Watching open source grow over the years

I started in open source after graduating university and joining a very small startup Internet Service Provider not quite knowing what I was in for.  After learning Linux from a book I picked up at the local bookstore, I began helping with the setup of our servers to handle incoming login calls and connecting user to the Internet.. and this was before the World Wide Web had taken off.  Welcome to 1994 when the Internet was a magical and exciting place for me, although very tiny compare to what it has grown to today.  Not many people where “experts” in the field yet and it was an excellent opportunity to get started in something new and promising.

As I learned of the intricacies involved in getting a Linux system setup and running smoothly, I was still using MS-DOS and Windows 3.1 on my home computer.  I saw the power of Linux as a server platform but did not really think it appropriate for use as a home desktop machine.  I did end up eventually purchasing a boxed copy of Redhat 5.2 from a local office store and running it on my secondary hard drive mostly for experimentation and testing purposes.  I eventually realized the potential of Linux becoming my computer environment of choice at home as well as at work.  I soon moved over to Mandrake with its slick KDE desktop.  Around the year 2000, I setup Linux on my main hard drive while keeping Windows 98se as my backup OS and I haven’t looked back since (I did eventually dump Windows from my computer completely).  As the tech/geek news outlets kept proclaiming that the year of Linux on the desktop was coming, I didn’t care as I was already there and that’s all that mattered.

I joined the local Linux User Group and suggested open-source alternatives to friend, family and work associates every time the opportunity presented itself.   As my career developed into doing mostly web development, I began choosing to only work for companies that relied primarily on Linux and other open-source products which has worked out rather well.  It is now a nuisance when I have to troubleshoot Windows issues for others as it has become so unfamiliar and foreign over the years.  Dealing with the viruses and spyware that people accumulate on Windows machines in particular is exhausting.  Luckily Linux has very few (I’ve yet to ever have even one!) viruses or trojans in the wild, leading me to wonder if they actually even exist.

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Although I initially loved the shininess and frills of a modern desktop like KDE, I would eventually prefer the snappier environments like XFCE.  I ran Arch Linux for nearly a decade before switching to Ubuntu around 2011 just to be using the same distro as most of my work colleagues and to have access to the large Ubuntu support community.  I am still using Ubuntu on my main desktop system today as well as Crunchbang on my laptop (and the reliable/stable Debian on my servers).

Some of the software I use on a daily (or almost daily) basis is Sublime and jEdit (for coding), LibreOffice (for word processing and spreadsheets), GIMP (for graphics), Blender (for video editing), Firefox and Chrome (along with the Google suite of web-based products for email, calendar and cloud storage), Transmission (for torrents) and Steam (for gaming).  You can usually find a suitable open-source alternative for any commercial Windows or Apple software product.  If there is some software you simply cannot live without and there is no adequate alternative, you can always install another OS into a VirtualBox instance and load that up only when needed.

Enter 2016… realize that almost the entire back-end of the Internet runs on Linux servers, almost every living room media device or TV runs some custom variant of Linux, a majority of smart-phones in the world run Android (another Linux-based OS), probably some of your home appliances are running Linux and finally there is us, the uber-geek minority, running it on our desktops and laptops.

So you see, worrying about whether this will be the year of Linux on the desktop is a complete waste of time.  Linux is already here, just working hard behind the scenes and winning on the front-end in the mobile device market.  As long as there are open-source choices out there and people continue to want to contribute to them, I will be using their products… developed by the community… for the community.  I’ll keep watching it grow.

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