As for a lot of other Linux users and sysadmins I first met Linux at university. At that time I was attending a C-programming course which aim was teaching students about system calls, and in particular POSIX system calls (e.g., open, lseek, read, write and so on). One of the laboratories was running Debian Gnu/Linux (without X) and was used to let us connect to another laboratory where Solaris machines were in charge of students accounting. Of course, being lazy as a lot of other computer scientist, going to the laboratory just to test and run my small applications sounded to me like a huge waste of time, and therefore I decided to test applications at home, using my home desktop computer.
It was years before the virtualization trend (and in fact a few years later a society called VMWARE was releasing its first version of virtualization stack) and therefore I had to install Linux on the bare hardware. I got a 3GB ATA hard disk that I placed on the slave controller of my desktop computer, and a friend of mine gave me a CDROM containing Red Hat Linux 5.2. And so I started spending time to install this operating system.
At that time it took around 2 hours to install the whole system (and gadgets) on my Celeron computer, but it was nice.
Of course, as others Windows-ized users did (I guess), I worked entirely as root because, you know, you are not so stupid to break the whole system with a miswritten command! And in fact, one evening while trying to make X running on my machine I corrupted something so that my system was no more able to execute X. And of course I did not have a backup of the modified files, and trying to solve the panic I generated I break out something else so that the only reasonable choice for me at that time was to reinstall everything from scratch.
Lesson learned: do backups and work as root as less as possible!
Last I was able to make X run on my computer, and at that time it was FVWM, that I suspect it is the most horrible windowing system I've ever seen. However I was so happy of my configuration that I called my parents to show them how beautiful it was my running system. And I suspect they did not understand my excitement for a few windows that
looked like the Microsoft Windows ones after your video card has crashed.
By the way, I was in the Linux tunnel and started doing some development stuff with it. However I was not able to use it for day-to-day work because, quite frankly, I had no day-to-day work. Moreover, configuring peripherals was a mess: I had to buy an external modem because my winmodem was useless with Linux. Making the printer, an HP on the parallel port to work was a little easier, but not at zero time. At that time the only way for me to get a new Linux distribution was buying some magazine with CDROMs included, since
downloading with a 56kb/s modem was a pain. And this is how I discovered a release based on Red Hat Linux, called Mandrake, that was shipped with KDE preconfigured. I was impressed! At glance the KDE was like a beautiful version of the CDE I was using sometimes on the University Solaris machines, and had a lot of things and gadgets that made me feel like at home.
In the meantime I started reading an Italian magazine entirely dedicated to Linux. At first, it was boring for me: who cares about how to install mod_perl on an Apache web server? I did not know what Perl was, and what Apache httpd was, and was interested only in getting all stuff connected to my computer to work! But as days passed, I was more and more interested in all kind of stuff that was related to Linux and the software you could run on it.
Some of the University projects I did were slightly related and tied to Linux, so I also started using it for a kind of day-by-day work, until it came my master thesis. I had to develop using Java, and therefore the choice among Linux and Windows was optional, but since I knew that would have been the last time I had to experiment without being fired, I choose to boot my laptop with Linux and force myself to use it.
And I never looked back!
At that time I was running Red Hat 7.3, with KDE 3.0 and a lot of peripherals were working out of the box, and others were either useless or I was not interested in getting them to work (e.g., the winmodem, since I was using the Ethernet cable to connect to the University network). That was the time I started writing my own small utilities (oh, and in the meantime I also learnt Perl) to backup my files, archive them, and so on. On one hand, I did not have the experience (and the will) to search for and study existing software, and on the other hand, I was recognizing the power of this system that allows you to write everything you want and, most notably, allows you to do. In fact, there was no need to download a complex IDE with a C compiler, I already had gcc. There was no need to download and install some extension for file scavenging and bulk renaming, I could write a three line script...
My first job was still tied to Linux, and I have to admit that I suspect I found such job because other friends of mine did not get the University chance for learning Linux. Unluckily, I had just to administer machines
running Linux, since I had also to use a compiler that was licensed only for Microsoft Windows, and therefore my computer was booted into Windows. But as soon as out of work, my laptop was running Linux!
Then, a special day: we got a compiler license for Linux.
And my laptop did not boot Windows anymore!
Using it day by day also on my own machine allowed me to improve my skills on a lot of aspects, including scripting and programming. In those days I was addicted to KDE in a particular way, and therefore my poor laptop was forced to compile again and again every new version was released, and this was the cause for having it to run a "little" slower. But I was gaining time since I did not have to install SSH clients, X clients, and other fancy stuff since I had all there, in my black-foreground terminal window.
A few years later, for a reason I don't remember any more, I got a new job and I was not in charge of doing any particular development, but on the other hand, had to work with Microsoft Office. For that reason I started to boot my laptop into Windows again, and after a while I was booting it into Microsoft Windows only.
That was fine: after all I was simply writing articles, doing some Java development and teaching students, so after all I was not doing any serious work (and to some extent, nothing really productive). And then again I got a job where I was developing, administering and managing
on Linux machines. And again, I switched back to Linux for my own computer and the happiness reached myself.
A few years later, my wife got an EEE PC running Windows that was unusable. I installed Linux on it and used it for running even server applications when doing demos at conferences. And that was the time
I made my wife switching to Linux too.
Today I use Linux and other Unix systems (FreeBSD in particular), even at work, even if not suggested in doing so.
Sorry pals, I got so much development power than I don't feel the need to apologize!