My love for Linux

I started tinkering with Linux on my own computer back in 1998 (Pentium II 233mhz, 96MB RAM, 16MB NVIDIA TNT AGP video card, 3.2GB Hard Drive), having earlier experienced an install at the San Jose Public Library system, where I used the Lynx web browser to login to my Hotmail acccount (before it was purchased by Microsoft) and type away for hours, rather than be limited by the 30 minute time limit on the Windows machines they had. Besides attracting attention for my relatively fast typing speed, I also attracted people to the power of a simple console-based browser in the hands of someone willing to learn how to use it.

That experience stayed with me and, after moving up to Santa Rosa in 1998, I soon purchased my first computer. Being that I finally had one of my own, instead of using other people’s machines, I was free to experiment. When my pre-installed Windows 95 OSR 2.5 installation crashed, I ended up creating a dual-boot Windows 95/Windows NT 4.0 installation. With a relatively stable OS (at least compared to Windows 9X) to use, I soon explored emulators so that I could try out Linux, which at that point, barely had support for USB. This gave me a chance to experiment safely, while still retaining the usability for Windows NT for most other things, leaving Windows 95 (and later 98SE) for the few things that I couldn’t do on the other OS’s.

As the years went by, I upgraded and built new machines, giving my parents the older machines since their machines were very old. As the power I had available to me increased, so did my experiments with Linux, especially when I finally had a spare computer to install it on. While for the longest time I couldn’t do everything I wanted to do in Linux, mainly for the lack of quality open-source software replacements for the Windows-only programs I had grown accustomed to using, I still found myself increasingly impressed with what I could do.

Having a Linux machine to handle tasks such as email, writing, and photo editing was a real pleasure, and I longed to be able to use Linux exclusively. This finally became a reality this Summer, as I set up a Linux-based TV computer for my Mom and stepfather using Linux Mint. I was so impressed with how smooth things had gotten, that I decided to install it on my secondary computer that I had left to the side as I used my newest computer, built in March 2014.

I was astonished to see that the older computer (i7-2600K, 16GB RAM, 1GB eVGA NVIDIA Geforce 560ti SC, 120GB SSD) felt faster than my newer computer running Windows 7. That was the last straw, and so I backed up my old files on my main computer (i7-4771, 32GB RAM, 4GB eVGA NVIDIA Geforce 770 Classified, 1TB SSD) and wiped Windows for the last time.

While it has taken a bit of work to get a few things to my liking, my experience has been nothing short of wonderful. A large part of this, is the fact that so many of the programs I used under Windows, are open-source. Combined with emulators like DOSBOX and VirtualBox, as well as the excellent WINE, there are very few things that I cannot do.

It’s amazing how receptive people are to Linux when they’re presented with it. I set up my neighbour’s older laptop with it and he was really impressed. His main laptop has Windows 7 and, every two months when, despite installing anti-virus/anti-spyware software, his system gets infected with nasties that infect his browser and then spread to the rest of the system (although I suspect he downloads and installs programs and forgets about them), he still has a system to fall back on while I backup and reinstall Windows on the main one. I am hoping to eventually get him to Linux for the main machine, but I don’t know when that’ll happen, since he uses several hardware devices that don’t work with Linux (yet), as they have proprietary software/drivers that don’t have an open-source alternative.

On the upside, I will be creating a new TV computer for him when he has the money for the hardware. This will allow him to avoid using Windows as much as possible and, hopefully, save me from having to service his Windows computer every other month. I will be posting more about the TV computer once I am building it. Intel’s latest low-power CPU’s (Broadwell) should be out in the next month or so, which is one of the things we’re waiting on.

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