Seven years of Linux usage

Tux2012 marks my seven-year anniversary of being a full-time Linux user (having switched from an old Power Mac 7500 running Mac OS 9). Thus, thought I’d look back over the years of Linux usage.

2005

In early 2005, I bought my first PC, after years of being a Mac user. The whitebox PC I bought from a local computer store ultimately turned out to be rather poorly built.

While I’d been considering Linux since 2003, and tried it out with a Knoppix CD (that someone from an online forum mailed to me) on store computers in 2004, this marked my initial full-fledged Linux usage. And that first distro was… Fedora Core 3, with GNOME. FC3 and its successor, Fedora Core 4, were nice enough at the time (versus Knoppix or my aging Mac OS 9), but had way too many issues that required constant fixing, which quickly grew tiresome.

After months of dealing with Fedora’s antics, that fall I moved over to Ubuntu, beginning with 5.04 (Hoary Hedgehog). I had to wait until the CDs I’d mail-ordered from Ubuntu’s site had arrived (this was before I had broadband). I found things much, much smoother with Ubuntu than they were on Fedora (screen resolution issues aside), and so I didn’t look back. Upgraded (after gaining broadband) sometime afterwards to 5.10 (Breezy Badger), which also went well. (How times have changed: one of my few complaints was that I couldn’t install RealPlayer?!)

2006

Ubuntu 6.06, “Dapper Drake,” came along, as did 6.10 (Edgy Eft). Otherwise, was apparently an unremarkable year.

2007

I finally upgraded from the whitebox PC to a Dell Dimension E521 desktop computer, which was much nicer. The model I bought was one of the Dells without an OS preinstalled (a few months later, Dell announced its Ubuntu preinstalled line, to my surprise). Had a few issues with permissions for the DVD drive (in Ubuntu 6.10), but things worked well enough after fixing that.

Ubuntu came out with 7.04 (Feisty Fawn), which went well, and 7.10 (Gutsy Gibbon), which I assume went well also (though I don’t seem to have any blog posts about it).

Around Thanksgiving, I bought my first (and so far, only) iPod, the “Fat” Nano. Ultimately, it worked OK with Ubuntu.

2008

Ubuntu came out with 8.04, “Hardy Heron.” Upgrading went well, the usual nitpicks aside.

Later that year, of course, came 8.10, “Intrepid Ibex.” More smoothness.

2009

2009 apparently wasn’t as good a year as 2008 was…

The first unpleasant surprise was seeing that TurboTax started to refuse to allow computers running Linux to access their website, for ludicrous reasons. I promptly moved over to the Linux-friendly TaxAct, who I’ve stuck by since.

After this, came the antics I had with a refurbished laptop I had bought as a spare computer. Not Linux-related, but worth noting…

On top of the laptop issues, I had too many problems with 9.04 (Jaunty Jackalope), and wound up downgrading back to 8.10. Stuck by 8.10 until I finally replaced both the desktop and the now-broken-beyond-repair refurbished Dell laptop with a new machine, an HP laptop bought at a back-to-school sale. Installing 9.04 (64-bit version; had been using 32-bit versions of Ubuntu up to this point) found things worked better on the new machine.

Ubuntu 9.10, “Karmic Koala,” came along. Worked OK, but had some sound issues. This version also saw Pidgin replaced by Empathy, which I didn’t think was as well-polished.

I also bought my first smartphone this year, the Linux-friendly Palm Pre, which ultimately turned out to be another big strike-out tech-wise. I sure knew how to pick ’em…

2010

2010 was a big improvement over 2009!

My first-ever published article came out this year, for Linux Journal magazine (on Handbrake). This led to a series of other articles written between then and now (which you can see on my Portfolio page).

Ubuntu 10.04, “Lucid Lynx,” came out as a long-term service release. While it was mostly OK, it continued the trend of things shifting in Ubuntu.

Ubuntu 10.10, “Maverick Meerkat.” The last version of Ubuntu I stuck by went well enough (bugs with Totem, Empathy, and the laptop’s trackpad lock button aside), but big changes were afoot for Ubuntu…

That Christmas, I gave my mother my old Dell desktop as a Christmas gift, set up with Ubuntu 10.04. Since then, she’s had few problems with it; most of the problems have been of the “how do I do such-and-such online?” variety, or remembering passwords, etc.

2011

2011 saw the biggest shift in years in my Linux usage. With the move by Canonical to Unity (which I dislike) and GNOME’s release of GNOME 3 (which I also dislike), I decided to make a lateral move to a fellow member of the Ubuntu family, and switched to the Xfce-based Xubuntu, starting with 11.04 (Natty Narwhal). The usual upgrade bugs aside, I found Xubuntu much more usable than the Unity-based Ubuntu, and have stuck by it since. While I’d looked at Xfce off and on for some period of time (since 2009), the Unity/GNOME 3 situation and Xfce’s improvements since then prompted me to finally switch.

Also this year, I ditched the Palm Pre and moved to an Android-based smartphone, the LG Optimus V. While a decidedly low-end phone, the world of Android offered a lot more than the dying platform that was WebOS.

Linux by this point apparently had made enough of a headway among the general public that Tux (the Linux mascot) appeared in a Fruit Loops commercial.

Xubuntu 11.10, “Oneiric Ocelot,” was released. Not much of a change from 11.04, but it fixed some of the previous bugs I’d had issues with.

Late in 2011 came my purchase of an Xbox 360, which managed to be somewhat Linux-compatible, supporting media streaming (mostly in iPod/Apple-friendly formats, along with the expected Windows ones) from my laptop.

Conclusion

And that sums things up to this point. A lot’s changed in seven years for me, especially looking back at the earlier days of my Linux usage: no broadband? RealPlayer? Coming over from a 90s-era Mac that was already long in the tooth? And of course, nobody having had smartphones.

Fedora of course is still around, and still a popular Linux distribution, though other distros have also become widely popular, particularly Linux Mint (which seems to have taken the user-friendliness crown from Ubuntu). Ubuntu’s been heavily criticized for its Unity decisions, resulting in a shift by some users to Mint, Fedora, and the other members of the Ubuntu family; Xubuntu has particularly gained attention. RealPlayer’s long dead, broadband’s now more ubiquitous, the Mac’s also gained many changes since I left it (having shifted fully to using Intel processors the biggest change), and one of the two biggest smartphone OSes is (Linux-based) Android.

Should be exciting to see what the future brings for Linux and technology in general… and I’ll be here to comment on it (or deal with it).

 

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