Aleksandar Todorović tells his Linux story

Linux as a lifestyle

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My Linux journey began three years ago. I finished high school and started to pay more attention to the security of computers and networks. It is truly an amazing field of study and there's so many new things to learn there. I was instantly hooked.

First, security and Kali Linux go hand in hand. It's hard to consider being a security researcher without using Kali Linux. So, I started dual booting Kali Linux with my Windows operating system.

At the time, I wasn't very into GNOME. Everything seemed too big on my small monitor (1366 X 768 resolution) for my personal taste. Also, my laptop was running at temperatures quite higher than usual (85-90 degrees Celsius). Then, I figured out that I didn't really need everything that comes with Kali Linux at that point. All I needed to learn was Metasploit framework, which can be installed on other Linux-based operating system as well.

That was the time when Edward Snowden's first revelations went public. It was the time when we first found out about the PRISM program and the companies involved with that program. Microsoft was listed as one of them, and I didn't really feel comfortable using their operating system at the time. As a European citizen who was at the time using almost exclusively services and products from within U.S., I took it very personally. I cared about my Internet privacy, so his revelations had a major impact on me wanting to make a change.

So, I started experimenting with different distributions. I tried Fedora, Linux Mint, and OpenSUSE. Every single one of my previous experiences finished pretty much the same. I installed it, used it for a month or two, realized that my laptop's heating problems are still there, and eventually crashed it by trying to fix those problems. I was using open source drivers for my AMD graphic card and they just weren't doing a great job at the time. AMD's support wasn't very helpful. The proprietary drivers for my card were compatible with ancient version of the Linux kernel and every time I installed them I couldn't see anything on my monitor once I restarted my laptop.

But I was stubborn. I didn't want to give up. I felt unsafe using Windows. So, I decided to give Arch Linux a try. It was an amazing experience installing it. I really learned a lot in the process. But again, heating problems were present. By trying to fix them, I managed to make my system unusable one more time.

Then, I started to feel discouraged. I was ready to admit that I was defeated. I thought that my laptop was not really compatible with Linux and I started using Windows again. But it just didn't feel right. I couldn't change the things I didn't like (like that ribbon interface inside of the File Explorer). And as Snowden revealed more information to the public about the NSA's programs, my discouragement only increased. Then, I started reading about elementary OS.

Elementary OS seemed like a nice, well designed operating system. I burned it on an empty CD I had lying around, but I wasn't ready to give Linux one more try. Then, one night, I got a bit drunk with my friends, came home, and said to myself: Oh, what the hell.

So I installed it, and it was lightweight enough to make my laptop less hot while I was using it. I installed and customly configured the tlp package and the problems were even smaller than ever before. Sure, it still didn't beat the power consumption on my Windows system, but it was better than any Linux distro I tried before. And the system was in fact beautiful. I enjoyed every second of using it and it had some neat features that I was not able to find on Windows (like multiple workspaces).

A few months later, elementary OS released the Beta 1 version of their new release codenamed Freya. I installed it immediately, and I have been using elementary OS Freya ever since. I felt like a part of the elementary community and I became active on their social networks. Soon after, I started reporting bugs I encountered, translating the system to my native (Bosnian) language, and I even contributed a thing or two to the new look of the website of the elementary project. It was a life-changing experience to see the Freya release evolving from the Beta 1 stage to the stable version. And I was a part of that. I was a part of creating something new, something wonderful.

In the meantime, my family got two new laptops and one new desktop computer, but I wasn't using them. I had a special connection with my old laptop because we went though so much together. In fact, I'm still using it now.

Power consumption improved drastically about three months ago. My laptop was not overheating anymore. In fact, the temperature was now much lower than it was while I was using Windows. I still don't know what exactly happened that improved the power consumption so drastically, but my battery life went from a half an hour to hour and a half (comparing to two hours and fifteen minutes on Windows).

I was volunteering in the Netherlands in April of this year as a part of the European Voluntary Service. My group created a presentation using my laptop and we needed to present it to the rest of the volunteers and to coordinators of our volunteering project. We used Microsoft's PowerPoint so we could easily share this presentation with others using OneDrive. But then, Windows decided to update itself. My laptop restarted right in the beginning of our presentation. The update lasted for far too long (more than fifteen minutes), and I needed to do something, and I needed to do it quickly. I had to force my laptop to shut down despite the "Do not turn off your computer" warning. Then I booted my beautiful elementary OS, mounted the Windows drive, found the presentation on that drive and opened it in the LibreOffice Impress. The presentation continued without any difficulties. LibreOffice Impress was fully compatible with the presentation we created.

After that experience, I never really checked if my Windows system crashed completely or didn't. I just don't care anymore. Elementary OS replaced it completely as my primary operating system. I don't see myself using anything else than that sexy Pantheon Desktop Environment. After my long and painful transformation, I finally feel completely comfortable when I'm using my laptop. I installed it on every other compatible device that we have at home. My whole family is now using elementary OS on a daily basis and they love it. My home is now completely Windows-free and we're all running Cyanogenmod on our smartphones.

I'm not going to lie to you, my transformation was not easy. It was a slow and painful process. But after I finished it, it felt like nothing before. Thanks to my stubbornness, I was able to truly embrace open source in my life. I gave some minor contributions to some of the worldly-known open source projects like Reddit and the Tor Project. I'm constantly writing about my open source experience on my blog. I started contributing to Opensource.com and to free software magazine written in Serbian language. I even became a guest blogger to a couple of blogs related to open source and IT in general.

Contributing to open source software was my first volunteering experience, but it didn't end there. I expanded my volunteering experience to my local community on various occasions, and I even got a chance to spend a month volunteering on the other side of Europe thanks to it, which was a life-changing experience to me. Open source allowed me to accomplish so many things that I would not accomplish if it wasn't for that first step. Open source allowed me to embrace openness and collaboration, and I was able to apply these principles in other areas of life as well.

My Linux Story

This article is part of a series called My Linux Story. To participate and share your Linux story, contact us at: open@opensource.com.

17 Comments

Alex Sanchez

It's awesome that you were able to get your family to switch to Linux too. Were they interested in trying it, or did you have to convince them?

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r3bl

It wasn't very difficult to convert my parents. Pretty much everything my mother needs is a web browser and Skype. My father works as a representative of one of the biggest companies in the world (I'm not even exaggerating, it's in top 20 in Global 500 list by Forbes), so using anything except Microsoft's Office was just not possible for him. Luckily, we all have an Office 365 subscription, so he can use web app instead of native app. He's stuck with Windows at work, so using Linux is a nice way to use the technology that doesn't remind him of work.

The hardest job was to convert my (younger) brother, It involved using Wine and Play on Linux to make a couple of games compatible with Linux. His favorite game is running on lower FPS than on Windows, but I convinced him by promising to buy him a couple of Linux compatible games on Steam after he made the switch.

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bbehrens

Next column from Aleksandar: "5 tips for converting your family to open source."

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Alex Sanchez

I'd read it!

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r3bl

Not a bad idea!

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Don Watkins

A great story, Aleksandar! I loved what you wrote about Snowden, security, the NSA and Microsoft. I'm glad you reported on why your privacy was important. My own experience with Linux was similar in that I persisted even though the my early experiences were not always successful. I'm going to share your story with a friend who only recently switched to Linux.

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Marko Shiva Pavlovic

I'm glad you have featured article here my Bosnian friend :)
You shouldnt give up so fast from Linux when you have overheating prolems its problem with DPM
Just use newer drivers and newer Xserver and newer than 3.17 kernel :)

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r3bl

It's actually my third one. I became a Community Moderator as of June 1st, so there will be much more of them in the future. :)

Actually, it works great on 3.16.0-41 kernel currently featured in Ubuntu 14.04. I don't want to switch to some newer kernel because I want to keep using the default elementary installation so I can replicate, confirm and create bug reports. By upgrading it, I could run into bugs that could not be replicated and therefore create unnecessary reports to elementary.

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bawaz

Nice post... Reminds me of the first days trying out Linux, for sure, it was pain in the neck! But persistency paid off.

Though I wonder how your battery performance I got better while running Linux. In my own opinion, I've found that Windows and Mac are the best when it comes to battery performance. They work well due to proprietary drivers from the hardware manufacturers, Linux will do good if these drivers are opensourced.

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r3bl

My battery does not last longer than on Windows (2 hours and 15 minutes compared to 1 and a half hour on elementary OS), but the temperature is significantly lower.

Currently, my laptop is running on 51 degrees Celsius (6 tabs in Firefox, 5 tabs in Thunderbird, Terminator and 3 files opened in Atom). On Windows, it used to get up to 70 degrees as soon as Windows started.

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Mirza

One of the reasons why Linux is more frustrating to many people is that there are more options and more things to try in Linux.

When something does not work in windows, you quickly run out of options, curse your fate and either spend more money or learn to live with the problem.

On Linux, on the other hand, you keep trying different distributions, window managers, programs, etc. You can waste days trying to fix something and what you end up with most often is a non-working system.

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anon

You should probably remove the dustbunnies from your laptop fan actually. Typically do it every half year.

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yy

I install a lot of Linux distro's on old machines for people with so many MS Windows problems like toolbars on IE, viruses, slow HD, registry problems etc.
Usually they are too poor to buy a new machine or too afraid and have given up on a PC because of the many problems and knowledge required for (if possible) maintaining Windows.

In general, I just ask what programs they use and if possible with that usage, if they want a very easy, free of viruses and other Windows problems computer that will be much faster then the system – even when they bought it.

If they say yes, I just put a Linux distro on it, usually Mint, and return it to them. For the dozens of PC's I've done this I never had a complain! They don't care what's on it as long as it works and is safe. Usually they don't even know what I put on it, but they ALL love it :-)

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nospam2k

Nice ad for ElementaryOS. aka, Ubuntu, pretty Gnome 3.x theme. So much for security!

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r3bl

Actually, elementary OS started as a set of GNOME themes, but continued its development with building a Desktop Environment on their own called Pantheon. It shares some principles with the GNOME, but it was actually built from scratch.

As for the security, that's the beauty of Linux. People are free to use whatever fits them the best. I'm comfortable with using Ubuntu-based distribution. Other people might not be and that's perfectly fine. They have plenty of other choices available. There is an interest in porting Pantheon to other distributions as well, but unfortunately, elementary team does not have enough resources to do it and support it on their own.

As for the advertisement, this article is written as a part of the My Linux Story series, which means that it naturally contains some personal recommendations. As such, it's not representing the opinion of the entire team, only my personal opinion.

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masetrax

Great read! I'm in the process of doing the same in my life. Some things are proving to be easier than others, but getting there slowly.

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Draža

Well, after "Go kill yourself Windows 10" - I've start with search about new distro for my notebook (before Windows on my laptop were Mint, BackBox and Arch). After reading this text - there is only one solution for me: "eOS downloading...." yep, you
persuade me successfully :-)
I also had problems with overheating (tried almost everything, from kernel modifications, newer drivers - to vgaswitcheroo and tlp), we will see how will eOS fight with my stupid hardware.

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