My Experiments with Open Source - second innings with Linux
I had been wanting to come to Linux after giving up Windows. Around two and a half years back, I had installed Ubuntu and completed a PHP prject while dabbling with it. But, after around four months, I reverted to Windows fully. However, I hadn't uninstalled Ubuntu. In fact, I would upgrade it regularly - but as far as usage was concerned, I used Ubuntu only for browsing or occasionally for OpenOffice. My preference of Windows was my being used to the Windows GUI and finding myself a bit out of place at Ubuntu. I think the Windows Explorer, with its extension and right click, is still more convenient then the Linux Gnome interface and doubt if Linux will overtake Windows in this department.
Despite this inconvenience, I wanted to adopt Linux once again because me and my team work on open source web-applications and use a number of open source tools and applications. The servers where these web-applications get deployed, primarily are running on Linux. Not being well-versed with Linux makes it difficult to deal with trivial server-side issues. We figured that adopting Linux on our local computer and getting used to it for routine work will make dealing with these issues easier.
One more reason was that from the point of view of a system administrator or software developer, the Linux command-line is very powerful and a number of tools like grep, sed etc. make using command-line very attractive. I think, before switching to Linux, a programmer should be fully mentally prepared to adopt the command-line, because the quick response and power of command-line help a lot in de-addiction to Windows GUI - however, one has to be a little patient - some of my colleagues feel similarly..
Besides, there are emotional reasons like curiosity, challenge and philosophical bent towards open source.
To speak from personal experience, even though I was a hobbyist programmer since a long time, my progress in the Microsoft's closed-source ecosystem was slow because in closed-source, you only get to see the finished software produce without having access to its source code. Secondly, most closed-source products are not free and even after you purchase a product, you are not free to use it according to all your needs or changing it.
Unlike closed-source software, in open source projects, the work of great software programmers is before you with its full source code - not only to get inspired but they offer a great opportunity to modify the source code according to your and your clients' needs, learn and earn. Many of them allow free use of the full version which gives you opportunities to try out new experiments with them. I think open source should be compulsory at all places of learning so that the whole generation can use it fully for learning and earning.
My learning speed increased dramatically after knowing open source software and soon my hobby became my profession as well. There are a number of open source software available for Windows as well. Till now, I have been using a number of open source software on Windows like OpenOffice.org, Xampp, fileZilla, Notepad++, VLC Media Player, WinMerge, 7-Zip, TortoiseSVN and so on. Also I have been using web-applicaions like Moodle and Drupal. All of them perform their job exceptionally well and work well with Windows - but I really look forward to switch to Linux - the ultimate step.
I got a chance to make my move today as I had the whole day to myself. I have installed NetBeans PHP IDE on Ubuntu 10.04 for the first time - it is working gloriously with xdebug and during thesting it is debugging properly. Let us see how far my current innings with Linux takes me. I feel confident that this time I will succeed in staying not out and will be telling you the success story of my big change after six months.