Hi. My name is Cheryl, and I’m an artist. I have a nerd streak that I’ve been nurturing for many years now. I’m not a programmer, but I recreationally install Linux distros and twiddle with software, so I thought I might as well write about it. Other hidden skills include knowing how to milk a goat, spin yarn, and drink traditional style yerba mate.

Linux and Open Source and Free Software are beautiful things that should be accessible to all people, even if you’re not a programmer or “computer person,” and it’s fun to share what I’ve learned.

My Own Linux History

I have been interested in Linux for many many years. Back in the day I heard it mentioned in hushed tones with a deep nerdy respect – out of reach but a magical unicorn, while I and everyone I knew used Windows. I became obsessed with finding the Best Text Editor. Twiddling with software is addictive and I twiddled obsessively.

I was totally broke, so I didn’t have money to throw at every program. That naturally pushed me to open source software, and I kept finding programs that ran on Linux, not Windows or Mac (which I used for some years after Windows). I told myself that I would have my own Linux machine one day.

After using Mac for a few years, I tried to dualboot my Macbook. It worked, but not well – I found Ubuntu to be crashy and a pain. I reinstalled Ubuntu, which worked better this time. I tried Linux Mint, which worked very nicely. I tried Elementary, which was decent and looked pretty, and gave me courage to commit more to Linux. I tried seven thousand different writing and journaling programs, trying to find a way to access my journals from Mac and from Linux. I put my most frequently used data on a usb drive, so I could access it whichever OS I was booted into at the moment.

Eventually I set things up to use Linux Mint as my primary and only boot into Mac OS when I needed it urgently, which turned out to be basically never. I have been all Linux ever since – it’s only been two years full time, but I can’t imagine ever going back.

I became familiar with this stuff by obsessing and not letting things go till I figured out how to do what I wanted. It was a lot of hours of web searching.

I was confused when I heard about distros and desktop environments and when trying to install software, forums that said “oh, it’s easy, just sudo apt-get install, you dummy,” and I didn’t know what the flip they were talking about. But after some uninformed terminal cutting and pasting (which is generally not recommended, I know), I started to catch on.

This stuff takes work to learn. It’s getting easier all the time, and I hope to see more pathways being made so that good, freedom-y software is easily available to grandmas, gardeners and people who don’t like computers, as well as programmers and server admins. Software that doesn’t exploit you should be for everyone, not only for “nerds.”

I am hoping that if I write down what I learn it can be of use to other folks out there too.


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