Windows Insider to Linux – Before the Insider Years

I’ve been ‘officially’ dedicated to Linux as a whole for roughly nine months now. I came from the far opposite end of the spectrum as a dedicated Windows Insider. It feels as I prepare more Linux and Linux Gaming articles, a short series covering my computing past up to now is in order. This series is presented in three distinct “eras”:

Windows Insider to Linux

  • Before The Insider Years
  • Committed to Windows
  • The Broken Window

I could date and detail my earlier computer years back to being a kid with an old Apple IIC, and junior high student with Windows 95. However, the best real starting point is when I began professionally getting into computers when I started University, circa 2002. In this era, Windows XP was still fresh and new on the market, with its share of compatibility issues, but a long stride ahead of Windows ME. While I had plenty of exposure in our high school environment, Macintosh wasn’t exactly at a high point, and in my experience, I wasn’t even aware of Linux yet. So Windows XP full steam ahead it was!

If it helps date this era of my experience any further, in that two years of university until 2004, all my homework was being shuffled around on a handful of 3-1/4″ floppy disks. Likewise, if you wanted to really do PC Gaming of any sort, either an older Windows 98 or modern Windows XP install was your only real, reliable choice. As such, at this time I don’t declare I was “dedicated” to Windows, it was just really the only option for both my gaming and school work software needs. It met those needs without too much fuss.

As 2005 drew near, my first exposure to Linux on a personal machine came about. I don’t recall exactly what first led me in the direction, probably a fellow student. The result, I wiped my aging student homework laptop, which was a ‘Hughbee’ branded laptop, an off brand found online when I needed a cheap student system. The first Linux OS installed from a loaned CD? Mandrake Linux! (Renamed the following year to Mandriva Linux after a court case loss).

Mandriva Linux

The install went well enough without any real issues, and I began exploring. I quickly realized that essentially none of my modern games could run on the system, but it was so under powered, it was not a concern. For the most part I played with a few basic Linux native games, put my music and some movies on the system, and used it for browsing, chatting, and writing, either on homework or uh… MySpace…

That laptop carried on as a secondary system for those functions for a good six months, until the hardware finally failed catastrophically. At that point I knew however much it peaked my interest, it’s inability to easily and seamlessly run EverQuest and EVE Online meant my primary Desktop PC was sticking with Windows XP. As such, using Windows XP as the only viable option continued onward without a thought of Linux again until mid-2007 and the arrival of Windows Vista.

As many will attest, the era of Windows Vista was a challenge. With a higher performance system, barring hardware compatibility issues, it ran ok. But hardware was a big challenge, along with a solid eighteen months by estimate of heavy Apple marketing against the PC, for which Microsoft had little retaliation too. The cracks in Microsoft’ dominance were at least viable, even if no one was poised in the gaming sphere to really unseat Windows.

It was in these early years of Windows Vista that I returned in part to Linux. This time it was on my main gaming desktop, but via the comfortable method of dual booting. I kept my Vista install, but also received an Ubuntu 8.04 CD in the mail to install. This time around the Linux OS dug it’s fingers in a little deeper. As I began the efforts to do some form of Linux Gaming, the non-Gaming elements pulled at me. It was faster, and regardless of if by design or obscurity, appeared more secure. It hooked me so much that Ubuntu One was my first ever cloud storage service and music streaming (ish) service of my own music files to my android phone of the time. It’s only drawback was the struggle of gaming. A few games like Total Annihilation and StarCraft with some years under their belt worked excellent with WINE. I distinctly remember having to play with scripts and various config files to get Elder Scrolls: Oblivion to run… only to have the game that ran 50+ FPS on Vista reward me with 4-5 FPS…tops!

Alas, this is the setup I retained for several years, getting some games working on Ubuntu. I used the OS mostly for daily tasks, working games, and then dual booting to Vista for the remaining majority of games. It wasn’t again until early 2010, and the release of the much loved Windows 7, that my shift started to lean back to Microsoft. It wasn’t an immediate or instant shift, but Windows 7 was the start of the next phase in my journey towards a dedicated Windows Insider… that journey to fandom will be in Part Two of this series.

Scott Haner

Thanks for reading TechZerker! I’m Scott, a Canadian tech professional for over a decade with a wide range of experience. I created TechZerker as my own source to talk about a variety of tech subjects, from reviews of hardware I get my hands on, challenges I see in my tech work, gaming with focus on nostalgic gaming (games over 10-ish years old, but not Retro), and more recently my explorations in Linux and Linux gaming as a long time Windows Insider and fan. I am passionate about the tech I work and live with and enjoy a good, intelligent discussion on all these topics.