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Ryan Norton
Ryan Norton

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Getting Out of the Open Source Toy Box

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I discovered Linux and open source software in the spring of 2016. I had discovered Ubuntu, and the ease and freedom that comes with an operating system that was free to download and installed alongside my windows OS. Windows was all I had known. Expensive activation keys and a GUI layout had plagued my life into believing that I was doomed to have expenses following my upcoming technical career.

But alas, I saw the light and began rolling through different flavors of Ubuntu, Fedora, Debian and Solaris. I began playing with the terminal and learning some basic bash commands and really began to feel comfortable with the set up. I also really enjoyed the extended freedom of adding or removing programs via the terminal, updating when I so chose, and not worrying too much about viruses or hackers. The set up was elegant, and my computer ran fairly smooth, even if it isn’t even the second-latest model.

Linux ran better than windows on my machine, so at one point in that summer, I chose to say goodbye to Windows for good, and had only Linux software installed on my laptop.

For me, this was a mistake. I began a phase in my life where I spent more time experimenting
with technical fads, tricks, and the latest OS being hyped up on and Twitter, that my programming time had dwindled. And here I was, sitting on the floor with tricks and toys that might be fun, but don’t further my not-yet-existing tech career. I’m essentially wasting my time filling up on junk food, when the meat and vegetables are hot on the table, and it’s dinner time!

I got so caught up in the toy box, that sight to the end goal became blurred. My goal is to become an avid software developer. I have secondary goals of becoming familiar with linux, but the truth of the matter is, most job opportunities in my scope run on Microsoft products. Furthermore, Microsoft has the Command Prompt, and the .NET framework that is widely used today, and these are tools that shouldn’t be neglected from a skill set.

When you start up as a developer, you have to consider the hand that you’re dealt, and the rural south isn’t exactly one known for startups or a wide opportunity for software developers. I’m building my skills in Java, and look forward to embracing essential skills in the future with other languages like Python and C#.

I’m positive Linux will show back up on my machine as a second partition, but leaving the tech giant of Microsoft is a decision that should be decided carefully, especially with junior or beginner developer levels.

What’s the lesson here? In the field that we pursue, there are a lot of toys, projects, and cool tricks we could work on for hours and hours. Stopping to play once in a while is good and fun, but if you want to strengthen your skills to help you chase after that career, you’ve got to maintain focus on the end goal. Furthermore, never stop learning, and let your passion fuel the constant pursuit of self improvement.

Originally posted at my blog on January 27, 2018

Top comments (9)

siaarzh profile image
Serzhan Akhmetov

I was never really a user of Linux. I always used Windows, except for my last job, where we were given MacBooks for work.
Now that I switched from engineering to data science (the latest fad), I found myself programming more and more. The dev community around me are all on either Macs or Linux and I don't understand why. After a week of trying dual boot Ubuntu, I found I am far more productive on Windows 7. In fact, I don't even want Windows 10 because of all the updates it forces you to install. Windows 7 just feels like home.

rjpsyco009 profile image
Ryan Norton

I agree, Windows 7 has proven to be so robust. I'm probably moving to windows 10 though, just by default, with all the security issues nowadays. I've heard they may be halting security support completely for 7 in 2020.

I think it's great to be an open source user and contributor, but knowing your priorities is most important. If you work best on windows, that's great! You can spend less time learning a new OS (which Ubuntu wasn't all that bad for me) OR you can focus on the task at hand, be it front end, back end, etc.
Once I get my career going, things may change in that department for me.

evanoman profile image
Evan Oman

Windows 10 is really becoming the best of both world with it's Windows Sub-System for Linux (WSL). I get most of my favorite Linux features (mostly) seamlessly integrated with Windows

lancecontreras profile image
Lance Contreras

Hi Ryan, I’m a c# developer for more than 10 years. I learned c# in school and started my career with c#. You’re right it pays me well to code c#. But at home I use linux, I code python & javascript and now planning to shift to opensource career. Why? Because I feel like the trend is going opensource. Most web server runs in linux. The trend has shifted from desktop to web/mobile and Microsoft is not the best at those things. I would understand if you can’t leave visual studio. I actually think it’s the best IDE ever. But if you want to invest in your skills, learning linux can give you a lot of opportunities and can even make you more productive as a software developer.

danielw profile image
Daniel Waller (he/him)

Psst hey Ryan! Have you heard about this:
Might be the right thing for you if you want to keep some of that linux magic without sacrificing Visual Studio :)

rjpsyco009 profile image
Ryan Norton

Very cool. Thanks a lot!

themobiledev profile image
Chris McKay

I had much the same experience. While I was in university I used Linux exclusively. I lasted for about three years when I went into business for myself. I realized that the money to be made was in Windows and the Microsoft stack.

The final nail in the coffin for me was Windows 7. It was finally good enough for me to stop using Linux altogether. I still dabble in it from time to time, but then I remember all the time I spent configuring it, tweaking it, etc. and I realize that I'd rather use that time for other things, like working on my software and spending time with my family.

scimon profile image
Simon Proctor

Ah well. I first played with Linux in 1997 I think. Generally my home machine has Windows on because it's for gaming (and there are a few games I like that haven't been ported) but if I want to code I fire up Virtual box and Ubuntu.

I've been working full time in Linux server development for over 15 years with Linux desktop machines though. It is, as you say, different horses for different courses.

I wouldn't even know where to start developing in Windows land personally. Good luck with everything and I hope you do well :)

rjpsyco009 profile image
Ryan Norton

Thanks so much. A long term goal would be to be comfortable in both!