Been a very long time since I updated my blog. Been very busy. Have been doing almost 36 hr cycles at a stretch! Anyways, this article is a crosspost. It first appeared on my other blog related to my Linux Users Group. The title of this post is the same as it had appeared first and if one is Linux or POSIX-compliant, then they will surely understand. For others, well, it just means that I am sharing my experiences of linux on my LUG.
My exposure to Linux started way back in 1996 on SCO UNIX machines. If anyone has worked on one of those machines, then they would remember what a harrowing time it was. There was only a command prompt, and most of the machines then still had those evil looking CRT terminals with the green hued text. It looked like it had come of those Dr. Who television series. Working in such an environment should have theoretically dissuaded us from using any other POSIX machine ever. But luckily for us, we had a wonderful teacher who kindled our love for her and for UNIX. This shows how effective a teacher can be in shaping the future of the students!
Then, I came back to Bangalore and had the fortune of being exposed to really professional guys who were doing all sorts of stuff in Linux. The first Linux release that I worked on was RedHat Linux 4.2. It was pretty barebones then. Just a command prompt and a very rudimentary X windows environment. But I learnt how to make slides using Lyx and the command-line editor that was so popular in those days – Lynx. I guess I even started experimenting a lot with Linux. I successfully saw that I couldn’t login at all into my account by including “logout” in my .login script. And my system admin then was a bit green himself and he was really bewildered with what was happening. I also dabbled with the devices and learnt redirection very well. I started with simple stuff like cat and moved onto advanced commands like mv * /dev/null, which I incidentally tried just one day before an important submission. I learnt that Linux assumes that the user knows what he/ she is doing and quietly executes the task! We shouldn’t have so much of belief in humans. We are known to goof up most of the times. A good example is the state of affairs in the US right now. Anyways, I went to college the next day and when asked to submit my project, I told the lecturer that my machine ate my project. She obviously was a MicroShaft user and so didn’t believe me at all. At the end of the day, I learnt a really good rule which I, to my chagrin, find that a lot of people forget most of the time: RTFM. I am not going to expand the acronym since I would like to be politically correct, but I am sure that you all can search on the net (a. k. a. google to a lot of people) and find out what it stands for.
I then found out to my surprise that I was a sort of a hero among my friends. A geek and a weirdo too, but nevertheless, a hero. They used to look at me as one of those people who were weird but fundu. And they started approaching me with problems related to linux. Some of them wanted to install Linux and so used to call me home and install the OS. In those days, it was still pretty painful to install Linux. I don’t blame the newbies either. With jargon like mount partitions, ext2, ext3, swap space, and things like /dev/hda1, cylinder size, geometry, I am sure that anyone would get lost. So, I used to go to their houses and personally install Linux. It was business with pleasure as far as I knew. My social status improved and I even got a social life! A lot of girls dig technogeeks. So, if you are a geek or a nerd and you have given up hope on your social life, think again! Of course, you should also have the capability of speaking atleast one sentence of English without technical jargon thrown in, but I am sure that it isn’t that difficult. One of the best challenges in those days was to configure X-Windows for the SIS 6315 and the SIS 6325 cards. That is a major problem that we Linux people face even now. In those days, MicroShaft was controlling the entire market and so it was very difficult to get device drivers for linux. Many drivers that we used of bundled into the releases were generic drivers written by some hacks like us and so they were difficult to port. The vendors also wanted to play safe with Big Brother (M$) and hardly used to have development teams for OSs other than Windoze. Some of my best time was spent ironing out these problems. Nowadays, we have a number of vendors releasing drivers for specific releases but still, a lot of these are generic in nature. Since then, I have worked on all releases of RedHat Linux and quite a number of other releases of Mandrake, Debian, SuSE, Slackware, Caldera, and Gentoo Linux. I even tried some exotic releases of Linux like Knoppix, Morphix (amazing gaming capabilities), and Lycoris (this is a treat for all U Windoze XP fans), to name a few. I am currently dabbling with Ubuntu and find it sort of ok.
I somehow am not comfortable with the shift of importance from performance and efficiency to user-operability but I see the need to do so and the importance in capturing the market with the user-friendliness of each release. The downside was that each release was becoming bulkier than the others and the number of applications were increasing beyond control. Before, I needed just 256MB of hard disk space and 50MB of swap. But nowadays, I need a minimum of 1GB of hard disk space and atleast 300MB of RAM to get my Linux release to chug along. I guess I am more of the old school and feel more confortable typing long commands using the command line rather than clicking multiple times on the Graphical User Interface (GUI). But that is just my preference.