My first devices/computers/consoles (not at the same time) that I remember were Atari 2600 and Pegasus console which was hardware clone of the Nintendo NES.
Back then I did not even knew that it was Atari 2600 as I referred to it as Video Computer System … and I did not even knew any English by then. It took me about two decades to get to know (by accident) that this Video Computer System was Atari 2600. :)
This equipment was used for playing computer games only.
Then I got Amiga 600 computer (or should I say my parents bought it for me) which served both for playing computer games and also other activities for the first time. Amiga is the computer that had the greatest influence on me, as it was the first time I studied the books about Amiga Workbench operating system and learned commands from Amiga Shell terminal. I loved the idea of RAM Disk icon/directory on the desktop that allowed me to transparently put any things in system memory. I still miss that concept on today's desktop systems … and I still remember how dismal I was when I watched Amiga Deathbed Vigil movie.
At the end of 1998 I got my first PC that of course came with Windows
and that computer served both as gaming machine and as well as a
typical tool. One time I dig into the internals with Windows Registry
(which left me disgusted by its concepts and implementation) and
its limited command line interface provided by
I remember that the heart of this box was not the CPU or the
motherboard but the graphics accelerator—the legendary 3Dfx
Voodoo card. This 3Dfx company—their attitude and
philosophy—also left solid fingerprint on my way. Like Amiga
Some games was even released as special edition with the only feature being support for the 3Dfx Glide driver like Need for Speed II: Special Edition.
After “migration” from Amiga to PC it never again “felt right”. The games were cool, but the Windows system was horrible. Time has passed and different Windows versions and hardware modifications took place. Windows XP felt really heavy at that time, not to mention Windows 2000, for example, with even bigger hardware requirements. I also don't understand all the hate about Windows ME. It crashed with the same frequency as Windows 98 (or later Windows 98 Second Edition), but maybe my hardware was different. :)
I don't have any of mine screenshots from that period as I lost all
my 40 GB (huge then) drive of data when I moved/resized the partition
with Partition Magic to get some more space from the less filled
C: drive. That day I learned hard that “there are people who do
backups and people who will do backups”. I never lost data again
as I had multiple copies of my data, but the same as Netheril
fall the lost data was gone forever.
I always followed various alternatives which led me to try Linux
in 2003, after reading about various distributions philosophies I
decided to run Slackware Linux with KDE 3. My buddy used Aurox
Linux by then (one of the few Linux distributions from Poland)
and encouraged me to do the same—especially in the context
of fixing possible problems as he already knew it and also as he
recently dumped Windows system. But Slackware sounded like a
better idea so I took that path instead. At first, I dual booted
between Windows XP and Slackware Linux, because I had everything
worked out on the Windows world while I often felt helpless in
the Linux world, so I would reboot into Windows to play some games
or find a solution for Linux problem if that was required. I remember
how strange the concept of dual clipboards (
was for me by then. I was amazed why “so much better” system as
Linux (at least marketed that way) needs a system tray program to
literally manage the clipboard. On Windows it was obvious, you do
CTRL+C to copy and
CTRL+V to paste things, but on Linux there
(no I know its X11 feature) there were two clipboards that were
synchronized by this little system tray program from KDE 3. It
was also unthinkable for me that I will “lost” contents of last/recent
CTRL+C operation if I close the application from which the copy
was made. I settled down a little on Slackware, but not for long.
I really did not liked manual dependency management for packages,
for example. Also KDE 3 was really ugly and despite trying all
possible options I was not able to tweak it into something nice
After half a year on Slackware I checked other Linux distributions again and decided to try Gentoo Linux.
Of course, I went with the most hardcore version with self building
Stage 1 (compiler and toolchain) which was horrible idea at that
time because compilation on slow single core machine took forever
… but after many hours I got Gentoo installed. I now have to
decide which desktop environment to use. I have read a lot of good
news about Fluxbox at that time so this is what I tried. It was
very weird experience (to create everything in GUI from scratch),
but very pleasant one. That recalled me the times of Amiga…
but Linux came in the way too much often. The more I dig into Gentoo
Linux the more I read that lots of Gentoo features are based on
FreeBSD solutions. Gentoo Portage is a clone of FreeBSD Ports.
That “central” /etc/rc.conf system configuration file concept was
taken from FreeBSD as well. So I started to gather information
about FreeBSD. The FreeBSD website (back then) and FreeBSD
Ports site (still) felt little outdated to say the least, but that
did not discouraged me.
Somewhere in 2005 I installed FreeBSD 5.4 on my computer. The
beginning was hard, like the earlier step with Gentoo, but similarly
like Gentoo the FreeBSD project came with a lot of great
documentation. While Gentoo documentation is concentrated within
various Gentoo Wiki sites the FreeBSD project comes with
“official” documentation in the form of Handbook and FAQ. I
remember my first questions at the now nonexistent BSDForums.org
site—for example, one of the first ones—how to scroll
the terminal output in the plain console. I now know that I had
Scroll Lock key, but it was something totally new for me.
Why FreeBSD and not OpenBSD or NetBSD? Probably because Gentoo based most their concepts on the FreeBSD solutions, so that led me to FreeBSD instead of the other BSD operating systems. Currently I still use FreeBSD, but I keep an steady eye on the OpenBSD, HardenedBSD, and DragonFly BSD solutions and improvements.
As the migration path from Linux to FreeBSD is a lot easier—all
configuration files from
/home can be just copied—the
migration was quite fast easy. I again had the Fluxbox configuration
which I used on the Gentoo. Now—on FreeBSD—it started
to fell even more like Amiga times. Everything is/has been well
thought and had its place and reason. The documentation was good
and the FreeBSD Community was second to none.
I even decided to upgrade the hardware to something more exotic. I got Gigabyte-GA-7DPXDW server motherboard with dual CPU sockets—and as Athlon XP (desktop) processors were very easily modified to “be” Athlon MP (server) ones I got also the second one along with 1 GB of ECC RAM.
This dual CPU setup—quite unusual at these times—server me very well. I switched from Nvidia binary blob driver to software, because Nvidia would break my uptime every several days. :)
I accumulated 30 days of uptime on that desktop box, not bad for a system without any emergency UPS. :)
This was also the last time I used ECC RAM on FreeBSD (at least on
my boxes) while ZFS did not even existed on FreeBSD. :) But as time
flied I started to feel the need for something faster. As I also
got interested in Intel graphics card I got the new motherboard
with fastest Intel graphics card available then—as silly as
it sounds—the Asus P5B-V with Intel X3000 GMA… and that
was a terrible idea, because FreeBSD graphics stack supported all
the Intel graphics cards instead of that one. At the beginning I
used software VESA driver, but the problem was not the performance
of the driver (as I also had quad core Intel Q6600 CPU), but the
screen resolution. As I got
1280x1024 screen by then using limited
1024x768 was real PITA. I decided that I will try something else
then FreeBSD with Intel X3000 support finally arrives. I needed
to do something fast as I also needed to write my Masters Thesis
at that time.
That was in the middle of 2007. I wanted to try the other end of
the Linux distributions spectrum. Ubuntu. I could not go more
‘desktop’ way. :) It, of course, installed gently with GNOME 2
pulseaudio already unfortunately existed. As I
preferred to run my computer all the time back then (I hadn't been
paying the electricity bills myself) there were several things that
annoyed my very much. For example, the mentioned
sound freezed after one-two days of using the computer (even if I
did not played any music or videos) and it stayed that way. I could
pulseaudio or reload the ALSA modules, but it stayed in
this SUSFU state (situation unchanged still fucked up) until
reboot. As I needed to finish my Masters Thesis I did not have
time to reinstall into something else as
pulseaudio will be
probably similarly broken on other Linux distributions and FreeBSD
was still lacking the Intel X3000 GMA support. Generally GNOME
2 experience was not bad but I really missed all my custom settings,
keyboard shortcuts, and customized behavior. I remained in pain on
the Ubuntu for two months—to the time I have finished my
Masters Thesis about Operating Systems’
you can download and read, but it's in Polish so use a translator,
if needed. :)
I also had ‘side’ journey to the Mac wonderland as I
got opportunity to use MacBook Pro with Mac OS X Leopard for a year.
That allowed me to get real ‘feel’ of the Mac ecosystem
and their hardware (and philosophy) so I will not repeat same
stereotypes over and over again like a lot of anti-Apple people.
But after I switched back to FreeBSD system at work it just felt
better. I used
Terminal.app on Mac a lot, but the xterm(1) on FreeBSD
just felt more natural.
What makes me laugh now that I created Mac styled Fluxbox themes years till I got to run Mac and I still like Mac OS X look from the Leopard times.
There was time on which I also played with Solaris (and later OpenSolaris). I must admit that there was time when Solaris so called Java Desktop based on GNOME 2 was really looking good. It was so good that only Mac OS X could only rival it for the best looking os by then.
I really liked Solaris concepts and solutions like Zones and ZFS, also Crossbow, Comstar or IPS (FreeBSD did not had PNGng by then). But I always got problem with ‘desktop’ software. While I had everything in the FreeBSD Ports—almost the same amount of applications that is available on Linux—there was always some applications lacking in the Solaris world.
The Solaris ‘journey’ also left print on my soul so my Fluxbox themes went into Solaris style. :)
After the Ubuntu fiasco I got other motherboard as FreeBSD still
did not supported Intel GMA X3000 card and settled in the FreeBSD
land again. What a relief it was after this
In the meantime as I read a lot of good experiences about Openbox
I decided to try it out instead of Fluxbox. It was strange feeling
to mess with XML configuration files at the beginning but as I got
used to it and ordered the
menu.xml configuration files
properly it was not a problem. Since then I used FreeBSD on different
machines including physical servers, virtual machines, and laptops.
I learned that adequately supported hardware is the most important
factor in FreeBSD ecosystem.
I still use Openbox and still use FreeBSD today and my desktop looks like that one below.
After 15 years of using various Windows, UNIX (macOS/AIX/HP-UX/Solaris/OpenSolaris/Illumos/FreeBSD/OpenBSD/NetBSD) and Unix-like (Linux) systems I always come to conclusion that FreeBSD is the system that sucks least. And sucks least with each release and one day I will write why FreeBSD is such great operating system… if I already haven't. :)
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Or contact me via email.
8 Sep 2018
P.S. Check out the source of this story with more links and images.
Mischa Peters and
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