I live in Ambalangoda, 86 kilometers away from the capital of Sri Lanka and at that time the Internet and computers were not so popular in our area. Even I got my own personal computer in 2003. (I'm still talking about the situation before 2003) The main source of information were just newspapers, magazines, and library books. Because of my usual habit of reading everything I have, I got to know that there is something called Linux, some call it RedHat, and it is different from our Windows, we have to use it from the command line, no mouse,.. and blah blah..
However, after I got my own computer in 2003 (which had Windows installed by default -- obviously), I wanted to try out Linux. But, I couldn't find any installation media. And also, at that time I was living inside a 'Matrix' made by Windows, and I eventually forgot Linux.
In 2005, while I was studying for my A Level examination, one of my friends, who was spending his first year as an undergraduate at SLIIT, opened the door of open source to me. And that was Ubuntu! He was one of my closest friends, and we usually discuss technology related stuff and share our knowledge whenever we meet. He said that they study C programming language in their first semester, and the course is based on Linux.
Furthermore, as he introduced it to me, Ubuntu is a type of Linux, and it looks the same as Windows, you can install aside Windows, you can use the mouse, grapical user interface, you have nice themes, but can't play videos and music, and can't install any software that works with Windows.
So, it made me an Alice in the Wonderland, and I was very keen to learn more. I asked, "Don't we need to type a single command?" (that's what I've heard before). Then he showed me, "Here it is..." the terminal. For me it was amazing,... totally new and there's a whole World in front of me to explore, but, for most of the same aged individuals, it is not.
"Can I borrow your copy for two days?"
"Hey, it's yours!"
He gave me another copy containing two CDs of Ubuntu 5.10, with their logo originally printed on it. One Live CD - One Installation CD. Wow! it was free!!
Canonical, the maintainer of Ubuntu, was shipping large quantities of installation at that time. My friend has ordered 20 copies for re-distribution. But I'm pretty sure that nobody other than both of us were using it till today.
I installed it on my computer and started using it as my secondary OS, but I still didn't have an Internet connection at home. So, learning was very hard. Several times Windows installer ruined the bootloader and I was helpless. But interestingly, my courage and effort was still there! I still wanted to explore this new world!!
I wanted to join Ubuntu community, but no Internet. Download software for Ubuntu, no Internet. But, although I've felt Ubuntu can do nothing other than consuming three valuable gigabytes of my 20 GB hard drive, the remarkable thing was, I still wanted to use and redistribute!! But again,.. no Internet to make the shipit order. :(
Finally, in 2006, I was lucky to have a dial-up Internet connection at home. I've joined the Ubuntu community, asked lot of questions, answered one or two, and I began learning fast. Still I didn't know what Linux is, haven't even heard the word "kernel", but I was happy with what I have. I also distributed some installation media, about 50 copies were given to various people, but, today, only less that ten of those are still using it.
I was doing Win-Lin dual boot for some time. By reading various stuff, I got to know that there are many distributions. I've used Kubuntu, Edubuntu, Mandriva, Puppy, Knoppix and PCLinuxOS 2007. But none of them were able to suit me like Ubuntu did. I know, it's psychology,... the first impression with the meaning of the word "Ubuntu" -- humanity; it simply didn't let me run away.
In 2007, I entered University of Colombo School of Computing as and internal undergraduate, and UCSC is an excellent playground for wannabe Linux geeks. I was studying, studying and studying,... I got to know about the software market, copyrights, law, the FOSS concept, RMS' four freedoms, software licensing, community, what Linux is, it's evolution, the kenel, and all that. So, finally I decided to completely switch to the open source software, rather than sticking into closed Windows.
"Once I get to know about what the Linux is, I will switch"
So, roughly seven months ago, I have been able to do it! (most of my colleagues have not) I removed all Windows stuff from my hard drive, re-partitioned it, and installed two distros. One is Ubuntu, and the other is Fedora. Ubuntu is for day-to-day usage and Fedora is for learning purposes. As I had a sound understanding of what Linux is, and how it worked, it was very easy for me to adopt to the new environment.
I'm still an undergraduate at UCSC, and spending my final year. I have gained lots of things thought my experience, and thought my studies. I use Linux at my school desk, I use it at home, I use it on the way to home, I listen to rock, watch TV, do my assignments and projects, collaborate with my friends, continuously learn, blog and have fun,... one system - for everything. Thanks to Linus and RMS!! :-)
Finally, today I feel I am one of the happy Linux users of this World but I know still we have very few happy Linux users in the World. And I am proud to be part of that beneficent community.
Thanks for reading!