Thursday, April 02, 2009

How Open Source Ruined My Life, Part I

My life came off the rails in my mid-20s, right on schedule. I was either evicted from or rejected the academic world, depending on how I'm feeling when I tell the story. I flamed out of the Ph.D. program (Mathematics) in I.U. - not too shabby a program to flame out of, really.

At this point I had an apartment in Bloomington, also known as the town where people with Master's Degrees wash dishes at the Waffle House (which is now, and always has been, and always will be hiring). I worked for a bit for the University, teaching 'JumpStart' classes (basic computer skills) and got to teach classes on Netscape before Netscape went public.

While being a perfectly reasonable job (which, as a side effect, actually taught me some teaching/presenting skills I sorely lacked in grad school and was never taught while there) it was part-time, so I needed a 'real' job. I found one at a Naval Base in Southern Indiana (I'm not making this up). It paid 20K/yr (I'm not making this up either). When I told my father about it, I thought he would disown me, he was so disappointed I would even consider taking such a shitty paying job. For whatever reason, I wanted to stay in Bloomington, and that overruled free market highest bidder considerations.

The less said about the job, the better. However I did have a grand awakening there in that we used Linux. A previous contractor had switched everybody from the horrendous version of Windows in use at the time to Linux, instead of doing what he was supposed to be doing. So we all got to have the UNIX environment I'd gotten used to (spoiled by) while in grad school. I used Emacs (written by the great Richard Stallman) as my editor while coding. We all had Netscape, too, and got to waste time on the Internet before everybody else did.

Linux made the job tolerable. Interesting, even. I was so inspired that during Christmas break that year (I took numerous days off) I installed Slackware Linux (3.0) on my own machine, which was running the slightly less horrific Windows 95.

I really can't overstate either how horrible Windows was back then, or how wonderful Linux was by comparison. Had I been forced to use Windows on the job, I would not have tolerated it at all. I might have been forced to go into another field instead of staying in the IT gutter back when I was younger and had less to lose. So this is one way open source ruined my life. But it's not the only way. More shortly.

1 comment:

joe positive said...

I am waiting with bated breath.