This section deals with How and Why I became a linux addict. It may include some technical information as well but I hope everybody can understand it. The truth is that I have been extremely lucky to be able to try linux without many problems. Anyway, I must thank Conhector S.I for his help and patience.
The kernel is the central part (the core) of an operating system. Its main function is to control the hardware.
The linux kernel was created by Linus Torvalds in 1991. Since then, it has developed up to its latest release. There are many linux distributions, called distros. It seems chaotic. However, they all have a thing in common. That is the linux kernel. I'd dare say they share a common shell too. That is BASH (the Bourne Again SHell). The shell is the user's interface to command the kernel. Today it is mainly managed alongside with graphical desktops and window managers. Namely Xfce, KDE, Gnome, Fluxbox, Windowmaker, LXDE, i3 and so on.
I first heard of linux as a matter of chance, like so many things in life. For better or worse!!!. One friend of mine was desperate because he was forced to work with linux, an operating system he did not like at all. That's for the worst part of the story. For the best part of it, another friend told me an incredible story. His computer had broken down. His operating system (Microsoft Windows) was unable to boot the machine. However, thanks to a linux LIVE CD he had been given (See below for details) he could connect to and browse the internet, read his mail, make backups of his files in the hard drive, use an office suite, scan, print and many more things.
I couldn't believe that! (And I still can't believe that miracle come true) That was incredible! But it was true! It existed! It was called knoppix (A linux distro based on Debian GNU/Linux. I'm not sure about the version he used but probably it was 3.6 or 3.7)
He didn't know at that time, and neither did I that he could have made his machine bootable again had he known how to use the linux tools he had at hands reach. The problem could have been fixed in less than half an hour using that cd as a rescue tool.
That was one of the reasons why I decided to try Linux. With fear and hope at the same time. Rumour had it that it was extremely difficult. But I was headed off. Come hell or high water. I read a lot about linux and I downloaded a live DVD iso image (SuSE 9.2). I burned it and booted from the DVD drive. I was nervous, I was expecting, I was stuck at the screen. The KDE desktop loaded. I didn't know where to start. But there was a completely different world in front of me. Plenty of new territories to explore.
It turned out that that DVD was not 100% functional. But it featured most of linux powers. I remember being fascinated by its web browsers. Now surfing the net with other "explorers" would reveal a painful experience I am not going to go through ever again. Yes I loved and still do how linux surfs the net. It is amazing!!!.
So why linux??? It is easy to answer to that question. It is free (free as in freedom), stable and powerful, but above all it leads the way through the internet in a faster and safer way. Linux is acknowledged for being a practically virus free system. What else can I say???
Well. It came up to be true. Things in linuxland are not always easy. Only through much practice and learning can someone do certain things. It took me several weeks to learn to compile my first program. Now it takes me only minutes from the command line. But every rose has its thorn, they say...
I bought a copy of SuSE Linux professional 9.2. I had used the live DVD. I liked it and I was told it was a good way to start learning linux. Since then I have tried other distros such as Fedora,Slackware, Ubuntu or Debian Stable, Unstable and Testing.
Oh! the day I discovered Debian my computing hobby became a passion!!! What an incredible operating system. It's got it all. But above all it's got apt (Advanced Packaging Tool). I had to learn more about that.
As I said before all linux distributions share common elements. Maybe what distinguishes them more is how they deal with software packages. To cut a long story short let's say that there are two main ways. The old style in which you unpack the source code and compile it manually. That was the case with Slackware but works with all distros. It takes more time but it is a highly effective way. And the new style in which you install packages automatically. Here there are two main branches: rpm's or precompiled binary packages (that is the case with Fedora or SuSE) or Debian packages or deb's. Used by Debian based distros.
"APT" is in charge of making the miracle come true. You think about what program you would like to have installed in your system. You tell apt. It connects to the internet, searches, downloads the program, configures the system, resolves the dependencies and installs it. Seems incredible???. You can't believe it??? Give it a try then. See and believe for yourself.
Nowadays I try to combine both rpm and deb based systems for the sake of learning and enjoying linux. Although to tell you the truth I mainly use Debian.
It happened that I began to go crazy about linux and I wanted everybody to try it. I was glad to make copies of my live DVD so that other people could enjoy linux live systems. One friend of mine though, didn't have a DVD device, so that was not a good deal. I started searching the net trying to find a live CD, in case that such thing existed. (For I didn't know of any at that time). And I discovered knoppix. A free downloadable live linux CD of approximately 700 Mb that boots off the CD unit (Although now there is a DVD version too) which is practically 100% functional. You do not need to install anything to the hard disk and once you take it out any changes or configurations you've made disappear. Nevertheless you can keep all these changes and also install it to the hard drive if you want to. But that's another part of the story. Everything can be learnt. Just find out how.
Note: Knoppix was the first live cd that I discovered and I liked it a lot, but it is not the one and only. There are many excellent GNU/linux and BSD live cd's and dvd's. I recommend you to take a look at this site.
Talking about live systems I can't help mentioning debian-live. A personal favourite.
Note: Even though the project is geared towards teaching/helping/encouraging users to generate their own images, you can find several standard prebuilt images at their download site.
The debian-live team produces what probably is the most amazing live system there is out there. Among other reasons because it is based on debian. The images they create can be copied to Cd's, Dvd's or USB devices such as flash drives or even USB hard disks. These images can also be tried out using virtualization (qemu or vm). The ability to boot from USB devices allows you to try as many images as you please because of the rewritable nature of these drives. I have a 4 GB flash drive exclusively devoted to try debian-live systems. I do it because they are really useful and secondly for the sake of learning new things.
My reasons for using debian-live systems:
.- You can customize the images yourself.
.- Images can be used to test hardware.
.- Images come in handy as a rescue tool.
.- They are nice guys :)
Here is a list of what you can find in a debian live system:
.- It reflects the (current) state of one distribution.
.- It runs on as many architectures as possible.
.- It consists of unchanged Debian packages only.
.- It does not contain any unofficial packages.
.- It uses an unaltered debian kernel with no additional patches.
If you are interested in contacting the members of the team you can find them:
.- Sending a mail to their mailing list at firstname.lastname@example.org
.- On irc: channel #debian-live at irc.debian.org (OFTC)