I bought my first copy of Linux in 1999 – it was SuSE 6.2. I got it from the local branch of Software Warehouse (now called jungle.com) and it cost me about Â£30. I bought it partly because I knew that I would be using a UNIX system when I started University and wanted a little experience, and partly because I thought it would increase my future employability.
My initial experiences weren’t very favourable. I couldn’t get my sound card to work, nor my network card, nor my WinModem (no surprise there!), nor my TV card. As a result, it sat largely unused on my machine for quite some time.
At college however I used Linux regularly. There were only a few Windows machines, so you had to either like it or lump it – I grew to like it.
Linux gave me the power to do everything I could in Windows and a whole lot more that I hadn’t dreamt of. There was a whole development environment just there on my computer (as against the Â£99 I had to pay for a student license for Visual Studio 6.0 Professional) and practically all the source code for everything I used was available for me to play with.
By the time I was half-way through my second year I had become so used to Linux that I was using Windows at home in the most Linux-y way I could. I was using the same browser that I used on Linux (Opera) and I did a lot of my stuff remotely on the college’s Linux machines from home via SSH. So I decided it was time for me to have another bash at setting up Linux for my home computer.
This time, with a bit more experience and a lot more determination I managed to get my network card up and running and my sound card too. I was a happy chappy. I was now using Linux a bit on my home computer, but I didn’t really have the determination to start using it full time.
At the beginning of my third year, I ditched SuSE 6.2 and downloaded a copy of Mandrake 8.1 (aren’t high-speed college connections fun?) It was a breeze to install and it automatically detected and configured all my hardware (except for the WinModem obviously). Mandrake was a breath of fresh air – it is truly amazing the difference between Linux of 2001 and Linux of 1999. I found myself spending a good proportion of my time in Mandrake.
However, I was still tied to Windows for a few reasons:
DigiGuide for Windows;
My blasted WinModem; and
A few home-made tools for maintaining this website.
Then… disaster struck.
My Windows partition got some kind of minor fault, so I ran scandisk. Scandisk completely obliterated my hard drive. Roughly half of my stuff just disappeared! This was the final straw.
I started porting my website tools to Linux. I bought a proper Modem in the Christmas 2001 holidays. By January 2002, the only thing stopping me was DigiGuide.
DigiGuide (a TV guide program) actually ran under Linux (using a tool called WINE, which allows Windows programs to run in Linux), however it refused to download TV listings unless it was running on proper Windows. So every 2 weeks I had to boot into Windows to download the new listings.
It was clear that this couldn’t go on for long. So I have now (March 6th, 2002) officially given up on DigiGuide. I shall use their website which also displays the listsings, although isn’t quite as nice as the real thing.
My Windows partition is now gone. It’s the end of an era. And the beginning of a new one.