Friday, August 8, 2008

My Linux Anniversary - 1 Year Later . . .

Well, it has been a year since I took the plunge and installed Debian on my parents' old desktop, and my what a year it has been! One year ago I was a reference librarian at a busy suburban library who found a book about Linux and decided to try out Knoppix for the first time. I had just been turned down for a job with the state library agency and wanted to bone up on my "technology skills," whatever I meant by that. Since the state library's system runs on Linux, I thought learning that environment would make me more marketable. So for a few weeks there I would drag my parents' desktop out of a closet and hook it up, then when I was finished I'd disassemble everything and put it back in the closet (since it took up too much space in our small apartment). Since the network card never worked, I never really did get a feel of what actually using Linux for my day-to-day computing needs would be like. Then, because of several goings on in my personal and professional life, I put my Linux toys away for a few months (and gave away my parents' comptuer) until I needed to use the Linux-based Cinelerra for a video project and I installed Ubuntu on a second hard drive on my main computer.

Having Ubuntu on my main computer truly changed the way I thought about my computing needs and choices, and I spent weeks just downloading free (and I do mean free) software and trying different things out. I was truly astonished at what tools I now had at my disposal, and when I began researching how this all came about (through books and online videos, mainly) I discovered that this was something I truly wanted to get involved with, both personally and professionally. I've always been "computer savvy," meaning that I know my way around computer hardware and software and learn those concepts fairly easily, but I wanted to develop specific skills that would allow me to get a job in technology-oriented librarianship.

Then another job came open with the state library as system administrator, and I was dissatisfied enough in my reference librarian position to give this a try. I was not exactly qualified for the position, but I hoped my newfound determination to get this sort of job, along with my nascent devotion to free and open source software, would win me some points as a candidate. They were looking for either a techie with library knowledge or a librarian with a technical background or interest (neither combination is all that common), and they chose me, the librarian with tech skills (well, more interest than skills, but I'm working on it). So I'm now the system administrator (in training) for one of the most forward-thinking library agencies in the country, running the open source, GPL-ed Evergreen ILS, for which my predecessor led the development team (now Equinox Software, Inc.).

So now I've gone from being a non-Linux user to a Linux end user/advocate to a professional position where I need to know the inner workings of Linux cold. I'd say it's been a pretty good year, wouldn't you? :-)


Anonymous said...

Congratulations, I would say that yes it has been a pretty good year.

> a professional position where I need to
> know the inner workings of Linux cold

I've been running GNU/Linux for about 5 years, and worked hard to find a tech job with a Linux focus (which I found two years ago) -- and as much as I love it, there is always more to learn and I don't know any of it even luke-warm yet ;)

Chris said...

Thanks so much for your comment. I'm working with the original developers of Evergreen, who are all pretty well-versed in Linux, Perl and open source tools. I've gone from feeling pretty competent computer-wise to feeling like a total newbie. It's good to know that there's always more to learn!

Thanks for the encouragement!


Daengbo said...

Pretty awesome. Knowing Unix/Linux opens a lot of doors because relatively few people have the skills/desire to do it. Most people want a nice, limited GUI environment which makes all the choices for you.

I was considered for a position with the Thai government's open source lab a few years ago even though I don't have any official training in IT. (In the end, I told them that they'd be better off hiring three locals for what I'd charge.)

dmourati said...


As you've found out, there is a big difference between "tinkering" with Linux on a intermittent basis and using it every day. Soon, you'll be off to running multiple Linux boxes in a production environment, that's when the real fun begins. Keep reading (you still work in a library right ;-) ), and you'll be in good shape. May I suggest the Running Linux, 5th Edition as your next project. You'll want your own copy but you can certainly pick one up from the Library to read the first time through.


Chris said...

Thanks, daengbo and dmourati for your encouragement and advice. I am reading "How Linux Works" (which has a link under the "What I'm Reading" sidebar on this page) and "Essential System Administration." I actually have an older edition of "Running Linux" in my office at work, but I'm trying to work through the ones on my desk so as not to be even more overwhelmed than I already am!

As to running multiple Linux servers, I began helping preconfigure some brand new Debian servers tomorrow morning at the datacenter, so I'm already there! :-)


Anonymous said...

What an *exceptional* blog. Upon following a link to this post, I felt compelled to read your entire history, and a very impressive series of posts it is. You have a patient, reasoned writing style which is a delight to read, while conveying a restrained excitement at the possibilities that free software unlocks. I have undergone a similar conversion to yours and had many of the same thoughts and feelings.

Thank you.

Chris said...

Thank you so much! I truly appreciate your compliments. :-)