I was thinking about this earlier today and I had a hard time trying to remember when it was that I touched Linux first. I remember my incredible interest in Linux from the first time I heard about it.
I remember that there was a big Expo here in Iceland around 2000-2001 when I was given a retail box of Redhat Linux 7, that was the first time I got a hands-on physical box version of Linux and it made me think that this was something big!
Linux today is still fantastic and more stable than it was back in the day, at least from memory! We take for granted a lot of things that were a horror show back in the day. Installing wireless cards for one, setting up ALSA soundcards, NVidia and ATi drivers (modules) tried their best to make you rip all your hair off as well.
Today you rarely get any issues when installing and maintaining a typical Linux desktop or laptop machine.
But it’s still nice to think back and see where I’ve been whilst the Linux world develops and matures over the years.
2000-2001 – Red Hat Linux (ca version 6.x – 7)
As I mentioned above, I got my hands on a box set of the famous Linux system Red Hat made before they moved to support the Fedora project. This was my first experience installing Linux on a PC, although I can’t remember what computer I had back then. It was most likely a 300MHz Celeron machine with about 256MB or 512MB RAM.
The experience of installing said Linux system was anything but painless, I think it took well over 20 tries to just get it installed and for me to be able to boot up the installed system. When it was finally up and running nothing was working as I thought it would. Connecting to the internet via a 56k modem was not a chance for me to achieve at the time, so I couldn’t get any information on issues I was having by any means other than turning the machine off, switching hard drives and booting into Windows and searching from there. I only had this one desktop machine so I quickly gave up on the dream of having Linux running on my desktop machine.
2002 – FreeBSD 4.5
A friend of mine who was into Unix and Linux told me first about FreeBSD and how he used it to do all manner of things, he helped me install FreeBSD on my 300MHz machine so I could use it as a server and learn basic things regarding maintenance on a web server. I started fiddling with HTML and CSS for real, I had done some HTML in Netscape Composer on earlier machines, but now I started to learn it by coding it and adding PHP in the mix. FreeBSD worked fantastically and was stable as anything I’d ever seen. My mind was expanding more and more with how Unix and Linux worked and I got more into the CLI part, console or terminal depending on what you call it. After screwing up the machine a couple of times I had to just install the system by myself and learn the install procedure by myself since I had worn out my friendship (not really but he got fed up with me always calling for assistance).
2002 – Gentoo Linux 1.0
This Linux distribution might be my favourite ever! Since it’s what taught me the most about Linux in general. Gentoo Linux is a Linux distribution that is hard to install and you don’t have any binary packages, at least not back in the day when I started using it. Everything is compiled from source code via portage (the package manager Gentoo uses), which means that you have to spend a lot of time waiting for code to compile to binaries. Just installing the Linux kernel on my 300MHz Celeron box took upwards of two hours. So when you are learning the ropes and doing things manually for the first time, you get to compile the kernel quite a few times and the hours add up.
So you could say that tension was high as well as my patience wearing thin. But it was a fantastic learning experience. I ran into so many walls during my time with Gentoo, some good, some bad, but all a learning possibility. I honestly wouldn’t know what I do today about Linux if it hadn’t been for Gentoo Linux.
2014 – Ubuntu and other binary distros
Around the year 2014, I finally tried Ubuntu and I did like it a bit, but it didn’t really capture my attention and heart like Gentoo did more than 10 years earlier. I did like the fact that it was binary and I could install packages with remarkable speed, but I missed all the tinkering and the constant fiddling and learning I did.
But, it was stable and just worked. So I’ve spent the years since switching between binary distros on a regular basis. I mainly used Ubuntu with the default Gnome setup for the first 5 or 6 years, then after that, I got a bit bored and started trying other versions/flavours of Ubuntu and in the end, I settled for the Budgie version. It offered me a bit of fiddling to get things working as I wanted them to.
But, alas, even that didn’t hold my fancy much longer, I decided to try and find another distro since I was getting fed up with the status quo in Ubuntu, things were getting weird in my opinion so I decided to give in to the “distro hopping” part of my brain.
2019 – Fedora Core 30
So, there we are. I finally gave Fedora a try and had it running as my main distro on my machines. Yes, it is a binary distro but it’s not Debian based and it’s far from what Ubuntu had turned into. And as a prophecy, things had gone full circle, I was back where I began since Fedora is today what Red Hat Linux was back when I started trying Linux. Fedora is a version of the OSS (Open Source Software) parts of RHEL (Red Hat Enterprise Linux). I started with Fedora Core 30 back in 2019 if I can remember correctly and I’ve pretty much stayed there for the most part.
The experience is fantastic, the stability is awesome and I’m just happy turning on my machine and getting to work. I use the default installation so I’m running Gnome 42 today on Fedore 36 and it just works and isn’t annoying like the Unity fiasco on Ubuntu. It’s still a sore subject with me, the Unity UI in Ubuntu that is.
Why the trip down memory lane?
Well, I just recently got a job as a Sysadmin and a Linux admin for a very old and stable company here in Iceland and I now get to run my desktop and laptop 100% on Linux. I’m again going deep and gaining experience and knowledge in Linux and revisiting a lot of old stuff I’ve done as well as new things. It feels so good to have this new direction in my life and I’m honestly very optimistic about the future now.
But there is a “downside” of this change, the fiddling bug has returned and I’m once again starting to play with Gentoo. I say it is a “downside” since it is really something I want to do, but it will take a bunch of my time away from other stuff. But I do truly believe that this is a good step forward and it will again, benefit my knowledge a bunch.
But one thing I didn’t miss about Gentoo, is the compile times 😉