How I stumbled upon Ubuntu Linux for learning web development and more

My open source story began a few years ago when I started learning web development and I read about a Ruby on Rails tutorial and was excited to try it out. I had a Windows OS installed on my desktop, and at the time there were few tutorials on how to get up and running on Windows with Rails.

Learning a web framework is a challenging learning experience on its own. I was able to install ruby, rails and some of its dependencies, and create a sample Rails app. However, any interaction I did with the rails server or within the sample app itself, left me with error messages.

I didn’t learn until later that ruby may have an issue running on some Windows operating systems. I tried out many options to get around this issue including setting up and running a virtual machine (VM) on my desktop, but Windows wouldn’t allow the download to finish because of an image file it didn’t recognize.

Learning Ubuntu

One afternoon, I lamented to a friend about the issues I was having when he suggested I install or dual boot Ubuntu, a debian-based Linux operating system on my computer. I had heard of Linux and I thought of spending my time in front of a black terminal box and sadness from lack of a graphical user interface (GUI).

But after reading about Ubuntu and it’s graphical shell, Unity, I decided to give it a try. The process of dual booting Ubuntu 13.04 (Raring Ringtail) on my Windows machine took me almost a weekend to complete, but I had Ubuntu, ruby, rvm, rails and its dependencies installed without any real issues.

With using Ubuntu to build a Rails application, running tasks via terminal on Ubuntu was a breeze. I was ecstatic that I could finally focus more on rails instead of fussing with my development environment. I maintained Windows for personal use and using Ubuntu for web development work.

There’s a learning curve with using Ubuntu but the volunteers and articles in the forums are most helpful. The main adjustment for me was learning how to install, update, and upgrade software applications referred to as packages. Installing and building software from source makes me sad so to avoid that I find what I am looking for in the Software Center, with apt-get or Synaptic. And if I’m using apt-get and I find a package download available as a .deb file – that makes me a happy person.

Now-a-days, I still use my Ubuntu machine as part of my work flow, creative activities and learning pursuits. I also began exploring other open source applications. A few of my favorites are MyPaint - a simple, clean user interface sketching and painting application that’s fast and works seamlessly with my Wacom drawing tablet. Gimp for image editing and Inkscape for creating vector graphics and SVG files.

If you’re also getting started with using Linux, specifically, I found the Introduction to Linux via or’s starting references helpful in learning more about the different Linux distributions and open source in general.

About the author.

Cynthia L. Wright is a frontend developer, writer, and stick-figure artist. When she's not writing or coding, she enjoys traveling, video games, reading, and learning how to draw things.

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