My Journey to Linux: Revitalization (Part 2)

Eric Londo
Jan 9 · 7 min read

Welcome back to the story of my journey to Linux. If you missed Part 1, you can find it here: My Journey to Linux: Discovery (Part 1).

Let’s jump right in!

Now, several years have passed since my first experience with SuSE. It was the fall of 2011 and I had just started as a student at a small technical college studying audio engineering and production. I had a brand new MacBook Pro (as part of tuition) to run proprietary Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) software, including Pro Tools HD, Ableton Live, Logic Pro, and Reason. At this point, I had become very familiar with Mac OS X and far preferred it to Windows, especially Vista. Man, how I hated Vista. However, I still had my old Windows laptop that was replaced by the MacBook. I didn’t really need it anymore and the performance was dwindling to the point that it was barely usable. I decided to retire the old machine and it sat in my closet for months, collecting dust.

Field trip to The Tabernacle in Atlanta for my Audio Technology degree.

In early 2008, while surfing social media, I had ran across an article about Linux as an alternative to Windows. It showcased the now popular Ubuntu distribution and the screenshots that I saw were enticing. It appeared as though Linux had come leaps and bounds since my first experience using SuSE just a year earlier (most likely due to the GNOME 2 environment). Being too nervous to install it on hardware, I resorted to playing around with both Ubuntu and Kubuntu in virtual environments, which didn’t allow me to really do anything with them besides tweak things and learn. Now, three years later and having no need for the Windows machine, I would finally perform my first Linux install on actual hardware.

My 2005 Dell Inspiron 6000 computer that would eventually run my first personal Linux distribution.

So, having pulled all the important data off of my Windows machine to an external hard drive, I burnt the official ISO of Ubuntu 11.10 “Oneiric Ocelot” to a DVD. After reading quite a few horror stories in the past about installing Linux and getting hardware or networking to work properly, I have to admit I was a bit anxious to see what happened.

https://medium.com/@londoed/my-journey-to-linux-new-horizons-part-3-95ef0089c9f6Ubuntu 11.10 Custom Wallpaper (Credit: silenzz on DeviantArt)

However, my anxieties were soon relieved after booting up the DVD. I was greeted by a calming purple and orange abstract wallpaper with a single icon on the desktop to install the operating system. The setup was practically as easy (even easier actually!) as setting up a new Mac or Windows computer, it blew my mind! Everything just worked out of the box, no fiddling with configuration files, endlessly searching the Internet for solutions to problems, or waiting for hours on end for the install to complete. Just pure magic.

After the installation, I rebooted my computer without the install media and was overwhelmed with just how gorgeous the desktop looked. My second impression was how fast the computer booted and was running. It was light-years ahead of the Windows operating system that I had just wiped. I figured that it was because I hadn’t placed any data back on the computer. Yet, as I added in the files from my external drive, the speed didn’t waver much. It was as if my six-year-old computer had suddenly become reborn with a single click of a button.

Ubuntu 11.10 Desktop.

Unfortunately, none of the major audio editing applications that I needed for my degree were available on Linux, so the laptop was basically only used to poke around and play with the endless customization available. I began learning how to use the terminal and write short Bash scripts to automate stuff for fun.

It was amazing to see how much of a community had grown around the Ubuntu distribution in particular and just how much information/help was available. The people were much friendlier than what I had experienced with my initial research into Linux and were gracious to help new users instead of replying simply with RTFM (Read the F’in Manual!). I would spend my free time reading through the official Ubuntu Forums and even bought a few books to learn the ins and outs of Linux from a new user perspective including the Official Ubuntu Book.

The official Ubuntu forums.

Even though macOS remained my main computer for quite a while, Linux was incredibly enticing to me. I loved the freedom (of open-source software and customization) and for the first time it actually felt like my computer was conforming to my preferences, not the other way around. I updated that computer to each new version of Ubuntu until 16.04 LTS.

In 2017, I was forced to buy a machine with Windows installed so that I could access the ArcGIS Desktop software for some classes in my Bachelor’s degree. Hence, the old silver Dell Inspiron 6000 was retired to my parent’s basement (where I bet it will still boot!) and I bought a much cheaper Dell Inspiron 3000 on Cyber Monday. The first thing that I did when I got the new machine was install Ubuntu 16.04 in a dual boot with Windows 10.

Then, around the same time, my life would be forever changed. My brother had just been hired at Google to work on machine learning in TensorFlow and was very enthusiastic to show me the potential of machine learning. After a quick overview explanation, I realized that I had been using many of these algorithms through the ArcGIS Desktop interface, without knowing how they really worked behind the scenes.

TensorFlow 2.0, a numerical computing and data flow library specializing in deep learning algorithms and workflows.

Since I was close to graduating with my Bachelor’s degree, my brother asked me what I wanted to do with my life. I told him that I was always interested in research and working on renewable energy sources. Then, one line he said to me would set me on a trajectory that passionately continues to this day. He said, “Well, if you want to do any kind of advanced research, you really need to learn how to program.” This brought me back to the memories of my Dad attempting to teach me Perl as a teenager and me thinking that I would never be able to become a programmer. It just looked too crazy!

However, I expressed interest, and he started me on some basic tutorials using Python and I became so infatuated with it, that I bought a book and learned Python 3 in my spare time. I even changed my final semester courses around by switching out a graduate level organic chemistry class for a computer programming class. In short, it became my favorite course that I had ever taken (and it was all in Visual Basic .NET!).

One of my first Python projects: building a small CNN for the MNIST dataset with TensorFlow and Keras.

It was the only course that I met with the teacher before and after class to discuss advanced topics and try to dig as deep as I could into the material. At one point, she even asked me, “Are you sure you’re not a computer science major? You’re doing better than most CS students in this class.”

She was such an incredible teacher, who constantly reassured me that I had a natural skill for programming (even when I felt that I wasn’t comprehending something) and, if I ever wanted, would be able to move myself into the field with the appropriate education and dedication.

I went on this tangent, because it directly relates to Linux, I promise. Because I hated using Windows as a development environment, I began increasingly using my Ubuntu partition to work on learning how to program. And because I was using Ubuntu a lot more, I was beginning to love Linux a lot more. My MacBook barely got touched anymore except as a music player in the living room. After I finished my Bachelor’s, my need for Windows dwindled and I began exclusively using Ubuntu.

It wouldn’t take long until I was Linux all the way.

However, once again, I think that this is becoming much longer than previously anticipated. If you would like to read about my growing involvement in the Linux community and my journey through the vast Linux world outside of Ubuntu, please check out Part 3 when it arrives!

Me teaching my son, Vincent, how to play guitar!

Thanks for reading! Please comment about your journey to Linux if you so wish, I would love to hear about it!

Linux++

A weekly article that dives into the topics, events, and…

Eric Londo

Written by

Environmental engineer with a passion in software development, the open source software community, and especially the GNU/Linux OS. Writer at GNOME.

Linux++

Linux++

A weekly article that dives into the topics, events, and headlines throughout the GNU/Linux and open-source world as well as highlighting the passionate community that surrounds it.

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