Tuesday, September 20, 2011

About me: In linux

This is pretty sad. 3 posts in 3 days, yet I'm so excited about it. I've been thinking of this one for a while. Somehow I think it will make people think I'm qualified to talk about linux, which I plan to do a fair bit of.

I should really start with what I remember as my first exposure to a computer. My dad had some apple Macintosh computers. They had about 128 kb hard disks that could only hold an OS and so to run a program you had to insert a floppy (3&1/2, I'm not THAT old). I remember playing lode runner and some piano scroll type of music program that I really didn't understand. That was around the time I learned to tie my shoe. My dad had some other mac for work with big bernoulli disks and I remember playing with clip art and writing a report on turtles for 2nd grade with that machine (and printing it on that awesome dot-matrix printer! zwaaaawaaawaawaahp). My dad was an engineer for iomega (hence the bernoullis) so we were a pretty tech savvy family. We were also mac fans WAY before they were trendy.

In fact I remember our first real family computer from Christmas (the Macintoshes didn't count; they were dads). It was a powermac running mac os 7 and 8. That computer was trouble. It was during the dark days at apple when Steve had quit and they were floundering. Quality dropped a lot, but we could still play Descent. So we hung on as long as we could stand, but finally I remember when dad sold out and got an HP windows machine. Ugh.

It ran windows ME. Double ugh. Once XP got on there it was a lot better. It was running a lightning 1.4Ghz with 512Kb of RAM. It was awesome. We played roller coaster tycoon and some other classics. While we had this computer I learned to program pascal in a highschool class. I'd already started programming my calculator before that.

That computer served us till I went away for college. Dad sent me to the USU dorms with an awesome Pentium 3. 133Mhz! (Unmeasurable ram. I just don't recall). I took an online quiz on it with 50 brainless true/false questions and it took me 2 hours to complete, just to load each question. It became clear my needs were greater, especially for my C++ classes (programmer pun!). So dad scrounged up another work computer. A Pentium 3 but with 333Mhz! Oh it was progress but still way too slow. Dad was realistic that I'd need something more so he ordered some Dell machine and I got the old HP. It was amazing! I could listen to mp3s! I could watch DVDs! I could run VISUAL STUDIO (if your machine can run that bloat its saying something :). That was in 2005. I always kept the cover off of these in my room to try to look more geeky and help them stay cool.

I went on my mission for two years and came back home to USU and my old trusty computer. It continued to serve my needs until XP crashed. I don't even remember what exactly happened but Dad helped me get it limping to windows again, but he also gave me an Ubuntu fiesty fawn live CD. So I installed ubuntu. And I really never went back. The machine ran faster and everything was FREE! I had completed my programming courses so I didn't miss visual studio. Instant messenger had fallen to texting and facebook, so I didn't need that. Microsoft office? Ha. What electrical engineer would need that? LaTex covers all.

I started out totally a preset user. I just installed what they had in the repository and very very rarely got out the terminal, but I was poor and loved how FREE it is. Everything (at least anything I wanted) free.

Then I mowed lawns for a summer and had money for the first time in my life. So for Christmas I got myself a Lenovo T400. 2.3Ghz or so, 2Gb RAM, oooohhh it was sweet. Its still my main computer. I love IBMs/Lenovos for the trackpoint. I can't live without it. I bought it on a black friday sale online and waited until Christmas to fire it up. It came with vista, but the first time I started it was with the Intrepid Ibex live CD. I've always run dual boot, because once in a while some stupid online form or something for school makes me open the windows. I remember that the next 3 days were spent trying to figure out drivers for the wireless card. Then for the trackpoint. A few other things I'm sure. That was very challenging, but I hated windows enough to do it. Nowadays I'd be busy enough that I'd just give up but back then it was just an awesome puzzle. Linux is a game for intellectuals. Ubuntu has since made installing much much easier for my machine (and I've learned a lot), but this is where I became familiar with the forums and started trying things on the command line.

I dabbled in the command line and had a few EE friends who ran Ubuntu who taught me some tricks. Then I had a class that required SPICE simulations. So I used ngspice and became much more familiar with command line stuff. My controls classes drove me to use octave. I LOVE octave. I could stay on campus all night to use their $25000 suite of matlab, or go home and do it with octave. YES! Its not an entire replacement :(no simulink), but was plenty good for most of the stuff I was doing. I upgrade ubuntu every 6 months and even lately haven't had to fix anything afterward. We'll see for oneric since I've built a lot of things from source and added some ppa's since upgrading to natty. I've never really needed another distro and ubuntu has a huge community for support. I do run a lowlatency kernel for my music stuff, but other than that its just ubuntu

Anyway so now I'm getting fairly comfortable with building from source and writing some BASH scripts. I still have a ton to learn but I am a big fan and I keep learning. I am busy but I want to contribute to the community and a big part of this blog is so I'll have a place to post some of my code where hopefully some folks can find and use it. Its nothing sourceforge worthy, but a few side projects here and there I'd like to share.

This is probably the very most boring blog post you've ever read. How did you make it to the last line? This puts bla bla bla in blog. Oh well. I enjoyed this walk down memory lane. And down geek row.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Nice history, not boring at all mate! That's what my blog is for :D