Why moving to Linux saved my sanity

Discussion in 'Linux' started by Dngrsone, Jun 7, 2016.

  1. Dngrsone

    Dngrsone MDL Novice

    May 25, 2016
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    Okay, this was originally going to be posted in somebody else's thread, but then I realized somewhere in the typing that it really should become its own thread. Because this is about me. Because I am a tinkerer and a hacker in the old-school sense: I break things, sometimes intentionally, and I like to customize things, particularly my computers. I operate from laptops nowadays, so there is a lot less custom-building of the machine itself lately (not zero, though), so I mess around in my OS a lot. Anyway, here's my story:


    One of the great things about Win 95 when it came out, in my opinion back then, was the customization. Themes. I saw an early build and the guy had a red galloping horse for a 'busy' cursor icon. I themed my Windows installs like crazy. Even
    to the point of hacking custom names into the Start button. Back then, the CLI was just another tool, to be used occasionally to install or set up drivers, etc. That was a thing you had to do when building or upgrading your machine.

    As far as 98 was concerned, to me, it was merely Service Package 4 for 95; no big deal. Broke a couple things, so I stuck with 95. NT and 2K were things I had to deal with at work, but not something I'd choose for my home computer. Even back then, the cost of a new OS was outrageous.

    Then Win XP came out. My, but it was pretty! Theming wasn't as flexible as 95/98 was, but I adapted my customizations to it as much as I could, and I learned how to make standalone installation CDs (frankly, I still have half a dozen of them scattered throughout the Dngrlab). It ran better than 95, but the registry felt like a kludge and I was rummaging around in there on a monthly basis, it seemed. But you could still do stuff. Setting up the home network on a new machine took about five clicks of the button (and entering the correct data, of course). I was a Power User.

    When Vista came out, I instantly didn't like it. The CLI was tucked away in a corner where MS hoped nobody would notice it, and lobotomized, at that. What would take me only five clicks to do on my XP machines would require seven or more in Vista.

    Constant verifications of my password for the stupidest stuff. I didn't even bother with theming. As far as Microsoft was concerned (and this was public knowledge), 'Power User" was a dirty word. 'Administrators' were a unfortunate necessity, but they weren't catered to, and when they were, it was only the corporate ones, not the 'Home' people; they didn't need to be Administrators.

    I began switching to Linux.

    Sure, I'd tried a little Linux in the early days, KDE seemed a bit on the... difficult side; I didn't like it, it was ugly and I had trouble figuring out how to do things. I'd wanted so bad to get in on the Red Hat IPO, but you had to already have had a portfolio to do so and I didn't own a single stock. Some time in the early 2Ks I installed Slackware on a machine so I could 'learn' Linux, and boy is that the way to go if you want to learn how to use a command line! I had a DSL mini-cd that I carried in my briefcase to play with on occasion, and I had a Linux-based Firewall appliance I built. But I was still primarily a Windows user. I was constantly updating and building custom standalone installation CDs with all my favorite software on it, plus the necessary keys. A different CD for each computer in the house.

    Then Vista came out. It showed me where Microsoft was headed, and I didn't like that direction. I ignored it for as long as I could, but then I had no choice when I bought a machine that had it and couldn't run XP, so I went and found Ubuntu.

    I think 8.04 was my first dip into Ubuntu (might have been earlier); I'd picked up a magazine that had a CD with something like six or eight flavors of *buntu on it and I took each one for a spin, ultimately deciding to stay with the original.

    Customization was back! I could move the task bar! Change the order of the buttons on the window and put them on the left side instead of the right! OMG, multiple virtual desktops! Fancy window graphics, the CLI was right there, and there were times when I got to use it. When I broke things, which was quite often, there were ways to fix it. Or, if not, I could reinstall without having to restore all my data.

    Gnome 2 was my new best friend, and I have been primarily a Linux user since 2009.

    Yes, yes; I still have Windows installed on my machine(s). I have to use it at work (actually, we have three machines at work with Win 3.1/DOS 6 on them, a bunch with XP, one or two 2K machines and our primary boxen are running Win 7). There are times when I have to run a program that only works in Win, but for day-in, day-out use, I am in Linux.

    I stopped making custom CDs because now I can install a new OS alongside the old and move things over as I see fit (and thumb drives...).

    I quit Ubuntu several years ago when Canonical started pushing content to the desktop and Unity killed a lot of the customization; so I switched to Mint and played with Cinnamon for a while. It was nice, but having growing pangs, and I really missed my customization from Gnome 2 (different wallpapers on each desktop was awesome, though a hack and a half), and so a friend convinced me to give KDE another try.

    Wow. I mean... wow. KDE apps were (are) ugly as ever, but I had sooo much to play with! My separate wallpapers, without any hacking! Activities, which do almost the same as the virtual desktops, except different; all the bells and whistles as Gnome 2 but better implemented for the most part.

    I still use the CLI on a regular basis, because I am too lazy nowadays to write scripts to do some of the things I need to do (like updating Calibre... I really should automate that into a shortcut) and there are still issues: bluetooth sucks rocks in Plasma 4, but Plasma 5 got rid of my wallpaper flexibility so I'll hang out here in Mint 17.3 KDE until that gets fixed; but I am a much happier tinkerer with Linux than I ever could be in Windows anymore.


    So, that's my story. I'm a hardware guy, but I don't play around much with hardware any more-- I do electronics at work, so I'm like the mechanic who has a piece-of-junk car, and my garage isn't air-conditioned, so the Dngrlab is kind of disused. I don't go messing around on the intarwebs trying to mess with other peoples computers. I am not a command-line junky-- I like my GUIs-- but when the need arises, I can be a command-line jockey.

    Linux allows me to tinker and break things without making so much of a mess, and I can sandbox an entire OS into a separate partition or two and still be able to get things done.
     
  2. PhaseDoubt

    PhaseDoubt MDL Expert

    Dec 24, 2011
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    Up until 2008 I was a dedicated Windows user ... I had to be. Then I retired for the corporate world and regained my soul. Currently we have two iMacs, one iPhone, two iPads, three windows 10 computers, one Linux desktop and two Linux netbooks. We also have various VirtualBoxes running windows XP, 7 and 10 as well as several Linux distros. Variety (and soul-recovering retirement) restored my sanity ... I like variety and choices. My only problem is 24 hours in a day is just not enough time to do all the nothing I want to do.
     
  3. Tiger-1

    Tiger-1 MDL Guru

    Oct 18, 2014
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    yep same here, and now I returned to job after long time stopped (serious disease) working in my house repairing pc's and laptops :)
     
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  4. Michaela Joy

    Michaela Joy MDL Crazy Lady

    Jul 26, 2012
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    #4 Michaela Joy, Jun 8, 2016
    Last edited: Jun 8, 2016
    I wanted to let others reply before I chimed in. :)

    I started tinkering with Linux a while back when I got my hands on a spare computer. (HP Touchsmart) Cinnimon installed without a problem.
    My thinking was to learn how to develop software for Linux.

    Well, the hard drive crashed and I had to put the second system on the side until I picked up a drive for it. This week, I'll set it up (again) as a dual boot Windows 7 / Mint machine.

    And the saga continues.

    @PhaseDoubt: For Me, being retired is awesome. I finally get to work on my own designs. It does take some getting used to sometimes.

    BTW: I've read most of Piers Anthonys' work. Phase Doubt was a great book! I loved the Xanth series too.

    @Tiger-1: Glad to see you making a comeback. :thumbsup: I wish you the best, and good health. :)
     
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  5. Dngrsone

    Dngrsone MDL Novice

    May 25, 2016
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    I have only retired once, and I am barely into my second career. Actually, I'm interviewing in a couple of days with the same company for an entirely different position...

    I don't have to repair computers for a living anymore, hardly any hacking to do where I work, but electronics is my trade, so I don't do as much tinkering as I used to (though having access to higher-end equipment is nice). Unless I pick up that new job, then I'd be teaching...

    I do my fair share of complaining about software and stuff, but it seems as often as not, I have discovered or created problems for which there are no current solutions, so I have to either put up with or fix it my own damn self.

    Too bad I am more hardware-oriented than software, though I know enough about programming to get the gist of the code and sometimes even make a modification that makes things work better for my purposes.

    Anyways, I got tired of hearing people complain about things without having any interest in actual solutions...
     
  6. ausernamenoonehas

    ausernamenoonehas MDL Member

    Aug 2, 2015
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    WOW, the similarities between people here are amazing. I too am retired. Well I am officially, but I still "work" if you can call it that, because well ...I'm bored. :wheelchair:

    I imported high performance vehicles from Japan (think fast and the furious movies, that kind of scene) Nissan GTRs, Mitsubishi EVOs, so on and so forth. On the side, I loved computers. Started off because of gaming of coarse TFC, Half Life, Counter Strike (those were the days)

    Then the modding scene hit and I was hooked. Beige boxes be damned, into the spray-booth at work, custom paint jobs, water cooling, all sorts of shenanigans. (I have stories and pics to back them up) ;) But it was all Windows OS's over the years and like you, the direction MicroSoft was taking I didn't like.

    I joined this site as Windows 10 was being released. Really it was just to find some tweaks and stuff for it, and I happened across this Linux forum, and after reading a bunch of threads, took the plunge and install Linux Mint.

    Absolutely love it. Oh how I wish I had of got into Linux all those years ago when I had more than two functioning brain cells. So its a long and arduous process, and like you, I break just about everything I touch. Its how I learn.

    There isn't a day I don't pop into this forum and read what peeps are doing/talking. Its a wonderful resource, and the friendly atmosphere (being a linux noob) which really helps, as other places I've been, there seems to be a bit of elitists attitudes floating about.

    +1 for Linux!!!! :clap:
     
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  7. PhaseDoubt

    PhaseDoubt MDL Expert

    Dec 24, 2011
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    OK, now this is just cool. I didn't want to completely steal one of my favorite author's thunder so I "misspelled" my nick. As to retirement, people keep asking me what do I do all day long. I usually just say something on the order of, "Anything I d**n well want to". I told people for years my job was just a job and funded my real life. Now that my soul belongs to me again (the corporate world can rob you of it) my real life is all I do. Since my wife is retired too, we just live life to the fullest. Enjoy your retirement! I hope others can do as we did. If I'd known how good and freeing it was going to be I'd have done it sooner.

    For all those who wish to retire some day: have a financial plan, work that plan and realize you may have to deny yourself today so you can flourish tomorrow.
     
  8. Tiger-1

    Tiger-1 MDL Guru

    Oct 18, 2014
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    @ Michaela Joy our MDL Graceful Lady absolutely thanks for ever :):clap:
     
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  9. Myrrh

    Myrrh MDL Expert

    Nov 26, 2008
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    I have worked with Linux about a dozen or so times.

    Each and every time, this is the sequence of events:
    - Decide on a distro to use
    - download it
    - install it
    - customize and tweak things to almost exactly how I want them
    - do *something* that renders the system unbootable, forcing me to start over. Usually that *something* is an insanely simple thing, like changing the resolution on a video driver. Whatever it is, when this happens, no amount of praying or cursing will get it running again.

    I got tired of that after a while.
     
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  10. Dngrsone

    Dngrsone MDL Novice

    May 25, 2016
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    But...

    That's the fun part!
     
  11. pvdven777

    pvdven777 MDL Member

    Jul 4, 2010
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    It is indeed if (you are retired and) have the time.
     
  12. Myrrh

    Myrrh MDL Expert

    Nov 26, 2008
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    Agreed. It was fun when I did it. Unfortunately I am not retired and the machines I build need to actually work.
     
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  13. T-S

    T-S MDL Guru

    Dec 14, 2012
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    Sorry but that is just lack of mental flexibility. You behave with linux just like it was windows.

    It isn't. Thanks God it isn't

    An unbootable linux simply does not exist.

    In the worst scenario all you have to do is to boot from the install media, or from a parallel installation, chroot to the system, fix what you broke and reboot

    Or just keep the home in a separate partition, and reinstall a brand new system w/o losing anything of your old settings.

    With windows you simply can't do that, and after Vista the things got even worse given you can't even start an inplace upgrade to fix an unbootable system, something that worked from dos 1.0 to XP

    Linux is Linux, love it or hate it, just keep in mind that is not Windows.
     
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  14. Dngrsone

    Dngrsone MDL Novice

    May 25, 2016
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    I have indeed borked up my Linux installs to the point where they don't want to boot, but as already noted, I can boot into a Live CD, download a few apps and usually get things running in pretty short order.

    One great thing about most Linux installs that differs from Windows: they are for the most part platform-agnostic. I can take a drive from one x86-compatible laptop, desktop, what-have-you, and plug it into another and oftentimes it will still boot.

    Sure, things may look or act a bit funky unless you make some adjustments, but when's the last time you booted a Windows drive on a different motherboard?
     
  15. T-S

    T-S MDL Guru

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    Well to be honest, lately, thanks to the almost universal AHCI, 95% of win drives boots in any MB (and from/to virtual machines). I do it continuously.

    But yes, in the last decade was tricky to boot on different MBs because the variety of controllers and the lack of a basic mode (that was available from win 3.x to WinME).
     
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  16. Dngrsone

    Dngrsone MDL Novice

    May 25, 2016
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    Oh, thanks for that little tidbit of information. Frankly, haven't tried to change a motherboard on a modern Windows machine... I'm operating primarily on laptops now and Linux is obviously my OS of choice.

    The best thing about WinME is that I could get really good computers for cheap: one guy gave me his machine outright, another sold a $300 machine to me for $50. Installed XP on both of them and they worked like champs.
     
  17. T-S

    T-S MDL Guru

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    FYI even in tricky cases, say moving from Nvidia MB to a VIA/SIS/old AMD/old Intel to a recent MB (or viceversa) there is a nice script called fix_hdc in the utilities bundled with Hiren's bit CD, that fixes almost any boot problem.
    It installs offline the needed drivers and fixes offline any registry entry needed to detect the correct HDD controller (hence the HDD, then windows itself will fix everything else)

    Just move the HDD to the new MB, boot with hiren's CD/Pendrive, launch the fix_hdc batch, and reboot.
     
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  18. Dngrsone

    Dngrsone MDL Novice

    May 25, 2016
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    Yeah, I had a little trick I could do if I was moving from a working MB to a different one, where I deleted all the controllers before shutting down, then swapping the boards. Windows would then detect the new hardware and install the appropriate drivers. Moving from a dead MB, on the other hand... usually I'd do a fresh install anyway, and pull all the necessary data off the old drive.
     
  19. T-S

    T-S MDL Guru

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    #19 T-S, Jun 11, 2016
    Last edited: Jun 11, 2016

    My personal technique involved a PCI IDE (or sata) controller. But that was effective only moving from a working MB to a different one.

    Plug the external controller on the old MB, instal the drivers for it, reboot the old MB with the HDD connected to the external controller.

    If everything was fine you could move HDD and controller to the new MB, it will boot because had the drivers installed, then install the drivers for the new embedded controller.

    Finally reboot the MB with the HDD connected to the internal controller (and remove the temporary one).

    I wish I had fix_hdc 6/7 years earlier ;)
     
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  20. Dngrsone

    Dngrsone MDL Novice

    May 25, 2016
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    I hear that...