5:29:13 My Linux (Mis)Adventures

I've used Linux since the 1990s, initially chosen for computer security on the Internet. Sure, one can use a PC without the Internet: Computer security is then a more manageable problem.

My first efforts to install Linux on my laptop did not go well. I failed more than once, for reasons I don't recall, but only after tedious loading of CDs onto the hard drive. Linux then offered limited hardware support, compared to Windows. That was a stumbling block.

My Linux breakthrough came in the form of a compact distro that fit on a CD-ROM and could be run as a "Live CD". Knoppix gave many of us the chance to "try before you buy." With excellent hardware detection, Knoppix generally made for a positive Linux experience.


Wealthy South African entrepreneur Mark Shuttleworth took the Live CD Linux experience to another level of developer support with Ubuntu. Before long, my laptop was 100% Ubuntu.

I used Ubuntu for a year or so before I found an even more seductive, fast OS in the form of BeOS. More obscure than any Linux, BeOS had it all: elegance, blinding speed, security, and rock-solid stability. I was happy with BeOS for five years or so, or until I got a new laptop.

BeOS didn't support my new laptop. In fact, Be Inc., the company behind BeOS was going belly up after failing to convince Apple it should be their new OS (you can't say BeOS didn't aim high).

Next, I went for some resource-stingy, but fast Linux distributions: specifically, Puppy and Damn Small Linux (DSL). Puppy had a number of pluses, but it burned me twice with fatal errors requiring reinstalls and loss of anything not backed up. Not a distro for me to recommend.

DSL was more positive, but like BeOS, eventually abandoned by its developers.

That brought me back to the strong hands of Mark Shuttleworth and Ubuntu.

All was well with Ubuntu, until a funny thing happened in the name of progress.

Increasingly people have been choosing mobile devices (smartphones and tablets) over desktop PCs. But mobiles have precious little screen real estate for a user interface.

In a controversial decision Ubuntu adopted a device-neutral interface called Unity. Unity defeats anybody who ever was attracted to Linux, like me, because they like to poke around under the hood.

When Unity disgust took hold, the main beneficiary was another distro: Mint Linux, #1 in popularity the last few years.

Mint Linux now runs on my laptop. The interface itself, surprisingly, bears an uncanny resemblance to that of Knoppix years ago. That is a good thing.

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The Cat at Light's End

Read Charlie Dickinson's story collection, The Cat at Light's End, as an ebook in these downloadable formats:

.mobi (Kindle)
.epub (most other readers)
.pdf (for PCs)

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