My family's Linux story |

My family's Linux story

Our first attempt at Linux was just an apt-get away.

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My first attempt at Linux was one of those "maybe I should give this a try" kinds of situations.

Back in the late 1990s, I found some kind of packaged Red Hat distro on quite a few floppies, bought a second hard drive for the family laptop, and set about installing it. It was an interesting experiment, but as I recall the family wasn't quite ready to share the computer to that extent. Fast forward to 2005, I finally broke down and bought a lovely Toshiba laptop that ran Window XP. At work, I had an aging Sun SPARCStation 5, and I didn't really like the direction the whole Solaris thing was going at that point (Motif-based desktop). I really wanted GIMP for some project or the other, but the convoluted journey to installing GNOME 1.x (was it 1.4? maybe) on Solaris was challenging. So, I was actually contemplating jumping ship to Windows XP. But after living with it on my home machine for a few months, I found myself liking that even less than trying to run GNOME on Solaris, so I installed Ubuntu Hoary Hedgehog 5.04 and then Breezy Badger 5.10 on my laptop. It was wonderful. That machine with its 3.2GHz Pentium, 2GB of memory, and 100GB hard drive ran rings around my SPARCStation 5.

All of a sudden, instead of fooling around with cobbled-together Solaris packages to try to get stuff running, things were just an apt-get away. The timing was good, too. My family and I lived in Grenoble, France from August 2006 to July 2007, while my wife was on sabbatical. Because of the Linux Toshiba, I was able to take my work with me. At the time I was doing a lot of GIS data processing on a couple of big projects; I found I could do the same thing in PostGIS / PostgreSQL much more rapidly than with the incredibly expensive commercial GIS software we used back home in Canada. Everyone was happy, especially me. 

The funny thing that happened along the way was that we took two other computers to France - my wife's similar Toshiba (running XP, which worked fine for her) and our kids' recently acquired new Toshiba laptop, also running XP. Just after Christmas, they had some friends over who inadvertently installed a nasty and impossible to remove virus on their computer. After several hours over a few days, one of my kids asked "Dad, can't we just install the same thing as on your computer"?  And poof, three new Linux users were created. My son, at 29 years old, is still a happy Linux user, and I'm guessing on his fourth or fifth Linux laptop, the last few all supplied by System76. One of my daughters was forced to convert to Windows when she started law school three years ago as her school had a mandatory testing framework that only would run on Windows and would allegedly detect things like VMs and whatnot (please don't get me started). And, my other daughter was seduced by a Macbook Air that her company bought for her.

Oh well, can't win them all!

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About the author

Chris Hermansen portrait Temuco Chile
Chris Hermansen - Seldom without a computer of some sort since graduating from the University of British Columbia in 1978, I have been a full-time Linux user since 2005, a full-time Solaris and SunOS user from 1986 through 2005, and UNIX System V user before that. On the technical side of things, I have spent a great deal of my career as a consultant, doing data analysis and visualization; especially spatial data analysis. I have a substantial amount of related programming experience, using C, awk, Java,...