Roberto Selbach

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A Decade as a Linux Pro

After I recently accepted my old age, I was talking to some friends who, to their own surprise, found they were old too. We were talking about when each of us started working with Linux and a friend noticed he had been working with Linux for 10 years. That’s when I realized it’s been a decade since I was first paid to work with the operating system.

I had been using Linux for a little while. My first contact with it was in mid 1995. I had bought a computer magazine from the UK that had this pink CD-ROM with something called Linux-FT.

One of the cool things about Linux-FT was that it had a licensed copy of the Motif window manager, which was pretty cool at the time. I had been using some RISC boxes in college running CDE, so I felt right at home.

infomagicNot long after that, a friend who was an administrator at a new ISP let me borrow his Walnut Creek CD-set containing Slackware 2.1 or 2.2 (I’m not sure anymore. Old age, remember?) Then I purchased a copy of the wonderful InfoMagic 5-CD set containing Slackware, Red Hat, mirrors of some FTP site and another distro I can’t remember either (Shit! I’m old…)

Then in 1999 I was hired to help this company migrate from Windows to Linux. It was the first time I was ever paid to do anything related to Linux.

I went to work at Conectiva the next year, where I learned I didn’t know anything. What the heck do I do now? That’s also where I learned like never before, made lots of friends, and found the love of my life. (No, not another Linux distribution! I mean my wife! What’s wrong with you?)

In 2004 I left Conectiva and started working with one of the company’s founders on another Linux project. The work itself was interesting, but it was also my first contact with something that I would see a lot more in the future: the downright dishonesty of Linux entrepreneurs in Brazil. Of course, I then thought it was an isolated thing and decided I didn’t want to be a part of that and left the company in 2005.

That’s when I came to Intel to work at the CSO, a “personal” project of Andy Grove. CSO had a simple mission: to foster Linux usage by financing and providing engineering to business with good ideas. How great is that? I was going to work on my passion (Linux) and meet all kinds of people who shared it with me. What could possibly go wrong?

Oh boy.

In the following year I’d see things that would still make me sick years later. From businesspeople to self-appointed free software leaders, all I saw was guile and greed. It was such a disappointment that I requested a change. I stopped working with Brazilian businesses and projects completely, moving to support projects in other countries. Things were much better, which is another disappointment and one of the reasons why I hold us Brazilians in such low regard as a people.

Outside Brazil things were very different and despite some funny things here and there, I am proud of the Linux work I’ve done, especially the megalarge project with the government of Venezuela. I even met Hugo Chavez, which is funny considering my political stand 🙂

Regardless, I was also getting disappointed at other things as well. After years developing projects such as KDE, I was bored to death. I started witnessing things being done on other platforms and suddenly the Linux desktop just felt stale to me. It was dull and lifeless and at the same time I was doing all these cool stuff on Windows.

Add to all that the fact that KDE started getting full of kids adding more and more useless features… and politics… ever heard the one about the moppet who decided that all KDE About boxes should contain a thank-you note to American troops worldwide? And he wasn’t even American? You know what?

Screw Linux.

I dropped it like you wouldn’t believe. And it felt good. Not having to edit configuration files to do something simple made stuff pleasant again. I was introduced to Mac OS X and I loved it. It was Linux on steroids. All the good stuff without the kludge.

No more politics. No more GNU Slash Linux. No more open source vs. free software. No revolutionary-audio-framework-of-the-month. No juvenile cockiness. No rWindoze. No Micro$oft.

Just fun.

After nearly 15 years, I’m truly free.