Saturday, November 12, 2011

Beginnings: an introduction.

I had long been vaguely aware of Linux, and the only distros I was aware of was Red Hat, SUSE (openSUSE as well), and Ubuntu... oh and I vaguely remember seeing ads or something for Mandrake, though I was clueless as to what it was. Finally I had a chance to get my hands dirty with it when my exes Vista laptop went blue-screen and never came back. In retrospect I probably could have recovered it, but at the time assumed it was a lost cause.

I first burnt a disk with Ubuntu, and simply couldn't get it to boot even after trying to trouble shoot the installer. I went with Ubuntu first since the tech mags I read from time to time made a big deal about it being the most user-friendly and reliable. Clearly that wasn't my finding. I looked at Red Hat next, but realized it was a commercial product and had no knowledge of Fedora at that time. So the next stop was openSUSE. I first became aware of openSUSE when I saw a small article about Novell acquiring SuSE and creating the openSUSE project. Now, when I put the disk in everything worked immediately. I foolishly installed the version with KDE 4.0 because the screenshots were pretty, and I like seeing new technology. It was a pain in the ass, but it worked for the most part. My ex didn't mind it though, it wasn't worse than Vista was in his estimation! I believe that version of openSUSE was 10.3 or something like that, maybe 11.0. Doesn't really matter.

After that experience I became more intrigued, but was still happy with my Mac which though aging was still in good running order and supported. Fast forward to about a year and a half or so ago, a client of mine gifted me a new netbook. Frankly, I was glad since my poor old PPC Macintosh had become painful to use anymore. Though this of course meant it ran Windows7, which I was not thrilled about. Had I wanted Windows I never would have had a Mac. I used it by default for several months in order to become fully acquainted with Windows7, using only MS tools at first so I got to know the ins and outs. To Microsofts credit, Windows7 is excellent. Very well polished, very stable. I never crashed it even once.

Finally, I had enough of Windows7... mainly because it is very slow on a weak little netbook. Since my experience with KDE had been rocky (to say the least) I decided at first to give Ubuntu another shot, which I did. And this time it worked! Frankly, I was quite impressed, but was also curious to see where KDE had got along to since I first booted a Linux disk. So the next distro I tried was Kubuntu, which was ok... but it pulled a Vista and killed itself. Next stop was 11.3 KDE and this was much better, but eventually I wanted more performance and switched to Fedora (14?) which was faster, and actually a very good KDE implementation in my estimation. But I still ached for better performance and did some dabbling with more lightweight spins and distro until landing in Xubuntu which mostly afforded what I wanted; mainly a more responsive UI.

Now, I had settled in Xubuntu despite its odd behaviors. But then I read about the next kernel having some amazing patch that drastically enhanced its performance and desktop responsiveness. I also read that openSUSE 11.4 would be including that. So since I rather liked openSUSE (I had already fallen in love with the amazing YaST in 11.3) I tried it immediately, and was shocked. This KDE based distro was more responsive than the supposedly lightweight Xubuntu was, and by a good margin. Since that fateful release I hadn't looked back but once to fiddle with Mandriva 2011 since it did some interesting things.

As I fumbled through my learning process, learning about Linux, FOSS, and openSUSE I picked up a lot of things. It occurred to me after becoming an Ambassador that I should have kept a log of everything I encountered so that I could help others along... and not forget things. Hence this blog. My plan was to create a blog to chronicle my experiences with the software and its bugs and quirks at the beginning of the usage of the next release which is the 12.1 coming out in just a few days. This blog will also help with bug squishing since it will essentially serve as a log for the things I encounter.

I must offer my apologies to the reader, as I actually got started a little early by installing the 2nd Release Candidate of 12.1. I had planned to do so in order to get a little bit of help with debugging, and the timing was largely since I figured it was usable enough that even I with my limited experience should be able to hammer the bugs out. I had also planned to reinstall the actual release on its right date in order to give you the reader a start to finish experience in excruciating detail. However, that isn't likely now since in the course of my testing Kontact I have managed to populate it entirely and it would be quite a fuss to redo at this point. I will however do my best to remember exactly what I had to deal with to get to a usable point. Fortunately, it wasn't much of an ordeal so it should not be especially problematic.

I made mention of being an Ambassador for openSUSE. For those of you who aren't aware of what that means, I'll elaborate. We are a subdivision of marketing, and serve as 'customer relations liasons', 'product evangelists' and we often represent openSUSE at Linux and FOSS events in our local areas. I became an Ambassador after running into a fellow Geeko at a friends birthday party, who is an Ambassador and explained it to me. I had wanted to contribute since I felt I should give back to the people who have given me such a wonderful operating system for free. My lack of technical skill made the role of Ambassador ideal, since it doesn't require a truly advanced understanding; though a good abstract understanding and knowledge of the work-flow is important.

Thus concludes my inaugural posting. I hope you will find my future posts interesting, useful, or thought provoking. My only regret (so far) is that I hadn't started this at the beginning when Linux was an experiment for me and had not yet become a way of life.