Sink or swim is one way to learn Linux

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The year was 2005: I was just out of high school and living on my own. My sister and her husband came to visit, and on my way out to work one morning while they were in town, my brother-in-law asked me if he could use my computer. I knew he was good with computers, so I didn't mind. Then, he asked me what I use my computer for most of the time. Basic use: World of Warcraft and Firefox.

Later that day, I got home from work just as they were heading out. My brother-in-law smiled and told me he needed to borrow my Windows XP disc. "Ok, sure," I said. "I don't need it."

Finally, when I sat down at my computer to play a few games (while Adult Swim droned on in the background), I found a weird looking screensaver with blue bubbles and a white letter "f" in them floating around. I wiggled the mouse and a prompt for a password came up. What?! Worried, I tried my usual password, and sure enough it logged me in, but it was immediately clear this was not Windows XP.

What were these panels at the top and bottom of the screen? The HOME icon looked weird too. I called my brother-in-law.

He told me that he installed "Fedora Core" on my machine, but not to worry, he also installed my games (using Wine). He continued on that I should just learn to use this new system... and I realized he he didn't really need my Windows disc.

Despite the drastic change, Linux seemed really cool. It was a nice user interface (UI) change from the desktop setup I'd had for years. So, I decided to keep it. My brother-in-law showed me a few tools, what the command line is, and how to do basic maintenance. I couldn't believe all I had to do was use the command and type in a keyword to get a list of programs that might be a good match! It made me feel like I was really good at computers. Also, it felt good because it made sense to me. Linux functions in ways that are intuitive for me, and things like naming conventions, file locations, and configuration files feels like a natural order.

Since using Linux and learning more about it everyday, I've gone on to help others with technical support, including some large web hosting providers. And, at every job I've held, I ask if I can run Linux on whatever hardware they give me. It seems the consensus has been that if I can support it, then that's one less person for the IT department to worry about. Not to mention, my current employer was excited to hear I know basic web server administration. He is happy to see reports generated and mailed out each night thanks to cronjob and a formatted list of information thanks to a bash script that does simple number crunching. No need for complicated spreadsheets.

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Working jobs ranging from technical support for web host providers to web development and consulting, Brian has slowly been expanding his skill set on top of many thing open source. He's used Fedora, Ubuntu, ElementaryOS, and Arch, but has settled on Fedora as his daily driver.


I'm glad it worked out well for you, but that seems like a jerk move by your brother-in-law. Not the FLOSS evangelism approach that I would advocate.

I wouldn't recommend it for everyone. It was certainly a special case because of the nature of my relationship with him. We've known each other for many years. From an outside perspective it really was a jerk move. Because I had known the guy for over 15 years at that point, it was completely fine. I actually thanked him for doing it, because if he hadn't done it that way I probably wouldn't have started using Linux much less stuck with it.

In reply to by bcotton

that would have been the last time he would be allowed into my house unescorted.
all he had to do was ask.
glad it worked out.
I run mix of windows (win7, win10, server 2012R2 and Exchange 2013) and opensource (mint on laptop and few VMs) here, like them all, but I (and only I) decide what gets installed on my pc.
you are much more sanguine about this than I would have been.

This was a good read and glad it worked out for you. I have used PuppyLinux, DSL, Ubuntu, Mint, and Fedora off and on for years but only until recently have I committed myself to using Linux more. I stopped using Linux once I purchased a new Macbook back in 2009. I have hated using Windows since that time as well, the updates, the application lockups, and it just never seems to work right. Now, it seems that my Mac is not immune to age either. So, recently, I received a 3 year old laptop from my local church who was going to trash it because the Windows quit working, so I asked for it. I installed Linux Unbutu on it and have been using it exclusively. Once I finally got everything setup, music and video players working. I have not had any issue in 6 months. Works great.

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