When did you start?

Here’s another poll — and no, I’m not in this one — that is somewhat interesting brought to us by our friends at linuxquestions.org.

It’s a simple question: In what year did you start using Linux?

I’m always curious about when people started. I know many greybeards and gurus who were there at the start. It’s one of those perks that come with living close enough to the Silicon Valley to be able to drive a half-hour and be at the center of the digital action.

I also know folks who just started a month ago — they’re members of the Felton LUG who have happened upon Ubuntu and have just installed it to dual-boot for now, and hopefully later on they’ll drop Windows and keep using a FOSS-based operating system.

And I know folks who fall between these two extremes.

My vote goes to 2006-07. I started in mid-2006 and the chance meeting with Linux was purely political. I had won an uncontested primary for the Green Party’s nomination for Insurance Commissioner of California and, as a Green, I didn’t take corporate contributions. Faced with the prospect of having to buy Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop to make campaign materials, the IT guy for the California Green Party asked me if I had heard of “Free/Open Source Software.” I hadn’t, but I was quickly brought up to speed: I didn’t need Adobe — there was Scribus and GIMP that would do the same thing. “Oh, and the Mac you have? It will run an operating system called Linux — try Debian and see how you like it.”

[Yeah, I had a Mac and for the longest time I was a big Linux-on-PowerPC guy.]

Long story short: I came up about 47 percent of the vote short of winning the election, no surprise there for a third-party candidate in the U.S., garnering 2.3 percent (in California, that’s 270,218 folks who voted for me; the highest total for Greens that year). However, during the course of the campaign — driving around California during the campaign — I kept thinking about what a great concept the Free/Open Source Software paradigm is and how beneficial it could be for society in general.

So after the election, I gave up partisan politics to advocate for Free/Open Source Software instead, which is what I’ve been doing ever since.

When did you start? Go vote, and then tell your story in the comments below. I’d be interested to hear how you got started.

Larry Cafiero is one of the founders of the Lindependence Project and has just started developing software at Redwood Digital Research (RDR), a consultancy that provides FOSS solutions in the small business and home office environment. RDR is based in Felton, California, USA.

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