This is Where I Leave You…

Every story has a beginning. This one is no different. My story begins in my early childhood, when I got my first Nintendo Emulation System (NES)…

…However, to be completely frank, it was not the original NES console advertised in the States with a happy family playing Super Mario Bros. (hilarious commercial, by the way, completely unrealistic), but rather a cheap knock-off produced in China, and shipped across Middle and Eastern Europe. It was modeled after the famous Bat mobile and called appropriately (The Batman!). Nowadays one would call it a ‘skin’. I think only the casing was different. The interior probably contained the same NES components as the original from Nintendo. Funny thing though, you cannot find The Batman on Google. It’s just THAT old!

When I got the NES console I was super excited to play the various games that my very first cartridge offered. 128-in-1, can you imagine? Quickly it turned out that there were only 20 or so unique games and the rest were just alternate versions (different colors, starting levels, etc.). Nevertheless, it was fun shooting ducks or discs and trying to beat Super Mario Bros. the 100th time (embarrassing, but I never succeeded…). I spent whole days playing and in time accumulated several cool gaming titles, like Darkwing Duck, Duck Tales 1 & 2, Ghost Busters 2 or Tom and Jerry. Then things changed a bit and my adventures with actual computers finally began…

My pops has a degree in Electronics & Engineering, and over the years has honed the necessary know-how to assemble fully functional CPUs. The very first computer I used was built from scratch by my father. Nowadays, thinking about it makes me incredibly proud of him… but also quite jealous! He had the opportunity to grow together with the very first PCs like Amiga, Atari or Commodore. I, on the other hand, only heard stories about those ‘miraculous machines’. My first computer was a Pentium, probably 32 MB RAM, with a Matrox 3D graphics card. Not too shabby for those times! I could play Electro Body, The Incredible Machine, Commander Keen, Cosmo’s Cosmic Adventures and other great DOS games. Apogee used to make fantastic platformers for DOS. Good old Win 3.11 also sported some nice pieces of software. As my computer was a standard desktop PC, together with my father we expanded it a bit, for instance by adding more RAM or switching to a better graphics card (my Matrox 3D was unintentionally overclocked at some point and burnt down). With those additions on board we installed Win 98′ and enjoyed one of the greatest OS’s ever created.

My next computer was already a Pentium IV, 2 GB RAM and GeForce 2 MX. Since all of the computers we had at home were self-built, we needed a new OS. Win XP with its different flavors (Home, Professional, etc.) was on the market, so we bought a 3-installation pack. I have to admit that if Win 98′ was stable and quite reliable, Win XP was The Real Deal. Frankly, I still have it on my desktop at home. Works like a charm. The only real problem with it is the lack of new security updates. Maybe some new pieces of software wouldn’t run as well (for instance, in 64bit format), but that’s about it. The majority of Steam games still support Win XP, even recent releases! It’s been 13 years already and despite Microsoft’s zealous attempts to eradicate their finest product (an arrow to the knee, as far as I am concerned…), Win XP is still quite popular.

Then it went dramatically downhill. Vista was an utter disaster. It was so annoyingly bad that my countrymen forged a very pejorative term for Vista from the words ‘Vista’ and ‘system crash’. Giving it some justice, it did bring DirectX 10 support for better graphics to the table, but User Account Control (UAC) made the average end-user’s life unnecessarily hard. Next up was Win 7. From the get-go I liked the system for its slick visuals and ease of use. The problem was that Microsoft decided to spend too much of their precious time on re-arranging menus, for instance in the Control Panel, rather than fixing existing issues or adding key features. When I first opened the Control Panel, I couldn’t adjust even the simplest settings. They were grouped into categories. First time I felt so powerless with a computer. Microsoft Office 2007-2010 suffered from a similar problem – new interface. According to one business study, introduction of the ribbon menu to MS Office 2007 significantly lowered employees’ productivity. Even if that’s not entirely true, the feature was pointless. There is a golden rule in programming: Don’t try to fix something that works very well and everyone is happy with it.

I had Win7 pre-installed on my currently used Samsung laptop and because of that I received a one-time ‘gift’ of free bloatware. Once I learned the ‘ins’ and ‘outs’ of my OS (required 2 clean installations and few DVDs to get things running properly), it finally came to me – I was not happy with it at all. Win 7 was not for me. It was packed with countless features I would never use, and I could not disable without potentially breaking the system. Each consecutive update added more bloat, seizing more and more of my only RAM cube. I managed to stop it at 1.5-2 GB, though I couldn’t go lower. Surprisingly, a fresh install of Win 7 64 bit used only around 500-700 MB RAM. Not so much according to current standards. However, I was still a bit unhappy. I needed something to change. Win 8 was out of the question with its god-awful desktop environment. Win 10 was on the horizon, but initial sneak-peeks showed a bizarre combination of Win 7’s functionality with an improved Win 8 desktop environment. Unfortunately, neither was my cup of tea…

The reflection was painful yet refreshing – I had to take a different route, a brave step into the unknown.

Into Linux…

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