2007, and that year, I was free.
This, of course, was only the beginning– my desktop computer, which was the one that I used most, still ran Windows XP. That would soon change.
This is something I initially wrote back June of last year. It’s part one of a three part story describing how I “found” Linux and turned into a FOSS nerd. I figured it would be worth documenting partially so I wouldn’t forget, and partially because while I am a geek, I am by no means a programmer, and I figure this makes me somewhat unique among typical FOSS nerds so maybe it would be a story worth sharing.
Computers have always been a part of my life. When I was very young, it was the Commdore 64, and then when I hit Kindergarten and throughout much of elementary school career, it was green-screen IBMs. By fifth or sixth grade the school had graduated to Mac, which I preferred over the IBMs for two reasons: Kid Pix, and fireworks screensavers. Why can’t you find any good old’fashioned Pyro! fireworks screensavers anymore? But I digress.
The internet also exploded onto the scene at about this time; I’ll never forget that random commercial in the middle of kids’ shows saying you could now enter some contest or other by “e-mail”. What a strange new word.
Our beloved Commdore 64 at home finally gave up the ghost when I was in seventh grade and we bought a shiny new computer with Windows 95 installed. For the first time I tried out this “internet thing” myself, though I don’t really remember what I did. I do have a vague memory of talking to my cousin on ICQ, though.
The default web browser was Internet Explorer, which disappointed me because I much preferred the browser with the shiny “N” logo that made sparkles when pages were loading, and had an overall more fun GUI, which, back then, is basically how I judged most programs. But Internet Explorer was what came with the computer, and so it was that the Big Blue “E” would become synonymous with the internet.
Our computer was always having issues so we wound up replacing it and reformatting it several times for the next few years and we cycled through virtually every new Windows operating system up until XP, which is when I graduated high school and got my own computer as a present. It came with Windows XP Home pre-installed and I. Was. Excited. Finally a computer of my own to play my own games on and set my own wallpaper on!
I played a lot of Starcraft. Mostly just games against the AI because my internet access at the time was dialup and very spotty at best. I could get internet access at school, and I found myself joining a few forums, but but I never stayed very long because I couldn’t access said forums from home. Things really started to change in early 2004, though, when I finally obtained home access to high-speed internet…
Enter the Fox
The Big Blue E. That’s what I clicked on to use the internet, and use it I did to explore this big new world that had opened up in front of me. At some point earlier, my brother (who got a computer of his own a few years before I did), showed me this new thing called “Mozilla” which he called “The Browser of Champions,” but I didn’t really get the appeal and went back to my Big Blue E.
Until it decided to start being stupid.
Every so often it would suddenly and out of nowhere decide to open up multitudes of copies of itself. I had no way to stop it until it decided to stop, at which point my taskbar was cluttered with dozens or even hundreds of instances of Internet Explorer, and I had to go through and individually close each of them. I was quite vexed by this and went to the aforementioned brother for help, who gave me a solution that I wasn’t expecting, but which turned out to be even better than I expected:
A new web browser. It was apparently still in Beta; version 0.8, I believe, is where I jumped in.
It was called Firefox.
I was immediately hooked. The kinks were all still being worked out, the browser was still somewhat glitchy in several respects, but I was hooked nonetheless. The Big Blue E was ditched and from that day on, it was the still mint-new logo of a fox circling the globe that would then define the Internet.
Perhaps most importantly though, Firefox showed me something that I hadn’t even known existed. See, I like to research things, just to learn more about them, and so naturally at some point I stumbled across something or other about Firefox and I was reading it and discovered a new term: Open Source.
My very earliest introduction to Linux was this thing that my brother showed me called Knoppix. From what I understood at the time, it was a CD that you put into your computer that turned you into a hacker.
Let’s stop and talk about this for a bit. Although my personal definition of the word “hacker” has changed throughout my life, I can never remember it being a negative word. At the time that I was shown Knoppix, a “hacker”, in my understanding, was a cross between Neo from the Matrix, and Robin Hood. An outlaw with a heart who stole code from the rich to give to the poor. Someone who was probably scary but was still, at heart, a Good Guy. I have no idea how this picture got painted in my mind. It was possibly inspired by the “I Know Unix” girl in Jurassic Park, a movie that I watched about a million times when I was ten years old. But regardless of where I got this image in my head, it was there, and Knoppix was seen as this shiny, offlimits toy that I should never use because I knew I wasn’t Neo or Robin Hood, I was just an ordinary girl, and to use something like Linux would be like stumbling out of my domain and profaning something that was beyond my reach.
And so other than ogling at it one time I went on with the rest of my life, not thinking about it again until going on one of those wonderful zen moments on the computer of just clicking and clicking and learning and learning about new things, and this time it was Open Source I was learning about and somehow I stumbled across Eric S. Raymond‘s website.
It was then that I devoured the Jargon File and became fascinated with this idea of the true, original, dorky MIT hacker. A geek like me, who was also trickster like Br’er Rabbit who made fun things with computers.
Could I do that?
On that site was a tutorial called “How to Become a Hacker“. I gulped it all down and then got to one of the steps:
“Get one of the open-source Unixes and learn to use and run it.”
I thought back to Knoppix and how alien it had seemed compared to Windows, with its big terminal and an unfamiliar GUI. Yeah, it was out of my league.
So I decided I couldn’t become a hacker, I wasn’t awesome enough. Fair. I was still fascinated with the idea of Open Source, and became relatively involved in the Spread Firefox community for a short time as a way to prove it. I felt like I’d sort of reached a dead-end, though, and because I was still relatively content with Windows my initial love affair with Open Source sort of faded away.