If you are a Windows user who is sick of M$ and paying for what inevitably ends up being bug filled, security problematic software, (or Mac users for that matter) you should definitely read this. I wrote it for you. I used to be you! If you love computing, are on your computer all the time, or just someone looking for more control and freedom over “YOUR” PC, you should definitely come away from this a lot less hesitant about making the move to Linux! I wish there had been something this succinct when I was making the switch.
It was 2008, I was using Linux.(I have been since 1991 or ’92 off and on, though at that time, more ‘off’ than ‘on’) Over the last 8 to 10 years, I had been a wanderer on the Linux landscape. I was just off a career that spanned almost 30 years of working with nothing but computers, mostly MS servers. Toss in a couple of AS400’s, Apples, even an OS/2 Warp server. It wasn’t until going to work for UPS that I had my first taste of Unix. When I started at UPS there were still several systems that relied on their Unix servers. My job with UPS required a lot of database experience and being able to import usable data into the UPS shipping systems format. Fun stuff. In other words, I had my hands in a ton of different hardware, OS’s and yes, desktops too. (anybody remember 10Base-T and the fun of trying to find which one had the bad ‘terminator’ plugged into it?) This ended in Mar of 2005. Finally, the Lazy-Boy career had arrived!
By 2010, I decided to embark on a journey to find the “perfect” distro, and finally, fully switch to using Linux on a daily basis. This is really a totally subjective, and personal choice about what each individual considers “perfect”. My latest distro of choice at that time was Ubuntu. I am probably incorrect here but believe it was ‘Dapper Drake’, possibly the first ‘LTS’ version of the ‘buntus. This started around 2006. There would be many more to hop around with in the coming years, never sticking to one “distro” for too long a time. 3 – 6 months, then it was on to the next Linux distribution. I had become a distro-hopper! For me, this was a lot of frustration, and sometimes downright painful experiences. Mentally painful. After so long in the industry, I’d reached “Burnout” in 2005.
Jump ahead to the present, and I have ‘my’ perfect distro! It is VSIDO, based on the “sid” branch of
Debian, and I’ve been using it as my main OS for almost 3 years, on multiple laptop platforms. More on that later.
I have pretty much always had a computer around and for the last couple of decades, was always running multiple machines at home. By 2005 every computer in the house was a laptop. (as I write this tonight, there are 6 laptops turned on and connected to the switch which in turn is connected to a hacked and cracked Access Point so I need never run a Cat5 cable again)! Yes my abode is totally WiFi.
As mentioned above, first in the search landed me at Ubuntu. It was good! People can make fun all they want to, but after supporting M$ for so long, making the permanent switch to Linux via Ubuntu was for me, a good experience. When you are trying out you first few Linux distros, their web site forums should be the single most important factor in your final decision. The tenor and attitude of the members you interact with on the forums will inevitably impact your choice of Linux. This is very true no matter the distro you end up with. There are reportedly some very terribly scary forums to ask a question in. This has never happened to me. Oh there were a couple where the forum member I was answered by was a total ‘elitist’ or the other end, a total snobish RTFM type. This happened rarely for me. If you go into your search with a little courtesy and respect for the guys and gals that are “giving” you tech support for free, you’ll have a lot better experience. Linux will end up being a very fun and fulfilling thing for you. I’m not going to call out any names here, it is again, a subjective matter. My couple of experiences may have been my fault, who knows! They were inconsequential enough that I couldn’t tell you what they were about, just that I recall thinking at the time, “Wow, I’ll never try to install or run that distro ever again.
This was a big plus for Ubuntu in my mind. Almost every single question (actually I can’t think of a douche bag response there at all) was always answered quickly, and there were times I learned more than one way to solve a particular task! Ubuntu had a friendly, kind of ‘familiar feeling interface’. It was also my first experience with a “LiveCD”. I was able to just pop in a CD, boot the system to the CD and actually run the operating system without it invading my machine and risking losing my current setup! It was an awesome way to check out a Linux distro. Today there are very few Linux distributions that don’t offer “LiveCD/LiveUSB” media.
From 2010 to 2012 my search was really getting serious. From OpenSuse, to Fedora, toss in some Arch Linux, even Gentoo, among many, many others. Some were so complicated that even I was unable to ever successfully get them installed. Luckily by this time the Linux Kernel had evolved to the point where if you had the stubborness, (or you were knowledgeable about the Kernel already) you could set Linux up on pretty much any machine. Desktop or laptop. Figuring out some hardware issues, I won’t lie, were total fails. I’d press on to the next distro. Almost all of the ones over that couple of years that I tried weren’t too much trouble to get fully implemented. I say this with utmost respect, the couple that were the hardest are pretty out front about being for more experienced/technical uber nerds! I wish I was one. Going into this, I had the idea in my head that this was the level I was at! I mean come on, almost 30 years of working on the beasts! I laugh today at my naivete. I have quite a few on-line “Uber Nerd” friends now and am very happy to call them friends! Understanding you aren’t the smartest computer person in the world, goes a long way to how quickly you learn with Linux! Someday, hopefully someone will pay me that honor with a comment like “Wow dude you are a total “Uber Nerd”) ;)
Needless to say, none of the above distros, or any of the smaller, lesser known distros I tried were really grabbing me and saying “Hey I’m the perfect one for you”! By the beginning of 2012 I was using Ubuntu’s version 10.04 Lucid Lynx. I decided to upgrade to the latest LTS (long term support) version which was 12.04 Precise Pangolin. It was the first time I’d had issues with an Ubuntu install. I ended up getting more involved in the world of the Linux forums. The Linux forums are one of it’s crowning achievments! I met an individual there who enticed me to try Conky again and leave gkrellm behind. It’s not important. What is however, was something he said in passing one day while we were posting back and forth on the forum. He mentioned that he’d gone to the ‘darkside’ quite a while back. My interest was immediately peaked. Here was a guy, helping people daily in a Linux forum with Conky who was not even using that forums OS! He was using a distro called #! or Crunchbang Linux. I got the directions to their forum and immediately signed up. Within days I had made several new online friends who were geniuses in my estimation.
While in the end, I never did install and try Crunchbang, which has since been discontinued, I did meet a great developer and struck up a terrific friendship with several members there. This developer went on to develop his own distribution of which I became one of his first testers. For almost a year, we tested and tested until he declared it was ready and released what is today the “perfect” distro called VSIDO. It was January 17th, 2013. Today there are dozens of voluntary testers who help test and make sure VSIDO stays “perfect”. It has been downloaded thousands of times, and has a truly dedicated user-base. It is truly a “community” project with a developer in Terry Ganus, aka VastOne, who seriously relies on the online forum community and their feedback to continue to make VSIDO better. But wait, it’s already perfect. How can you make something perfect better? That is the beauty and elegance of Linux. Nothing is left to chance. Everything there is by design/choice.
I had been looking for the elegant look and design of the interface, (I happen to like a little bling!) as well as the perfect set of readily accessible programs that I could immediately get to work with. My criteria also meant a rolling release or cutting edge base. Something that was going to always be the latest and greatest! The name says it all. VSIDO. It is based, as I said above, on “sid”. There are a lot of negative naysayers out there who will tell you to run from “sid”. It is named after the character in ‘Toy Story’ who lived next door and recreated his toys by mingling all their parts in a sort of Frankenstein way. Or, just outright destroyed them. He was a pretty unstable kid even for a cartoon! So in the world of Linux, “sid” has the undeserved label, ‘unstable’. It has been anything but for VSIDO. In the almost 3 years of constant everyday use, I have not been down due to its’ “sid” base a SINGLE TIME!
VSIDO typically releases new ISO’s (Live images) every 2 weeks or whenever an important “sid” update happens. VSIDO comes with the Fluxbox WM. With Debian’s package management system, you are easily able to change this to whatever Window Manager/Desktop Environment you wish. Also as a benefit of being associated and based on Debian, there are approximately (the last time I checked) 40,000 + packages available for install on VSIDO. An incredible amount of software for any need you may have.
Whether your a full blown ‘C’ or ‘C++’ programmer, (or FORTRAN, COBOL, etc.). Just a user who browses the internet, checks email, needs an Instant Messenger client, or wants to watch movies/TV, or listen to your favorite music, or even state of the art audio/video sampling/editing; using very sophisticated and elegant looking software, Linux is a very advanced and easy to use system with all the free support you could nicely ask for! (Did I mention audio/video conferencing for you business or family?)
In all of this, I have not mentioned the IRC networks. They’ve been around for years, and are a HUGE resource, freely available to all. You can find someone at any hour of the day or night (usually) at channel #vsido on the OFTC IRC server. VSIDO comes by default with Xchat installed (an IRC client) so from the get go you have an easy way to get any kind of support you may need! The VSIDO forums can be found at theVSIDO Forums here.
If your an avid computer user, or someone new to the computer scene, Linux is a “must try” system. It excels on older hardware, eliminating the need for you to purchase an Operating System from M$ or Apple just so you can ‘rent’ the hardware it comes on! Linux is officially the fastest growing Operating System in the world! It is FREE! It is FREELY supported! From office software to high end graphic editing software, it is all FREE! It is also comparable (and in most cases better designed and programmed) to any software you’d have to buy from Apple or M$.
Any computer user in the world would benefit from making the switch to Linux. No matter what your computer use and needs are. That 5 year old PC in your closet that you haven’t been able to give away? Get it out and get a Linux distro installed on it. You’ll be amazed at the new life Linux can breathe into an old machine…
It is a truly amazing and simple Operating System to get started with, using existing hardware you already have! The sooner you make the move to Linux, the sooner your computer experience will really shine!