True Tech Confessions: I Bought a Used Computer and Then I Had to Linux

Linux penguin

Not too long ago I decided to pick up a used computer at a university surplus sale. I realized that the computer was older, that it was going to take some TLC to get it running correctly, and that a $40 computer probably wasn't a good long-term investment. What I didn't realize was that the operating system would be Ubuntu. Thus began my first foray into Linux.


It was confusing, to say the least. I had heard of Linux, of course, but I thought it was simple: Windows, Mac and Linux, monolithic and unified. I had no idea that there were different distributions of Linux, so I didn't understand what this Ubuntu thing was. Unlike Windows, the very core of Linux is modular, meaning that a Linux OS can be stripped-down or beefed-up with relative ease. With this high degree of customizability, it should come as no surprise that there are over 350 different distributions of Linux, including Ubuntu, Debian, OpenSUSE and Fedora, to name just a few.


I began to get the hang of it fairly quickly, though. Once I figured out how to connect to the internet, things really began moving forward. Though I'm not much of a coder, Ubuntu made me feel all kinds of technical while still having the motherly arms of a desktop interface to use when I got frustrated with all the command-line nonsense. Working with the OS ended up being almost as fun as the games I was trying to install on it — almost. After about a week of playing around with it, I switched to Windows.


Hey, don't judge. We all make mistakes.


Besides, my punishment is clear. Linux has always been a favorite among the technically-inclined and back-end administrators, but in recent years market demand for Linux skills has climbed substantially. In fact, the Linux Foundation recently released its Linux Jobs Report for 2015, and the field for Linux experts is looking better than ever. According to the report, 44 percent of hiring managers said that Linux certification will increase the chances of an applicant being hired, and a full 54 percent expect either Linux certifications or formal Linux training from their System Admin candidates.


This demand is not looking like a short wave, either. The massive (and growing!) popularity of cloud computing has led to a demand for flexible, reliable servers, and Linux is the OS of choice for these. Linux may not have the ease of use of a mac or pc, but when security and reliability are crucial Linux easily knocks out her competition. And with 42 percent of IT leadership budgeting for more cloud service spending in 2015, it doesn't look like that number's going to drop anytime soon.


Basically, if you're looking to take the SysAdmin route but haven't yet certified with Linux, now's the time to get moving on that. You may know your way around a Linux OS already, but if you're still not totally comfortable with the internals of Linux, then it might be time for an upgrade. And apart from the time and effort involved, it won't cost you anything; most Linux distributions are free, although there are also enterprise versions available for when you absolutely need the support.


If you've never even tried Linux before, get a spare computer (sometimes universities sell them, I hear) and get a move on. For just getting your feet wet, I would recommend the time-honored Ubuntu or its younger sibling, Mint. For Apple converts, Elementary is supposed to be very similar to the Mac OS, so you might try that. Or, if you've already cut your teeth and are looking for a challenge, try Arch or, for the very courageous/masochistic, Gentoo.


No matter if you're looking for work or just a fun hobby, Linux is the system for you. Be sure to keep an eye out for the follow-up to this article, in which we'll explore some of the Linux certifications that are out there and how to best prepare for and obtain them.


Would you like more insight into the history of hacking? Check out Calvin's other articles about historical hackery:
About the Author
David Telford

David Telford is a short-attention-span renaissance man and university student. His current project is the card game MatchTags, which you can find on Facebook and Kickstarter.