The Penguin and Me: My Year on Linux

About a year ago, I installed Linux for the first time.  It was something that I always said I was going to do but I never found the time.  However, it has just so happened that I had been laid off so I finally had the time to dig into a new operating system.  Of course, it also didn’t hurt that my then nine year old computer was acting really weird so it need a change too.

Linux is was always both fascinating and intimidating because there are so many different versions – or distributions – of it.  The one I settled on was Ubuntu, which is really good for beginners and if you are thinking of making the jump from Windows to Linux that would be the distribution I would suggest.  It’s very stable and the user interface look really good.  (I know this is a point of much argument but I like.)

While I did duel boot my system, Ubuntu was my primary OS for about a year.  The main reason that I wanted to do this was to learn more about how computers actually worked.  I’ve mentioned before that my background is mainly in web programing, and I didn’t have a lot of system administration experience, so I wanted to move to Linux because I knew it would force me out of my comfort zone.

And it did.  In spades.

One thing being on a Linux system will do is force you into the command line.  It’s true that you don’t have to use it to do basic computing, but if you like to customize things or even just try out a lot of different programs, then you have to use it at least a little bit.  The command line skills that I got from my time with Linux are probably the most valuable thing I got out of it.  Knowing the command line does two things for you: it makes you able to do a lot of things quickly, and it teaches you how a computer actually works.  You wind up learning what a program is accessing when you run it because you found its files all over the folder structure.

And if you like to customize the look and feel of your computer, it is the only  OS you can run.  Period.  Sure Windows and OSX let you customize a lot, but you can control absolutely everything on Linux.  This comes a price of course.  You have to know what you’re doing or you will break your system.

That’s what happened to me.  I installed so many different desktop environments that I made my system unstable and my Linux partition wouldn’t even boot.  This was fine because I had all my files on my Windows partition, but it was sad to see it go.

A few months later I got a job and a new Mac.  I went with a Mac because while I love Linux, I also like using a lot of brand name software like Photoshop and Word.  These won’t run in Linux and I don’t like their open source alternatives.  So that left me with a choice between Windows and Mac, and I don’t really like the direction that Microsoft is going in right now so I moved to a Mac.

And I really love it.  It runs almost all the software I want while still having a Unix style command line.  That means that everything I learned from my year on Linux still applies to my current environment.  I think my main computer is always going to be a Mac from now on, but that doesn’t mean I’m tuning my back on Linux.  Not by a long shot.

I have a few Ubuntu computers that I made from some scraps that my company was getting rid of.  They are great project computers and if I completely destroy them, it’s no matter because everything I need is backed up on my main machine.

Right now I’m working on a command line script that will install and customize a linux computer for me from a fresh install.  That way I can try out new installations and not have to go through the multiple hours of setting everything up how I like.

If the script turns out good, I might make it a post on here.  Stay tuned.

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