Radu Cotescu's professional blog

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What Linux Has Offered Me Until Now

I’ve started using Linux since the 6.10 release of Ubuntu. More precisely the Edgy Eft release. I remeber that at that time I’ve been actually using Kubuntu. The learning curve was a bit steep, as it was really something new for me. And every time I would experience troubles I left Linux to rot away on its partition. This was happening mostly because I had a relatively new video card on my desktop and NVIDIA’s support for Linux was just beginning.

The things evolved and at the 7.10 release I think I’ve switched to Ubuntu and never came back to Kubuntu. I appreciated GNOME’s simplicity and ease of use and KDE was starting to prepare important changes in its desktop philosophy and this, corroborated with the fact that due to the problems I had with my video card I still could have been considered a new user, made me a bit reluctant to another set of changes besides trying to learn how to make my way with the new OS. By now I already started to know the basic commands which started to make the terminal a completely useful mean to do certain things faster than just by using a nice GUI.

When 8.04 was released (my first LTS) I could handle most of the stuff an above average user could have wanted to do. But the real Linux experience was boosted by my first internship in the summer of 08 when the web-based project I had to work on was hosted on a RHEL server. I was using Putty to handle administration (yeah, I had Windows on my work desktop). Anyway, it was the time when I have started to build my very first shell scripts that made backups and restores. The backups were stored on a NFS export and they were rotated every week. At some point we switched from RHEL to OEL (Oracle Enterprise Linux) but there weren’t major differences in what concerned me.

Close to the 8.10 release I bought myself a laptop on which I still had a dual boot set up, with Windows XP and Ubuntu 8.04. After the upgrade to 8.10 I decided to leave the Windows world and switch completely to Linux. Since then, even if on the desktop at home I have Windows 7 too (mainly for my parents who ocasionally use the computer), I never came back to use Windows.

When I bought the laptop I also bought an Asus WL-500W router (Vlad called it R2D2) and soon after a 320GB My Book Western Digital HDD which was hooked to one of the router’s USB ports. I bought the router knowing that it runs Linux and that there is an alternative firmware customised for it so that it could unleash its full potential. Since my Linux experience continued to grow, I’ve started customizing my router’s OS to handle a lot of stuff by configuring and administering a lot of servers and services. So, on a Broadcom4704 chipset with 32MB of RAM I am now running the following:

  • OpenSSH server - SSH daemon

  • SAMBA - for sharing the external HDD with Windows hosts

  • NFS - for sharing the external HDD with Linux hosts, being faster than using SAMBA

  • rTorrent behind lighttpd - a BitTorrent client behind a web server (for accepting XML-RPC requests)

  • ddclient - a Perl implementation of a dynamic DNS updating client for the DNS-O-MATIC service (I have a dynamic DNS host that points to my router’s dynamic IP via PPPoE)

  • vsftpd - FTP server for sharing various files with different people (more than 100)

  • SVN server - the SCM tool I used before GIT (it still holds some previous projects for me that weren’t migrated yet to GIT and I think it has the latest revision of my girlfriend’s diploma project [she should know this better than me as she has her own SVN account])

  • GIT and gitosis - the current SCM tool I use with gitosis for easier handling of repositories (I don’t have to actually log in to the router to administer them like I had to do when using SVN)

I couldn’t have obtained this much functionality without using Linux.

I even worked on an Ubuntu desktop on my second internship (the sole developer from there embracing Linux), where I have started to develop J2EE applications. Moreover, my system was far more productive to work with than the Windows XP ones of my colleagues… Not to talk about the looks. :)

Now I run Ubuntu 9.04 identically configured on three different machines and the software stack I have offers me a complete desktop experience, from enjoying multimedia content, to playing some games when I get bored, editing various documents and developing software. More than that, my systems are fast performers on average hardware, are stable and allow me to configure various aspects regarding how they work pretty easy. What more could I ask from a free operating system and a free software stack?

It’s true that you have to learn how your new Linux system works, but given the advantages don’t you think that this thing really worths investing some time?

Linux, Ubuntu

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