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  1. #1
    Just Joined!
    Join Date
    May 2007
    New Mexico

    How did you get started in linux?

    I'm sitting at work today, reflecting on my history with Linux, how far Linux has come, marvelling at the sophistication of the installers and the desktop today, talking with other computer people at work, who have never installed it or even used it, and I'm curious to pose the question: how did you get started in Linux?

    If you want to share your story, I'll share mine.

    I got started in 1996. I had a 386 lying around and I didn't have any money to purchase software, but I wanted to get online. Well, coming from an engineering background, and in fact coming from a university that's well known for computer science and having some Unix experience, I got a copy of Linux. I installed it, got the modem card working, got "news" configured, and got online. That old clunker worked for the next couple of years.

    This was actually my beginning in computers, as well. Up to then, I had only been a mild user, mostly at school.

    So the following year, an opportunity arose to do some part time work at my Dad's company. My dad and his cohorts were hard core engineers and scientists, contractors working on weapons design at Kirtland Air Force base. The work involved desktop publishing. These guys were a Unix shop, they had Sunos 4.1.4 systems, and I started using Framemaker for the desktop publishing. I very early on convinced the boss to let me help out with the Unix system administration, and quickly became immersed in the often confusing acronym-littered world of networking: DNS, bind, NIS, TCP/IP. I worked there for about half a year, configuring the sendmail system and learning how to install operating systems and configure networking.

    I went back to school in the fall of '98 to finish my B.S. in Math. At the start of the semester I convinced the computer science chair to let me be a system administrator for the department. This was my initiation by fire. I was the only system administrator, and I was allowed to hire a student helper. They were already heavy into Linux. The chair and his graduate students were the inventors of real-time Linux and the guys who put together Linux on Power PC, and the network was a mix of various types of Unix and Linux. Together we learned *everything*: majordomo, email, DNS, networking, linux on DEC alpha, Linux on Sparc, Linux on x86, Linux on power pc, routing, operating systems, boot partitions, network services, firewalls, security, web servers. You name it. Two semesters and one degree later, I felt I had learned a huge amount about Linux, Unix and computing, however I also felt there was quite a ways to go. One year experience does not make a system administrator.

    I graduated and took off for the East Coast, Washington, DC. I spent the next several years working as a contractor, Desktop Publishing, Unix System Administration, Network Engineer. There's a lot of government agencies making heavy use of Linux. One of the main ones was NOAA - huge Linux shop. The most convoluted NFS setup I'd ever seen. My boss was one of the founding members of NPR. An activist-turned-Unix-administrator. What a great guy and a great experience.

    I also had a chance to contribute back to the open source community with the sftplogging patch, which has been used by thousands of people around the world and even incorporated into HP-UX and some Linux distros.

    Then a couple years ago, I went back to New Mexico, this time as the Engineering Manager for the Computer Center at my old university. Still a huge Linux shop. Hundreds of dual-boot workstations in computer enabled classrooms. Fedora, Redhat, Debian. We migrated off the last of the legacy Unix systems, retiring some equipment (and operating systems) that had been in place since computing began, it seemed.

    Now I'm at a new job, still in NM, still in government. There isn't a single piece of Linux here ... (This will change soon) and I'm thinking back over the last 10 years. Remembering the old days, when to get linux working on your hardware you had to download and compile drivers, and even tweak them. At times nothing worked out of the box, it seemed. Nowadays, everyone's rolling their own distributions, and the darn things work right out of the box. And the GUIs are so slick, too. I have to remind myself I don't have to open a terminal and "cd" into the directory I want, I can do it by double clicking on the icon for the folder.

    Well, I'm happy I learned Linux from the ground up, and especially as a sysadmin. I'm a much better computer scientist as a result. My understanding of hardware, networking and operating systems would have been much more limited. I remember when I configured the email gateway for USDA/CSREES. In order to achieve what I wanted (the fastest possible virus and spam scanning, with as much of it in memory as possible), I had to process each email with a single bash line. Well, writing that bash line took two weeks, but my understanding of bash increased ten fold, and the end result was lightning fast.

    I remember another project I started on my own, it was an installer for openafs. Anyone who's installed and configured AFS knows how complicated it can get. Well, the installer was going to do everything for you, it was geared towards a small to medium sized network, all you would have to do would be to answer some questions, it would set up everything for you. I didn't finish the project ... a shame because it was a great idea, but I walked away from it with an intimate knowledge of C, that I would have never have had otherwise.

    Now Linux isn't just a behind-the-scenes operating system anymore, running most of the world's websites on Apache, processing email or DNS, it's a full fledged, user-friendly desktop. A whole new world of users and challenges. My boss and I just started up a consulting firm to supplement our "day" jobs. He wants to market ready-built desktop and home office network solutions, and sell them to local businesses as "green" systems that use Linux. Well, I don't know what green means, but we are in Santa Fe, and we'll figure it out. Should be fun.
    Last edited by oz; 05-02-2007 at 03:37 PM.

  2. #2
    Linux User
    Join Date
    Jan 2007
    back in early 90's, in grad school, running Aix on an IBM RT workstation,
    looking around for something to run on my (then monster) 25mHz Tandy
    386--up popped linux 0.12 or 0.13--I forget what was the first that I got
    setup. All night downloads (1200 baud modem, compile kernel,
    compile emacs, compile sed/awk/grep/cut/ed/....

    great fun; still have a working 0.96c

    best in *nix
    the sun is new every day (heraclitus)

  3. #3
    About two years ago, I was looking at a webhosting service and I noticed "Linux based" as one of the features" and thought "whazza-frazza"(well, not really). Then two months ago, at a computer fair, this guy was running a stand that sold this "Ubuntu" thing. So, I decided to check it out.

  4. $spacer_open
  5. #4
    Linux Guru Juan Pablo's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2006
    About 1 year ago, when I was bored and got a copy of Fedora Core 2
    Put your hand in an oven for a minute and it will be like an hour, sit beside a beautiful woman for an hour and it will be like a minute, that is relativity. --Albert Einstein
    Linux User #425940

    Don't PM me with questions, instead post in the forums

  6. #5
    Administrator MikeTbob's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2006

    WAYYYY back when.......Moby dick was a minnow.

    I walked into the local Bestbuy and stumbled upon a "Redhat 5.2 Deluxe" for $5.99, and I thought, huh, whats this!?! So I bought it and installed it on my 486. It didn't come with instructions or anything. I later found the install instructions on the CD.
    I do not respond to private messages asking for Linux help, Please keep it on the forums only.
    All new users please read this.** Forum FAQS. ** Adopt an unanswered post.

    I'd rather be lost at the lake than found at home.

  7. #6
    First distro I tried is Redhat 6, install it with my dad back then. But we erase it, since it's useless, we can't do anything with it.

    Years later my biggest pull on Linux is with Mandrake 8.2. That's my fist distro that hold for weeks on my computer. Later I play alot with slackware, specially searching on super minimal configuration. And now I just need a distro that just work. I choose ubuntu.

  8. #7
    About 2-3 months, started out just wanting to see what the heck it was then i wanted to see what those 3D effect things were and now its my primary desktop and i wouldn't want to go back to windows.
    It is forbidden to kill; therefore all murderers are punished unless they kill in large numbers and to the sound of trumpets.

    - Voltaire

  9. #8


    Same here. I installed red hat 9 a couple of years ago, but since it didn't have support for mp3/ntfs/movies and I didn't have a connection to the internet, i didn' think much about Linux back then. We also had dual-boot on every computer in our highschool, but all linux systems were in text mode. I thought you had to be some kind of genius to work out that thing.Now, that I got to a tech gollege I decided to give linux another try and I instlled Fedora 6 4 months ago. Now linux is my desktop system. In two years, our programme provides a course about operating systems (and I heard linux is the central idea of it). Can't wait.

  10. #9
    Linux Enthusiast
    Join Date
    Jun 2005
    The Hot Humid South
    Hmm, there seems to be a trend with the last few posts!

    I also first got exposed to it a very long time ago, with Red Hat 2 but it was just plain horrible. Then again with Mandrake a year or so later, which was also horrible. Didn't touch it again this about 3 years ago, when my dad got me a copy of Knoppix 3.something. After that I was hooked!
    "Today you are freer than ever to do what you want, provided you can pay for it!" --Bad Religion

  11. #10
    Linux User Oxygen's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2004
    Hartlepool, England
    At first I used Red Hat 8 because I hated Windows, Linux wasn't too good for me back then either. As I used different distros I found Suse and Ubuntu and I loved them. I've never looked back.
    Graham - You'd better Use Linux!

    I'm registerd Linux user #397030. What about you?

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