Operating System Archaeology

About a month ago, digging into the drawers of my desk, I found a stack of old Linux install CDs. Mostly Linux Mint — versions 5, 6, 9, 12, 13, a couple of others I can’t remember off the top of my head — and an Ubuntu 8.04 CD.

Ubuntu 8.04! The first Linux I tried!

I should say, truly, the first Linus I installed, because, truthfully, I didn’t use any of these for anything. It was like, “Oh, neat! Linux!” And then I’d boot my now dual-boot Windows system into Windows instead.

Eventually, I made myself use Linux by using it for digital art projects. But, mainly, it was just there, and then the COVID pandemic rolled around, and I decided I would use Linux to connect to work or, barring that, use it to do my CMS work. (I would eventually work out how to make a VPN connection from Linux, but it would take a lot of time. Almost two and a half years of time.)

In any case, I had this stack of CDs, so I spent the morning using the dd command to write them back to iso files, and then I installed a couple as virtual machines on my system. I found Linux Mint 5 incredibly familiar — I currently daily drive Linux Mint Debian Edition 6, with the Cinnamon desktop or the CTWM window manager — and I kinda regretted not making myself actually use it back in 2008 or so. (I sort of feel like I’m becoming at fifty the Linux nerd I’d liked to have been at thirty.) It’s not really useful — I have it walled off from the internet, and there’s nothing I can do with it that I can’t do in LMDE — but I’ll keep it around, maybe as a distraction-free writing environment.

I also installed Ubuntu 8.04 as a VM, though for this one I grabbed the updated ISO from Ubuntu’s archives rather than use what I’d burned to disc fourteen years ago. And this weekend I took a look at it and configured a couple of things to make it mine, editing a couple of config files, setting a period-accurate wallpaper (official artwork from EA’s The Lord of the Rings: Battle for Middle-Earth II) and cobbling together a “dark” theme that looked close to the Ubuntu default. It looks quite fancy, really, and I might’ve been happy with this, too, back in those days, though period GNOME’s triple menu is weird and takes getting used to.

I’ll have to look again at how I pulled the “dark theme” together, because there weren’t a lot of options. I wanted something the resembled the default Human theme, but dark. The GTK theme is Glider, with the colors taken from the Human theme but reversed (ie., background is foreground and foreground is background), and the Metacity theme is Human. It’s not perfect, but it’s close enough for my needs.

I’ll probably never use this again, but I also won’t get rid of it. I have 6 terabytes of storage space; 8 gigs for an Ubuntu virtual machine is a rounding error.

Ubuntu 8.04 virtual machine with a desktop wallpaper from the original Battle for Middle-Earth, showing the Eye of Sauron atop Barad-Dur with Mount Doom in the distant background.

Published by Allyn Gibson

A writer, editor, journalist, sometimes coder, occasional historian, and all-around scholar, Allyn Gibson is the writer for Diamond Comic Distributors' monthly PREVIEWS catalog, used by comic book shops and throughout the comics industry, and the editor for its monthly order forms. In his over ten years in the industry, Allyn has interviewed comics creators and pop culture celebrities, covered conventions, analyzed industry revenue trends, and written copy for comics, toys, and other pop culture merchandise. Allyn is also known for his short fiction (including the Star Trek story "Make-Believe,"the Doctor Who short story "The Spindle of Necessity," and the ReDeus story "The Ginger Kid"). Allyn has been blogging regularly with WordPress since 2004.

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