Technology Tales

Adventures & experiences in contemporary technology

Operating Systems

My commencing of studies at university in Edinburgh in the middle of the 1990’s was the cause of my being exposed to UNIX for the first time. What was available to us then was a Sun Solaris service and with a pretty basic interface too. That we were using it on a terminal with a two-bit screen was a comedown from the PC technology that was then becoming available to everyone. The scientific computing focus of the system was clear from the range of software that was available: LaTeX for document preparation and Unigraph for graphical analysis, for example. These were a far cry from the likes of Word and Microcal (now Originlab) Origin when it came to the user-friendliness of the interfaces. Nevertheless, we did get NSCA Mosaic and Netscape for web browsing though the speed was far from fast and the screen far from ideal for the viewing of web pages. Even so, the world of the Windows PC shone a lot more brightly back then.

The university’s UNIX systems may have been a let down but there was something about the lure of UNIX that drew me when I spied a version of Linux on a magazine cover disk. Though experiments involving dual booting with Windows lead to a certain amount of destruction, I neither lost any data nor was put off from trying again and again. Not having an Internet connection at home didn’t help my progression in the world of Linux in those early days but gaining it later on was to prove invaluable for forays with Red Hat and SuSE.

Having a spare PC for those endeavours helped too as I soon saw the limitations of hardware support at the time. Foolishly, I was using a “Winmodem” and thus wasn’t able to get connected to the web using Linux. There were other reasons for Windows remaining my home computing operating system of choice too and familiarity may have been one of them. That meant that toying with later versions of SuSE and then Mandrake always remained a secondary activity as did my early explorations of Ubuntu on a virtual machine.

It took a sequence of horrid experiences with Windows XP to convince me to take a chance with using Ubuntu as my main operating system. Little did I realise that sticking on a spare hard drive at the time would lead me to meet no real show stoppers and it now is Windows that is run in a virtual machine with Ubuntu as the host. That’s not to say that there haven’t been problems but the ones that I met haven’t been insurmountable and a large user community that solutions are there to be found somewhere.

There still are spare PC’s in my life and one runs a development version of Ubuntu for me to see what’s coming the next version ahead of time and to be ready for it. Another runs Fedora, a descendant of Red Hat, and that could be what I’d use if Ubuntu ever goes against me. It’s also a host for a collection of virtual machine running different variants of Linux so that I keep an eye on what’s available; knowing what options are available never can be a bad thing.

With that in mind, I have collected websites for whatever variants of Linux and UNIX of which I’ve learned. Linux comes first because of its pervasiveness with UNIX coming next; if I followed chronology, it’d be the other way around but who’s to argue? These lists are sure to grow so I’ll continue to tend them on here.

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