My first encounter with the internet – the pre web internet (yes I’m showing my age) – was on a UNIX like system. A NeXTSTEP system to be specific. Since then I’ve always wanted to have my own UNIXish system – which until recently meant using some form of Linux as it was the only UNIX like system that was legally free (I hadn’t heard of the BSD unixes).
However the demons of computing decreed otherwise. I kept getting stuck with Linux incompatible hardware. The manual in first box of Red Hat Linux distribution I bought had an entire paragraph detailing the incompatibilities of my PC’s highly proprietary SCSI card. And ended with an explanation on why there will never be a driver for it.
As a result my first successful install of linux was an esoteric distribution called MKLinux on even more obscure hardware: an ageing 66Mhz Power Mac 7100. MKLinux seems to have puttered out after its 3rd release. The version I installed had no drivers for my 28bps dial-up modem to connect to the net (I’m not expecting you young people have any idea what a modem is). BUT I was root on my own system for the first time with KDE 1.0. I had the freedom to inflict catastrophic experiments on my system. That forced me to reinstall the operating system from scratch several times. I mastered the tricky art of installing MKLinux on an ancient mac but it was not a workable system.
The logical next step try several Linux PPC distributions on a then new mac power book. It didn’t work out due too many technical reasons. And the fact that I need to use my Mac applications. The PC I had the time left me with the prospect of having to buy Linux drivers for the graphics card (think twice about picking close out left overs from high end computer shops). Finally I found an ancient generic PC that zipped along on Mandrake Linux. Then I had to move and ended up donating my Linux PC to a computer centre at a low income housing complex.
The final nail of the anti Unix curse placed on my is the cruel fact that work involves using windows. For a while my only solace was a Linux shell account on a distant server – accessed through assorted terminal programs like Putty on the PC and MacSSH on Mac Classic systems.
After many years in the dark OSX arrived. Thanks to the Fink Project I get to run old favourite open source applications without a fuss. Geektool does a good job of satisfying geeky tendencies that might arise. Ironically the only Apple designed application I use most frequently is Terminal.
Only while writing this did the irony of it all hit me: my Unix journey has come back to where it all started – to a UNIX based system built by Steve Jobs. The NeXTSTEP like qualities of OSX add a layer of subliminal familiarity. Perhaps that is why I’ve always felt more at home on a OSX or any other system UNIX system besides windows. How’s that for sound technological reasoning about picking an operating system?
Which makes this whole geeky post quite inexplicable. But so is life. What matters is how YOU choose do deal with it.