Two months ago, I would never have thought that a significant portion of my computing time would involve Linux.

This semester, I am in EECS 481, Software Engineering. I would give you a link to the class homepage, but the professor decided the content isn’t for the common man — it’s password protected. The core of this class is a single, monolithic (redundant repetition, I know) project. The only constrain to this project is that it must concern a certain domain. The domain for this semester is the software process. How self-referential is that? Our software project must be about the software process.

We decided on a project manager with some automatic environment creation scripts. Basically, the manager of a software company would use a Windows front end to manage his developers. He could see what projects they are working on, what experience they have, etc etc. Whenever he had a new project, he could select which developers should work on it and click a single button to setup a few necessities: A web site, mailing list and CVS repository for the new project.

We needed a server-class operating system for the backend. Though I know OpenBSD fairly well (going on 2 years admin experience), we chose RedHat 7.2. The decision was made simply because of the greater install base of RedHat.

When I first started developing the backend scripts (I did it since no one else had the experience to correctly setup Majordomo and Apache, let alone know how to write Perl scripts), I used VMWare on my main machine. VMWare made my life much easier as I tested these scripts. Before I would do a new install of the scripts, I would backup my entire RedHat machine with two clicks. If the install went haywire (which it often did), restoration was as simple.

Enter my new laptop: a used IBM Thinkpad 600. Ever since I got this thing, I have taken it to every class and worked on code while the professors droned on and on. I got the idea of working on the scripts while in class. RedHat 7.2 installed beautifully. Slowly but surely, my Windows XP partition is touched less and less. The laptop boots into Linux by default.

Linux and open source software has improved dramatically since I last used it (RedHat 6.2 days). AbiWord reads most Word files cleanly (other than tables, bleh!), Mozilla 0.9.9 is now my default browser EVERYWHERE (the Macs at work, my Windows XP machines, this laptop), and I just found a new love: Ximian Red Carpet. Think Windows Update on steroids. I will be trying Ximian Desktop next.

Expect more reports on my new love.