I love hearing stories about how people found their way into this crazy, wonderful world of Linux.
Go to any Linux conference (especially the lunches and after-parties) and you will be treated to an astoundingly wide array of stories from new Linux adopters and grizzly, neck-bearded veterans alike. It's like a technicolor dream-coat of personal computer histories... all ending with “and that's why I use Linux.”
Just for kicks and giggles, I asked the good, Linux-loving nerds on Twitter and G+ to tell their Linux origin stories and tag them with #HowIFoundLinux. Because we're dealing with Twitter here – and because I thought it would be amusing – everyone is limited to 140 characters for their entire story.
What follows are some of my favorites.
"Spent the better part of the '90s installing Operating Systems (boredom?). Found Linux. Smiled. Got a new hobby." - Bryan Lunduke @BryanLunduke [This is me. I'm writing this article, so I get to go first. Neener, neener.]
“1994-95. Worked at an ISP that used SCO Unix. Wanted to run it at home, but couldn't afford. Yggdrasil Linux to the rescue!” - Jeremy Garcia @linuxquestions [Yggdrasil? The founder of LinuxQuextions.org proves his pedigree with that ancient name-drop.]
"Was using Win'98 and sick of the crashes. Choice was between Win XP, Linux or BeOS. Tried them all, SUSE + KDE 2.2.2 rocked. Simple as that." - Jos Poortvliet @jospoortvliet [Jos was, until recently, the openSUSE Community Manager... safe to say Linux made a lasting impression.]
“At university HPUX machines taught me trn. That begat Minix on a 286, which begat Slackware, which begat Debian, and finally I found Ubuntu.” - Stuart Langridge @Sil [This host of the Bad Voltage podcast won the “most uses of begat” award.]
“15 years ago... friend with bootable floppy Linux network installer. Doing Java dev. Used many distros since. But now it's openSUSE all day!” - Michael Miller @michaelwmiller [Side note: This guy is a Java dev turned VP of Marketing for SUSE. That should be a rule. All VP's of Marketing should be required to spend at least one year as a programmer first.]
“I was bored. Had heard of Linux, researched what it was. Ex-gf made fun of me. Turned my tinkering into a job. Joke's on her.” - Whitson Gordon @WhitsonGordon [I'm glad Linux was able to mend the Editor-in-Chief of Lifehacker's heart.]
“Went to a tech con at a college near me. Grabbed RedHat. Accidently wiped Win98. Linux won.” - Michael Christenson [I have no clue how someone accidentally wipes Win98... but I'm sure glad he did.]
I'm not 100 percent certain, but I get the impression that some folks might not like Windows. Here's a few that I remain unclear on. If everyone could read through these and let me know if they liked Windows or not that would really help a guy out.
“I had Windows Vista” - Jimmar Abdulrasoul
“Aug 2006. Looked for a free alternative after being sick of XP. Linux seemed more popular than FreeBSD&OpenSolaris. Tried Ubuntu. Loved it.” - Shimi Chen
“Windows EOL 95/98, more internets, needed better protection.” - Ian Jordan
“I was frustrated with Win Xp. Thought there must be a better way. Found Linux, Ubuntu to be precise.” - Edward Arndt
“Blaster worm + perma-reboot XP + angry dad + Google "operating system without viruses" + http://shipit.ubuntu.com (warty).” - Ashok Gautham
“I can do mine in 7 characters. "Windows".” - Robin Jacobs [A wise man once said, “Brevity is the soul of getting rid of Windows.”]
Other OS refugees
Windows isn't the only OS folks switch away from. Here are a few stories about folks moving from Not-Windows to Linux.
“Was a diehard Amiga user in the 90s and got my first PC in 2000 to run Amithlon. Tried SUSE on it and stuck with Linux ever since.” - Chris Moore
“Grew up using DOS. Never got the hang of Windows. When I got introduced to Linux, it reminded me of DOS - on steroids.” - Stephan B-Plepe @plepe
“Never liked Windows. Bought iMac just before OS X came out. OS 9 support ended, couldn't afford OS X. Found Debian PPC. Loved it!” - Michael Freeman
College also seems to be a recurring theme. Apparently getting a good education – and being generally well informed about technology and computing – tends to lead one to using Linux. Weird.
“Bought a slackware book in 1996. Installed it with the accompanied CD. Wanted UNIX like due to similar environment on campus lab computers.” - Derek Belrose @derekbelrose
“I needed it for uni. I installed it. I fell in love. :)” - Naum Rusomarov
“Operating System Theory circa 1994. Slackware.” - Henry Waldschmidt
“I was beta testing Windows 8 and it tanked my laptop. Crazy guy in my chem. class recommended that I try Ubuntu instead” - Joshua Fogg [Well done, “crazy guy in chem class”.]
And that brings us to my three favorite stories. These almost brought a tear to my eye.
“parents put locks on internet usage. Friend gave me an opensuse boot disk.” - Jonathon Scofield @Ghibli4Ever [Linux. Enabling kids to get around parental controls since 1992. That should be the official slogan.]
“2004: The guy said 'it's cool man, you should try' I did. He was right.” - Eamonn [How can you argue with that logic? Impossible. I mean... “the guy” said it!]
“Got tired of Windows eXPired freezes and poor productivity. Then I saw Bryan's 'Why Linux Sucks' on YT...” - Ryszard Narkiewicz @RyszardRudy [Aww, shucks.]
Share your story
What's your Linux origin story? What brought you into the zany world of Free and Open Source software? Add your story in the comments or stick it on Twitter and hashtag it with #HowIFoundLinux - that way all of us can find your stories in the laziest way possible. And feel free to send them my way on Twitter or G+. I'd love to see them.