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What Did You Do First With Linux? 739

ruphus13 writes "OStatic has an interesting article on remembering the first time you used Linux. Quoting: 'I'm not sure if the admission that I remember my first Linux installation much more clearly than any date with my first boyfriend or my first date with my husband is a really wise thing to put in writing. I will freely admit it wasn't quite as anxiety-inducing as a date, and the long-term relationship that sprang from it taught me quite a bit about myself, how I learn, and how to passionately load kernel modules at boot. So, what was your first Linux experience?'"
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What Did You Do First With Linux?

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  • Just hunted around. I was trying out different distros.
    • by dov_0 ( 1438253 )
      I should mention that the first uneasy but hopeful meeting turned into a long-term relationship and eventually a business.
    • I first downloaded the installer for RedHat....4ish?

      It crashed on my computer. Downloaded it again, and same thing.

      Then I downloaded the 14 5 1/4 install disks for Debian 2.2 over dialup. Took a couple of overnights...

      And the rest is history. Not very interesting history, but....

      • Re:First time? (Score:5, Interesting)

        by neomunk ( 913773 ) on Saturday April 25, 2009 @09:55AM (#27712279)

        I first installed an early version of slackware, back in 95 or so. I don't quite remember how many floppies it was, but a couple friends and I were able to split the downloads up between us. One boot floppy, one root floppy and a significant number of installation floppies (that we soon learned to copy to the HD before installing). We got this through a hole in the state library system's gopher access number.

        I spent a large number of sleepless nights chatting on the 50 person(!) BBSs, facinated by the ability to chat with so many people at once instead of the one or two that I could with the better set-up local dialup BBSs. A little later I learned about ytalk and got to have more "personal" (wink wink, nudge nudge) chats with 1 or 2 people at a time again. :-D

        Eventually, I met my wife on the Illinois Institute of Technology computer club's BBS, shadow. Yep, that annoying sound a modem makes was "the handshake o' love" to me.

        Now excuse me while I go see if there are any kids on my lawn.

        • by bingbong ( 115802 ) on Saturday April 25, 2009 @11:44AM (#27713249)

          I too used the floopies back in 1995. I learned a lot of interesting thing... like you had to manually configure some addressing issues in 'shadow memory' in order to get my token ring card to work.

          I used latex to write my thesis in vi (sorry emacs peoples).

          yep, we had to type uphill both ways in those days. We fought each other with sticks to obtain extra carriage returns.

        • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday April 25, 2009 @11:54AM (#27713339)

          Interesting... usually the "handshake o' love" only involves one person...

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by GreatDrok ( 684119 )

          Neomonk said "I first installed an early version of slackware, back in 95 or so. I don't quite remember how many floppies it was"

          I installed about the same time. It was 40 floppies for a full install. I downloaded them from sunsite onto my SPARCStation at work which fortunately had a floppy drive. dd them onto the floppies and then off home with them.

          The install was based on the 1.0 kernel and I was putting it on because I had been working on some code on my SPARC and the SGI Indigo we had in the lab and

    • by u38cg ( 607297 ) <> on Saturday April 25, 2009 @09:18AM (#27711945) Homepage
      Unusual. In this thread, /.ers compete with each other to try and be the earliest to use Linux. Where's Linus when you need him?
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by xSauronx ( 608805 )

      I dont remember the first distro i tried, but it was 1997 or 1998. I did the install over my windows install and...when i realized it was ugly, going to be a bitch to do anything, and i couldnt get a dial up connection working easily, i reinstalled windows.

      I started using debian for toying around with 3 or 4 years ago or so, and I use ubuntu on the desktop for the last 2 years now. I way, way prefer linux over windows, primarily due to software management and interface options.

  • by iYk6 ( 1425255 ) on Saturday April 25, 2009 @08:21AM (#27711485)

    I tried to access the floppy drive. Eventually gave up, and re-installed Windows. That was 1998. I finally installed Debian Aug 2006 and it's been running on this machine ever since.

    Windows is like a drug addiction. Sometimes it takes several tries to kick it.

    • by Swizec ( 978239 )
      My first tries with linux ended miserably with going back to win95 beacuse my hard-drive wasn't big enough or something, dunno, Turbolinux 6.5 was uninstallable.

      My first successful try was Mandrake around 2003 and I've been a full-time linux user ever since; primarily it was because learning C/C++ was much much easier done in linux than on windows.
      • by wisty ( 1335733 ) on Saturday April 25, 2009 @08:29AM (#27711527)

        Similar story. Gave up on the X-server setup. Come Ubuntu, and apt-get, the tables turned and Linux was just easier.

        • My first Linux experience was when a friend was trying to install it and for whatever reason just couldn't get it to work. At the time I was a Mac person who had played around with a lot of different things, but my friend figured that since I was writing software (never mind that writing software and using software are pretty different skill sets) maybe I might be able to help. So, knowing nothing about how to install Linux, I asked him to show me what he had done. He put in the first Slackware disk, started the computer, went through the installation, and... it just worked. At the end, he had a working computer running Linux. A few days later he told me what he did differently. He accidentally deleted the partition with Windows. Oops, but he learned that he didn't need that after all.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by Jurily ( 900488 )

          Similar story. Gave up on the X-server setup. Come Ubuntu, and apt-get, the tables turned and Linux was just easier.

          Eh? RedHat 7.3 worked beautifully for me every time. I just had to tell it what monitor I had because it the hardware did not know about DDC. Win98, on the other hand, failed miserably and I couldn't use 1024x768 on it.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by plasmidmap ( 1435389 )

      Windows is like a drug addiction. Sometimes it takes several tries to kick it.

      More like Windows is a bad stain-- it might take several washes to get it out!

    • I remember having installed Suse 5.1 and was trying to connect with a 33.6k modem. Good old times with pppd :)
    • by Frankie70 ( 803801 ) on Saturday April 25, 2009 @09:07AM (#27711831)

      I tried to access the floppy drive. Eventually gave up, and re-installed Windows. That was 1998. I finally installed Debian Aug 2006 and it's been running on this machine ever since.

      So basically you just waited for floppy drives to get obsolete?

    • by Jurily ( 900488 ) <jurily@g m a i l . com> on Saturday April 25, 2009 @09:11AM (#27711875)

      I tried to access the floppy drive. Eventually gave up, and re-installed Windows.

      I hear ya. I was looking for drive C:, and when I found it, it wasn't working like I expected.

      Oh, and kernel modules came in a single .c file and a README that said "just type gcc [...]". I was yelling "WHERE, YOU PIECE OF SHIT?!" for a week. What did keep me there was the fact that the installer was able to set my screen up for 1024x768@43i, and win98 couldn't do that.

      Oh, ever seen KDE 3.0 on 16 Mb RAM? It was quite... educational.

    • Even if you managed to mount floppy, you would notice the strange silence and figure the sad fact when you first run xmms. Yes, no sound.

      Fix was easy (I bet it is unneeded now)

      chmod 666 /dev/dsp along with the soundblaster config at /etc

      While it was total torture after Windows (and coming from Amiga to that land), I am thankful to Patrick Volkerding and Slackware. How? Well, I learned how the unix logic works (even the 666) and compiling things from source. I still use that bits of knowledge today on OS X.


  • by dunkelfalke ( 91624 ) on Saturday April 25, 2009 @08:23AM (#27711499) was a Mini-Linux distribution in size of four floppies which I downloaded from some BBS. This distribution used the UMSDOS file system and could be started from a DOS prompt (didn't have a spart hard drive).

    I remember that I even managed to get X working after a while, but to be honest Linux looked for me as a huge step back from OS/2 Warp which I preferred those days.

  • The first time I encountered Linux, it was installed on a computer that ran a stadium message board. It was at a part-time job I worked at night.

    The first time I used it "seriously" was when I was working with SunOS to mass convert CAD drawings to AutoCAD. I wanted to see if I could use the utilities that we had on SunOS on a free operating system on Intel machines to avoid having to buy more Sun workstations. It worked pretty well!

  • Knoppix (Score:4, Interesting)

    by mc1138 ( 718275 ) on Saturday April 25, 2009 @08:24AM (#27711507) Homepage
    My first time wasn't even an install it was just a boot of my existing computer. It took way to long to figure out I had to run sudo su to do anything cool, but once that was done I figured out how to use nmap and got friends to do a direct connect via gaim and scanned their computers for them... yeah... for them... :)
  • by wiredog ( 43288 ) on Saturday April 25, 2009 @08:26AM (#27711515) Journal

    A boot floppy and stack of floppies, IIRC. Later, more bloated, distros required an entire CD. Getting X running with FVWM as a window manager required going into XF86.conf (or .config?) and hand tweaking mode lines.

    Hand hacking the config file for the 28.8k external modem to get online. Downloading Netscape, or maybe still Mosaic?

    Then came the fun of getting the USB mouse working by rewriting the USB drivers and running GCC.

    Then building my own kernel (a 1.9.x, IIRC) to wring every last space cycle out of the processor, and every last byte out of 4MB.

    Installing a second (!) internal hdd, a GB or so, so I could put the swap partition on the non-root drive. For greater performance.

    Last week I fired up VMware on my Mac. Pointed it at the Ubuntu DVD ISO. Installed a new VM which worked fine without any tweaking.

    I never though Linux would get boring.

  • by downix ( 84795 ) on Saturday April 25, 2009 @08:31AM (#27711539) Homepage

    I'd heard of Linux while at school, so during summer break I saw a book, "Linux Unleashed" with a copy of the latest Slackware (3.0) at the back. So, I bought the book, took it home, made the boot floppies, and proceeded to blow away the Windows 3.1 and installed Slackware 3.0 on the machine. Took a good 45 minutes (it was a 486SX2-50) but then, I was there. I configured my PPP dialer (took half the time than with Winsock dialer) and logged onto my ISP and proceeded to install ircII to then chat with my friends on IRC. I had an IRC star trek game to attend that weekend, so I logged into DALNet and then went to play my game, all the while enjoying the B&W plain jane interface. Then I flipped through the book and found the page talking about virtual terminals. ALT+F2 and BAM, I was then using Lynx to browse the web at the same time. I was in hog heaven. ALT+F3 and I was learning how to make an Xconfiguration script to try and turn on the GUI. then the magical moments, I typed startx.... and 5 minutes later fvwm came up! Rediculously slow compared to today, but compared to Win3.1 and OS/2 2.11, I was loving every moment of it.

    I still have the hard drive from that old machine, still sporting Slackware 3.0 on it, with the 1.0.13 kernel in all of its glory residing as vmlinuz.orig.

    • I did the same - got my copy of the book at Frys Electronics. Problem was, and I didn't know it at the time, my emachine I was trying to do the install on had a processor that wasn't going to work. I tried for weeks and finally gave up. A year or so later I picked up a copy of Suse at the same Frys. By then I also had a new machine with a different processor - things went smoothly. At roughly the same time I started using Redhat at work.

    • by txoof ( 553270 )

      I had that same book and a craptacular 486 SX 25! I think it had a green cover and a CD with all sorts of goodness attached. I couldn't get my crappy ATAPI CD drive to work under linux though so it was just an endless stream of writing stuff to floppies.

      I have a similarly fond memory of discovering VTs. I thought it amazing that I could irc, read my mail and use lynx all at the same time and without the bloat and pain of windows. That was a turning moment for me and Linux.

  • Both feet, you say? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by codefungus ( 463647 ) on Saturday April 25, 2009 @08:31AM (#27711545) Homepage Journal

    First time was kind of mandated by moneyless employer. With my own Windows Compaq laptop in hand, I flew to Atlanta and was greeted by a bunch of old Unix hippies. I was to write PHP/miniSQL code for them but had only one computer to do it on, mine. Problem was that I had windows and they wanted me to run RH. So, I totally wiped my machine and installed RH. Even at that time (years ago), I had no problem getting Red Hat installed (5.2?) on my presario.
    Ever since then my tolerance of Windows has been in nothing but decline.

    Long live The Penguin!!

  • That I don't think I ever got to work, followed by either SUSE or Caldera, which I did get work, but didn't really find anything much to do with either of them. Red hat in 97 or so was the first time I used Linux for any practical purposes.
  • I downloaded (via FTP - since the web was barely born) Linux v0.97 kernel, tools, C-compiler, etc. in 1992 for just one reason... to play the curses-text game "rogue"
    And today... I'm going to be downloading Jaunty Jackalope (yes, sorry I'm late) Ubuntu and likely playing nethack (based on rogue) later this afternoon.
    Things never change

    Here's a Usenet post from me in 1992 bitching about "I DON'T WANT TO HACK THE KERNEL" []

  • Bought a PS3 and found out it could run linux. So, I installed intrepid ibex and loved it! If only I could figure out how to triple boot my MacBookPro...
    • by DJRumpy ( 1345787 ) on Saturday April 25, 2009 @09:05AM (#27711807)
      A bit off topic, but extremely easy to do on any Mac.

      First things first. Install ReFit [] to make the OS boot selection easier. Very nice boot manager for OS X.

      Next, you install your Bootcamp, which will partition your OS X HD into two OS partitions (Refit first, OS X, and then Bootcamp partition last). Once completed, go into Disk Utility and shrink your OS X partition by whatever number of GB you want your Linux partition to be (Bootcamp should always have the last partition on your HD. If it isn't last, it doesn't work with the built in tools.

      Install whatever flavor of Linux you like and ensure you install your boot loader on the actual Linux partition and not on any of your other partitions (usually in the 'advanced' setup during the partitioning process in distros I've set up. Check the documentation)

      Rinse and repeat as needed for any number of OS's.

      That's it in a nutshell. VERY easy to do...
  • by dov_0 ( 1438253 ) on Saturday April 25, 2009 @08:35AM (#27711577)

    Up to that point, I never thought of myself in any way, shape or form as a logical thinker. In some sense, I'm really not. But I learned something about myself. I learned that things go wrong in even completely logical settings for no apparent reason -- but there is a reason, and searching it down, identifying it, and solving it is actually fun and rewarding. I can't write code, but I am quite skilled in digging around in it and bending it to my will -- something I never dreamed I'd like doing.

    I must say that using Linux (manpages and all) has taught me a stack of confidence, logical thinking, problem solving skills etc as well as a lot about computers in general and how they run. I even run a PC repair business now as well as setting up free Linux boxes for disadvantaged students.

    Has anyone else found that using Linux has really helped them develop personally in this way?

    • by txoof ( 553270 ) on Saturday April 25, 2009 @08:55AM (#27711717) Homepage

      I don't know if using Linux has helped me develop logical thinking, but it certainly honed my ability to solve problems. The ability to read a log file and compare it to a man page to solve a problem has definitely grown out of my use of Linux.

      The self-sufficiency of reading a manual and determining how to use a tool and how to fix it when it is broken is an incredibly useful skill that is a gift that running linux has definitely given to me.

    • by DoninIN ( 115418 )
      Linux taught me a lot about computing, it certainly helped me with problem solving skills in terms of working on PCs even when they were running something else. Various knoppix disks and assorted distros over the years have certainly helped me identify bad or buggy hardware on many occasions. Damn Small Linux is the Linux I've gotten the most use out of myself, removing data from dead PCs finding out if sick computers were worth fixing etc.
    • by garcia ( 6573 ) on Saturday April 25, 2009 @10:23AM (#27712523)

      Linux has caused me to become a drunk. I hate going through manpages, scouring through Linux support forums, and trying what seems to be an endless train of the same thing until I get so drunk that I do something I didn't plan on and the setup works.

      That said I've been running Linux on one machine or another since 1996 (beginning w/Slackware, moving to RH (for Alpha), and then finally moving to Debian where I've been since 2002). It still pisses me off that I have a couple of outstanding issues that have been around for the last 6.5 years but I'm just too fucking lazy to fix them. While I used to run Linux solely (between 1997 and 2002) I have moved to a server side Linux setup and a desktop Windows (and OS X, ugh) environment.

      I still get drunk and I have Linux to blame. Don't drink the penguin!

  • Caldera (before the turn to the dark side) in a 1 G partition on the family desktop.
    I kept practically everything on the much bigger Win 98 partition and mounted it at boot.

    Second install was an ancient incarnation of RedHat (6 I think) on an old Toshiba laptop.
    Had to use framebuffer for the graphics for months before I got X to run properly.
    It was great.

    I've never used Windows since.
    Installing modern distros is just too easy ...
  • The first version of Linux I played with was Caldera 1.3. Not a bad experience as I even managed to get X working. Had an internal 3Comn (USR) hardware modem that I actually managed to get working, which impressed me. Only reason I didn't stick with it at the time was the other family members who also used the computer. Next was a book on Linux that included RH 5 and Star Office 4 and when I finally got a 100M zip drive, I gave Zip Slack a try. Currently I'm using Gentoo since 2003 though I've been forced t

  • How about before that, trying to get the kernel to compile before there was a way to install it.

    If you *must* insist, i guess i remember bit editing the kernel so it would boot off HD instead of floppy.

  • My first Linux experience was back in the day with SuSe 6.0, bought that in a bookstore with a fat manual (that was useless to me) and tried to install it when my Windows 98 SE had one of it's breakdowns. After fiddling with the installer and things for hours I couldn't get my soundcard to work and had nothing really productive to do with the system (note that "productive" back then meant playing Counterstrike). Since the sound didn't work so I couldn't listen to music, I couldn't get online because I didn'
  • Slackware, w/ 0.99 kernel w/ some long forgotten patch level. We were using SCO for named and some mail services, and even then I guess we knew we wanted to get out of that. Actually, just wanted a second name server on site, and didn't want to put out the dollars for SCO plus the TCP add-on software module. If you can imagine a flavour of *nix that actually offered TCP/IP as an option. Today it just seems absurd.

    A whole bunch of floppies and rawrite. Later, tried the network based install and it actuall

  • The main hurdle was getting through the IIS proxy with NTLM auth, but didn't get into it
  • I remember everything leading up to it. . .

    I was told after years of refinement, all the problems with Linux had finally been worked out. It was now easy to install, easy to use. Grandma could now use it. The buzz was everywhere, it was finally going to be Year Of The Linux Desktop.

    I'd given up my beloved Amiga, and I found that Windows seemed like a step backwards, so I was ready to try something different.

    So, I got the latest release of the most popular distro -- that would have been about Red Hat 4.0,

  • My first install was Slackware back in '95. I had no idea why I was installing it, but I knew that I would be 7337 if I had it. I spent countless hours trying to find enough blank and bad-sectorless floppies to rawrite the disk images. Then, on disk 11 of 12, I'd have to start all over because the floppy had was unreadable for some reason. That was awesome.

    Once it was installed, I had no idea what to do with it other than try to get X to run so I could watch the awesome Swarm screen saver I had seen at

  • Was a jump from Windows 98SE to Slackware 7.

    The horrible times trying to exit xconf in pico ... just wishing that "" would magically work in this new environment.

    I still have nightmares trying to get X working properly.

  • I set up a webserver with Slackware. In 1994, on a 486 (DX50!). Sure beat the proprietary BSDi, even though I preferred BSD (which we ran as SunOS4). Because Usenet was full of Linux people who not only happily answered technical questions, but actually knew what they were talking about most of the time, for free.

    1. Tried to start Corel Linux on an old machine. It didn't work. Mothballed it.
    2. Installed Ubuntu Breezy (5.10) in dual-boot with Windows XP. Worked fine, apart from the fact the wireless card wouldn't work. It was wiped with the next install of Windows.
    3. Installed Ubuntu 7.10 on my netbook to replace the awful Xandros. It's since found its way on to my main desktop machine (triple-booting with Fedora 10 and Windows 7) and dual-booting with Vista on my (very non-techie) parents' machine.

    Things have improved since

  • Who know what distro (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Cthefuture ( 665326 ) on Saturday April 25, 2009 @08:47AM (#27711671)

    4 MB of very expensive RAM
    345 MB Maxtor hard-drive
    Stack of floppies that had been downloaded over BBS/FidoNet with a 14.4 kbps telephone modem
    Linux kernel version was something like 0.97 or so.

    I'm not sure if my first try was with Slackware, SLS, or who knows what.

    It was at that time that I fell in love with the UNIX way of doing things. It was like an OS written just for programmers.

  • My first Linux was used as a dialup router. Though no one TOLD me I could do this, I somehow knew Linux of the day was perfectly capable of doing it.

    At the time, Windows couldn't do it. It was the era of Windows 3.11 for workgroups and Windows95. I had more than one machine and I wanted not only to share data between the two machines, but also have both machines on the internet. Dialup was the only method of access to me at the time and I couldn't have one machine on the net and communication with the o

  • Answer: Installing.

    And then?


    Well, and then?

    Well... installing. Then Portage broke.

  • For about 11 hours, iirc.

    Then the installer continued...

  • I installed SUSE the first time. Mucked around a bit, liked it, but went back to Windows, due to not wanting to spend time setting it up.
    It took Ubuntu being released for me to finally up and move. It really was a turning point in being usable the moment you started it.
    Ironically, I now run Arch, which took ages to set up.
    • by weicco ( 645927 )

      SUSE was my first experience also.

      First thing was that I noticed that X didn't start. It threw some error messages to my face so I fired up my other PC and altavistad (Google wasn't around back then IIRC) and it took some hours to get it working. It was something about hand editing config files. Funny thing that after that every time I install Linux (which is pretty rare nowadays) I have to go through the same exercise :)

      Next I find out that sounds aren't working. I could live with that because I had a real

  • Seriously though, I did everything. Got my first 32 bit PC (386DX25) and immediately put Slackware 2 on it. Not my first Unix though, even 32-bit; I'd had a 3/260 with 4.1.1 which I upgraded to a 4/260 with 4.1.3. BSD-based SunOS, how I loved thee.

  • I did an early testdrive on an old 486/33 box, to compare it to HURD's absolutely broken installation toolkit. It was awkward compared to modern distros, certainly, but the fact that it installed and gave me a full GNU toolchain was very exciting. It wasn't stable enough yet for business operation, but the fact that the kernel did what it needed to do in a basic install was the missing component of full free software distributions, and this was very exciting for political and business reasons.
  • I set up a UUCP Fidonet gateway. Which is probably not the most normal thing.... this was back in 92 though, when installing X meant a bunch of extra 1.44MB floppies!


    • by Minupla ( 62455 )

      I believe it was on a 286 and I was running a distro that doesn't exist anymore - Softlanding Software (SLS).

      Those were the days... I remember trying to set up a dumb terminal off the serial port. I kept getting "inittab respawning too fast"... so I figured I'd delete inittab and recopy it.... don't try that at home kiddies!


  • My first experience was with HP-UX in November 1995 at the University lab. I remember thinking that the hardware looks ancient, the command line didn't accept "dir" and the concept of moving files to rename them was a little odd. I do remember enjoying the possible window managers (fvwm95 was the one of choice in the end) and using "--display" to lock other peoples terminals or display hundreds of xeyes.

    My first experience of Linux was some ancient version of Slackware a uni friend (Pete) loaded onto his PC

    • Bad news :( (Score:3, Funny)

      by u38cg ( 607297 )

      Microsoft Windows XP [Version 5.1.2600]
      (C) Copyright 1985-2001 Microsoft Corp.


      Pinging with 32 bytes of data:

      Request timed out.
      Request timed out.
      Request timed out.
      Request timed out.

      Ping statistics for
              Packets: Sent = 4, Received = 0, Lost = 4 (100% loss),


  • Kind of Ironic (Score:3, Interesting)

    by ZosX ( 517789 ) <> on Saturday April 25, 2009 @09:04AM (#27711799) Homepage

    The whole point of the article is to tell what he did with linux when he first installed it. I read the whole article and he never did anything! I was waiting to hear that he actually did something with this linux install other than just getting it to run. No mention of any apps he checked out, how he felt about the desktop, nothing. I mean, what entirely is the point of this article? "I installed linux, got it to run, and never looked back." Whoopdeedoo. For the record, I first started out with debian and would always be stuck installing from floppies and then grabbing packages with a modem. Since I had older hardware (even then at the time) BASH was my desktop and then ZSH for a period of time. I always thought that textmode linux rocked (I still do) and is probably one of the strongest features of UNIX in general. I guess the first thing I ran was telnet, so I could get on a shell and irc for a while. See, this guy installed linux in 2001, and I've been using it off and on since, what 1997? Debian has always been my favorite distro by far and I've always liked Ubuntu by extension.

  • My first time running Linux was before the whole concept of "distributions" had even really caught hold. Back then, you downloaded a "boot disk" (a floppy disk that contained the kernel) and a "root disk" (a second floppy containing a few basic UNIX utilities.) If you wanted a hard drive installation, you used this to format your hard drive, then copied the contents of the root disk over to the hard drive over. This was before LILO, so booting off the hard drive was not supported.

    Now, this was not the Li

  • Red Hat 6.0 in August/September 1999. I don't remember the very first things I did, but after about a week I recompiled the kernel succesfully. I also recall thinking that, during that one week with Linux, I learned more about computers than I'd done during the many years with DOS and Windows before that.
  • I first used Linux to replace the RADIUS server that would crash on a Win NT. One by one most of our ISP functions failed on Windoz and were migrated to Linux. The Linux boxes didn't break. This started in 1996.

  • It was 1994. I was using OS/2 on my machine at that time. At university we had DEC Ultrix ans OSF and so I configured my OS/2 in a way so it would look similar to those machines (xeyes,xbiff etc). Then a friend told me that there was something new available, a slackware distribution lying around on the universities FTP server. So I got there with 50 floppies and copied images.

    These Ultirx machines were a real mess, because copying to a floppy was always successful and errors were suppressed. And a quick ver

  • My first Linux encounter was with Slackware. A friend had it on 5 1/4 inch floppies, and showed me an installation. I was interested, but didn't see it as practical for me compared to DOS and Windows. I didn't switch my own computer over until quite a few years later when I got Redhat on CD from a computer swap meet - I have no idea what version it was, but it was a few years before Fedora Core. Over the years I've gradually changed from being interested in every technical detail and willing to configure en

  • I kinda installed linux because it was cool.

    After that I had no idea what to do with it... run open office? Learn Perl? I ended up getting WAY more into GIMP than I thought I would, that's what took up most of my time, I had to make myself cool new penguin-y backgrounds.

  • I downloaded it to 5.25 inch floppy from "tsx-11" using a whole row of computers in the south-sci computer lab at CSU Hayward. Having been previously jaded by waiting several years for the 386BSD project to be useable, I had low expectations.

    I was pleasantly surprised. 0.95b brought in the parallel port driver, and I could make my printer work. DOS got ditched.

    By 0.97 I was writing science software, and needed a more polished platform. I bought a used Sun and moved on. I checked in now and again, but n

  • Not anything complex, just for playing my MP3's without freezes or crashes when playing games on my windows machine. Old PC with linux, as I learned more and more it more and more became my desktop. Browser that didn't crash. Text-editor that didn't crash. P2P that didn't crash.

    The odd thing? I am typing this on Vista but in a NXclient running on a linux machine. It saves the space of two desktops, gives me big screen access to my old linux machine and even if Vista crashes NXclient every now and then, it

  • Ok, that wasn't my first meet up with Linux. I had tried MANY live CDs of KDE3 based live distro which were cool to play with (I enjoyed Enigma) but took an entire day to customize and by the time I had it tweaked to my likings the day was over and I had to shut down the computer.

    A few yearI tried Ubuntu 7.04 and saw Gnome. The first impression was negative: so little room for tinkering and configuration... then I realised that it actually a good thing, I just liked the look and feel of the desktop. However
  • Mostly used for connecting to various online services. Though it was really nice to have something which didn't crash on an hourly basis.

  • by thaig ( 415462 ) on Saturday April 25, 2009 @09:13AM (#27711901) Homepage

    Couldn't be done on Windows at that time. Was blown away. Never looked back.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      I have a similar story.

      The fact that the system came with a compiler was the reason I knew this os was for me. That and the fact that I squashed a really annoying bug in a program I was using. Took me 30 minutes to isolate it and fix it with one line (python), I was speechless. Mind you the bug wasn't fixed in the upstream atm.

      This opened my eyes to the power of oss.

  • by dr_wheel ( 671305 ) on Saturday April 25, 2009 @09:25AM (#27712007)

    It was probably around late '96/early '97. I had a friend online who I played Quake with who was constantly spouting off about linux. I've always been interested in computers, but had not really ventured outside of the realm of DOS and Windows save for some dabbling with OS/2 (which I thought was great, but lacked the needed support to be a really amazing end-user OS).

    After some nudging, he walked me through downloading and setting up RedHat (Colgate, I believe). I was enthralled by the seemingly endless customization and control over the operating system. Back then, I remember having a proud feeling just being able to get things like my sound card and nic working in this... foreign thing. I felt like I had actually accomplished something when I was able to get Quake running (w/ sound!) for the first time in a non-Windows environment.

    After getting used to RedHat, I moved onto Slackware. After all, RH was for n00bs! Heh. Anyone remember glibc vs. libc5? *grumble*

    Ironically enough, the same thing that got me into linux was the same thing that took me away from it: gaming. See also: the directx vs. opengl wars. OpenGL lost. As more and more developers started using directx, I ended up booting Windows to access many of the games I wanted to play.

    Desktop linux today? Many things have changed, yet so many remain the same. Most hardware is supported out of the box in distros like Ubuntu and Fedora. Gone are the days of having to edit a few lines of source to get your nic driver to work (mostly gone anyway). Everything 'just works', to steal some Apple thunder.

    However, gaming under linux is still a terrible prospect. Most games don't natively support it. The wine project, even at 1.x, is still in its' infancy. Even if a directx game does work under wine, it's usually buggy or performs poorly.

    Oh, I still boot to linux and regularly tinker. I also maintain an install via virtualbox. And there's nothing that I'd love more than to be running linux exclusively. But unless something miraculous is done, desktop linux will always play second fiddle on my home PC. Sad, but true.

  • My First Install (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Bob9113 ( 14996 ) on Saturday April 25, 2009 @09:41AM (#27712169) Homepage

    The year was 1996. I was young, dumb, and full of ... self-confidence.

    I had been posting little Perl includes to a Slackware server at my ISP for a couple months. I was a pure hacker - everything I knew was from trying it. I was still getting emails from their admin saying things like, "Could you stop putting 'end(0);' at the end of your scripts - it's supposed to be 'exit(0);.' You're filling up our error logs."

    I made a ten page static website for a little Mom & Pop computer company (Micro Trends). The owner of the company put the URL in an ad in Computer Shopper magazine and his phone and fax caught on fire. The ISP said we were generating too much traffic, and they'd have to start charging him for bandwidth.

    So he decides to expand, pull in a T-1, split off... four channels IIRC for data and use the rest for voice. Meanwhile, he talks to me about working for him full time on the website. We reach an agreement and I show up. He hands me a Cisco router, a computer, and a CD with RedHat Rembrandt on it, then points me at a closet where the T-1 lands. "It should be easy," he says, "my cousin set up his own."

    So I dive in. I sat in that closet (a coat closet, not a euphemism for a small server room) for the next week, my head spinning with thoughts like, "What does 'kernel panic' mean? It sounds bad." To that I added a few dozen phone calls to Cisco support, the ISP, and everyone I knew who had ever used the word 'Linux' in a sentence (all two of them -- Thanks, JY and Neil).

    It is truly amazing what you can achieve when you are not aware of your limitations. I posted a test page early in the second week, and migrated traffic to the new server the week after that.

    Then I started on the dynamic site. Filled with things like a a custom shopping basked that carried the order -- including the prices we would charge -- in a cookie. The customer's credit card was transmitted in the clear over HTTP, of course. But that is a story for another article.

    It was a helluva lot of fun. I've never looked back, and have not regretted a day of it.

  • what worries me... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by hitmark ( 640295 ) on Saturday April 25, 2009 @10:06AM (#27712385) Journal

    is that this is yet another "i spent hours fixing" kind of article.

    most people these days do not want, or have time, to fix their computer, they just want it to show their videos, image, play music, browse the web and read email, and type up the odd text file or spreadsheet. oh and, games. lots of games.

    basically they want something that works, and if it stops working, somewhere to drop it of so that it can be quickly fixed. apple makes it clever there, with their "genius bar". even if said "genius" just follows a step by step guide for swapping out some components to see if that fixes the problem, or basically format and reinstall the os, it gives the non-geeks the impression that someone listens to them and cares about their problems.

    sadly, its the same thing that fuels the tech support horror stories, where someone comes in with a explanation like "i tried to insert the thing, and something showed up on that screen followed by it going black and not reacting to the dohickys. i want it fixed, now!".

  • by michael_cain ( 66650 ) on Saturday April 25, 2009 @10:24AM (#27712525) Journal

    Early 1992, Manchester Computer Center (MCC) distribution on a half-dozen floppies, on a laptop with a 20 MHz 386 with external floating point unit, 4M of RAM, 40M hard disk, 640x480 monochrome display. Added a port of (then) Bellcore's MGR light-weight windowing system.

    On an evening flight from New Jersey to Denver, I had the machine out with an analog clock in one window, was compiling something in another, and editing a document in a third. A guy headed back to his seat from the restroom stopped and yelled up the length of the plane, "Hey! This guy's got UNIX on a laptop!" Next thing I knew there were half-a-dozen people hanging over me, elbowing each other and some of the other passengers, all trying to see and asking questions at the same time. The flight attendants were NOT happy.

    IIRC, recompiling the kernel on that machine took about 45 minutes.

  • by interstellar_donkey ( 200782 ) <> on Saturday April 25, 2009 @10:30AM (#27712587) Homepage Journal

    But the first thing I typed into the shell was:

    man woman

    Then I giggled.

    • by julesh ( 229690 ) on Saturday April 25, 2009 @01:18PM (#27714053)

      But the first thing I typed into the shell was:

      man woman

      Then I giggled.

      My first *nix shell experience wasn't with Linux at all, but SunOS. First day at university, and I had received no instruction on how to use Unix at all, had read no books on it, had never even heard anyone _talking_ about it. All I had was a sign on the wall telling me how to sign up for a new account and log in.

      So, I finally get to a shell prompt. And the only relevant experience I have is from using either CP/M and/or DOS. So there I am:

      $ help
      help: command not found
      $ commands
      commands: command not found
      $ what the fuck?
      what: command not found

      So I start peering around the room. Guy behind me is also doing this. Sneaky look... hmmm... "ls" seems to do things. Try it. It works. So there I am. Only damned command I know is "ls". I know from somewhere that this system uses forward slashes to separate directories, so "ls /". "ls /bin". Start trying random programs in there. So I find 'man' by experimentation. Things start to get easier.

      This rather peculiar way of learning Unix shell probably had the bizarrest of influences on my habits. For example, for e-mail I used 'elm', despite 'pine' being way more popular at the time. Why? It was earlier in the alphabet, so I tried it first. I used 'rn' for months before I found 'trn'.

  • by cmdr_tofu ( 826352 ) on Saturday April 25, 2009 @10:34AM (#27712617) Homepage
    There was no issue of "switching back to Windows" because the only other OS on my 486/33 was DOS! In DOS, I used Turbo Pascal, Turbo C and Turbo C++, telemate, GLITE(a word processor), a really cool TSR French Translator and a few games.
    So what did I first do with Linux? I ran gcc, vi, started learning Perl, used minicom, spent many pleasant hours in /usr/doc/HOWTO, wasted ridiculous amounts of time playing nethack, and occasionally ran dosemu. I remember I installed Slackware (which I liked), and Redhat which put this weird grapical thing in between me and the terminal, and Debian. I eventually stuck with Debian and now on to ubuntu. Compiling the kernel to support a new network card took a full working day (and we liked it!).
    Eventually in my pursuit of a CSE degree, I had to install Windows 95 in a dual-boot configuration to run LogicWorks. But I did put VNC on the lab computers and just VNC'ed into the lab after they were closed from my SLIRP'ed dialup at home. And whenever I had to work from the Lab computers, I was VNC'ed into a terminal on my home machine. (This was before the ubiquitous putty)
    We thought 1 GB HD was big back then and we liked it, now get off my lawn you whippersnappers!
  • by Sun.Jedi ( 1280674 ) on Saturday April 25, 2009 @11:47AM (#27713277) Journal

    Yes, I was addicted to EFNET and I had tired of the 'winnukes' (port139 Windows NETBIOS DoS), ping floods, and all the other Windows based problems that caused "error 42: connection reset by peer".

    I tried BSD 4.2(??), and RedHat 4 (again, ??) Those memories are pretty slim, though.

    Ironically, the second thing I did was compile coke.c, and pepsi.c. Heh.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      Oh, man, so much fun. I forgot about that - I had a dialup to a campus server running Solaris at the time, and writing a script to run through channels and send winnukes to everyone on the list. Ah, going to #mirc and watching most of the channel drop off the net. h0h0h0. Nothing like a fresh Windows bug to exploit.
  • by cptnapalm ( 120276 ) on Saturday April 25, 2009 @12:26PM (#27713579)

    In the 1997th year, much Quaking was being done by myself, a young 2ltnapalm. I fragged and it was good. Yet not all was well in the land of the rocket launcher. There was this fell beast, Windows 95, which ever was watchful for any joy in the world, existing only to bring the blue hell to the screens of the earth.

    "Surely, there cannot be this misery alone for the computers of the earth. For in the earlier days of home computing I cast off Windows 3.0, who was then but a pretender operating system, for DOS 5. But Windows has grown more ambitious if not more useful and its infection spreads wide and no retreat to DOS does it permit. Tell me, Quakers, are their no alternatives to this dreck? And speak not of MacOS, for it is a joke."

    Out of the depths of IRC, from the servers of EFNet, the oracles of #quake did speak.

    "Linux. For it is stable and the Carmack has decreed that Quake shall run upon it with joy in its heart."

    "Carmack the Wise is a powerful programmer and much does he understand. Hark, I shall give this Linux thing a shot."

    To the merchant Computer City, I did go and they had a boxed copy of Red Hat 4.2 (if my memory does not betray me) which I did buy. Upon returning to my abode, I did begin preparations for the installation upon my whitebox. Partitioning was simple enough. The choices which one needed to make were not difficult, but to one who was but yet a pup it, it was so foreign. Eventually, perseverance and much RTMFing did triumph. Linux was installed. But one other thing must be done. X.

    Many were the incantations invoked and the curses hurled due to X. Long days were spent editing text and typing that accursed startx only to find my work in vain. And yet did I endure for I knew that Windows 95 was cackling in the darkness of Redmond, awaiting my defeat to consume my soul should I fail and never again would I be able to hold my head high amongst the geeks of the realm.

    Always teetering on the edge of disaster, but never managing to destroy my machine (which the pages of man ensured me was possible), I one day found something new. Something unexpected. For after messing with mode lines and color depths and other things arcane, startx worked. A graphical user interface was mine!

    "My heart doth rejoice in this success! I shall install Window Maker and Enlightenment and many others besides so that I may never be bored with the look and feel of this machine, for that is the crowning glory of this victory: I can have any UI I desire."

    Feeling very pleased with myself, I looked over all I surveyed with great confidence, yet the victory was not mine alone. For this unnamed box had endured much in the trials of installation. Yes. "Endured much beyond the reckoning of the typical home computer," said I, "and not just endured, but thrived and in the coming days shall have many challenges to overcome, so henceforth let this machine be known as tankgirl!"

    Many were the adventures of tankgirl and, now, ltnapalm. Running a website over a cable modem, a MySQL database server, and numerous other tasks that tankgirl did perform, singing all the while with her K6 233 and 128 megabytes of RAM. In time, helper machines were obtained so that less interesting tasks tankgirl would not have to do herself, for her processing time was valuable and wasted on other tasks. A 486 there was, scorned by many as out of date and useless, now raised from its nadir to its apex with Linux installed and became a mighty wall of fire, shielding the local area network from the depredations of script kiddies and other wearers of the black hat of crackerdom.

    Many were the nooks and crannies that cptnapalm and tankgirl delved into together, from dabbling in C programming and shell scripting to kernel compilation and switching to Debian. Together we witnessed the horrors of and learned the mysteries of bind. And Quake there was, of course, too.

    After long years, time did takes its toll and its toll was death. Impoverishment prevente

  • 1997, RHL 4.1, gimp (Score:5, Interesting)

    by burnin1965 ( 535071 ) on Saturday April 25, 2009 @12:29PM (#27713599) Homepage

    My first experience installing and using linux was with Red Hat Linux 4.1 []. It was mostly out of curiosity as my younger brother had been using linux but I didn't expect much from a free operating system. At the time I was running Windows 95 [], Windows NT 4 [] and OS/2 Warp 4 [] on the same box so I was already well prepared the difficulties of a multi-boot setup and using a diversity of operating systems.

    Its been awhile but I don't recall any major issues with the installation. It definitely required more tweaking than the other operating systems to get a working desktop, but as pretty much anyone in this forum knows there is a high probability of install difficulties with almost any operating system when you build a custom system rather than purchase a pre-installed system.

    I don't recall the window manager I used at the time but it was a functional desktop albeit not as polished as Windows or OS/2. But something interesting happened, I found Gimp [].

    I had a large flatbed color scanner on a SCSI bus that I used in Windows and OS/2. In Windows I used the applications that shipped with the scanner and for OS/2 I purchased an image editing program, I don't recall the name anymore, in both cases the applications absolutely refused to use the full size of the scanner. The scanner was a full legal size 8.5x14 but the proprietary applications would only allow up to 8.5x11 scans. With a little research I found there were applications available for purchase that would use the full scan size but I was not in dire need of full legal size scans so I held off on the purchase.

    When I used Gimp+SANE with the flatbed scanner it allowed complete legal size scans! My eyes were opened. In the proprietary closed source software world the extra scan size required extra cash, which seemed ludicrous and disingenuous as I doubt it required any significant code changes to implement, but in the open source world the software was written to take full advantage of the hardware's capabilities and it was FREE!

    At that point I was sold. By 2003 I was only running linux based operating systems, my laptop, three desktops in the house, a couple of firewalls/routers and a few servers. During this time I have become progressively aware of the ridiculous demands [] of the closed source proprietary software vendors. They have become sick and demented on their own greed to the point where they've twisted the purpose of Article 1, Section 8, Clause 8 [] of the United States Constitution from "To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts" into some bizarre protected and perpetual revenue stream. In this upside down world created by closed source software vendors research and development capital is spent not to advance the science or art but instead to create false limitations [] on there proprietary applications capabilities to create equally false product price points.

  • by DuckDuckBOOM! ( 535473 ) * on Saturday April 25, 2009 @01:20PM (#27714077)

    Spring 2000, iirc. I'd been running a home NT4 mail / web server for about a year, and it was a royal pain in the ass. Half-life of about two weeks between bluescreens. Wednesday evenings dedicated to patches and defrags and reboots. Intermittent, unexplainable IIS freezes.

    I was contemplating dropping a couple $K on new hardware, mostly out of desperation. At the same time, I'd played with Linux a few times, liked it, and it already had a well-established rep for stability. This was also the time the first commercial distros were coming into their own. I finally decided to take the plunge and bought (yes, actually paid for) a copy of SuSE, v.5 I think.

    Steep learning curve; much swearing and regret; but when I finally put the beast online, it ran. For 14 months, and what finally killed it was a power failure too long for the UPS to handle.

    In the nine years since (going from SuSE on a slot-A Athlon, to Mandrake/Mandriva on a dual Athlon XP, to nine Ubuntu VMs on a pair of triple-core Phenoms) I've had exactly two software-related crashes, one due to a misconfigured driver, the other from a runaway app that filled up /var. Uptime for this latest interation, which went online in Dec. is 100%.

    And patch-the-server Wednesdays are a distant memory.

  • Slackware in 1993 (Score:3, Interesting)

    by rediguana ( 104664 ) on Saturday April 25, 2009 @07:21PM (#27717033)

    Wow - brings back memories ;) I think it was 1993 at the University of Canterbury in New Zealand. A stage 2 computer science source said we could use the lab for programming, or we could install this thing called Slackware Linux that had gcc and everything we needed for out projects. So, of course I did. Mmmm, floppy installs. So, it was mainly used early on for COSC assignments. A few years later setup Red Hat as a DNS and webserver in 1996 for our fledgling web development company. In later years after I stepped out of the IT field continued to use it for servers in our small business, although starting to fix it up with OS X as well. Never used it as a desktop - have primarily been Windows, and over the last nearly 5 years OS X (which seems to be a fantastic compromise).

    But yeah, the first thing was COSC programming assignments in '93.

"The number of Unix installations has grown to 10, with more expected." -- The Unix Programmer's Manual, 2nd Edition, June, 1972