Happy Birthday Linux!

Today marks the 27th birthday of Linux. While I can’t claim to know everything about the history of Linux, especially in the early days, what I can do is share with you my own experiences of Linux. I started playing with Linux on-and-off in 2003 when I got Red Hat 8 in the back of a book on how to use Linux. Back at that time I would re-size my hard disk drive’s Windows 98 partition and install Red Hat on a 2GB partition, and play about with it for an afternoon or so before deleting said partition and restoring the Windows 98 partition back to its original size. I don’t know why I didn’t just leave Linux on the system and use it alongside Windows, but there you go. In 2004 I was introduced to SuSE 7.3, a version of which appeared to be much more fully featured than my version of Red Hat. I had been able to borrow SuSE 7.3 from the Linux club that ran at my old school for a wee while in the spring of 2004. With this distro I was able to discover the delights (or otherwise) of the Alpha version of WINE, the compatibility layer that allows a selection of Windows programs to be installed and run on Linux. Later that year I was able to have a play about with SuSE 9.3, which in my opinion had one of the best looking UIs at the time, thanks to it’s use of KDE as the default desktop environment, and the fact that KDE at the time made liberal use of glossy elements in both its icon and its general UI.

In 2005 I was introduced to Ubuntu, which at the time was widely known for its ability to be booted in full from a CD-ROM to a live desktop environment.

It wasn’t until 2007 that I started learning to use Linux as a serious operating system. I was taught a lot of how to install and configure Ubuntu on my Ergo Ensis 211 Core Duo powered laptop by Phil Cluff. While I still did not use Linux in any serious way then (I decided to buy a late 2007 white MacBook) I did continue to mess around with Ubuntu from time to time. As I started to make a living from repairing computers for my business Jay Wakefield Computers, I found Ubuntu to be an invaluable tool for being able to diagnose problems and to retrieve files from unbootable computers.

While I was studying for my university degree one of my third-year modules had BASH (Born Again Shell, a command-line interface commonly used on Linux and macOS) tuition as an element.

It was in 2016 that I really started to use Linux in a more serious capacity, thanks to being introduced to a friend of a friend who works as an MSP for a living, and knows a lot about using Linux, both as a desktop and a server OS. He helped me to build my first server, and configure an mdraid (software RAID) using Debian 8 Jessie. Running this server really helped me to properly learn how to use Linux for a serious application.

Since 2016 I have been running Linux on some of my Core 2 based systems as a desktop OS. I have found that Ubuntu MATE is a very easy to use, and is very light on resources, which makes it a good choice for low spec PCs. I had tried both Debian Jessie and Stretch as a desktop operating system, but unfortunately whatever desktop environment I tried, I had problems with screen magnification and mouse pointer scaling.

I have recently been using the Alpha version of Debian 10 Buster with KDE, and I’m very happy to report that at the time of writing the magnification and mouse pointer scaling work flawlessly.

As for my server, my friend very generously donated some parts for me to upgrade my server. Now it features:

  • Supermicro X8 S-ILF motherboard
  • Intel Xeon X3470 CPU @ 2.93GHz
  • 16GB DDR-3 ECC RAM
  • 2 x 40GB SSDs (used as boot drives)
  • 4 x 2TB Hitachi Ultrastar 7,200RPM hard disk drives (in an mdraid RAID10 array)

My friend has helped me to create a file server VM using proxmox pve, and set up openmediavault for managing my shared files. I have been able to spin up a Plex server which has enabled me to be able to access all of my music and videos on my various devices, even when I’m away from home.

When I was younger I often fantasised about Linux overtaking Windows as the dominant operating system. Nowadays, while a lot of people are becoming annoyed with Microsoft’s constant removal of control from the end user of Windows, and while a lot of games are being made available for Linux, I do not believe that Linux will replace Windows. I do believe however that Linux is definitely the way to go for servers, as a desktop operating system for low spec computers.

I am certainly glad that Linux exists, and that I am continuing to learn more about using it. The only thing that is left to say is Happy Birthday Linux!

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