At the risk of sounding cliche, the statement “Linux changed my life” isn’t said lightly. It has changed not only the course of my career but also changed the way I think and taught me quite a few things about myself.
I never made it through high school. In fact, until recently I haven’t been to school since I was 15. I’m 31 now. But a few years back while working at an Iron foundry I met someone who was an advocate of open-source software and Linux. He ran a non-profit on the side which taught Linux. He used Slackware, which is what I started with at first. He even gave me a laptop with Slackware Linux on it.
With a lot of patience, and when I say a lot I mean more than most people have the sanity for, this man did his best to teach me the terminal and bash scripting, from the simple to the advanced, he tried his best. I wouldn’t say I’m a bad student, just a student with a thicker skull who 8 out of 10 times has to just learn things the hard way.
So I wouldn’t suggest Slackware being the first distro to start with. But starting with it was like sink or swim rather than starting at the shallow end and learning slowly, it was more like being tossed into the deep end. But every Sunday I went to the non-profit and learned what I could and practiced throughout the week.
Now at this time, it had been about 2 years since I started using Linux. My wife was pregnant, and I was working far more than I was home or slept. At 2 am I got a call, it was my wife and she said that I needed to come home. There was a fire, and we lost everything. Moving from one hotel to the next till finally back into our old home took almost a year and a half. But finally, we managed it. The insurance covered the laptop, but I hadn’t used Linux or a computer throughout the whole process of Insurance and moving. We lost everything to have to rebuild it again.
Some of the items from the fire made it back, among those items was a very melted and warped laptop that used to be the one that was for my learning. I put it away out of sentiment not willing to toss it into the trash.
Later that year I bought a Gaming PC and got it on a deal, but it was powerful. Had a problem with speed, 8 gigs of RAM, an AMD and Ryzen, and 256G SSD. The thing was quick, real pretty as my wife would say because of its colors and the case was Tempered Glass. It came with Windows 10, and I started my computer science journey, but this time alone without a teacher. I still kept in touch with my teacher but I lived in a different city now working at a copper wiring factory.
Then the infamous “Windows Update” happened. It wouldn’t load past the login screen and the Microsoft Windows insignia with an infinite load screen.
So I called my old teacher, and we came to a deal. I traded him a PC that was built out of salvage for him to put a 1TB hard drive he had into the gaming PC and re-install Windows. He installed Slackware on the 1TB HDD, and on the 256SSD he installed Windows 10 for gaming. So I started my Linux journey once more.
But life has a funny way of kicking you at the worst moments. I was working 12 shifts, every day at the factory. Not seeing my son nor being with my family other than to sleep, all I did was work, and one day, something inside me broke, I could not be for a moment longer an expendable and replaceable industrial worker that works all the time and never is with his family. After quitting, I didn’t know what to do.
I went to visit my old friend again at his Non-Profit. Talked for a while and it was within that conversation that turned towards the subject of non-profits, businesses, how one starts one, etc.
A week later I started working for myself. I started out sub-contracting as a laborer for a licensed carpenter, who taught me much more about construction than simple framing, and the money paid well as it was task-based rather than hourly, so I had more time at home. I practiced more with Linux discovering I had a knack for finding information. Because the hardest part of teaching yourself is finding out what to teach yourself, and when it comes to computers and IT, you are a drop, inside a sea of information and knowledge. Then, it truly dawned on me the kind of control, customization, and freedom for that matter, the true power of the developer’s choice OS and the raw potential that my friend called the hacker’s playground – AKA Linux. Microsoft’s Windows was only ever booted out of necessity, to only exist inside a VM, reduced to nothing more than a file.
I started out just helping people with their computers. As Linux could view the Windows file system, and also was useful in retrieving information from damaged PCs. Among many of the tasks, that was the first official one of the business. Christmas was approaching, and for Christmas, I gave flash drives out to my family. On them were the last 8 years worth of pictures and videos of family events and my and my wife’s wedding. It had deceased relatives, music and videos, and family get-togethers that haven’t been remembered. All from many sources, but the main one was that burnt laptop that I used to back up every broken phone, camera, movie, video… everything. The only thing that was salvageable was its storage, and the fire took many photos. I was able to get every one of them plus some that I didn’t know I had back and made copies to give to family and friends.
Now, fast forwarding to recently. Sometimes life comes at you again, and I struggled through a divorce. As depression kicked in I threw myself both into Construction and Remodeling while also teaching myself Linux and open-source software. I turned to fill my time with work and learning computers and IT.
I stumbled into Ivy Tech to see how much a CompTIA Linux cert was. Turns out, they said the state would cover the first year and through some of the grants and aid offered through both federal and local, not only would I get a degree, but also pay very little for it. I haven’t been to school since I was 15, I only had experience from the military and nearly a decade of industrial. If it wasn’t for the guy, who had a non-profit that advocates and teaches Linux, I wouldn’t have ever started this journey. I’m now a student, pursuing an Associate of Science degree in Cybersecurity and Information assurance.
I now run a small business, and I help people with lower-incomes re-use older computers, fix the ones they have, and provide some sometimes unorthodox solutions to networking and IT. My business name is Archivists Endeavors. Archivists are the caretakers of Information and Knowledge, and the Endeavors are the acts, experiences, steps taken, and tasks completed to acquire that information. If it wasn’t for my friend and Linux, my life would have been a completely different tale.