This is going to be a long couple of posts about my life. It's also going to be
kind of a stream of consciousness. We'll see where this goes. For now, we're starting with how I
started using free software and how I got to where I am today in regards to my
ideas about it.
If you know anything about Linux or even just operating systems, there's a good
chance you've heard of Ubuntu. It's one of the
most popular GNU/Linux operating systems. It is known for being a very polished
distribution with sane defaults for most users and being more up-to-date than
its parent, Debian GNU/Linux. It's most people's first Linux distribution.
I first started looking into it spring
of 2010. This was around the time Chrome OS had started becoming a thing, and a
friend of mine and I wanted to compile Chromium OS and work on it. Mind you, I
knew nothing about software development at that time, but this sounded like a
fun project. This was around the time I
had started getting interested in software development. I was registered to take the intro
programming classes at my high school at that time. Google's instructions for compiling
Chromium OS required Linux (Macs might have had instructions too like Android,
but I definitely didn't have one of those).
It was about April, so I waited the few days or weeks until Ubuntu 10.04
Lucid Lynx came out. I first installed it via wubi, a program that let you
install Ubuntu as a Windows application so that you could try it out without
modifying your partitions. This made it really simple for one to try it without
This is what I booted up to. I think part of why I was so fascinated with Ubuntu
was just due to it being different than Windows. It was so customizable. After a
few weeks of using wubi, I convinced my dad to let me dual boot Ubuntu with
Windows XP. I remember writing arguments as to why I should be able to use
Linux, including that Office ran in WINE. Those were the days...
That summer was a lot of messing around with Linux. I distro-hopped a little
bit, but I pretty much stuck with Ubuntu. I did start messing with Compiz (3D
cubes ftw), Emerald window decorations, Avant Window Navigator (AWN), and Conky.
I made some good looking desktops. I unfortunately still used a lot of proprietary software.
Chrome and Dropbox made the switch easier. By the fall, I had heard a lot about
Arch Linux and how it taught you a lot about
Linux by installing it. This is when I
got a taste of minimalism in software. This was before Arch became a meme, so
the community was very different back then. My first Arch install took a few
hours. I don't really remember much about it. I do know that I followed a
Lifehacker guide for installing Arch + KDE in conjunction with the Arch Wiki.
I learned so much by doing this. Eventually, I also played around with super
lightweight installs with LXDE or just straight up Openbox. I liked Arch, and
it's how I learn the different layers working together to get a modern Linux
setup. However, I didn't like how manual it was for certain things. Eventually
Linux 3.0 launched (it was on 2.x for forever) and broke GRUB (I still
didn't understand that you should check the Arch website before updating). Soon
after, they switched to systemd, and I was done. I thought Ubuntu was the best
because it worked out of the box and didn't need a lot of configuration.
Once I got to college, I built my first gaming computer. At that point, Linux
kinda fell to the wayside because I hated rebooting. For the most part, Windows
7 did what I needed it to. I still used Linux a bit, especially on my netbook.
This is a screenshot from January 2013.
I eventually even got a MacBook Pro in 2014. I was full on proprietary. I viewed
Mac OS X as the perfect intersection of proprietary polish and UNIX utils. For
the next couple years after that, in the height of my addiction to video games,
I just used Windows. All I did on my computer besides sshing to the Computer
Science department computers for homework was games, so I just stayed in
My interest in tiling window managers first started in high school when I installed
ratpoison in Arch. Back then, using all terminal applications sounded extremely
difficult and leet, so I wanted to try it out for a month. I used ratpoison so I
could have more than one at a time (this was before I learned about screen and
tmux). I think that lasted about a week before I gave up.
The next bit until 2017 is kind of a blur. I did start playing around with tiling window managers for a bit, but I
stayed with Windows for the most part. I do know that's when my dotfiles repo
took shape because of the dates in at the top of each file. That's when I
learned vim, tmux, and spectrwm.
At some point, I found the suckless
project. That really interested me. I was a big fan of minimalist software that
focused on correct code and not having bloat. I tried dwm, but I wasn't a fan of
the defaults and was too lazy to configure it. I settled on spectrwm as my first
main tiling window manager. I liked it because it was very similar to dwm, but
it read a configuration file and had a couple extra layouts by default. I
primarily used this with Arch Linux, but I dabbled with
Void Linux occasionally.
From some point in 2017 until now, I started using Linux full time. This is
when I developed my convictions regarding free software and started taking them
seriously. I wanted privacy and was not ok with companies and the government
having my data. I got to the point where I refused to use proprietary software
if possible. I had always preferred open source software for various practical
reasons, but now I was a free software advocate.
I finally took the time to learn how to configure dwm, st, and other suckless
tools with surprising ease. They weren't as difficult as I thought they'd be. I
used these with Arch Linux for a while because I installed Arch so much over the
years, the installation was pretty simple. I also started using full disk
encryption at this time, and Arch had the best documentation for manually doing
so outside of an installer.
I distro hopped a lot after Arch. I wasn't sure what distro I wanted. I liked
Arch for being rolling and up-to-date. I liked Debian because of the history it
has. I liked Void because it didn't have systemd and followed a more UNIX-like
I eventually settled down on OpenBSD. I always had an interest in
BSD as direct descendents of UNIX, but I had always been intimidated by it. I
eventually gave it ago. I picked OpenBSD over FreeBSD, NetBSD, and other BSDs
because it seemed to fit what I wanted the best. It also focused on code
correctness like suckless software, and they also focus on security.
Despite how hardcore, and sometimes elitist, the
community is, I didn't give up and kept going. I think the fact that I started
with Linux has given me unique challenges because all of the similarities have
small differences that you don't expect.
That takes me to where I'm at today. I'm using OpenBSD with dwm and other
suckless and command line tools. The only graphical application that I
regularly use is surf, the suckless web browser. It's been a long road, but I
finally found where I'm happiest without a temptation to distro hop like I have
for ages before. Though if I need a Linux distro for anything (thinking about
getting a single board computer and those have better Linux support), then I'm
going to go with Void Linux, since it's one of the most similar to BSD (though
I've heard crux is pretty great).
I'm also discovering how copyfree software
is more advantageous than copyleft software. I'm still figuring out where I
stand on copyleft, but copyfree is what I'm writing and advocating for
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