Switching to Linux—And Spreading the Word
Alexander Swen is a true Linux evangelist. Since 1996, when he started using Linux-Mandrake on his home computers, he’s been happily converting friends and family to the OS—even getting his parents on board. “I think everyone should use Linux,” he says. “And I want to help promote it any way I can.”
But Alexander wasn’t always a Linux man. In fact, even as he built up his Linux empire at home, he continued to work as a Windows admin up until 2004, when he finally realized he had to make a change. “I had become more and more frustrated by the instability,” he says. “And when a surprise update ended up ruining a working system, I decided that I had to move away from my Windows career—and start working as a Linux admin.”
Linux at work: Let the fun begin.
Alexander’s first Linux admin job required integrating a java application in 5-tier SLES clusters. “It was a great experience,” he says. “And I learned a lot.” From there, he moved to Amsterdam, got RHCE certified and “had a lot of fun” managing more than 200 RedHat servers.
Today, Alexander works as a Linux administrator in the eastern Netherlands, running Debian servers for Nedap Healthcare—and discovering new ways to simplify even large-scale Linux installations. “Installation automation is my favorite kind of work,” says Alexander. “I can now do fully automatic installations on RedHat, CentOS, Suse, Debian, or FreeBSD systems—and it saves so much time.”
Ever on the lookout for ways to ease server administration, Alexander has become a big fan of Puppet, which automates the provisioning, patching, and configuration of Linux operating system and application components across infrastructure. “I’ve been working with it for just two months, and I’m really impressed by its power,” he says. “I wish I’d started playing with it a whole lot sooner.”
Got a brilliant Linux idea? Just do it.
For Alexander, showing up and trying—instead of waiting and wondering—are two of the keys to lifelong success. “If I could start again, I would have become a Linux admin sooner,” says Alexander. “The earlier you learn something, the longer you benefit from it.” And that goes not just for career and life choices, but also for Linux experimentation and testing.
“Especially in today’s world, with virtualization at our fingertips, there’s no reason to wait before trying out a new Linux project or technique. Just dive in and get started immediately,” says Alexander. “You’ll challenge yourself, you’ll learn something new—you may even have some fun.”
Knowledge: Pass it on.
Alexander joined the Linux Foundation to learn more himself—and to contribute to the development of the Linux community and the OS he loves (you can join the Linux Foundation, too). “I want to help promote Linux, participate in the development of a high-quality Linux desktop, and support all the Linux beginners out there,” says Alexander.
His desire to give back to the Linux community stems from the fact that his own expertise was built by collaborating with others—and learning from the many people who took time to show him the ropes and share their advice. “Online documentation and man pages simply aren’t enough,” he says. “We must all try to share our knowledge, and work together to build it.” And after all, isn’t that what Linux is all about?