How I stumbled into Linux

Submitted by dag on Wed, 2008/08/06 - 00:33

Today I had an interesting conversation with a colleague about the Linux provisioning (how I dislike that word) deployment system we are developing at a customer. And in the midst of things he brought up how he started with Linux.

Apparently we share the same story, and I wondered how many other people were driven to Linux by frustration over some unexplained Windows bug at the time.

My story goes back to 1995, involved Windows 95 and an expensive CD burner I bought. I was already using Linux on a 80386, but that one was slower and did not have an internet connection.

In those days I specifically told people not to do dual-boot to learn Linux since rebooting from one to the other OS to find clues or get information clearly does get tiresome quickly. In those days Internet access on Linux was far from obvious and virtualization was unheard of (at least on Intel).

Anyway, using Windows 95 on the newer hardware with the CD burner caused Blue Screens of Death for 80% of the CD-Rs. As a student this was costing me a lot of money (and time). I fiddled with drivers, reinstalled Windows, used Soft-ICE to discover anything that could help, all to no avail. Windows was not giving much away and I suspected hardware related problems.

But dual-booting Linux on the same hardware made the CD burner and system stable, and I never trashed any of my CD-Rs again. Since I had spent so much time on Windows, which did not teach me anything about the inners of Windows and I was able to solve a few issues myself getting the CD burner to work on Linux, clearly taught me that Linux was much more efficient and educational for me than Windows was ever going to be.

I must say that in those days I had 2 very invaluable tutors available on IRC, both to which I am still grateful: Peter De Schrijver and Ulrik De Bie assisted me often with RTFM and answering questions with questions :-)

Although I stopped using Windows after the experience for myself, I still needed some Windows skills to keep my family's computers going, and those skills have proven to be useful from time to time, even if only to show I do know something about computers or to get free Internet access (by volunteering to administer the local libraries computers or to fiddle with Hotel paid-for Internet access clocks).

Life can take strange turns and often is unpredictable, however if it wasn't for the CD burner or the Windows 95 BSOD, something else would definitely have flipped me to Linux and Open Source. I certainly was lucky with the people surrounding me and the accessibility to technology.

Let me use this opportunity to thank everyone who was part of this, my parents, my family (and uncle Marcus), my friends, teachers and colleagues over the years. If you read this and we are out of touch, contact me or link me !

I think we all share that story...

Hi Dag,

Thanks for a great blog (the only one I read)!

I started using Linux in 2000, and it was mainly due to the unexplained Windows issues we had at work. I was a consultant, and I got so tired of trying to fix things for customers.. where Windows didn't give you a clue of what was wrong.

Going to Linux, still being a consultant, made my life better. Customers still have issues, but it's quite straight forward to solve. By being working with open-source, you will actually have control, and can dig into the code (if that is required).

I totally agree that people should go for the install Linux only option.. as it is easy to learn, but you have to want to learn it. If you're gonna dual-boot, you will always stick with what you're used to.. and Linux won't be used very often.

/Thomas (A Norwegian lost in Holland)