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Voice of the Masses: What was your first Linux distro?

It’s time to take a trip down memory lane, and reminisce about the first distro that introduced you to Linux. Maybe it was back in the early ’90s, and you remember installing Slackware 2.1 from 73 floppy disks. Or perhaps you’re a relatively new convert to the OS, and your first distro was one of the Ubuntu flavours.

Let us know how you got started, and we’ll read out the best comments in our upcoming podcast recording! And as a follow-up question: do you still recommend that distro to people today, or have you left it behind for something else?

107 thoughts on “Voice of the Masses: What was your first Linux distro?

  1. Yorkshire Tyke

    Back in 2008 after a Windows XP update stopped my dial-up internet connection from working, I picked up a special pack produced by a famous Linux magazine and installed Ubuntu 8.04 (Hardy Heron). Since then I have stayed with Linux. Switching to Linux Mint when “Unity” was forced upon me! However I recently installed Ubuntu 14.04 on both my sister’s laptops. So I’m now just awaiting the tech. support queries to come in!


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  2. Mark Johnson

    Knoppix was the first distro I ever used with any success.
    I ran it from the CD, from the CD with a persistant disk image, and installed on a hard drive.

    It’s a great way to get up and running with linux, as it auto-detects most hardware and comes with a *lot* of applications out of the box. These days you can run most distros from a live CD to try them out, but back then Knoppix was the only real contender.

    I’d still recommend it to people who are making their first explorations into the Linux world and aren’t married to a particular disto, but if you’ve already got one in mind, the Live CD for that would probably serve you better.


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  3. For me it was openSUSE 10.3 and their modified Gnome desktop. I had been playing around with Linux and found, on a re-installation of Windows Xp, Windows wouldn’t authenticate! (Something about me making modifications to my box.) Microsoft wanted to charge me £64 for a new license so, sod it, I went 100% Linux and have never regretted it. Thank you Microsoft!

    Now using Linux Mint 17 MATE.


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    1. Hmmm. SuSE (before they split into open and “other”) was the first Linux distro I actually got to install on my computer. However, I never got X working (something to do with video drivers, I believe ;-) ). The first distro I actually installed and used was Knoppix (with a bunch of extra software installed from the Debian repositories). I have stayed with Debian or derivatives ever since (currently Kali with Debian stable repositories added).


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  4. Andrew Bowden

    I remember my first attempted install more. SuSe, probably versuon 4.3 I think, back in 1996 – presumably off a CD. Naturally I hadn’t made a back-up of my Windows data files, and thanks to being confused by how the partion manager worked, well you can guess what happened to my Windows partition… Funnily enough, Linux was swiftly abandoned.

    It must have been six months at least before I was brave enough to try it again – again with a version of SuSe. And that time with plenty of backups.


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  5. I started in 2000 with Red Hat 7, I was still using Windows 98se at the time and was absolutely floored at how good Linux looked. (And all the free stuff that was included) Still, none of my apps (read: games) worked, so I kept using Windows. When live CDs bundled with magazines became a thing I tried those, with a dual boot every so often. I remember using SuSe for a while, having to learn how to use a terminal, compile modules, etc just to get wifi going. Learned a lot, but it didn’t exactly breathe “the future”.

    You started hearing the name Ubuntu around that time, so in 2005 I ordered one of their free(!) Ubuntu 5.10 CDs.

    Plugged it in, EVERYTHING worked. Out of the box, no extra configuration needed. Switching to Gnome from KDE was also quite a shock. At first the lack of configuration options surprised me, but then again, I never understood half of those anyway, and everything worked, so why bother?
    I removed my Windows partition in 2006.

    Ubuntu is the first distro that made me feel Linux was ready. Still using it today.


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  6. I switched to Ubunut 8.04 (Hardy Heron) after my Windows Vista died and I really felt like I couldn’t go back to it.

    I switched to Linux Mint when Unity came out. I tried Unity but it just didn’t work for me. I’ve tried since but I really can’t see myself going back.

    I’m a very happy Mint user. I only recommend Mint these days.


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  7. For me it was RedHat 6.3, before the Enterprise editions when it was just RedHat Linux. Closely followed by SUSE 7, before SLES and OpenSUSE when it was just SUSE.


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  8. Yet Another Mike

    Corel Linux, in ~2001.

    I seem to recall I had an AT based machine at the time that had no PS/2 mouse port, so my first introduction to Linux (at the age of 12 or so) was running through XF86Config to configure my serial mouse, with the help of the other Corel Linux user on a mailing list.

    Despite both of those things, I still use Linux today.


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  9. The first distro I had any success with (ie get it installed, dispaly working and modem connected to the internet) was Caldera. It came free with a Linux Desktop Starter Kit book.


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  10. In the late ’90s my family got it’s first PC with Windows 95 pre-installed. The first thing I set my self as a task was to improve the interface. Since the options for this in Windows was strongly limited I took the next step by exchanging Explorer for LiteStep. After trying to make Windows do what I wanted for six months, I gave up and looked further.
    The Windows shell LiteStep was inspired by OpenStep/Window Maker, and that is how I learned about the existence of Unix, Linux and other operating systems. So I yelled to my mom in the kitchen “Mom! May I repartition the computer?” Her answer was plainly “NO!” She had no idea what it meant, just that it was dangerous enough so that she should deny me it in this early stage of my career.
    What I then found was Slackware, or rather ZipSlack. It was an UMS-DOS-distribution made specifically for Zip-drives (sort of a large floppy disk made by Iomega), and therefore installable on a FAT32 partition. This was about as large a thing that I could download on my 56k dial-up modem.
    After having installed it I found that it had no GUI. So I took the Red Hat CD (probably 5.1 or 5.2, both released in 1998) that I got with the latest computer magazine, found the X package and converted it from RPM to TGZ and installed it.
    My system still had no window manager though. So I started a download of the source files for Window Manager that went on for more than a day. And then I entered dependency hell, where I had to download a lot of other packages in different stages. But in the end I got a workable system.
    Not bad for someone who had not really used a computer for more than six months. It is still one of my most impressive achievements. :-)
    At University I learned to love KDE, so today I run Netrunner OS on my main machine. And if I were to recommend a distribution to someone today, I would probably tell them about the closest thing we have today to what I did. Wubi. To do a Wubi-install of Kubuntu is as easy as it gets, no repartitioning, it just works, and it is easy to get rid of if they don’t like it. Much faster than a live CD or USB, and yet more permanent. Not having to mess with partitions is the most important gift you can give a new user.
    But when they have made up their mind, I usually tell them to use Netrunner OS or Linux Mint, depending on what level of computer proficiency they possess.


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    1. Installing Slackware on a fat32 Iomega Zip, converting an X rpm to tgz, downloading and compiling your own window manager and its dependencies… all with only six months of computer experience?

      You win.


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  11. First one I tried was Red Hat 5 ? It was the one that came with Linux Answers.
    Since then I have tried a lot of distros but now I dual boot Windows 8 and Linux Mint 16. I put mint 16 on my wife’s netbook as windows 7 stater was pure much badness


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  12. Stephen Wheeler

    When it was brand new, I bought by mail-order a boxed version of Red Hat 5.2.
    From what I can remember the box contained three CDs and a manual.
    The first CD was the installation CD, the second contained the source code and applications, and the third was an archive of CPAN – because everyone used Perl in the nineties.
    I followed the manual instructions for a dual boot install with Windows 95 but I messed up the partition process and installed Linux on the whole disk, wiping out Windows 95. No bad thing in hindsight but a real pain at the time.


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  13. FreeBSD. I know it’s not a linux distro as is, but it was my first approach to *nix world. After freebsd, the answer is very obvious, gentoo. I can’t remember when, but not less than ten years ago. I started to use gentoo because its portage system was very close to freebsd’s package management, that was what I knew.


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  14. Do you remember Windows 95 and 98? They crashed often. Destroying all unsaved documents and hours of work if you were unlucky. So I tried Linux around 1998 and was fascinated by Mandrake. It had a user-friendly installer with a graphical user interface and all that nice stuff – and it worked out of the box. No crashes, no bluescreens, easy Internet access. Wonderful. But no usable office suite! There was no OpenOffice or LibreOffice back in those days. So I had to switch back to Windows. *sadface*

    2008 was my next serious trial to switch to Linux. The distribution which worked again out of the box was Mandriva (the successor of Mandrake). And I discovered that now most of the software I already used on Windows was there on Linux, too. And that updating and backup were much easier on Linux than on Windows.

    I didn’t switch back. Today I use Mageia, the community driven fork of Mandriva. I tested out Ubuntu, Suse and Fedora but I seriously recommend Mageia with it’s user friendly system control center and their very stable KDE implementation.


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    1. My problem with Mageia was the slow pace of updating their software such as LibreOffice, Gimp, and the like. Also, could never get Dropbox to work with KDE. Switched to Open SUSE.


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  15. Mutant Albino Penguin

    I can remember looking at Slackware in the 90s, & being fascinated by it but too scared to install it on my one & only computer. So my Linux use didn’t start until Ubuntu Gutsy: I kept with Ubuntu until Lucid, & have only recently moved back to it from Fedora, mostly because Unity seems to have settled into being a more useable interface than Gnome 3.


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  16. First distro I installed was Red Hat in late 90′s. It cammed with a (Windows) magazine along with the title “The hardest OS to install”, so I had to try it !!!
    I was successful on the installation, but never was able to connect to the Internet, so went back to Windows.
    Tried a few others in the following years, but it was UBUNTU 8.04 that made me switch definitely.
    I burned a CD, installed it and EVERYTHING just worked !!! Still using Ubuntu (currently with Unity).
    When Unity come out it was buggy and did not like it. At that time I was using other *buntu flavors. Tried Unity again in 13.10 and it was ok. Now using unity even on my slow single core atom netbook.


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  17. Redhat 7.1 bought as a boxed set from Borders in about 2001. It even came with a t-shirt (that you had to send away for).

    My computational chemistry module at Uni had given me some exposure to IRIX and TRU64, I found I liked it and wanted it on my desktop computer too.

    Would I recommend it now? Well, not that exact version, but I still run Rocks (cluster version of CentOS, which is RHEL without the branding) on a 512 core cluster.


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  18. First one I saw was a version of RedHat 6 on a friends computer at university. Once I found out about it I went about installing way to many to remember. I remember having a grub install on each partition that had a distro installed each with an option to go back to a main grub listing in case I selected the wrong one. I also remember spending days (and several trees) building a complete LFS (Linux From Scratch) that had to be bootstrapped from an existing distro install.

    After that boat load of fun I ran Gentoo for around 5 years which was really when I actually used Linux instead of just messing.

    Wouldn’t recommend either of those as a way to start using Linux now. Nor would I recommend my current distro, Manjaro (Arch spin). With so many good newbie friendly flavours around now it would be foolish to suggest anything but one of those to anyone that isn’t techy, and even if they are, they are all Linux underneath and can still be a great introduction into what Linux has to offer.


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  19. Fedora Core 4. I’d still recommend Fedora but with some caviats. Mainly be prepared to reinstall every 6-12 months due to update cycle.


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  20. I’d test-run a Knoppix live CD sometime in the mid-noughties and Linux thereafter remained in my neurons. Then in 2008 I resuscitated an almost dead PC with Ubuntu 8.04 to play mp3s in the garage after my radio had died. I was hooked. Hardy Heron and subsequent releases went onto a test laptop and each ran well. I also began to buy the occasional copy of your old magazine…

    It seems strange looking back at it now, but the tip-over point for me was when Microsoft stopped supporting Outlook Express and tried to ‘encourage’ everyone to move to the abysmal Vista. I figured that if I had to learn a new OS, it would be Linux-based. Ubuntu was the most user friendly and looked slicker with every release.

    I was a full-time Ubuntu user from 10.04 until May this year when I switched to Mint with Cinnamon. Unity just doesn’t do it for me, so full marks to Clem and his team for giving me the usability I like!


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  21. It was around 2001 when I first found a Red Hat on a flee market and played around with it, I could not make anything off it, since I was just used to DOS and Windows.
    In 2003 I started picking up Knoppix which I booted on school PC’s and was my initial introduction in actually using Linux dayly.
    If you install knoppix, you get a base debian-like instalation and that hooked me in!
    I still was dual booting with Windows 2000 with a shitload of patches (which was quite stable I must say) due to me being a gamer (wine was really crappy back then).
    I almost was running a full debian install since i was getting packages from the woody repository and eventually moved over to fullblown debian.
    Eventually I found Ubuntu 5.10 which was a lot easier to install then Debian and I found myself switching forth and back from Ubuntu and Debian depending on the need (server was Debian, desktop was Ubuntu, laptop depended on the hardware support).
    Eventually its Debian Sid for about everything (I like being on rolling release, and sid is stable enough mostly), and Ubuntu for some occasion (runnign 14.04 Gnome edition on a c720 chromebook due to the mesa support).

    During years of experimentation I also had systems with OpenSuse (for work), Fedora (nice system, hassle with non-free drivers, yum is slow), Kanotix (nice live distro) and some others, but always fallen back to the Deb/Buntu combo.

    Today I would recommend people using Ubuntu Gnome Edition if they are a regular user (My parents and grandmother are running it for years without any problem), and Debian Sid for powerusers.


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  22. The first distro that I actually successfully managed to get installed was Debian 2 (possibly 2.something, not sure). It was a lot of hard work and I didn’t really have any idea that I was doing. When the thing actually booted up it was an amazing feeling.

    I don’t use Debian as my desktop OS any more, I’ve settled down on Arch, but I still use it on servers and I’d certainly recommend it as a desktop OS (on the testing branch), it’s consistently got better and better over time. And it’s a hell of a lot easier to install these days.


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  23. Kameraad Pjotr

    My first distro was a free shipit Ubuntu 6.06 (“the year when there was no .04″) installed next to Windows XP. After some partition-induced data loss (my fault), it was Ubuntu and only Ubuntu till about 2009 when I installed Fedora and Slackware. Stayed on Fedora and never switched again.
    My laptops have gone through various iterations of Ubuntu, Fedora, OpenSUSE, Bodhi and some others before settling on Ubuntu 14.04.


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  24. Have fond memories of installing Slackware 2.something in the mid-nineties – disk set A for the basics, Y for the games, and X for a GUI, IIRC.

    Had to get a friend at uni to download the images via ftpmail. No idea how I had the patience – it took weeks to get it all done.

    c.d.


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  25. It was Slackware for me in 1994. It’s shocking to realize that was 20 years ago now. I tried both FreeBSD and Slackware at the time. For some reason, FreeBSD would only work if I disabled my 386′s processor cache which made it a lot slower than Linux. So, Linux it was.

    Back then, there were only a few Linux distributions to choose from, and Slackware was a pretty easy choice.

    These days, we have an embarrassment of riches. The sheer number of choices can make it hard for a new member of the Linux community to make a decision.

    A new user today would probably do well to choose Linux Mint which will give them, with Mate or Cinnamon, a familiar desktop experience.


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  26. My first successful installation was with Caldera Open Linux in 2001, 2002 or something.

    It was hell.

    I had to learn how to do everything by hand. I had to learn all about the different file systems which could be used, how to partion with fdisk / cfdisk, how to manually format partitions correctly and activate swap space.

    I had to find out the spec of every piece of hardware I needed a driver for so that I could manually specify the drivers; and if that wasn’t bad enough I had to manually specify the vertical / horizontal sync / refresh rates for my monitor. Too low – no image, start again. Too high – fried monitor. It really was rather scary.

    You can imagine how happy I was to find out about Red Hat’s Anaconda installer!

    I wouldn’t recomend this to my worst enemy.


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  27. Mário Pinto

    In college (1999) I installed and configured Mandrake on a PII.
    But my big changed ocurred in 2006 to ubuntu 6.06.
    Nowadays, it’s CrunchBang time!


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  28. First foray was actually Minix on my AtariST approx 1996. Came in a big box with about 16 single sided floppy around about 1998. Then I had Storm Linux which I used for about a year, with Damn Small Linux to experiment with on my old 100MHz 486 computer. I also had MinT (as a second OS on my 16MHz Atari Falcon 030), which transformed TOS into a UNIXoid OS, completely different to Linux Mint of today. After that mainly moved between windows and a number of distros until moving over completely to Ubuntu in 2008.


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    1. My first exposure to the Unix command line was also MinT on an Atari, back in about 1992.

      My first Linux was MCC Interim Linux (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MCC_Interim_Linux) which I installed on my flatmate’s PC in 1994, with me accessing it via a serial cable to my Atari, giving me a command line terminal. We also tried Slackware, but never managed to get X working on either distro.

      My first proper Linux box was one I built in 1997 and put Red Hat onto – complete with a working X installation ;)


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  29. My very first attempts to use Linux was with Fedora Core; back in the beginning of the 2000′s. But the real, full-time, usage was with Ubuntu 6. Because it was more user-friendly. Never used Fedora after that.

    Despite the sometimes negative comments about Ubuntu, I would still recommend it. Especially for people who are used to Windows. And also because personally I still consider it today’s best looking Linux. It’s polished and – finally – something else than the Windows 95 concept of a start button + menu’s.


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  30. Pete Collins

    openSUSE 10.3 for me in late 2007. I didn’t like KDE then (and I still don’t) so I probably should have tried the Gnome version! Unfortunately I didn’t know then what I know now and I switched to Ubuntu 8.04 when that came out, and I’m still with Ubuntu now on my main desktop machine though I mainly use Xfce rather than Unity.

    Oh, I had one of the original ASUS eee netbooks in January 2008 too, what was running on that? Some variant of Xandros I think?


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  31. Sometime in the 90s (94, 95, 96? God knows) I bought the The Linux Bible: The GNU Testament (ISBN 978-1883601201) and installed Yggdrasil…. I remember trying to run X and I manged to get to a black window with an X in the middle..that was it…did not managed to run any apps within X :D


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  32. The first distro I ever tried was Mandriva – a friend of mine attempted to install it on my computer, but couldn’t get it to work, so back to Windows.

    Then I played with Fedora Core 3, but due to numerous driver issues went back to Windows.

    Fedora Core 4 was the first distro that lasted more than a few days on my machine – about 4 months in total – but then I got some software for school that would only run on Windows and went back to it.

    I later played around with various releases of Ubuntu, but the version that made me finally switch for good was Ubuntu 8.04 LTS.

    From there on I kept jumping back and forth between Ubuntu and Mint until I got bored of both and so I have been running Fedora for the last year or so.


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  33. Not an old-timer. First was Ubuntu Jaunty, quickly followed by Linux Mint 7 (?) (with the water droplets) and the original Crunchbang (based on Ubuntu). All really solid. I’ve been with Linux and a distro-hopper ever since. And though I’ve mostly settled on Arch and Manjaro, I always keep one install of an Ubuntu deriv. as an emergency system. Not that I’ve yet needed it for that purpose.


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  34. By June of 2002 I had a P-4 home built with a removable drive bay and had been trying to master Debian but could not get all my hardware working. Then Mandrake came out and solved all my problems. I put my Win-98 drive on the shelf and never looked back. I estimate I have family and friends that have racked up around 70 run years of Linux use.


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    1. That is cool. My kids have grown up using Linux. Funny thing is I have more computers in the house than when I ran Windows and I spend practically no time doing computer maintenance.


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  35. Gentoo in 2005, it was too time demanding so since then I’m in the quest for simplicity. First it was Slackware, then Debian, and then Arch… I learnt lots of stuff with Slackware so I feel it was my first distro…

    But with systemd being unavoidable on linux now, i think BSDs may be the right answer for me


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  36. Anonymous Penguin

    My first distro was a box set of Red Hat Linux 8.0 I bought at Best Buy in 2003 for $49.95, and I read the included paper documentation over and over again (I had no Internet at my house). I couldn’t install it because I couldn’t guarantee my dad that I wouldn’t break his computer, but I learned a lot from those included manuals.

    I dabbled with Linux for years (a Knoppix 3.6 live CD free via mail, Ubuntu 7.10 in college), but I never actually used it as my main work environment until Ubuntu 10.04.

    I now use vanilla Debian, but I still have a soft spot for Red Hat and its gorgeous documentation that opened up a whole new world of computing for me.


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  37. The first time I saw Linux was when someone booted up GIS-Knoppix at work. I then looked into Mandrake Linux but was never confident enough to get on and install it. The first Linux OS I installed on hardware I owned was Freespire 1.0 in 2006. Then I installed OpenSuse 10.3 in 2008 before moving between Fedora, Mint and Ubuntu over the intervening years.


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  38. I first had Debian put on my computer at the first South WalesLUG meetup in Swansea Uni, can’t remember the year perhaps 1999. My first successful install by myself was Mandrake 7.02 which came as cover disk on a French Magazine “Linux Loader” Mai-Juin 2000. I have tried just about every distro that has ever been on a cover disk since that time but seem to use Ubuntu mostly now but using XFCE desktop, nice and simple just like me ;-)


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    1. My claim to fame on the first install is that Alan Cox carried my Monitor from the car to the meeting room, I can’t remember who carried the tower though I carried the peripherals ;-)


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  39. Kevin O'Brien

    Mandrake.In the days before Ubuntu, this was the distro for people who were not programmers and just wanted something that worked.


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    1. Yea… Mandrake was pretty cool. I didn’t use it for long, but I didn’t have any issues with it when I ran it.


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  40. I suppose my first distro should have been the copy of Red Hat 6.0 that came with Linux Answers, however I chickened out of using FIPS to create a new partition.
    By chance, on a visit to PCWorld I found a copy of Macmillan publishing’s Mandrake 6.5 which came with a cut down version of Partition Magic and some extra tools and tutorials. So Mandrake 6.5 was my first distro, and I still have the thing in a cupboard somewhere.


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  41. Slackware.

    The first think I tried to install–I forget what it was–didn’t. I stumbled over Slackware and decided to give it a go, having absolutely no knowledge of it of or its reputation. It was easy to install–so easy that I installed it three times that first day! (I plead reading comprehension problems, as the install is amply annotated.)

    Mind you, I was not stranger to formatting hard drives and installing operating systems, having installed various flavors of DOS, Windows NT, and Win2000 over the years.

    My goal was to self-host my website, which I did for five years with Slackware and no-ip.com. Since then, I’ve used a number of distros, but there’s always at least one Slackware computer in my collection. Wherever I wander, I always come back to the elegant simplicity of Slackware.


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  42. After failing with a Slackware install sometime around 1999/2000 my first successful install was a boxed version of SUSE Linux 7.something in 2001. I quickly moved on to Mandrake and flirted with a host of random distro after that Yoper, Fedora Core, and briefly run LFS as my main OS! Eventually and for the last 7-8 years I have run Debian on all my PC’s from laptops, desktop and servers, I have toyed with Arch on several occasions but Debian still provides the best mix of large repos, power and simplicity that I can’t see myself every switching again.


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  43. Sometime in the summer of 1999, I tried Mandrake 6 for about 2 or 3 hours as my first install, but found that I really didn’t care for it. I asked around on LinuxQuestions and someone suggested that, if I wanted to learn more about how Linux works, I should try Slackware. I used Slackware from version 4 through sometime around Slackware 10. Even though I have moved on to Arch now, I still donate to the Slackware project.


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  44. Johan Bergman

    The first one I briefly tried was called HAL I think. Don’t remember when though. It would fit on a single floppy disk. I later dabbled a bit with a distro called ClarkConnect. It could be configured either as a storage server or a firewall. It’s now called ClearOS. After that it was Ubuntu that caught my eye. I never liked Gnome so eventually Kubuntu was what I installed, but at moment it’s a non functioning install. Going to try Lubuntu next since non of my machines can handle Kubuntu.


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  45. Sultan of Swing

    I first tried Linux in the form of Puppy Linux 3.12 (I think) which came as a cover disc on Linux Magazine. I wasn’t mega impressed as the graphics looked awful. I then successfully installed Fedora Core 6, but although the wallpaper was great, I didn’t like the Gnome 2x desktop. I craved something similar to XP, and was royally rewarded when Mandriva 2008 Spring appeared with a KDE 3x desktop. I’ve used KDE ever since, but have long abandoned Mandriva in favour of various Ubuntu flavours.


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  46. My first distro was Red Hat 4.2 from Linux Unleashed, 2nd Edition, Sams Publishing. Honestly it was kind of meh, but I was motivated enough to dual boot through a progression of Red Hat 5.x boxed sets.

    The motivation was it was like Unix. My 8th grade science class went to IBM to play with the mainframes back in the day and we typed commands and got answers printed back to us.

    I wasn’t anti windows in particular its more that I had this idea that real computers run Unix and Linux was close as I could get.

    I still have that book and have found that I actually understand it now. At the time it was way over my head. It took a few readings of the install chapter before I gave it a go and a few installs before I got it right. It was probably luck to be honest.

    I run Kubuntu now and would recommend an Ubuntu or a Mint today, I prefer .debs, apt and the rest, also the communities.


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  47. orangedolphin

    I’m embarassed to admit that I don’t know – around the year 2000 my school finally threw away a classroom worth of PCs running Windows 3.1 (!) and got (probably as a donation) number of terminals that were connected to one mainframe (is that what you call it??). In retrospect, the terminals looked awfully similar to the bondi blue iMacs and the desktop environment was almost definitely KDE. Shame our teachers couldn’t work it, it took us an hour to get the browser to display text in legible size.
    Then, around 2003 or 04 I got involved with a group of people who used Linux on daily bases. I was fascinated and persuaded one of them to help me install Mandrake on my WinMe laptop. It took a whole night to install over several attempts and in the end we couldn’t get the sound working so I went back to Windows.
    Then I didn’t own a computer for several years and when I finally bought one in 2008, I deleted Vista and installed Ubuntu Hardy straight away. This was my true beginning as a Linux user, after the first two false starts. and even though I got distracted by the glamorous and jumped ship to OS X for a while, Linux won me back again.


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  48. Does Minix count? That was about 1990-ish. My first actual Linux distro was SLS (Soft Landing System), in about 1994. If I remember correctly, it was kernel 0.97, and came on about 26 3.5″ 1.44 Mb floppies (although, I could be a bit vague on the exact numbers, since I’m obviously so decrepit). Bad sectors on the 25th floppy were the bane of my existence. When they started releasing CD sets we were all happy campers. :-)


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  49. Morten Juhl-Johansen Zölde-Fejér

    Red Hat 8. It was tricky, but interesting. Went over to Mandrake Linux, well, like everyone else. When we reached Mandrake 10, everything was smooth enough for me to ditch the dual-boot and hit Linux full-time. Except KDE, which was notoriously crashy at the time, so I got into other DEs and WMs.


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  50. I purchased win xp x64 edition to cope with lots of ram for editing 1gb+ scans from 5×4 negatives when starting my sideline company. I bought all the equipment and found none of the equipment had drivers for x64 edition, the job went downhill from there. So I think the first Linux I tried was knnopix from Linux for dummies book 5th edition or Ubuntu badger or hedgehog then saybayon Linux with all its out of the box compiz flashyness; because that was a pain to get going considering I had just bought Linux for dummies book … I had no idea … I still have no idea.


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  51. Charles in NJ

    My first distro was Quantian, based on Knoppix. If I were staying out today, I would want something like it. But it has not been under active development for years.

    Thanks, Dirk! (Chief Bodger of Quantian)


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  52. Mine was Mepis Linux. It was one of the first distros to have a live CD which was absolutely crucial to me, petrified as I was at the notion of doing something so drastic to my PC as install a whole new OS!

    Also Mepis made a huge effort to support hardware out of the box; another thing not many distros were doing at the time. Coupled with a really helpful user community, Mepis was the most welcoming distro I saw after weeks of research.

    I’ll always have fond memories of Mepis.


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  53. My first distro was Mandrake 9 or 9.1 from an early issue of Linux Format (2005). I was impressed enough to keep on buying the magazine and trying more distros. So thanks to the former ‘Formaters and current ‘Voicers for your Linux enthusiasm.


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  54. Mandrake back in (maybe) 1999… but I had it on a removable hard drive (messy system, but I was sharing the computer with my drive, and she needed windows… still does sadly).
    Later I tried Knoppix live cd (A bootable linux CD… really?).
    The real change started with Ubuntu 6.10 on a machine I was trying to get MythTV up on… it progressed through various releases, and it’s younger sibling still runs myth on Ubuntu.
    I moved my work machine to a virtual Ubuntu 10.04, and finally to 12.04 as my sole (no longer virtual)system.
    Still running Ubuntu (14.04 now)… don’t touch windows if I can help it!


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  55. Stephen Michael Kellat

    Since Solaris 7 and MacOS X don’t count (both BSDs), my first was Mandriva in 2008. I then bounced between Ubuntu, openSUSE (GNOME 2 at the time), Damn Small Linux, Puppy, back to openSUSE to try non-KDE options there, and then eventually settled on Xubuntu. And then came the BeagleBoard-xM let alone the Raspberry Pi which bring Xfce on Debian Testing and Raspbian to the mix.

    Mandriva technically doesn’t exist anymore as it had two forks succeed it so it would be hard to recommend it precisely. I would recommend Xubuntu today. Then again, I’m part of Xubuntu Team so beyond helping write documentation and participate in governance…I could be biased.


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  56. Ubuntu 8.10 The Intrepid Ibex.
    My Hard Drive died on a Windows XP box, and they wanted £50 for recovery discs which there was no way I was going to pay. At this point I had never heard of Linux, but within a week was up and running with Ubuntu. Never looked back since – so much choice, so much fun, so much more productive and so much more free!


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  57. My first intro to Linux was Mandrake back in 1999, and I tried Suse at the time as well. Can’t remember the versions for the life of me though.


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  58. Around the late 90s it had to be Red Hat, before it became RHEL. I also loaded up BeOS which trumped Linux at the time by having a GUI straight off. All of of this was pure curiosity though. Including fond memories of resurrecting a dead PC with Gentoo for the learning experience.

    Nowadays using Ubuntu, CentOS and my personal favourite Ubunutu Gnome at Gnome 3.11 with Zukitwo theme.


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  59. Wayne Jamieson

    My first was Xandros 2.1 in the early / mid nineties. As it was my first attempt at installing Linux I decided to pay for a good, solid, polished distro and, I have to say, it was an excellent introduction to Linux – easy to install, reliable and easy to use.

    Nowadays I use the most underrated distro there is – PCLinuxOS.


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  60. SuSE 7.0 from one of the first issues of this
    other linux magazine. Installed on an IBM Thinkpad p21 (over the other OS 8),(900MHz CPU) ran on the framebuffer, but graphics acceleration on laptops wasn’t really there in 2000. Retired that machine with SuSE 9.3.
    This got me hooked, helped me with the long
    goodbye to Amiga computers.


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  61. The first distro I tried as in “it worked on my SiS chipset” was Linux Kurumin – a brazilian distro based on Knoppix. Before using something that worked, I had tried Red Hat, Mandrake, Connectiva. They all would freeze eventually, or not work properly (X crashing as soon as it would start).

    After enjoying playing around with it, a friend suggested me to install Debian instead of Kurumin, since I would be using the real deal. And so I did it! I think it was Debian 3.0 the version I did.


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  62. ChloeWolfieGirl

    So I’m pretty new to Linux
    It all started when I needed to buy a new laptop, I had a Mac before and I enjoyed the Mac OS and quality of the hardware, but I needed a cheaper laptop, I got an Aser with Windows 8 pre-installed, I used it for a few weeks, but one day in college we had to install an old version of Ubuntu on a desktop, this intreaged me, so I went home and after looking at Ubuntu and being angry with windows, I installed Ubuntu, I didn’t do much research before, so I just pushed myself into it, and learned pretty quick, watching RMS, Linus, Jono Bacon, then going to Jupiter broadcasting, and I loved it!

    So I started on Ubuntu 12.10, or perhaps 12.04 but probably 12.10, and I still love Ubuntu!


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    1. Kenny MacLeod

      Cool! Jupiterbroadcasting (and, of course, Linux Voice:-) illustrates just how interesting and on-the-cutting-edge Linux & Open Source is.


      Reply
  63. My first distribution was Mandrake KDE in the 2000.
    But the distribution of the switch, that did determined me to leave Windows forever was Mepis KDE in the 2005.


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  64. OpenSUSE 10.1

    I dual booted my old sony vaio with xp on it. Played about a bit with it but never really got it to do much.

    I have tried other SUSE versions since, but I stuck with (K)Ubuntu varients ever since. I’ve been using Mint since Unity became default on Ubuntu. I very much recommend Mint for new users. My wife even made the switch and now swears at her laptop far less than she did with Windows 7.


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  65. MY first efforts were with a package called “Linux Power Tools” – an awesome Red Hat 5.0 package distro which came with 6 disks, that included among other things both Alpha and Intel RedHat 5.0 distros, heaps of documentation (remember man pages!) much of sunsite.unc.edu (2 CDs) and XFree86.org archive

    From then on I have been struggling with this unix-like multiuser operating system ever since. You’d imagine I would have become a super-user by now, but i am sad to say I still struggle at times, but it has been worthwhile nevertheless.

    I’ve distro hopped from Debian 3.0 to Fedora 20 must say the most productive and useful distros I have used have been:
    Tom’s Root Boot, Knoppix 3, Slax (that Performance pack with Slax Live has saved my bacon several times so a HUGE THANK YOU to the guys who put together DVD124 – those guys are simply AWESOME! Imagine a linux toolkit sitting completely in RAM! thats just incredible. Conitnuing – Red Hat 5.2 thru 6 to 7 then to 9 – still have it running on a machine somewhere round the house (not currently on, of course, but I bet it could have had an uptime of about a decade if I had!)
    Ubuntu 6 was a standout, though I just didnt like the colour scheme, although I have tried desktop switching alot! Enlightenment 13, 16. Wmaker, Fluxbox, IceWm, fvwm and FVwm2, even twm was tested briefly.
    I could go on and on, and I should, but currently I’m running Mint 16 in VMs now, and this while VM thing just completely blows me away, even though technically it’s been around for ages.
    I have another disk running a thing called Dream Station, it’s pretty intense, though.
    The Mageia disk from LV is what Iam currently toing with – I’m in desktop heaven, even though it kind of feels a touch nostalgic, it’s cool to know that some of those projects have been carrying on, soldiering on in the background.
    My passion is for fractal generation – mandelbulbs and flames, pretty graphics and mountainous landscapes, and even though I am not so artistically talented, I love that these projects all are opensource or free, and I am just so grateful to the developers, testers, writers and journalists who bring is these things, it is truly astonishing to me that people can be so giving, seemingly without wanting anything in return. I wish I could support all of those projects, but at least I can say I am really thankful.

    perhaps thatcomes across as gushing, I don’t care. That’s how I feel.


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  66. Scott Ramsay

    RedHat (not sure what version)
    I was about 7-9 years old when my dad showed me that the family computer was dual booted and if you pressed a certain button when the guy with the red hat popped up during the boot process, you could boot into Linux and play xbill and xpilot. After that I used Ubuntu a little bit but until about a year ago I have used mainly Windows. Then about a year ago I installed Linux Mint on a USB drive that I found to be incredibly useful as I could use it at school and at home with out buying a laptop. A few years later now I still use Linux Mint on a USB as my main OS.
    So you could say that RedHat was my first distro and Mint was the first distro that I installed myself and used for general computing.


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  67. PS – just booted the IBM running RH 9 and it still works, Gnome 2.x with quakeII linux version – who says there’s no gaming on linux?!

    Also am working my way through those fractal tree python tutorials since recieving LV #2 and #5 – thanks Ben, I’d forgotten how enjoyable turtle graphics can be! Python is actually pretty awesome!


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  68. I started back in 1998 with Mandrake 5.3. I had it running on a 486 dx2/100 with 16 meg of ram. It ran surprisingly well. We had to type startx to get a graphical user interface. And getting sound… soundconfig was the command. Its so much easier now.


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  69. lagar_monster

    Mandrake – 2002
    Started with 2 Ultrix courses in shell scripting in 1992 – WOW, being a Novell tech (at that time) I thought Unix bash was so cool.
    Tried the Slackware thing once but due to dead floppies gave it away.
    Then after starting a company I needed a mail server asap. Pulled out an old junked PC install Mandrake and had a fully functional email server (qmail) with web mail functionality by lunch time. I was sold on Linux hook line and sinker.
    Its now the primary OS through the house.


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  70. I remember trying out Linux m68k or some early version back in, must have been, ’93? ’94? I got scared of the black-white dotted screen of X and never used it again. First version on PC was the then-free RedHat, but got scared again. Took me a long time to try Linux again, but with Ubuntu I switched for both work and private use. Specifically Lubuntu now, since it’s lean and small.


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  71. It was Slackware 2.x back around ’94 or ’95 from an Walnut Creek CD set. I don’t remember which version it was, but the binaries were in a.out format. I remember the switch to binary format was on my 3rd set of Walnut Creek CDs.

    Now I did have exposure to Linux before then. I downloaded a boot/root disk set from a local BBS. It contained a 0.98 kernel. So wen I found Slackware I was kinda surprised by the number of floppies required. :)


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  72. It was 2004 for me. I was a Windows Admin moving over into the land of .nix (specifically AIX) and needed to get up to speed quick on RHEL and Linux in general as the environment I was being moved over to support had lots of it. The first distro I ever installed was Knoppix and Fedora Core (yes Core)4. Knoppix was very easy to use while Fedora wasn’t. I for some reason kept using Fedora until Fedora 9 then dropped it for one of my favorite Linux releases of all time Ubuntu 9.04. I used 9.04 on my desktop and 9.10 on my Linux based XBMC media center. I swear by those two systems that Linux on the desktop and at home had arrived. Rarely were there crashes for me and I could do pretty much anything. When Unity came I (like many others) dropped Ubuntu and went to Linux Mint and have never looked back. I am really impressed now with Mint 17 it will be a long term release with many years of support. It’s nice to know I can install it and forget it knowing it will be around and be supported for quite a bit of time without worry.


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  73. My first distro was Ubuntu 7.x (I really don’t remember… Was it 04 or 10?). Now I’m using Debian (testing), hm… since 2011?


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  74. Kenny MacLeod

    If someone does a graph of all this I feel there may be a peak at 2008 & Hardy Heron So here’s adding to that!

    Year 2008, P3 933Mhz PC & struggling with Win2000. Bought a Linux mag that came with an Ubuntu 8.04 Hardy Heron install disk, partitioned my drive (second attempt was successful) & dual-booted Windows/Ubuntu. A couple of months later I was triple-booting Windows/Ubuntu/Mandriva (Mandriva, at the time, was even easier to set up than Ubuntu – it even recognised my usb broadband modem straight out of the gate!)

    Two years later I dumped Windwoes completely, have variously flirted with openSUSE, Fedora, Kubuntu but in the main, for regular use, it’s been Ubuntu & latterly with Gnome3 Shell, though I’m fine with Unity too. I’ve tried Mint but, unlike others here, have never got on with it. Gnome 3 is definitely my goto desktop now and I may have a shot at the Gnome edition of Manjaro soon – I’ve given it a quick test & it looks good.

    I should also give a resounding recommendation for AVLinux if you’re into creating music or AV.


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  75. First was Mandrake under Linux4Win, then I bought a copy of SuSE 7.2 from Staples, back when distorts came with real paper manuals.

    I’m exclusively Debian and derivatives man now though (where the distro choice is mine, as I have to maintain some CentOS and Gentoo machines).


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  76. Coming from a UNIX background, I started with Redhat 5, in the late 90′s, followed closely by SuSE 6 (I still have a SuSE 7, unopened), I then went to Mandrake/Mandriva, followed by Fedora. Getting sick and tired of things breaking, I started playing with Ubuntu and this where I am today. Happy that upgrades are relatively painless, and I don’t have to tinker with it, that much. I leave the tinkering to the machines I manage at work.


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  77. My first distro was either Redhat v2 or v2.1 in 1995, it was a painful process to get it to install on a 486 at the time. How things have moved on!


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  78. RedHat 5.1, way back in 1998 when I started an undergraduate internship at a major telecoms provider. The Windows-specific ‘softmodems’ that were commonly available for PCs at the time made just getting online a major hurdle. Switched to SuSE in 2000, and loved the actual physical reference manuals in the boxed editions. Been on Gentoo since 2003, and never looked back.


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  79. Started with Suse6.4 then versions 7.2.(boxed sets). Upgraded to versions 8.0, 8.1 9.x it came to a screeching halt around 10 (10.1?) as KDE4 was broke. as an experiment I tried Ubuntu, cant remember what animal it was, and was chuffed that everything just worked. stuck with it since


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  80. Martin Hennessy

    In 2012 I inherited an old Lenovo laptop from my wife. It was cripplingly slow boring windows. I had considered getting a Chromebook so thought I’d experiment with a browser based OS. The first one I found was Joliecloud which installed without a problem. Then a work colleague said to try Linux and thought that Ubuntu would be a good place to start. The brilliant online documentation meant burning an image and installing was pretty painless. I’ve not switched distro since though the same work colleague now says I should try Mint. Since starting out with Linux I’ve learnt to work with the command line, become interested in programming (yes obviously I have a Pi or two now!), switched from Android to Cyanogenmod and helped crowd find a certain magazine.

    The Linux community and free software philosophy are awesome!


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  81. My first experience with Linux was an attempt to download and install RedHat on a 486 box with about a 14K modem and 100MB of disk room. That wasn’t successful. SUCCESS came with the same machine after purchase of a Walnut Creek “Linux Toolkit” box. This had Slackware ’96 on its first CD so that got tried first. This broke the Windows and let in the daylight, but was hard to update. Later I got more CDs from LSL – RedHat 5.0 and a Debian 1.3.1 set (2 CDs by 1998) and dselect made up my mind.


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  82. Secret Hamster

    Like many of the other early adopters here, my first was back in 1997, Redhat 5.0. It was hard to get hold of such “large” media at the time however I was aided by the fact work had a huge 34Mbps (E3) internet pipe.

    Surrounded by Unix I looked to find an alternative, for Windows at a price I could afford, then someone suggested this Linux thing. I did required some help having only limited experience with Solaris. It started on my works “unclassified” laptop, and then progressed to a home dual boot, before eventually ditching Windows around the turn of the century.


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  83. Samuel Longiaru

    Corel Linux in 1999? 2000?. I’m not sure I ever did get it fully installed… or maybe it was fully installed but just not working. I guess I would have made more of an effort if I could have gotten Kylix, the Linux version of Borland’s Delphi Pascal compiler going. It did came with WordPerfect, however. So I guess my first real Linux was Fedora Core. Haven’t been back to Windows since. Now using Mint 17. Awesome.


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  84. Experimented with Red Hat back in the late 90′s, but seriously started using Linux fulltime in 05 with Ubuntu. As of about 09 I switched to Fedora and I am still using it.

    I have played with a number of Live images from various flavours of Linux, but having gained an RHCE in Red Hat Enterprise Linux, I have remained using Fedora – It does everything I need and I haven’t had any issues that others seem to have. I even like Gnome 3!


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  85. I can’t believe I missed this until I was listening to this episode!
    My first distro was an old boxed version of Red Hat, probably around 2003, which I tried to install, and got it installed, but without X running. After that was Fedora core 4, which I never really had any luck with either. Also played with Knoppix and Geexbox liveCDs around this time.
    Meanwhile, At work I had the opportunity to use Fedora and Solaris for a while, so that got me used to core commands etc.

    The first distro I persisted with, to huge success was Xebian – a version of Debian designed to run on a chipped version of the original Xbox (with massive 160Gb and 100Gb hard disks) – I used this as a media/file/web server for about 2-3 years, honing my skills on the command line, as I ran it headless.

    Since then, Ubuntu as a server from 8.04 upgraded all the way to 14.04.1, and Ubuntu as a desktop OS since 10.04, though I switched to Lubuntu and then Xubuntu once Unity came into force, and haven’t gone back.


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  86. Barbara Harris-Pruitt

    The first version of Linux I used was Red Hat back when it came out in 1994. I was working at a local ISP doing customer support and programming. I was already familiar with Unix from using SCO Xenix since 1987. From 1998 to 2000, I used Solaris OS and then had the unfortunate experience of having to move back to Windows. In 2010, on my home computer, I gave up Windows and moved to OS X 10.6 on my first MacBook Pro. In 2012, I wiped out Windows XP off one of my personal Dell laptops that I had not used in a couple of years and put Ubuntu 12.04 on it. Since then I have only been using OS X on my MacBook Pro and am now up to Ubuntu 14.04 on a Dell XPS-13 DE and XPS-17 x702. I can do everything I need to do in either OS and have never missed Windows since 2010!!


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  87. I think it was Red Hat Linux, back then they were still selling the retail boxed package. I’m talking all the way back to 2002 or so.

    But the first one that I really liked, and really worked for me was Mandrake Linux


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  88. My start was similar to Samual’s above. Corel Linux – Which I bought from a now defunct local computer shop. I don’t remember having much success with it. So I was stuck with windows 2000. Then discovered fedora core and on from there. Currently I have a mix of arch and opensuse tumblweed in the house.


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  89. My first Linux distro I use is Ubuntu 10.04, its my first love in opensource software. Back in the day windows xp is popular but one thing I do not like is that the os is prone to virus as well as I cant upgrade my machine because its ancient. So I asked one of my colleagues and they recommend me to install a Linux Distro and I said “seriously?, are you kidding? Its all about terminal interfaces” but when they show me Ubuntu, I said ok i’ll try it. For almost 2 years im using Ubuntu but when Unity showed up im starting to hating thats why I jump to Mint and using it for 1 year. Right now im using ArchLinux on my personal laptop and fedora for my work.


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  90. Knoppix. I got it from the guy who painted my house! Best deal ever. Moral of story: everyone should have a pro paint their house.


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  91. Slackware, running kernel 1.0.9, it came on a cover cd, and needed to be installed by usng rawrite to make floppy disks, for each part, base, applications, games, network etc.

    Great fun :)


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  92. in the year 2000 i’ve got real problems with Winshit98 on a 486Laptop.. It wouldn’t stay connected to the internet.

    A friend now abouth Linux. So we installed RedHat 6.0

    Ive been a user since. after Redhat 7.0 i switch to Mandrake. Then SUSE and from Ubuntu 8.04 i’ve been running Ubuntu or a spinn Off!


    Reply

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