So, in line with the 1 year linux challenge, this is where I am going to chronicle things i have made work, choices i have made (and why) and other home-lab type stuff I have messed with running Linux and open source applications wherever possible.
First, a starting point / context for where I’m coming from. My linux background goes back quite some way, back to 1996. I was actually a very early Linux on desktop user.
First distro was slackware 3.1 (nicknamed slackware '96 as a nod to “Windows 95” which was new at the time) - on a 486dx33 with a mighty 4 MB of RAM and a 120 MB hard drive. Downloaded from the internet via 28.8k modem onto 1.44mb floppies. The install experience was… annoying to say the least. We’re talking about 20-30 plus disks to get a working desktop. And by working, i mean a basic FVWM desktop with a pager and an x-term to launch stuff. And it was slow. X really, really needed 8 MB of RAM, which i eventually upgraded to with that machine. And there’s nothing quite like the annoyance of formatting your machine only to find disk 5 of the X11 set is corrupted!!!
Still, running two copies of Doom in X simultaneously for LOLz was a big step up from DOS + Windows.
Getting it onto the internet? Ha. Good luck. No mobile internet to google stuff for (indeed, google did not yet exist), so if you broke your home internet, you’d need to borrow somebody elses - or read the man pages long and hard. The motivation for this? To run (and code for) a MUD.
I started working at an ISP shortly after this (1997-1998 ish); i’d started a web development business with a couple of friends in 1996 and that led to getting employed by one of our customers (a regional ISP) based on my Linux knowledge when we dissolved the business due to the other guys wanting to focus on university commitments. The ISP in question had a couple of Solaris boxes (1 x86 and 1 Sparc), and i was employee number 2, to help run the place. The solaris boxes were used mail, authentication and squid proxy-cache.
This led to LAN internet access and the ability to test various distributions and desktop environments without having to download via 28.8k onto floppies
Debian Bo (1.2) was next briefly but Bo was really primitive at the time and I ended up running Redhat 4.1 (and onwards) for a while. Actually bought a boxed copy of Redhat 5.0, which broke so much stuff because it was an early adopter of glibc2. So much stuff just simply would not compile due to the libc changes.
Ended up migrating to Debian 2.1 (i think) and things were so much better than Bo. We had apt! No more wrangling with dpkg directly! We could automatically retrieve dependencies over the network! Wow!
Debian is where i stayed, for a long time. We deployed a bunch of Debian based firewalls to various corporate and educational customers to give their premises shared, secure internet access. Eventually, around 2000 i was running desktop Linux as my host work platform, and spinning up Windows in a virtual machine if required (VMware workstation 1.x was new :D). We migrated most of the ISP to Debian based systems as the business grew, first the squid cache (for improved performance; Solaris didn’t get the nickname slowlaris for nothing!) then splitting mail into POP and relay servers, then individual firewalls, inter-vlan routers etc.
Around 2001 i left the ISP for another company and was back to Windows on the desktop for work. I’d upgraded PC to something actually competent back in 1998 (pentium 2 350) and dual booted for a bit, but when i got home from work gaming was a thing, so Linux didn’t see quite as much desktop use as before.
The next 2 years were basically Linux cli administration of various network related boxes, but basically switched most of my network stuff to FreeBSD, initially to do ipsec over point to point wifi (a building to building link across a road through an industrial estate back in 2002 using 802.11a). Later set up an IPSEC/L2TP vpn server on FreeBSD using mpd.
I also ran FreeBSD as a dual boot desktop for a while between something like 2003-2005… performance seemed a lot more consistent than Linux (less random hitching under load). I really feel FreeBSD is better engineered. But these days desktop 3d software is just sketchy enough to run on Linux, never mind going further into the fringe…
Then in 2005 i started working in a full on enterprise Windows environment and Linux went fully on the back burner - until 2016 or so.