Categories
Non-Fiction

Sweet Sixteen Penguin

May 3rd, 2004. That was when I wiped the hard drive on my computer, one I’d built with the help of a coworker, installed a second drive that was bigger—a whole-ass 30GB, compared to the first which was maybe 3GB if I remember right—and installed Mandrake Linux with the help of a friend over the phone. The second drive was set up as the /home partition, he had me install the cooker release (unstable), and away we went. I’d dabbled with something else and a dual boot a few years before that, Red Hat maybe? But because I didn’t know what I was doing and desktop Linux wasn’t what it is now, I’d never booted into the Linux partition and never learned what I was doing.

The cold turkey switch happened because at the time I hung on an IRC channel for a stupid hamster comic (Shaw Island, I miss you <3) and a bunch of the people hanging in the channel were Linux nerds. They all badgered me, one of maybe two girls there, that I should switch. So I issued the ultimatum — I’ll do it if one of you will be my on call tech support. One of them made the mistake of taking the deal and that’s what got us to May 3rd’s cold turkey switch.

Some of you reading this probably winced in the first paragraph when I mentioned the cooker release of Mandrake, more of you winced when I clarified that was the name for the unstable release. What was this dude doing putting you on an unstable release? If I’d understood at the time what it meant, I probably would have asked that same question, friends. Well, I started encountering issues not long after install, small stupid shit that someone more experienced would be able to easily fix — they’d know what config files to tinker with, which packages to downgrade, how to get a shell prompt if the gui shits the bed. But I was a totally green AF n00b. He was utterly mystified why I was having so many issues where he was running the exact same thing on his machine, but after a little digging, it turned out he was just so used to putting out the tiny fires he didn’t even noticed how often he was doing it.

To his credit, he did one thing very right; he helped me get on the Mandrake newbie mailing list. At one point I had something that utterly panned my ability to use my computer, and the whole of the situation got sussed out pretty quickly on that mailing list when I couldn’t get in touch with dude and asked the list instead — they not only fixed the problem, but also figured out the root of my general issues and helped me downgrade to the stable release. I have that mailing list to thank for the fact that I didn’t fall off the horse and go crawling back to the Window’s cesspool.

When Mandrake became Mandriva, I jumped ship to Ubuntu, or rather Kubuntu because I was an utter KDE fangirl. I’d tried gnome during the early experiments with dual booting, and disliked it, but took to KDE when that was the default on Mandrake. My friends gave me no end of shit for using KDE, “it’s so bloated” they’d cry and I’d throw a screen shot of my nearly widget-free purple desktop. There are better stripped down desktop environments out there, I know this now, but at the time it was easy to use and I could keep up with it. I did later try Enlightenment and enjoyed it, but alas that’s another dead project and we’ll talk more about that later.

I kicked around for Kubuntu for years, happy enough. The support forums were pretty nice, and given how if you end up in the wrong end of the Linux user base, you get smothered with bullshit like RTFM instead of help, I was very thankful for that community too. Eventually though, my antique laptop couldn’t keep up with KDE anymore, which given how old it was at that point was hardly a surprise, especially given that it’d been the cheapest model in stock at a Best Buy when my (then) boyfriend stopped to buy a birthday gift for me (so he didn’t need to leave his nice Macbook at home for me to use when I was visiting him since he didn’t have a desktop computer and I didn’t have a laptop to bring with me). I ended up switching to Enlightenment at that point, and even as a all but dead project, it was still working better than KDE at that point. I think they were fighting a nasty memory leak at the time?

I think I ended up getting eightish years out of that Toshiba Satellite, which given that it got dropped twice (once on cement and once on tile) and the battery had long since given up the ghost and I’d fucked up the power jack on the damn thing? Utterly Amazing. I finally ended up giving in and dropping a chunk of savings that had really been earmarked for a new car on a Gazelle from System 76. I’m still using that machine and I still love it. The only thing I’m sad about is that maybe a couple months after I bought, they released a new version of this model that included an illuminated keyboard. If I’d known, I may have held out for it… but oh well. RGB may be pretty, but I’ve been doing my wonktastic touch typing for hella years, and while I couldn’t write the letters in on a blank keyboard diagram, once I find my place on the keyboard I can type. Hell, it’s so bad that I can’t put in my password unless I either have food in hand to require one handed typing (but if I one hand it otherwise, doesn’t work), or I can type my password without looking two handed… but fuck if I can tell you where the keys I need to hit at if I’m looking at a keyboard.

Now, here’s where I admit I’m the shittiest Linux user in the world: When I first got this machine, I immediately replaced the perfectly functional version of Ubuntu that System 76 had installed for me before shipment with a fresh install of something called bodhi linux. I’d found Moksha desktop on Kubuntu not long before I bought the new laptop and had reasonable success with it as it was a fork of Enlightenment that was being maintained. Bodhi is a *buntu distro that’s packaged around Moksha, and I figured that if I liked Moksha, I’d probably like Bodhi too. Unfortunately I hadn’t realized before I installed that it was pretty much a one man show. Now, nothing but respect to someone putting that work in… but if you’re someone like me that never really digs that deep into my system, and you encounter a snag you can’t fix yourself, waiting for a one person team to get to the bug that’s making life a pain is no fun. In the end Bodhi wasn’t a good fit for me, and System 76 announced their Pop OS about the time I accepted that. But here’s my source of shame: to this day I don’t know if I just couldn’t RTFM right to burn the iso for pop os to one of my jump drives from shell or something was wrong, but the gui burner software that came with bodhi was broken, and the others I tried installing didn’t work, so I was left with no way to make a usb drive to reinstall my machine with anything else. In the end, I ordered a usb drive with the pop logo screen printed on it, and pre-flashed for install.

I’ve been pretty happy on Pop OS since, which surprised me a bit given that it uses Gnome for the desktop… but Gnome is a far cry from the version I tried way way back when, and given the amount of time that’d passed, I would expect nothing less. Honestly the only thing I’m irked about with it is that there isn’t a gui way for me to customize the colors. I need to take a little time digging into the css files that control the look of the gui and see if I can get my purple shit set up again… but that requires time and fucks. The dark version of the pop os theme is perfectly usable, so I haven’t made the time to fix this minor thing.

At any rate, not sure why I felt the need to chronicle my history here, but yeah, I’m that fucking nerd who has an entry in her calendar for the anniversary of when she made the full time switch to Linux. What of it?

Anyway, sixteen years of being the laziest fucking Linux user, right here.