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My Hard Disk's Resurrection

By René Tavera

I'm not a hacker, or a computer genius, I'm just a common mortal who has a computer at home, work with computers at the office and usually do the same things mortals do on their home and work computers; well, almost the same things, I really don't like much playing computer games.

As many others, I began using computers with commercial software (all right, let's admit it, I've been using the wintel type platform for years) and I thought there was nothing better. I can't say anything about a Mac, maybe some day I'll try one, but, few months ago, reading some messages on a bbs I found someone saying "....and here I am, happy with Linux...".

-Linux?, What's that?- I thought, -maybe another game...- and I wasn't really interested on that, so I forgotten at all... almost. One fine day I asked him about that "Linux" thing, and the answer was a short explanation about the OS and some of the advantages on using it.

My first impression was thinking that UNIX was for a super computer (I own an AMD K6/166, 32Mb RAM), for strange scientific applications or big companies, I thought I didn't need it, and after all, most people say that it's really hard to learn how to use it. I'm not a programmer, a scientist or so, no, I don't need that. But my curiosity was increasing and I was asking more people about Linux and I was surprised on the amount of people using it (I found a Linux users Group in my home city). The answers and stories were amazing and exciting, maybe I could give it a try.

I bought a book that included a Slackware distribution CD. After reading the installation section, making a backup of my important information, learning (on the same book) how to use the fdisk program (I never thought I had to re-partition my hard disk, so I didn't care on learning how to do that) and a lot of pray and courage, installed the new OS in a second partition. All went really well and I've been learning about Linux and system administration since that day. I have installed and re-installed different distributions several times (Slackware, RedHat and S.u.S.E), having success on some items, but having to read more documentation and information sources on other ones to make things work. Sometimes I had frustrations (couldn't use my CD-ROM drive, graphic user interface, sound, printer, modem, floppy. etc.), I had to read a lot and make questions to the Users Group. At the end, the results really worth the effort.

Frankly, I didn't abandon the wintel side, I was working with the well known commercial office suite on making documents, commercial graphic programs, sound applications, using my printer, etc..., the Linux side was only for navigating on the net, but, two months ago, my computer refused to start windows, I even couldn't start DOS. I started it from a floppy, looked for the C:\ drive and found it. What happened?, I ran the scandisk program getting a message about a sector damage and that the disk couldn't be repaired by the program, Oh no!, my hard disk was dead...

-I still can take the guaranty and the vendor can repair or replace the hard disk...-, well, the damage was caused by a powercut during a storm, and they don't support that on the guaranty, so the solution could be a low-level formatting, but doing that could let the disk completely useless, so I took the computer back home, thinking that I would have to wait to have the money to buy a new disk.

-Hey, wait a minute!, I didn't try Linux, It may works- and it really did perfectly so I had to decide, and I did it, save my information to floppy disks and use the hole disk space (2.1Gb) for Linux.

Maybe some superior mind was trying to take me to the light. I've been learning more on using The OS and its applications. Now, I can print in full color with my Epson stylus 400 (ghostscript, ghostview, apsfilter), play sounds, midi files and CD-music with my pnp Yamaha soundcard (oss/linux sound driver), work with my .doc, .xls, .wks, .dbf, ... documents (StarOffice 4.0), manipulate, use and print a lot of graphic files (the Gimp), and of course, get connected to the world, sending and receiving email, faxes, files, etc. (Netscape, efax, ncftp), even I play some games.

I can change the look and feel of the X Window environment every time I want, keep my secret and important information away and safe from intruders (kids), render some strange 3D scene while I compile a new program to work on my system and update my shares portfolio on the spreadsheet, taking the data directly from the internet, and receiving another new application from an ftp site.

Next is learn on TV-cards, I have one and want to see my WallStreet News (MTV, Bay Watch and the Nanny too) on my home computer again, but using Linux. Also I want to learn how to set-up a LAN using TCP/IP, for a little home network (experimental purposes), and maybe for a later small business.

I don't worry about the prices (all the applications I use came with the distributions or I got them from the net) and the legal stuff, almost everything I have installed is free software (mostly GNU Public License).

Now I can solve a lot of problems in the office, and have nice talks with the systems guys, I can understand all what they say (as I said, I'm not a programmer or a hacker, I buy and sale shares, screaming and pushing people all day, but we use computers to get the orders and register the trades). As the post on the bbs said, ...and here I am, happy, with Linux...

I'm still saving for another hard disk (and a UPS to prevent surprise powercuts)..., I admit it, I'm going to install (maybe) a win95 portion on that disk (it's easier to use for my wife, by now), but I can take my time, because my good old HDD was dead, and now, It's again alive.

Copyright © 1998, René Tavera
Published in Issue 35 of Linux Gazette, December 1998