Journey into Linux, Part Two

Sometimes it’s the things you don’t expect to be doing in life that end up being what you do… in life. Or something like that. When I started down the path to adulthood and the working world, my “plan,” if you can call it a plan, was to spend my life “saving endangered species.” Sound a little vague? Kind of hard to achieve a goal made of such filmy, flimsy stuff, y’know? First I thought working at a zoo was the end zone. Then after a few years working at a zoo, I thought getting a graduate degree in genetics and “managing captive populations for preservation of genetic variation” was what I was after. Then after I finished the coursework for my master’s degree and ended up working in a lab doing race-horse parentage testing, I thought… well, I sometimes thought I’d just go crazy. But I went to work every day, ran tests, entered all the results into the computer in the lab — into a Foxbase program. All I knew about it was the name. I could say words like “dos,” and “asky,” and knew one had something to do with running the programs, and the other was a type of file. And I wasn’t much interested in knowing more.

Oh, how far I’ve come. Considering my initial lack of interest (if not downright resistance), it’s remarkable that I managed to learn anything at all about computer programs — even enough so that now in my current job as a college testing center administrator and sometime tutor, I’m being sought out to help students taking beginning web design classes because I’ve had some HTML training. Life is sometimes too strange for fiction.

For me, the transition from a line of code in a text file to something cool appearing on a web page has an element of the magical about it. And it is FUN to work magic. After I discovered the magic of HTML through some workshops I took as an employee with the State of Kentucky (after I left the race-horse lab), I realized how much enjoyment I could get out of using a computer as a creative outlet, when it wasn’t frustrating me to distraction with balking over every request I made of it. This was especially true when I switched from Mac computers and laptops, to an IBM ThinkPad with Windows XP-Pro installed on it. Everything seemed to make the thing hang up. I suppose I’m lucky in that I never encountered the “blue screen of death” that I’ve heard other people talk about. My computer was just massively slow. It may well be that a laptop is not an ideal place to install some types of software.

Which brings me to Ubuntu. As I said in the previous post, I had not known what to expect from using a Linux operating system on my computer, but I was determined to learn, or re-learn, whatever I needed to so that I could use it instead of Windows. When the Ubuntu distribution of Linux was recommended to me, and I checked out the website, I was surprised and delighted by what I saw. It looked easy! It was just a different looking desktop, but seemed to have all the usability features that we’ve all grown used to from using Windows and Mac OS. I thought, “this’ll be a snap.”


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