One Year in FOSS

About a year ago, I became involved in the GalliumOS project. I had recently changed my major from film studies to computer science, the joke being “I switched to a different kind of script writing.” A bit after that, I was approached by my professor with a job offer to be a systems administrator for the department. All of these things thrust me into the world of computer science and all that it encompasses.

For the unaware, GalliumOS is a lightweight GNU/Linux distribution for Chromebooks. I’ve had a Chromebook since high school, and originally got it with the sole purpose of putting Linux on it. However, after the Chrubuntu project disappeared I couldn’t find a way to put Linux back on there, and most distros weren’t well equipped for the hardware. After my backup laptop, which I had been using for most work, died, I was happy to find GalliumOS. I quickly became a regular in their IRC channel, often helping people with mundane problems or installation.

At one point, one of the devs asked if anyone was willing to moderate the forum on /r/GalliumOS. I volunteered, and was trusted enough to be accepted. I quickly became an operator on the IRC, and started contributing code to the project. My first contribution was replacing the stock Xubuntu install slideshow with a GalliumOS one. After that, an animated splash. Recently, updated icons.

The more I worked on this project, the more I began to appreciate the FOSS community. Things are easy to install, well documented, it’s easy to find help. Something doesn’t work? You can fix it. Find a bug? Report it. The more I take, the more I want to give back. Things are easy to use and just work.

I’ve made it a point to move away from proprietary software and towards FOSS projects. Once I upgrade my computer, I intend to use Debian GNOME, as I feel it offers the same if not better “ecosystem” of applications and features that Windows offers, without all the strange goings-on in the background. That, and Vim on Windows is terrible.

One of the biggest thing I’ve learned is that if you want to help, there’s a place where you can help. Taking this plunge, I’ve learned more than I could have learned taking classes. The experience of working with a team of people,  all doing separate things to delivery one experience, is incredible, and something I intend to do for a long time. A simple “Thank You” from a user feels better than any paycheck.

I implore people to look into free and open source software. Use it. Contribute. Ask how you can help. Even if you know nothing about computers, there’s something you can do, and it’s one of the best learning experiences you can possibly have.

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