How I came to Linux

Time for one of my (thankfully|unfortunately) rare Linux posts. To lay the groundwork, let me say that I switched to Linux back when XP came out. I foolishly went to the store and BOUGHT a copy of Windows XP for my home computers. Yes, plural. Only after installing it on the second computer and being prompted for the license key, which it promptly told me had already been used and was therefore invalid, did I realize how badly Microsoft was screwing people over. I hadn’t bought an OS, I had bought a license to run an OS on one computer. Buying a second license for my second computer would cost me another $200. So with much cursing and swearing, I went out to the store again and bought… Mandrake Linux 7.2. That cost me $40, and it truly was an OS, not a license. I could install Mandrake over and over and over again, on a thousand computers if I wanted… (<drool>Beowulf cluster</drool>)

Now it only took me a few days to realize Mandrake 7.2 was horribly outdated. Version 8.2 was current, and 9.0 was imminent. Of course, I also realized that buying Linux from a store is really silly, and that these new versions were free downloads if I could just figure out what an ISO was, and how to burn it to a CD (hint: you don’t write it to disk like a normal file).

After a while I got frustrated with Mandrake because installing or upgrading packages could be nightmarish. I learned the name for this phenomenon was “dependency hell”, and I hated it. So much so, that I began exploring other Linux distributions, and what they had to offer that was different. I don’t recall how many I tried, but I settled on Gentoo. It was the most difficult to install (meaning, there’s a manual that you must actually read, not ignore until you’re in trouble) and it was time consuming (everything is compiled fresh from the source code instead of being pre-packaged), but it was in my opinion the best. Compiling from source meant software customized for my hardware and my uses, and the Portage package management virtually eliminated dependency hell (though playing around with some “unstable” packages still caused me some grief). Difficult to install, easy as dirt to maintain. I was in love.

A couple years ago I got a new hard drive for xmas, and I got the urge to play around with other Linux distros. I tried one that won me over for sheer simplicity. SimplyMEPIS. Mepis installs like Windows, but quicker, and with more usable applications. Unlike Gentoo, where you must decide what you want and install it (causing some problems if you don’t know what you want), Mepis is an “out of the box” distro. You install it, and you are (99%) done. Everything is usable right away, and virtually everything you want is there already.

So… that was a longer intro than I intended. I’m going to make this its own post, and make a new post with what I intended to blog about in the first place.

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