Skip to main content

My journey into Debian

Notice: There were several requests for me to more elaborate on my path to Debian and impact on life so here it is. It's going to be a bit long so anyone who isn't interested in my personal Debian journey should skip it. :)

In 2007. I enrolled into Faculty of Mechanical Engineering (at first at Department of Industrial Management and later transfered to Department of Mechatronics - this was possible because first 3 semesters are same for both departments). By the end of same year I was finishing my tasks (consisting primarily of calculations, some small graphical designs and write-ups) when famous virus, called by users "RECYCLER", sent my Windows XP machine into oblivion. Not only it took control over machine and just spawned so many processes that system would crash itself, it actually deleted all from hard- disk before it killed the system entirely. I raged - my month old work, full of precise calculations and a lot of design details, was just gone. I started cursing which was always continued with weeping: "Why isn't there an OS that can whithstand all of viruses, even if it looks like old DOS!". At that time, my roommate was my cousin who had used Kubuntu in past and currently was having SUSE dual-booted on his laptop. He called me over, started talking about this thing called Linux and how it's different but de facto has no viruses. Well, show me this Linux and my thought was, it's probably so ancient and not used that it probably looks like from pre Windows 3.1 era, but when SUSE booted up it had so much more beautiful UI look (it was KDE, and compared to XP it looked like the most professional OS ever).

So I was thrilled, installed openSUSE, found some rough edges (I knew immediately that my work with professional CAD systems will not be possible on Linux machines) but overall I was bought. After that he even talked to me about distros. Wait, WTF distros?! So, he showed me I was amazed. There is not only a better OS then Windows - there where dozens, hundreds of them. After some poking around I installed Debian KDE - and it felt great, working better then openSUSE but now I was as most newbies, on fire to try more distros. So I was going around with Fedora, Mandriva, CentOS, Ubuntu, Mint, PCLinuxOS and in beginning of 2008 I stumbled upon Debian docs which where talking about GNU and GNU Manifesto. To be clear, I was always as a high-school kid very much attached to idea of freedom but started loosing faith by faculty time (Internet was still not taking too much of time here, youth still spent most of the day outside). So the GNU Manifesto was really a big thing for me and Debian is a social bastion of freedom. Debian (now with GNOME2) was being installed on my machine.

As all that hackerdom in Debian was around I started trying to dig up some code. I never ever read a book on coding (until this day I still didn't start and finish one) so after a few days I decided to code tetris in C++ with thought that I will finish it in two days at most (the feeling that you are powerful and very bright person) - I ended it after one month in much pain. So instead I learned about keeping Debian system going on, and exploring some new packages. I got thrilled over radiotray, slimvolley (even held a tournament in my dorm room), started helping on #debian, was very active in conversation with others about Debian and even installed it on few laptops (I became de facto technical support for users of those laptops :D ).

Then came 2010 which with negative flow that came in second half of 2009, started to crush me badly. I was promised to go to Norway, getting my studies on robotics and professor lied (that same professor is still on faculty even after he was caught in big corruption scandal over buying robots - he bought 15 years old robots from UK, although he got money from Norway to buy new ones). My relationship came to hard end and had big emotional impact on me. I fell a year on faculty. My father stopped financing me and stopped talking to me. My depression came back. Alcohol took over me. I was drunk every day just not to feel anything. Then came the end of 2010, I somehow got to the information that DebConf will be in Banja Luka. WHAT?! DebConf in city where I live. I got into #debconf and in December 2010/January 2011 I became part of the famous "local local organizers". I was still getting hammered by alcohol but at least I was getting out of depression. IIRC I met Holger and Moray in May, had a great day (a drop of rakia that was too much for all of us) and by their way of behaving there was something strange. Beatiful but strange. Both were sending unique energy of liberty although I am not sure they were aware of it. Later, during DebConf I felt that energy from almost all Debian people, which I can't explain. I don't feel it today - not because it's not there, it's because I think I integrated so much into Debian community that it's now a natural feeling which people here, that are close to me are saying that they feel it when I talk about Debian.

DebConf time in Banja Luka was awesome - firstly I met Phil Hands and Andrew McMillan which were a crazy team, local local team was working hard (I even threw up during the work in Banski Dvor because of all heat and probably not much of sleep due to excitement), met also crazy Mexican Gunnar (aren't all Mexicans crazy?), played Mao (never again, thank you), was hanging around smart but crazy people (love all) from which I must notice Nattie (a bastion of positive energy), Christian Perrier (which had coordinated our Serbian translation effort), Steve Langasek (which asked me to find physiotherapist for his co-worker Mathias Klose, IIRC), Zach (not at all important guy at that time), Luca Capello (who gifted me a swirl on my birthday) and so many others that this would be a post for itself just naming them. During DebConf it was also a bit of hard time - my grandfather died on 6th July and I couldn't attend the funeral so I was still having that sadness in my heart, and Darjan Prtic, a local team member that came from Vienna, committed suicide on my birthday (23 July). But DebConf as conference was great, but more importantly the Debian community felt like a family and Meike Reichle told me that it was. The night it finished, me and Vedran Novakovic cried. A lot. Even days after, I was getting up in the morning having the feeling I need something to do for DebConf. After a long time I felt alive. By the end of year, I adopted package from Clint Adams and Moray became my sponsor. In last quarter of 2011 and beginning of 2012, I (as part of LUG) held talks about Linux, had Linux installation in Computer Center for the first time ever, and installed Debian on more machines.

Now fast forwarding with some details - I was also on DebConf13 in Switzerland, met some great new friends such as Tincho and Santiago (and many many more), Santiago was also my roommate in Portland on the previous DebConf. In Switzerland I had really great and awesome time. Year 2014 - I was also at DebConf14, maintain a bit more packages and have applied for DD, met some new friends among which I must put out Apollon Oikonomopoulos and Costas Drogos which friendship is already deep for such a short time and I already know that they are life-long friends. Also thanks to Steve Langasek, because without his help I wouldn't be in Portland with my family and he also gave me Arduino. :) 2015. - I am currently at my village residence, have a 5 years of working experince as developer due to Debian and still a lot to go, learn and do but my love towards Debian community is by magnitude bigger then when I thought I love it at most. I am also going through my personal evolution and people from Debian showed me to fight for what you care, so I plan to do so.

I can't write all and name all the people that I met, and believe me when I say that I remember most and all of you impacted my life for which I am eternally grateful. Debian, and it's community effect literally saved my life, spring new energy into me and changed me for better. Debian social impact is far bigger then technical, and when you know that Debian is a bastion of technical excellence - you can maybe picture the greatness of Debian. Some of greatest minds are in Debian but most important isn't the sheer amount of knowledge but the enormous empathy. I just hope I can in future show to more people what Debian is and to find all lost souls as me to give them the hope, to show them that we can make world a better place and that everyone is capable to live and do what they love.

P.S. I am still hoping and waiting to see Bdale writing a book about Debian's history to this day - in which I think many of us would admire the work done by project members, laugh about many situations and have fun reading a book about project that was having nothing to do but fail and yet it stands stronger then ever with roots deep into our minds.