The story about free software and you - tell us

Submitted by lookin4 in LiGNUx

I am very interested about your story under what circumstances you had your first contact with free software, also when all this happened and maybe why are you still stick to it. Did your participation changed, are you now involved with areas inside computer science you weren't (probably not even imagined) in the beginning?

Here's mine:

I was involved with some of my fellow pupils in the project group which maintained the schools network, printers, servers etc. under oversight by the best teacher for computer-science I've ever met (Thanks for everything, Mr. S.!) by the age of about 12. The schools main server was build on top of RedHat, later changed to Debian. On a desktop it was SUSE with KDE which was the first GNU/Linux I experienced and later installed and used it on my private machine at home.

At least since 8th grade back in school I wanted to build a GNU/Linux From Scratch. The summer holidays seemed to be ideal for it, but I always found an excuse not to do it. Later I was forced to learn C++ which has demotivated me for a long time to learn any other script or programming language. So I found myself experimenting with web- and mail-servers, operated and customized the looks of free software like message boards, content-mangement-systems, groupware, wikis, self-hosted SaaS alternatives etc.

As I grew up I did some system administration for companies, but lost the passion to do projects for me and the community around. But since I never build myself a LFS until today, still need to look up correct options for tar and want to improve my knowledge in bash, python and so much more there is still a huge attraction coming with the whole free as in freedom-movement. I feel very happy about the existence of it.


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gone wrote (edited )

My first contact with free software was when I couln't afford some windows program or another for my kid's rather rickety and elderly windows 98 machine. This was back in 2004-2005ish and a friend send me to a site called GnuWinII, which was windows ports of Gnu programs.

There was enough of Stallman's writings and FSF philosophy on the site that I wanted to read about the program instead of just grabbing the free beer and running. We were on dial-up at the time, so it was a bit more complicated than "just download Knoppix", but I'll never be able to completely untangle how much was just plain good clean code and how much was well-written philosophy.

I was also deconverting from religion at the time, so reading beautiful writing about the positive aspects of human nature like the Gnu Manifesto and the GPL were comfort food for my soul and of course there was some trauma bonding involved too.

By the time the cashier at the grocery store had burned a copy of Slax for me, I knew where I was heading in computing. When my relationship ended as well as my religion, I would sometimes sit there dual booting back and forth between Windows and Slackware just to see concrete proof of the difference between what humanity has the power to create for co-operative reasons ("I love to code and I want to share my passion as well as my creations with others.") and coercive reasons ("I hate my job at Microsoft but I owe I owe so off to work I go.") and it kind of gave me the motivation to survive some personal shit that really sucked.

I also remember that lightbulb moment when I realized that my configuration files were just simple text files and that I was capable of understanding them and customizing my computer to fit MY needs, not the most common needs of the largest percentage of average consumers in the target market of the advertising.

I never learned how to code, just to tweak and hack and appreciate the talent of my devs. Some one of these days I'd like to get around to learning at least Python.

When Vista came out, I stopped working on Windows for money, which lost me most of the "street cred" I had as the chick "computer dude", even though I did fancy myself a bit of an activist and tried to recommend at least Ubuntu. I guess you could call me "naive".

After Occupy went sour but before the Snowden revelations, I got rid of Facebook and switched to Trisquel. I learned a lot, but I guess I did let myself wind up in a kind of a "bubble" where I was only safe from the proprietary and open source worlds as long as I stayed ignorant. I deeply regret my well-intentioned but ultimately self-destructive naive trust in that community.

I will continue to use free software and avoid the use of proprietary surveillance capitalism crudware for the rest of my life. Unfortunately, I have done other things with my life so I have never been a part of a community.

The end result of trying to help my family and friends use less proprietary software has been disrespect ("You keep your cotton-picking hands off my computer!" "Your fear of normal technology, although expected in any senior citizen with such limited educational background and obviously low intelligence, has become so extreme as to be a red flag for paranoid schizophrenia so you simply need to go to the Facebook app on the eye pad I gave you and...") so I'm done.

I could set up Linphone with my JMP number https://jmp.chat/ if I wanted to, but it's socially less hassle to just say "my phone is a cheap piece of shit" or "I'm out of minutes" to get them to STFU or send a text.

Okay, so it's not perfect, but my life is a hell of a lot better than it would have been if I was still on Windows.