Day 09 – What OS/distribution do you run?

This post is part of my 30 days of geek challenge.

I’ve been a Linux geek for almost a decade, first started heavily using Linux in 2001 as part of my youthful play (Mandrake 6, kernel 2.2 FTW! :-D ) and become a full blown Linux user in 2002 with RedHat 8.

These days, I run Fedora on my workstations and CentOS or RHEL on my servers – I love the Red Hat approach towards structuring the OS and the very rigid release policies, but there’s a number of reasons for my Fedora choice:

  • Developed by a strong community focused and driven on the goal of being a true free as in freedom operating system backed up by an ethical company (RedHat).
  • Fast-paced release cycle, every 6 months a new release with brand new features.
  • Binary-based distribution, something like Gentoo would be faster paced but then I’d have to spend a lot more time compiling and tweaking.
  • I’m familiar with the OS environment and packaging for it, infact I run my own repositories for both RHEL/CentOS & Fedora which are publicly available.

My use of RHEL (or CentOS if it’s a non-work system) for servers is mostly for the same reasons, as well as the fact that there’s a huge support life (about 7 years) for RHEL which far surpasses the hardware itself.

Of course, I haven’t always been a Fedora user, I have a rather colourful operating system background, which is why I do feel at least a slight right to be able to comment on OS debates:

  • First computers I had were i386s with Win 3.1 and MSDOS. Used to hack around with BASIC/QBASIC coding on them, tweaking games and just generally prodding everything to see what would happen.
  • First real computer came with Win 98, I spent a couple years learning HTML, hacking more BASIC and getting into C/C++ coding with 2D directx games.
  • Experimented with Mandrake 6 for a while, Linux was this amazingly awesome yet completely unfamiluar environment – very different these days, in a way it’s sad the the mystery has gone.
  • Eventually moved to Redhat 8/9 as my primary box along with a Windows XP laptop.
  • When the original Fedora Core came out, I was pretty unhappy with it – whilst I see the business focus of RedHat made RHEL more sense, I’m still sad that they killed their free as in beer release and still think it did some harm to their brand awareness – think about the fact that there would be no CentOS if RedHat still had a free release.
  • Disillusioned with Fedora Core, I stumbled through the interwebs until I found the beauty that is Linux From Scratch.
  • Linux From Scratch (and Beyond Linux From Scratch) involves compiling *everything* from the kernel up to the desktop environment and applications, all manually from the tarballs and patches – no package management tools or dependency solving. Doing it on my 433mhz Celeron with 192MB RAM would take about a week…. Those were the days. :’)
  • LFS was awesome, but difficult to maintain, so I ended up moving to my own distribution for a while (Jedo Linux) originally based off RPM before shifting to source-based portage distribution with entirely custom ebuilds.
  • Ran Ubuntu 6.06 for a couple years when I started my first job as I needed something with easier package management for work purposes.
  • Work ended up buying me a shiny Macbook, used MacOS Tiger/Leopard for two years, whilst running Ubuntu at home.
  • Moved away from Ubuntu after seeing how much Fedora had improved, started with Fedora 9 and have been using it ever since.

Aside from my personal use, I’ve supported a number of different OSes for commercial purposes: WinXP, *shudder* Vista, Win7, Windows Server, Debian (which for some reason I’ve never been a big fan of) and Solaris.

So I’m a bit of an OS slut, but these days I’d say I’m firmly a Red Hat fan and will continue to be so for the forseeable future until I decide that Linux is too mainstream now and move to something like BSD or Minix. ;-)

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