And now it’s time for Linux

I’d always said I was not a hardware guy, that I preferred working with applications leaving someone else with the responsibility for the machines that ran them. Then one day I found myself salvaging an old video card to install onto a new PC. Granted, it was a Dell PC so its modular nature made things a lot easier.

I still don’t consider myself a hardware guy but am no longer completely abhorrent to the idea. I now find myself in a similar place with regards to server management and, more generally, Linux.

I was hesitant to play around with server management when VPS’ started getting popular. I even successfully completed a series of YouTube videos but it only convinced me that it wasn’t something I was ready to take on. I was the kid in university who hated the command-line so much that when I had to use a *NIX system to code my assignment I would immediately launch the GUI so I could have a point-and-click interface (I think the command was xwin. It’s been a long time 😅)

Things started to change when the 2nd COVID-19 wave hit Brunei in August 2021. As it was looking like I’d have more time on my hands, I opted to give Linux server management another shot.

And what a difference a few months can make. While I’m no where near the level of a certified Systems’ Analyst I am now comfortable setting up a Linux server somewhat securely (as long as I have my trusty notes with me!) Spinning up a new instance triggers a child-like glee deep inside me; a fresh new install! Who needs to buy a new computer anyway? 😂

Because I use Linux servers I also came away with a little more knowledge about the Operating System that I always knew existed. I now know what RHEL means, that Debian is the base of many other Linux variants and that (for servers anyway) I should install the version with Long-Term-Support. And while I don’t love the command-line I am comfortable with it and can even see its benefits (e.g. once you know the command you want to run command-lines can be so much faster than using a GUI).

There is now also a lot of troubleshooting information out there for Linux. I spent many hours searching out solutions to problems that, thankfully, others had already solved. While that has made things easier, Linux is still far from easy. I suppose the same can be said for any Operating System; their whole point is to hide complexity from the user behind something pretty to look at. Some variants of Linux, namely those aimed at consumers, aim to do the same but also provide a big gaping hole that you can jump down and tinker to your heart’s content. I suppose my hesitation towards tinkering is because I usually only had access to a production-level server. Now with VPS’ I can always spin up a test server and reinstall at the press of a button if anything really does go wrong.

My newfound sense-of-ease with Linux has come none too soon because seeing the general direction of the world has not filled me with much hope or confidence. Specifically in the world of tech I feel things are making it much easier to prey on the end consumer with tactics that often involve extracting something of value from my wallet or my personal life (sometimes both at the same time). Every year Apple releases another over-priced, hard-to-repair phone. Microsoft seems intent on turning their OS into a giant advertising banner. Google, whether they realise it or not, is corporatizing the internet because creators have found ways to game their system (think search results and YouTube clickbait titles). While not perfect, Linux does offer a certain kind of reprieve from all this commercial shenanigans.

I’m still on Windows because it hasn’t completely pissed me off (yet). Linux may be great for development work but I still can’t imagine using it as my daily driver. Admittedly that gap is closing more with each passing year.

Maybe this is just me having my “get-off-my-lawn” moment. Either way, Linux could very well become my version of having a beat-up old car in my garage, the one that I spend a few hours every weekend fixing up just because I can.