I was a Windows user once. Well, I still am to a certain degree: in my work, I sometimes have to use the XP platform that, with iron claws, resists the burial services that Microsoft has sung in its memory more than twice.
I began my Windows experience with Windows 3.11, jumped to 95 (I still keep the upgrade CD that rendered my computer useless), bought my copy of 98, and even learned to coexist with the rather recurrent BSODs of Windows ME. During those days, my brother received a bonus CD that included promotional software. I remember seeing the word "Linux" there for the first time but, although I felt tempted to try it, I never did. This way, Linux became a distant toll of an unknown bell in my head. To be honest, Windows "Mistake Edition" had grown so dear to me that I stubbornly refused to abandon it to try XP. Yet, my determination failed with the purchase of a new computer and XP became my system of choice. Back then, Microsoft would still let me "choose" my OS...or so I thought.
As a plain user, I spent more than eleven years of my life mastering life-saving secrets to protect my Windows system. The peak of my learning took place during the XP dynasty; my brother, who has always been two steps ahead of me, gave me fine weaponry that included a zombie monitor, an antivirus solution, a firewall, a malware monitor, multiple vaccines for USB drives, programs for regaining browser control and many other third-party software solutions that supposedly transformed my Windows system into the desktop equivalent of an M1 Abrams. Yet, regardless of all protection, my computer was still vulnerable. Mysterious viruses would easily filter through cracks invisible to the untrained eye and nest in the untouchable brain tissue of the OS. Therefore, shamanic rituals were required to keep my desktop usable...some more aggressive forms of therapy, like formatting, had to be repeated once every three months to keep malware from growing and spreading.
Then, Vista came along with its bothersome "Are you sure you want to to this?" and virtually the same problems XP had. I began suspecting that there should be more to life than that never-ending sense of vulnerability.
Thanks to a netbook, I had contact with the Penguin again. This netbook was powered by Linux Xandros, an OS that I decided I loathed despite being invulnerable to well-known threats, so I replaced it with the familiar XP. It was a deadly mistake: because of the modest metrics of the netbook, XP would take five minutes to boot, menus would freeze, and XP ate disk space avidly...not to mention that I had not even installed the office suite! With Xandros, the computer was fast as a bullet (30 sec to boot), had enough disk space to work, and even received voice command! Thus, I decided that, if I was to use Linux, I had to find a Linux that I liked.
I knew nothing about Linux then, so my impractical (yet fun) plan was to download distributions at random and to test them one by one. Thus, I got Kubuntu first. I liked the way it looked, but there was a terrible flaw: it did not activate the wi-fi.
Hence, I downloaded Mandriva 2009. If it failed, my next choice was Linux Mint Gloria...but Mandriva picked up the wi-fi without my intervention. For me, that settled the matter and I installed Mandriva to the netbook. With it, the machine worked almost perfectly, except for a nuisance: one had to turn off the computer manually. "If I could live with viruses all this time, I can certainly overlook that problem", I said to myself. Nevertheless, I did not have to deal with that issue for long. In November 2009, Mandriva 2010 ("Adelie") was released and this new version took care of the shut down problem.
I cannot say that my journey with Linux was a rosy road. I have discovered that Mandriva has several flaws (the way of handling uninstallation of dependencies is, by far, its Achilles' heel). However, my determination not to go back to the world of viruses has pushed me into learning about Linux. Today, I'm using Mandriva 2010.1 ("Farman") and I'm the happiest camper.
Although my brother was reluctant to try Linux at first, he discovered SimplyMepis and fell for it. And, despite his somewhat tardy start, he is still two steps ahead of me.
Some weeks ago, he asked me if I remembered that almost-forgotten bonus CD with Linux. He said that he ran it to see which Linux distribution it contained.
"So, which distro was it?", I asked.
"Mandrake", he replied.
When the disciple is ready, the master will come.