Joshua Spann

Living la Linux Libre


June 23, 2016

Like most 90’s kids I grew up with and without the world of computers we have today. The core of my childhood had computers as a distant concept and the Internet as a pipe dream that just really began. The Linux kernel was in its infancy and window managers became a more consumable product. I learned MS-DOS, never heard of a Mac, and never dreamed of a smart-phone. I was a small-town country kid with no interest in computers.

I learned DOS on an IBM PC, and the early version of Windows was amazing to me. My first computer was an old hand-me-down from my cousin who was a computer genius. It ran DOS 6.22 and had Windows 3.1 included as a set of floppy disks, a set of which I still have.

My parents and my exploration taught me Windows 3.1. Elementary school taught me Windows 95. High school taught me Windows XP. I learned Vista as SIUE taught me Windows 7. I was strictly a Windows guy and hated the price tags and userspace on a Mac. I heard of Linux sometime before college and knew its mascot was a penguin. I link it to my childhood, watching Toy Story, which may have been around the time I first heard of it.

In college I was discussing my computer tastes with a girl in a chemistry lab and I pronounced Linux as LINE-UCKS. She told me the pronunciation as LYNN-UCKS. I went online, saw Ubuntu in a YouTube video, and hated what I saw. I took an information security class that used Kali-Linux for some labs. I hated it less than Ubuntu but still saw no value in using Linux.

That’s all I knew until my computer hardware and concepts class, when we did a MS-DOS lab. I missed my childhood days of the dark-space and white text and learned Linux was a free OS like DOS. To see if I could learn from the ground up I googled for a DOS-like Linux. I found Arch Linux and installed it, command-by-command, into a VM. It was excruciating but with Google’s help I learned the basics of mastering the UNIX command-line.

I then fell in love with the shells and style of Linux which was better than DOS and PowerShell. I took a Linux/Windows Server class as an elective just to learn more about Linux. I studied the materials a week before classes started and got an in-depth understanding from TestOut. I kept Linux in the VM until the end of that Winter semester in 2014 and installed Arch Linux on my old Dell XPS. I used it for the first part of 2015 and got a Raspberry Pi B where I also installed Arch and learned about the ARM world.

Summer 2015 I went hardcore Linux and replaced Windows 7 with Fedora, then Manjaro, then finally Arch. Ever since, I have been using WINE and PlayOnLinux, also an old Windows laptop, for the NT compatibility. Now I run Linux on my personal computers and share the it with others to help them repurpose an old PC with an outdated OS and a curiosity to learn more.

Many people say you need a Windows or Mac to do serious work or gaming. I prefer Linux, Minix, and the BSDs. My experience has shown me that I can do just as good work as the professionals using all libre and open-source software. With Steam coming to Linux and improving emulators, gaming is less sketchy but I’ve always been a console gamer.

GNU/Linux is a different world that has had a profound impact on contemporary computing. I just happened to fall in love with it because it echoed my childhood, but I’ve learned so much about computing from studying the libre world. Despite all I’ve learned, I just hit the tip of the iceberg. I can’t wait to see where this world will take me next.