I fell in love with Linux while compiling a kernel

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Four years ago, I participated in the WorldSkills Competition. I represented India on the global stage, in the IT Software Solutions for Business category. As part of the competition, I had to build solutions for different business problems using only proprietary office tools.

In fact, for six months, one of the few Microsoft MVPs from India trained me for the competition. Even today, I can use those office tools better than most other users.

A year after the competition, however, things changed.

As I pursued my Master's degree, I encountered Linux for the first time (it was part of our curriculum). Like most other students, switching from Windows to Linux didn't make me too happy. But I still remember the first time a faculty member gave us a Linux demo. He came to class and started the session with big fanfare. We were all expecting Linux to be something that differed dramatically from everything we'd ever seen. The professor booted up his computer (he was using Fedora) and performed a left click on the desktop.

"See," he said, "left click works." He then performed a right click and said, "See, right click also works. Not sure why you thought this was going to be any different. So, done with Linux demo!"

We laughed, and I soon realized what he was really trying to express, which is part of my Linux story here. I often share this with others under the sway of similar Linux myths.

Ubuntu was the first Linux distribution I installed. During one of our operating system classes, the faculty taught us the steps for compiling a Linux kernel. The idea fascinated me, and I thought of giving it a try. It was my first attempt at kernel compilation.

Cloning the Linux repo, building it completely, and getting it running took me nearly an entire day. But once it was done and the kernel booted, I felt very different about all the work. The kernel had innumerable issues, and most drivers were not working, but, still, trying to debug it made me feel extremely geeky and happy.

This was the exact moment I fell in love with Linux.

Being able to build my own operating system, having the power to make modifications or customizations in the way I would like to—these were reasons for a Microsoft fan to completely switch to Linux forever. After my first kernel compilation, I started experimenting with other Linux distributions. In six months, I'd installed nearly 7­8 different ones, from Ubuntu to Debian, to Fedora, to CentOS, to RHEL, to Kubuntu, to Mint. I had a taste of each one.

Once I'd settled on Linux, community was the next thing that grabbed my attention. Along with all the freedom and power to do things, I realized I also had access to an entire community of developers and users who could help me when I got stuck. In the past three years, I haven't once gone back to those proprietary tools.

That is my Linux story.

I keep trying new Linux distributions, but I've mostly settled with Fedora for everyday use. For three years, I've explained to many people why Linux is a better choice, or why they should totally give it a try. During several of these conversations (with all different types of computer users), I have realized that there are too many myths around Linux. Many think Linux means only the black terminal, that it's something only geeks use.

I often ask people to install Linux and come back to me with two things they could do on other operating systems and couldn't do on Linux. Other than "play games," I've never heard too many other issues.

The very fact that they do not need to spend thousands of rupees getting an operating system—and do not need to spend similar amounts again every time a new version comes out—convinces many to give Linux a genuine try. Many people understand and respect open source values, and thus decide to switch. Many do it simply because they think Linux users are geekier (that is, cooler) people.

Today, when friends mockingly call me the "open source girl," I don't mind. I take pride in it.

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.

I like to describe myself as a developer in her alpha phase. I am an Open Source enthusiast who likes to hangout with geeks, drink loads of coffee and spend more than fifteen hours of her day infront of a black terminal. I am a Mozilla advocate who has a sword ready, anytime you say anything wrong about any of the Mozilla projects or products.

15 Comments

Linux is better than buying software or pirating it , especially if you don't have money to buy and want to pirate it , it is better to use Linux which is free and complete peace of mind.

it's more than money, it's the feeling of accomplisment, ownership, membership, the peace coming from following your excitment, meritocracy, ability to say and demonstrate "this is better", then algorithms, algorithms and algoriths again... quite cool

In reply to by archuser (not verified)

Well done. I'm envious I've never recompiled a kernel or done anything like that. I agree with you about the overall useability of Linux next to any other OS.

Thank you for sharing your story. My Linux adventure began before 2000, and I'm still learning every day.

me2, many years back

My Linux story started with Windows 7 SP1 installation... it tooks hours to install... then i decided to switch.... 1st distribution was Ubuntu for 2 months.... then switched to debian ...and since 2011 in love with debian... :-)

Very good. I got to compile uCLinux as real goods to market on RedHat back when and more recent things on OpenSuSE. Like the Start menu linux is really an O/S as a service and who puts the service in is up to you. (And yes I programmed on a Vax System V Berkley 4.2 and a Sun. But that was impossible for me to compile a Kernel)

What attracted you to Fedora? I loved gnome 2 and Kde 3 but hated a bunch of the other crazy environments.

I like Fedora for two reasons...first, its the most updated Linux distro. I like working on the latest versions of all upstream projects and that is what I mostly get with Fedora. Secondly, being at Red Hat, I am lucky to be surrounded by so many Fedora contributors and developers. Hanging around this active community keeps me updated on Fedora's future features and keeps me motivated.

In reply to by John Jeffers

Nice to read such storys: more of them, please :D

I start also with comprehensive distrohopping, test many many distros on a lot of different hardware and i be pretty happy now with ROSA. :D

Its quite amazing, how to build software in such an open community and i really think, that this kind of cooperation is a great example for other areas, like farming and so on.

I started with Redhat Linux 6.1 years back and use Linux mint after having used Ubuntu and Fedora. Except for iPad and mobile firmware upgrades I rarely touch Windows. With the advancement of smartphones the need to use Windows is even less then before.

can you let me know of a pro image editing software like photoshop or lightroom that works with linux?

I am not much of a graphics person but for my day to day work, I mostly use Inkscape and GIMP. If you need more specifics on these, let me know and I will try connecting you to some awesome designers I know of, who have been using Open Source tools for designing...for years.

In reply to by Aritra Saha (not verified)

my favorite dist is debian .....first was mandriva.....i have tried fedora, slack,suse

Games? Ask people raising that issue if they've looked at Valve's steampowered.com or Good Old Games' gog.com lately. About half my proprietary game library is now available (and played by me) on Linux. That includes a growing number of A-list titles like Borderlands The Pre-Sequel, Europa Universalis IV, Wargame:European Escalation, Cities:Skylines, etc.

i dont like linux :(

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