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Mailbag: Crossing Over to Linux

Add Pete to the list of readers who've moved away from Windows. Here's his story:

I made the switch some time ago, in 1993. I was working on a game using Borland's Turbo Pascal in my spare time. As with a lot of games back then, it used 32-bit protected mode, so it was not compatible with Windows, and all the drivers (graphics, keyboard, mouse, timers, everything) were written from scratch in assembly. I had libraries of code for processing images, animations, sprites, the lot. I also had high school assignments which I typed up on the computer using MS Works on Win3.1. After submitting some assignments, I became interested in the file format that they were in. I was worried that my .WKS files may not be readable in years to come. I couldn't find anywhere that had details of the format, so I decided to have a look at the files themselves in a binary editor. Lo and behold, what should I see but my own Pascal code staring back at me! There were large blocks in this .WKS file that seemed to be just dumps of random portions of memory (I can only assume I had the TP IDE open at the time of saving the file). This really angered me and I vowed to find an alternative to Microsoft, but since it was the family computer, there was little I could do about it other than resort to doing assignments on my Amiga.

The following year, I was off to university, and at some stage I managed to afford a computer of my own. Some friends from the computer science department started mentioning this Linux thing which was apparently a version of Unix that ran on a PC. I'd heard of Unix before and my computer-related classes all were based around Unix, so I decided to give it a try. They had arranged a batch order of CD sets containing a number of distributions, but as the first disk contained Slackware, that's what got loaded up. I wasn't particularly blown away by the installer or the interface, but it worked identically to the computers in my class labs so I spent quite a bit of time using it. I didn't at first like the lack of control when coding -- you couldn't just poke around with video registers and memory like you could with Windows -- but at least you didn't have to write code for every particular device out there.

Little did I know that it was this protection that drove me to Linux for good, since I'd upgraded the other drive to Windows 95 and it was proving to be difficult to manage and keep stable despite the numerous re-installs. Linux, on the other hand, was dream-like in manageability. Installing new software didn't mean a reboot or even require logging out and logging back in. I had turned into a Linux fan. I went to the local Linux user group meetings, advocated Linux to friends and family, and helped develop some parts of it in what spare time I had. Over the last 15 years, I've used Slackware, Red Hat (and Fedora), SuSE, Debian and Ubuntu, and since graduation have only looked for jobs involving Linux and Unix.

Got something to share? Let us have it! Send an e-mail to [email protected] or leave a comment below.

Posted by Doug Barney on August 13, 2007