Happy 21st Birthday Linux (August 25th)

When I look back on my IT career which started in September of 1991 I was pulled into the wonderful world of SunOS (which later became Solaris for you Windows folks).  I loved SunOS because of what I could do with it.  It was a workhorse, and it just worked.  Granted, it required the Sparc processor and other such hardware from Sun, but I didn’t care…it did what I needed it to do as an administrator.  But wow…was that Sun hardware expensive!  That’s ok though, I was in the Navy, and it wasn’t like I had a choice in the matter.  Then one day I was reading something about this guy in Helsinki working on some sort of project…some free operating system that sort of worked and resembled Unix.  Then on August 25th, 1991 came the email that would change my life…

“From:torvalds@klaava.Helsinki.FI (Linus Benedict Torvalds) Newsgroup: comp.os.minix Subject: What would you like to see most in minix? Summary: small poll for my new operating system Message-ID: 1991Aug25, 20578.9541@klaava.Helsinki.FI Date: 25 Aug 91 20:57:08 GMT Organization: University of Helsinki.

Hello everybody out there using minix-

I’m doing a (free) operating system (just a hobby, won’t be big and professional like gnu) for 386(486) AT clones. This has been brewing since april, and is starting to get ready. I’d like any feedback on things people like/dislike in minix; as my OS resembles it somewhat (same physical layout of the file-sytem due to practical reasons)among other things.

I’ve currently ported bash (1.08) an gcc (1.40), and things seem to work. This implies that i’ll get something practical within a few months, and I’d like to know what features most people want. Any suggestions are welcome, but I won’t promise I’ll implement them 🙂

Linus Torvalds torvalds@kruuna.helsinki.fi”

I was always intrigued by the Unix operating system…but I wanted to dig into the kernel more.  I wanted to see how things worked.  This was my chance…and it would shape my IT career from that day to the present.

Over the years I have focused on Linux and Open Source technologies because I liked the idea of Richard Stallman and his GNU project and the Free Software Foundation, if for no other reason that I was (and still am) opposed to software piracy, especially when there is a free and completely functional alternative.  It also helped that I was making next to nothing in the Navy, and free software was less expensive that Windows-based alternatives…and I was cheap about things like that (still am).  What drew me to Linux was the community around it and the ability to connect with other Linux users in literally any town I went to.  I liked the idea that I didn’t need to settle for what the manufacturer gave me, but rather I could take what they gave me and then make it exactly what I wanted.

In 2002 I joined Computer Associates (now CA Technologies) and while I was “officially” working for the storage team, I was a virtual member of the Linux Technology Group and got to more or less, focus on Linux, and what CA was doing with Linux.  It was about the same time that Linus Torvalds moved from Transmeta to the Open Source Development Labs (heavily supported by CA at the time).  I continued to work in the communityu and to enjoy the things that Linux was doing for my customers and for me…because I was constantly breaking things on purpose in order to learn how we could make it and our products better.  I remember saying to the head of the Linux Technology Group that as Linus worked for OSDL, I’d love to meet him if he ever came to the CA office, or if I got to make a trip to the lab (which was in Beaverton, Oregon).  I was told I’d have to wait until CA World 2003 when Linus and another prominant figure by the name of Jon “Maddog” Hall  (who ran Linux International) would be joining us for the day.  Yes…I would finally meet the man himself, and I was amazed at how “normal” he was.  Not because I had never met a celebrity before…I had…lots of times.  What struck me what that he didn’t understand why people looked at him the way they did.  Over dinner we talked about everything but Linux, mostly our kids and our wives.  After seeing Siegfried and Roy at the Mirage it was time to part, and I simply thanked him for making computing fun.

There was a time when I was worried about Linux, and no, it wasn’t because SCO tried to claim they owned it.  It was the flamewars that would go on…it was everyone being so passionate about what was the best way to do something that they would tear each other apart.  Whether it was Red Hat vs. SuSE vs. Xandros vs Debian, or whether we should have jobs being posted on the main email list…it was one flamewar after another.  But Linux survived…and Linux grew up.  the Linux Users Groups (LUG’s) started meeting less and less, and before you knew it, it was no longer a novelty to be running Linux, it was a necessity. For the record, I was a Debian user then but use Ubuntu now.

In that same time Open Source has continued to grow up and become more accepted and now powers many of the largest IT enviornments in the world, and a majoroity of the smartphones that are out there (Android is a Linux distribution for mobile devices).  Why has it become more popular that the iPhone?  Because it is OPEN…and the same things that created the flamewars of the 1990’s and 2000’s now drives further innovation on Android.

So, Happy Birthday Linux. Have an adult beverage…you’ve earned it.  And thank you (again) Linus Torvalds for making computing fun.

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