Keegan’s Linux Journey: Part 1

From Windows User to My Search for Arch

Back in November of 2016, I had just bought by very first laptop. Did I know what I was doing, or what all those specifications listed for each product (such as RAM and CPU) meant? Absolutely not! But I did know that such a device would allow me to better write works of fiction (in which I was involved at the time, although I never got to the publishing stage – once getting fairly close to completion of the actual writing stage however), as well as complete work that was necessary for my schooling as I had just entered high school that previous year. So if any of you live in or near the United States, you are probably familiar with Black Friday. A day ironically placed right after Thanksgiving – which, you guessed it, is a day we thank God for all that He has chosen to bless us with, a tradition begun by the Pilgrims in the 1600s who fled Europe for the New World in an effort to escape religious persecution. So the day after Thanksgiving, the US celebrates by indulging our sense of greed and desire for the accumulation of more possessions. All across the nation, stores boast enormous sales and discounts for nearly everything, everywhere. As such, one can imagine that for a high schooler with limited money, this was the day I chose to purchase my first laptop. Why a laptop you might ask? The simple answer is because I had no idea what I was doing. The longer answer might be that I at least knew I wanted to be able to take the device with me and not have it tied down to one specific location. And so I bought what I thought to be a fabulous deal. It was, but it was definitely on the low end in terms of quality. Windows 10 ran slowly for me, and I honestly was not all that pleased with the invasive policies that I had heard Microsoft employed in their then-new operating system.

An article on Windows 10's Keylogger
Yep! Keylogging has been on and active on Windows 10 for awhile now… makes a person glad to be using Linux.

So it was that when I became sick over that Christmas break, I thought I would use that time to explore the wonderful world of software and the Internet. I quickly became fascinated with making my computer do unusual things, such as using a built-in feature of Windows to make it respond to specific voice prompts in the voice of Jarvis from Iron Man. But spend money for such things? Now that was just something I did not have the budget for! And so it was that I kept coming across amazing free software that would fit my desire perfectly – and nearly all of them had multiple download options, the consistent download option being something called Linux. What was this thing that had so much quality, free software? A quick Google search later (unfortunately, I was still using that invasive search engine at the time!), and I discovered result upon result of seemingly… different things. Things with names such as Linux Mint, Ubuntu, and ZorinOS. Well, thought I, everyone online seems to be including this thing called Linux Mint in their “Top 10 Distributions for Beginners” articles, and it even has Linux in its name! So that must be what I am looking for. Dualbooting though? Never heard of it. In fact, it seemed way too complicated and dangerous to me at the time. So it was that I eventually stumbled upon YUMI – a piece of software that allowed you to just select your desired distro in the application itself, whereby it would automatically download and burn the distro to your USB of choice in persistence mode. Using this method, I was able to boot into Linux Mint and have an effectual – although limited – dual-boot setup without risking my hard drive at all. But now I had another world to explore. A world of software stores, of Linux Mint desktop extensions and addons, and a world of themes. Not to mention customization. As you can imagine, this was all a bit confusing for me. I understood how to use the software store due to my previous exposure with Macs at school in a Photoshop class, but themes, extensions, and addons? Now that was an entirely new, confusing world!

Apparently, it was a little too confusing for me. I stumbled along for nearly a month, even achieving a Windows 7 theme setup on my Linux Mint installation. But I just could not quite wrap my head around the extensions and addons. And if my Jarvis recreation from Windows 10 was any indicator, you can imagine how much I enjoyed tinkering with my system. But for the time being, I needed a little extra hand holding. So back to the online search it was for me! By now, I was officially on the road to joining the ranks of distrohoppers.

After a week of consideration, I finally decided upon ZorinOS. I know, many of you are probably groaning on the inside. Perhaps you have an issue with their payment method for ZorinOS Ultimate. Or perhaps you dislike the fact that you cannot seem to find their code on Github or Gitlab. Or maybe it is even the package they install by default on your system that sends back basic metrics to them in regards to system crashes and such on your installation. But for me, it was just what I needed to thrust me forwards into the world of Linux. In fact, I had almost given up on figuring out Linux before I came across ZorinOS. ZorinOS was my last shot, and thankfully, it hit the bullsye! Due to its excellent theming manager, I was able to finally make sense of how to install and apply themes on my desktop. I quickly figured out GNOME extensions (they were much simpler to understand than the addon and extension combination of Linux Mint!), and I even started to embrace the terminal. Before long, I was performing my updates in the terminal, and even spending much of my time there!

ZorinOS had only one downfall – it was too good. After two lovely months of smooth sailing, I began to get bored. I began to feel my confidence rising, and my inner distrohopper began to yearn for something new, exciting, and unpredictable. And every Linux user knows that when one begins to yearn for something unpredictable, you have no further to look than Arch Linux. And maybe Gentoo. But Gentoo was way beyond me still at this point, and so Arch it was. Besides, who doesn’t feel the allure to the distro after seeing enough “I use Arch btw” memes online? And so the next stage of my journey was about to begin.

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