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© Rakhesh Sasidharan


Moving on …

Today I discovered that I am no longer a fan of Linux/ *BSDs (henceforth called just “Linux”) the way I used to be before. That’s a significant event for me as I spent a major part of my younger days as a Linux user and I owe my strong fundamentals of Internet concepts (e.g. DNS, SMTP) to Linux and so it is surprisingly yet not disappointing that I am no longer a fan of it.

Admittedly it’s been a while since I played with Linux. I think I played with it last year to try DNSSEC and Unbound. I still have a Debian virtual server in my network that runs Unbound and provides SAMBA file-sharing for my WDTV Live box, but I barely look at it as *touchwood* it runs without a fuss.

I was a Windows user growing up, and I chose computers because I enjoyed working with Windows. Not necessarily the GUI, mind you, I started with MS-DOS 2.x and using text based tools such as Norton Commander (sigh) so I quite enjoy the command line. When I joined college Solaris (eugh!) and RedHat Linux were used in our labs and so I got hooked on to them soon enough. From there on it was a journey experimenting with various Linux distributions as well as quickly moving on to FreeBSD, OpenBSD, and NetBSD. I enjoyed the *BSDs more than Linux – I still do by the way. The *BSDs had more structure and organization to them and I felt more comfortable working with them.

Most of college was spent working late into the night on Linux and the *BSDs (again henceforth just called “Linux”). Virtualization wasn’t around back then so it was all about multi-booting these various OSes on the one desktop I had. And not just multi-booting – which in itself was a challenge as the *BSDs each use a different partitioning system and boot loaders – but also getting them to see each other’s data as they all used slightly different filesystems. Added to that I had no Internet in the dorm (where my desktop was) so it was mostly down to me trying and getting updates and installation ISOs from our lab and getting them to the dorm somehow. I don’t remember how I used to do it back then, USBs weren’t popular either so I can’t imagine what I used to do.

Once I left college, changed a couple of jobs, and got married I started reducing my time with Linux. The zenith was when I had three physical desktops at my house – named Asterix, Obelix, and Dogmatix – running FreeBSD and hosting my domain email, DNS, and website on a paltry ADSL link. That was dismantled after my daughter was born, I think, and then I moved to virtual servers on the Internet (running Debian on KVM) as well as on my home desktop/ laptop (Debian, KVM, SPICE). But by then I was slowly starting to let go of Linux. For one I wasn’t a fan of the newer GUIs such as Unity, KDE4, and GNOME3, and I was also starting to dislike the “various parts put together” nature of other GUIs such as XFCE and LXDE. I know I was a big fan (and still am) of the Unix philosophy of having various programs that do one thing and doing it well, and then interconnecting these programs together, but somehow that didn’t translate well for me with GUIs. When using a GUI I expect a seamless experience and that wasn’t happening with all these GUIs made up for various parts.

Another reason why I slowly started drifting from Linux is job prospects. I had a lot of Linux experience, but that was mostly as a hobby. Nothing I could show as professional experience, which was mostly in Windows. I suppose if I had been in some other country where there were more Linux users and groups and opportunities, or if I were the sorts who went out and found opportunities for myself by volunteering with open source projects and such, I might have made some head on … but all that never happened and slowly I was working less and less on Linux.

Anyhow, flash forward this past month, I tried FreeBSD (and FreeNAS) a few days ago to check out ZFS and also FreeBSD v10. Today I had tried out pfSense as I wanted a firewall for my virtual environment. Today I had also tried CentOS, and two days ago I had tried Debian. And on all these occasions after installing the OS I didn’t feel that eager to work with it. I knew I could spend some time and configure them, but somehow there wasn’t the excitement any more. And very strangely, with each OS I kept thinking of Windows Server and PowerShell! Which is amazing, because a few years ago I would have never imagined preferring Windows over Linux, but to give credit to Microsoft they have done a brilliant turnaround with Windows and have slowly revamped their server offerings and so I am a huge Windows fan nowadays. I think Server 2012 is a great product (as is Server 2012 R2 which brings subtle refinements). I am very excited by PowerShell and how Microsoft is slowly integrating it more and more into the OS itself. I think it’s pretty cool being able to install Server Core and then configure most of it using PowerShell and with the newer versions of PowerShell in these newer OSes more features are configurable via the command-line.

So I think it’s a mixture of me slowly moving away from Linux but at the same time Windows slowly improving to be an OS I like, that I am no longer a Linux fan. And that’s why it is both surprising but also not disappointing. I am surprised this happened as I never expected to like Windows ever, but I am not disappointed because Windows Server 2012 (as well as Windows 8) are excellent OSes in my opinion and I truly enjoy working with them. (Of course Server Core still has lots of scope to improve, but that’s for later versions I guess).

I don’t want to forget this date as some day in the future I’ll look back and wonder “hmm, what day was it when I realized I am no longer a Linux fan?” and then I can read this blog post and reminisce. It’s also a sort of return to the roots for me as I started with DOS/ Windows and am now returning to PowerShell/ Windows.