…now with 90% more breakage.

by debianjoe



I clearly remember the day that I lost anything resembling good judgement, and began the long trek towards learning to love control.  I was a new Linux user, happily playing with Ubuntu and Debian Stable.  I started looking at commits to the kernel from organizations, and I ran across one called “Gentoo Linux.”  Now, I’d installed Linux before, and so I burned off a CD and booted it up.  I was met with a cold, heartless prompt.  I assumed that this had to have been a mistake.  I looked up “Install Gentoo” and was met with a few funny images, and a handbook about how to correctly install the OS.  It took me about 2 days in all.  I didn’t set up use-flags correctly, I failed to build a working kernel, and I spent hours looking at cfdisk man pages on my working Debian box to try and figure out what I had done wrong (boot flags are important.)

I eventually ended up with a working system.  I used it for a little while, but that install changed the way that I personally viewed the system itself.  If all of that was going on under the other systems, then how much more was there to learn?  I started poking around in files, looking things up online.  I did the LFS build.  I started pulling tarballs instead of using package managers, and built things from source while changing the source to see how I could change the way the programs worked.  This often ended in broken packages, non-booting systems, etc.  I never did let it discourage me.  I chose early on to read before I asked questions, and by doing so, learned a great deal about how things worked.

Since then, I’ve been on a perpetual quest for bigger and better ways to break things.  Not that breaking is the goal, but it’s almost assured to happen if you try to do things that are aggressive enough to a system.  I have learned and am still learning more and more about how a *nix system works, and I have no intention of stopping.

Experimenting has led me to a far greater understanding of the environment that I work in, while also leading to a kind of “enlightenment” about how all of the systems are essentially the same underneath it all.  I have come to love the “let’s see what this does” mentality, and tend to find far more enjoyment with systems that are experimental.  I can’t speak for everyone, but I’ve learned more through breaking things than any amount of stability could have taught me.  There’s something about having to fix your own mistakes that helps the whole system make more sense, and the lessons are more easily remembered.

All I can suggest is that if you take this route, only ask for help if you are totally certain that you’ve read everything on the subject that is out there.  Having questions is of no value if someone else answers them for you.