Wednesday, September 23, 2015

The story of my journey to Linux

The journey

While I have been working on both Windows, UNIX and Linux since 1997, it was only a few years ago that I started using Linux as my primary operating system at home.

During my professional career I have worked on both HP Compaq Tru64, IBM AIX, HP/UX, Sun Solaris (both Sparc and Intel), SuSE Linux, Red Hat Enterprise Linux, CentOS and Oracle Linux.

My first encounter with computers was when a few of my friends got an Amiga 500 in the late 80'es. About the same time I got a Commodore 64, and while these machines were mainly used for gaming, it was also my first encounter with programming. In BASIC.

Around 1990 my father purchased an Atari 1040ST, which is used to create music. He also owned a PC AT where I learned word processing. 

In 1993 I took a few classes at an engineering college, where one of the perks was your own personal shell account. I do not know which version of UNIX it was, and I mainly used it for email and accessing Bulletin Board Systems. Either the same year, or the year after, I bought my first PC. It was an Olivetti with Windows 3.1. I do not recall what happened to it, but I did not have it for a long time. 

In 1996 I got a shell account at the university, and as far as I can remember they were running Sun Solaris. The same year I bought my second PC, which was assembled by a PC builder hobbyist. It came with a boot virus, so I got a crash course in the format and fdisk commands before I finally got the problem solved and Windows 95 reinstalled. This ordeal made me look for other options, and during the next few weeks I obtained copies of both OS/2 and Red Hat Linux. The former was never able to run stable on my machine, but the latter had potential as I was already used to working in the shell. In the end though, I installed Windows 95 yet again.

Since the late 90'es I have been using the Internet regularly. At first it was through a modem 28.8 kbps and then through ISDN 64 kbps or bundled up to 128 kbps. Finally around 2002-2003 I got a DSL connection, and then it occurred to me that I could host a server at home. At that time I always had a few spare computers, so I bought a bundle with SuSE Linux and written documentation. While SuSE worked fine, I was more comfortable with Red Hat, because most my professional encounters with Linux was with Red Hat Linux. In 2003, Red Hat had discontinued their free Red Hat Linux distribution, and only offered a paid option. Instead they started the Fedora Core project based on the source code from Red Hat Linux 9.

For the next 5 years I was running Fedora Linux on my home server(s), while keeping Windows on the desktop. The only reason I kept Windows was because I enjoyed playing a few computer games that only would run on Windows. 

In 2008 I did not longer have time to manage home servers, and I had also begun taking an interest in OS X. First I bought a cheap Mac Mini to check if OS X was anything for me. I really liked it, so I bought a iMac to replace my aging desktop PC. Later the same year I also bought a Macbook Pro. 

Between 2009 and 2011 I was using Windows on my gaming computer and OS X for surfing, programming and word processing. 

By 2012 I was no longer playing computer games, and I had given away my gaming computer to a friend of the family. The aging Macbook Pro was still catering for my surfing and word processing needs, and since I was quite satisfied with OS X, I saw no reason so use Linux at home during these years.

In 2014 my Macbook Pro was now 6 years old, and beginning to feel slow. The question was if I should buy a new Macbook Pro, or get a cheaper PC and install Fedora Linux on it. Having a PC with Windows 8 was no option for me. I do have a few gadgets, mainly HR watches, which only have drivers and software for Windows and OS X. In the end I decided to buy a Lenovo Thinkpad E540. I installed Windows XP in VirtualBox to cater for my gadgets.

I have always been a huge fan of the Red Hat family of Linux distributions. For many years I have enjoyed using Fedora because it is a leading edge, while still managing to be quite stable. As I have grown older and have gotten less time to spend in front of the computer, I wished I did not have to upgrade my Fedora installation twice a year, or do a reinstall. So I started looking for options. I know quite a few people that uses Linux Mint, and they are very happy with it, since both Cinnamon, XFCE and KDE uses "classic" menus similar to the Start button menu in Windows. As Gnome3 user I found Ubuntu 14.04 LTS with Unity more welcoming. I also ran into several technical issues with Linux Mint which I never had with neither Fedora or Ubuntu. Wifi instability being the major issue. 

I have been very satisfied with Ubuntu 14.04 LTS. It has been very stable without any technical issues at all. Pretty much all  the software I have needed have been available in the official repositories, including audio and video playback support. I can recommend Ubuntu to others. It just works. At least on my hardware :)

It was more a philosophical issue that I kept looking for an alternative. I wanted to use a distro that "just works", was community driven, active development, was leading edge but without a need to reinstall, and that had Gnome3 as an official desktop environment. Manjaro seemed like an obvious choice. While Gnome3 was not an official DE, it could either be installed as a community edition, through the repositories in the offical editions. Manjoro is a really beautiful and polished distro, and I would have chosen it, if it hadn't been that I discovered Antergos.

Antergos Linux is a rolling release distro based on Arch. It is leading edge, and supports several of the leading desktop environments including Gnome3. It also looks great as it is using Numix icons. I installed it, and instantly fell in love. I had several technical issues with the LightDM display manager, in particular when awakening from hibernate. I believe this issue was caused by my hardware, so after failing to get LightDM to work properly, I simply disabled and uninstalled LightDM and installed and enabled GDM instead.

I am now caught between Antergos Linux and Fedora. Antergos Linux has it's lightweight and rolling appeal, but Fedora is part of the Red Hat family that I love so much. Linux offers great diversity, and I embrase it.

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