My brief contribution to Open Source.

My first computer was a 286 back in the early 80s. i spent a good deal of time with it, and it was a good building block for where i went with it later. A prominent local politician, who was a good friend of my dads, knew we had a PC, and bought me and my brother our very first pc game for xmas, that is Spies Demise.

In the early wintel days, i used to acquire dos and windows 8 bit from a friend, i was a kid, didnt understand the concept of the commercial aspect of it, and just wanted to make use of it, and explore it.

I was always hacking at the code, learning stuff here and there, sometimes breaking stuff and hosing the Operating System, and ending up at that friends place again to get another copy to start from scratch again.

Later at uni i was exposed to mainframes and terminals, having conversations with the admins and such about the OS used, which basically led me on the path to Open Source Software, eventually.

Open Source was free and yet had a commercial aspect to it, books like The Cathedral and the Bazaar touched on the philosophy of both sides of the movement. There were only a handful of distributions, or flavours when i got into it, i tried all of them and settled on a specific one. This was my new desktop environment.

I still gamed, and realised that linux in general had poor support from vendors for the latest trends on games and such. So i made up for that by dual booting. The early days of dual boot were a pain, nothing worse than keeping your windows and linux cds at hand, because you had to install both repeatedly until you found some form of dual boot harmony.

At this stage the gaming industry was progressing to the point where a certain video card company evolved and was making addon 3d cards to specifically accomodate for that aspect of the market. Up until now we all used 2d video cards, and we still do today to some extent, and that these 3d cards were an interesting game changer. Things evolved to the point these days where 2d / 3d cards are on the same card, and most people would not notice either way, but i digress.

Then there were rumblings in the Open Source community about 3d desktops. That is, making use of the 3d video card aspect and stuff like opengl to pave the way for some innovative desktop stuff that even microsoft did themselves with Windows XP and such later. I wont go into the semantics, but the video presentation of the 3d desktop stuff i saw them doing on linux at the time were gimmicky in nature though facinating at the same time. I was hooked. At the time it was only on the one distribution, not my preferred, but like most that used Open Source, you tend to float around here and there to try new stuff.

There wasnt any official support from the developers of my distribution, though i did see early signs of unofficial generic support and progress, so i switched back. What was frustrating was that my distrubtion used a packaging system for applications, and these unofficial plights were in tarball format, and i looked at that as inconvenient, and icky.

After evaluating the tarballs, and confirming that it all worked and such, i did a lot of scouring of the internet to find if there were any packaged versions for my flavour of linux. To my surprise i found one, a handful of binary packages that must have been a one-off proof of concept, as they weren't updated, and did not include the latest enhancements and revisions. And the person wasn't responding to contact.

So i saw a need here and started to learn how to write specs that were used to package the source code, apply patches, compile them, and make binary packages. I had done this before with kernel stuff and thought it wouldnt be that different of an approach. So i did this, everything worked according to what i wanted to achieve, i had a clean way of installing and uninstalling a package for my distribution. So what i did next was throw these updated packages i created on my shared cpanel web hosting, drew on the way that unofficial repositories were made, made a repo package too, so others could simply, install the repo, install the packages, and then do their normal system updates, and auto poll my repo for updates too. Wrote up a one page concise guide and linked it on a few websites and left it at that.

Long story short, this consumed 6 months of my life, from compiling daily updates, to keeping abreast of new tools being used or replaced, testing, and including them, writing the bash script that did this all, and such. I was making an unpayed and selfless, like countless others have too, contribution back to the community for the love it. It got to the stage where, based on my cpanel logs, i had visitors from over 40 nations that used my guide and repo, and some requested to mirror the guide and repo, which was fine and common at the time.

I was asked on IRC, Internet Relay Chat to consider merging my repo to an established repo that we all made use of for unoffical packages. He gave me contacts and such. But then our distributor started to make progress with the 3d desktop aspect in a variated way, so i felt now that merging the repo was in a way not required, and the purpose of my guide to provide a stopgap solution had been fulfilled.

For a while i did something that impacted others in the Open Source community, and i am proud to have played some part, if though minor, in the grand scheme of things.

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