May open source be with you

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My introduction to open source software began when I was sitting on a server room floor, with my head in my hands, completely frustrated with a Windows 2000 server. Every night there were some services that would crash. Every morning I would get yelled at by my over-bearing boss. I was new to the company, it was my first IT job fresh out of Network Admin college, where I graduated at the top of my class, but I couldn't fix this problem because it was a "known Microsoft issue," and I just had to wait for the update.

Beginners in Open Source week

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I had known about Linux and was following its progress while attending college. I kept reading about its rock-solid operation, so I wanted to test it out in our company (risking my own neck and bacon). Somehow, I convinced my boss that with the purchase of a $200 used computer I could solve all his problems. My plan was to replace one of the services that was causing problems just to see if Linux could handle the job. I searched the Internet and found a lot of information about Red Hat and how brilliant their services were, but there was no way I would be able to convince my boss to buy a Red Hat server subscription. Heck, I don't even think he paid for his Microsoft licenses!

Eventually, I found CentOS. I used an online walk-through for setting up a Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol (DHCP) server on Linux, booted it up, and disabled the MS DHCP service. I was overjoyed to find that the DHCP service ran perfectly. It even gave me more power and control over what was going on. I was truly ecstatic.

After a couple weeks of flawless operation, I suggested we move another problem service over. Fast forward about eight months, and I had moved all services over to Linux and my job became so easy. I had no prior experience with Linux and didn't know what to do if it crashed, but I made thorough notes and could rebuild whatever it was in a matter of minutes. It never crashed. Never needed rebooting. Life was good.

Years after this experience, my Windows XP laptop was taking 30 minutes to boot every morning, includering jittery operation and frustration after frustration on my end. So, I made the switch to Linux. I was sold on Red Hat/CentOS/Fedora because of their community, contributions to open source, and the philosophy that the Fedora distribution has. Fedora believes in building a community distribution that promotes and fosters open source values and beliefs while remaining free for everyone. They are dedicated to freedom and innovation, and they contribute everything back to the free and open source world.

So, I selected Fedora as my full-time personal distro. And, I am now using Fedora with the Cinnamon GUI, because Gnome 3 feels a bit like a tablet interface to me. That's another beautiful thing about Linux, you have the freedom to choose the option that best suits your needs.

Open source Jedi training

Through all these experiences, I found that what I've loved is learning about open source. I love the freedom I feel when installing software on any machine. No limitations. And, it operated cleaner, was easier to personalize, and was free as in freedom. Yes, I'll admit it, I fell in love with open source. I found that in all my command line hacking, editing scripts, and trying to read code that I couldn't yet read, I wanted more. I wanted to learn how to write open source software. I wanted to contribute to the greater good. I felt like I needed to become an evangelist of open source software and standards. It felt right. It felt pure. I was "on a mission from Gad." I promote Linux to anyone who will listen. I have successfully converted about 20 families to using Linux full time and offer them free support when they need it.

Currently, I am halfway finished with my three year Computer Engineering Technology/Computer Science course at Algonquin College in Ottawa Ontario Canada. It is a great school, and all IT students learn about Linux as part of the course curriculum. Some instructors promote Linux and open source software in their classrooms, while others demand their students run Windows and use proprietary software. I have been trying to promote and encourage the use of Linux and other open source software like LibreOffice for our classes and assignments; I personally try to use only open source software even at the expense of losing marks.

At this point in my open source journey, I have so many ideas for open source projects, and once I complete my training I want to contribute to other ongoing projects like Gnome and Cinnamon GUIs, Adobe Brackets, and Fedora. I feel like a kid in a candy store that is waiting for his allowance so I can spend it all!

I am treating my education as if it is open source Jedi training. I can't wait for my first epic battle to begin. May open source be with you...



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Cory Hilliard studied Computer Engineering Technology and Computing Science at Algonquin College in Ottawa Ontario Canada and is currently looking for new ways to bring Open Source adoption into Canada.


Nice read - thanks for sharing your experience! One small thing: "[..] and once I complete my training I want to contribute to [..]" - do not wait, we need you to contribute today! :-)

I second that!

A nice thing about FOSS is that you don't have to be an expert to contribute to a project, everyone is welcome!

I like what you say, but I have one significant issue with the way you said it. You keep using the term "open source" when you actually mean "free software". There are both legal and practical differences between the open source (BSD) license and free software (GPL). This was never more apparent than in the aforementioned MS-Windows NT system, which contained the TCP/IP stack from BSD Unix. Microsoft took that code, modified it (adding their own bugs), legally changed it to their proprietary license and distributed it. A text search I did in the system directories found the Regents' copyright statement in several of those binaries, so they fulfilled the requirements of the BSD license. This could not have been done using free software with the GPL.

You were not the only one holding your head over NT. It took me several weeks to discover that the network connection problems we were having at several client sites were caused by a defective SYN-flood response installed with service pack 2. Near as I can tell it was never really fixed, but that TCP stack was eventually replaced in later versions of MS-Windows Server Edition.

Bob, you seem to be mistakingly mixing movements (Free Software, Open Source) with licences (GPL, BSD).

The BSD (except the original 4-clause version) is actually a free software licence, GPL-compatible and all:

The difference between Free Software and Open Source is not so much legal or practical but more philosophical or ideological, see:

Where Open Source's goal is technical superiority, Free Software's is users freedom.


It was a good story right up to the point that you mentioned cinnamon. I never could like any version of Gnome no matter how long I tried it. KDE has always been so much better, and still is today. I know cinnamon is supposed to be an effort to correct the problems with the horrible gnome desktop, but KDE is still much better. I have tried many distros, and pretty much desktop out there, but KDE is still the best, giving me the most options to configure things my way.

This is a great article Cory. Fedora is my best Distro ever as well but I am venturing into Ubuntu and CentOs these days...I am based out of Mississauga and we should connect to discuss open source opportunities in Canada and well as how to increase the open source footprint of the country.

Thanks again for sharing the insightful article.

Hi Sir Cory,

Your story is very inspiring one! =)

Just wanted to let you know that we included your article in our Monthly Resource Roundup

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