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My journey to Linux

For years, I have been a regular Windows us — who am I kidding? Let’s rephrase this as ‘I am a Windows user since birth.’

The first OS I ever used was Windows XP (which, on a side note, is precisely 11 months older than me,) followed by Windows 7, Windows 8 and Windows 10. Needless to say, I have zero experience when it comes to macOS or Linux.

And to be honest, I never had even heard of Linux until 2014, when I was so fed up of Windows 8 that I Googled “free operating system”. The first line in the results was, you guessed it: Linux. I quickly Googled “Linux” and came to the website of TLF (The Linux Foundation). I was so naive back then that I thought that installing Linux was as simple as downloading a .exe and ticking a box that said wipe Windows 8. I never knew about distributions, or drive partitions, file systems, none of that. I never even knew what an ISO file is or how to open it.

So anyhow, with all of that in mind, I came to TLF’s website. And naturally, I was looking for a download button. When I found none, I looked around the website and there was a section which had a list of distributions. None of that made any sense to me obviously, so I closed TLF’s website, disappointed. “Oh shoot, I will have to stick with Windows 8” I thought to myself.

Fast forward to 2016. I was happy with Windows 10, finally glad to have gotten rid of Windows 8. I was learning computer programming, and naturally the word “Linux” was thrown around quite a lot. At that time I wasn’t interested; I wasn’t doing too advanced stuff in programming anyway.

It wasn’t until August of 2016 that I learned about how Linux works: as in that Linux is merely a kernel and there are distributions which combine different desktop interfaces and features with the kernel. Also, I finally learned that installing Linux is not as simple as downloading a .exe file, and I learned about Virtualbox (and virtualization in general).

At that time the only distribution that I was aware of was Ubuntu, so I downloaded the Ubuntu ISO file and made a Virtualbox VM just to play around and get the hang of things. Since I wasn’t really serious about Linux at that time, I installed it just to get a feel of it but didn’t find anything particularly interesting. In fact, I found Unity really confusing and cluttered, and I thought that all Linux distributions were the same. I also found the file structure rather confusing: why is there no C: drive? Again, as I wasn’t serious about Linux, I never bothered learning about it.

Then, I was quite a loyal user of Windows 10. At that point, I was really a fan (though not a complete fanboy) of Microsoft, and I really hated everyone who said that Linux is an alternative to Mac and Windows.

In short: I hated Linux. The programs that I used on a daily bases weren’t available, I found Unity confusing and cluttered, and I hated the cult-like Linux fans scattered over social media.

Fast forward to 2017. I was advancing in computer programming, and with every step I advanced, things got more and more difficult in Windows. This angered me to no end: I couldn’t understand why developers favored Unix and didn’t bother doing anything for Windows. I had daily discussions with my mother who was more advanced in programming than me. What she tried to explain was that “while things are possible in Windows, because you are a beginner you will be counter productive becuase you will be spending most of your time fixing things”. Despite her efforts, I was still defiant.

So now you have some background about me: a staunch Windows fan and Linux hater.

It wasn’t until 2 weeks ago that I looked in the direction of Linux land for the first time in ages. What actually happened was that I was watching a coding tutorial on Youtube, and that guy happened to be using Arch Linux. I really liked the fluidity of the system and how fast and snappy everything was. For the first time, I was curious about a Linux distribution.

I still don’t know how it clicked to me, but on that same day I Googled “Arch Linux”. I opened the images tab and was certain that the OS in that video was indeed Arch Linux. I then went to Arch Linux’s official website and there was this tagline “A simple, lightweight distribution”. I was sold. I just really wanted to check out Arch Linux.

I downloaded the ISO and created a Virtual Machine. I was ready to do this. I had read all sorts of horror stories about how beginner users shouldn’t download Arch but should instead begin with Ubuntu and once they are familiar with Linux they should attempt Arch. But I refused. I hated Ubuntu. Besides, I love getting my hands muddy and learning things the hard way.

 

This sums up my first time installing Arch

The first attempt at installing Arch Linux was miserable. Thank goodness I was on a virtual machine. I screwed up so bad that I had to throw the virtual machine away and make a new one.

The second attempt was the moment of truth. I not only installed Arch Linux successfully, but I also installed GNOME successfully!

I didn’t stop there though. I made a third machine (because I didn’t know sudo pacman -Rcns was a thing) in which I installed KDE Plasma 5 instead of GNOME, removed KDE, installed XFCE, removed XFCE, installed GNOME again. Needless to say, I experimented the heck out of pacman.

I then created a final VM and allocated it 100GB storage and installed GNOME on it. In fact, I use the virtual machine alongside Windows with a dual-monitor setup daily, and I am using the Linux machine to type this out right now.

On this journey of installing Arch Linux, I learned a lot, and I repeat: A LOT, about Linux. Everything from partitions, to the ext4 filesystem, to sudo, you name it.

I learned mainly by trial and error, such as not installing base-devel and wondering why visudo wasn’t working. Also, the one time where before removing XFCE, I didn’t do a systemctl disable lxdm and then panicked when only the login manager was opening without a desktop environment. I finally learnt how to edit the GRUB config file and log into single user recovery mode to remove lxdm.

But the result after all of that was incredibly rewarding, and most importantly, fun.

There you have it: from a stauch Windows fan to a Winux (term combining Windows and Linux) user daily.

That does not make me an advanced user by any means. After installing Arch Linux 4 times, I have finally gotten to the stage where I can read and understand the Archwiki. And the more I use Linux daily, the more I like it, and the more I learn something new.

In fact, there is something I have to confess: I love some aspects of Linux more than Windows. What was that again about being a Windows fan? Hating Linux? Whatever.

The UI is just more consistent throughout the OS. I think this has more to do with GNOME than Linux or Arch Linux, but still. In Windows there are still some huge inconsistencies that affect daily use, such as having a separate settings app and control panel.

I really can’t complain about stability for either of the OS. Windows isn’t Vista anymore, and I haven’t had a single BSOD ever. It must be noted however, that I am running Linux on a virtual machine. As such, I cannot speak for stability installed as a standalone OS.

Linux still cannot replace Windows entirely for me. My work depends on Microsoft office and Adobe Creative Cloud. And FOSS enthusiasts, I know that open-source alternatives do exist.

So that is my journey towards Linux. It certainly has been an exciting one, and it has taught me a lot about Linux and how easy things are when programming. However, I am not finished. In fact, this is just the beginning.

I might write a sequel to this story sometime soon as I advance in the world of Linux. If I do, there will be a link right here.

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