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PCLinuxOS Family Member Spotlight: Aragorn

What is your name/username?
Call me Ishmael. No, wait, that has been done already.

Nah, just keep it to Aragorn. I've been using that name for well over a decade already. When the LOTR movies came out, many unrelated people - including my then-girlfriend and my brother's then still small children - all felt that I strongly resemble Viggo Mortensen in his portrayal of Aragorn. So eventually I adopted the name.

I don't look like that anymore now -- even though I do still have the long hair, and it's actually a lot longer now -- but then again, Viggo himself doesn't look like that anymore.

How old are you?
I'll be 56 in about 5 weeks. If I'm still alive by then. Strange things happen, you know?

(On a more serious note, I have lost several friends recently -- a couple to cancer and one to an embolism -- and I have lost friends many years ago who were younger when they died than I am now. So you never know what's waiting around the corner. I mean: look at Tex. He's still fighting the big "C" too. (fingers crossed)

Are you married, single?
Single. I was officially engaged to be married three times, and once unofficially. As I keep telling people, there are so many daggers sticking out of my back that people start thinking I'm a porcupine.

How about Kids, Grandkids (names and ages)?
I don't have any children that I know of, but two of my ex-girlfriends had children, and so I've been a surrogate dad a few times.

Do you have pets, what is your favorite?
When I was still living with my first fiancée, we had a cat, twice. Unfortunately, back at the time, I was allergic to cats. This allergy seems to have gone away in the meantime, although I am still allergic to dogs.

My brother has a dog, a border collie and a cat, but that cat is almost never to be seen when I'm around, because the dog hates her and chases her away all the time. Personally I'm more of a cat person, though.

Are you retired, still working and if working, what do you do?
I am officially disabled. I've done all kinds of jobs in the past, from working at the assembly line at a (now defunct) General Motors plant as my first job, all the way to working for Town Hall in administration and working in a school as a programmer. And lots of stuff in between, too. I've also been an assistant-teacher in language courses and computer courses for adults.

And of course, as other male Belgians my age have all come to experience, I've been in the military for 10 months -- the exact duration of the service depended on the year, the type of service and whether you were stationed in Belgium or in Germany. We still had compulsory military service here in those days. I served from December 1983 until late September 1984. After your service, you were then still considered part of the reserve for a number of years. During that time, I was administratively reassigned to the Marines, but I've never been summoned again, and in the meantime, the Belgian military no longer has any Marines - that's all for the para-commandos and the special forces now.

I am currently "employed" - but not as a paid job - as the administrator at two forums, and that pretty much takes up all of my time now.

Where do you call home? What is it like? IE: weather, scenery
I live in Belgium, in the northern, Dutch-speaking part called The Flanders. I guess you could say that I live at the countryside, but that's not entirely true, because this particular town here is highly industrialized and commercialized. There used to be a shipyard here where they built large tankers, ferry boats and container carriers. The shipyard itself employed about 1600 people directly, and about 2000 more by way of its logistics chain. However, the place was mismanaged and it went bankrupt. The government tried to rescue it but that didn't work out. The shipyard's grounds have in the meantime all been sold and repurposed for housing, commerce and industry.

Flanders, Belgium

As for the weather, well, right now it's warm and sunny -- I reckon it'll be around 18 °C/64.4 °F now, although nights are still close to freezing. It's because of climate change, of course. The climate is very unpredictable around here -- it always has been in Belgium, but the last couple of years it can really be freaky at times. We've had a month of February now about 5 years ago or so where it was -20 °C/-4 °F during the day, and now it's T-shirt weather.

If I were to win the lottery -- yeah, that'll be the day -- then I'd move to the coast. It's where I used to go on vacation with my family when I was young, and I've always wanted to live there.

Where did you go to school and what is your education level?
I doubt whether the name of the schools I went to would mean anything to you. Officially, my education level is high school, but I did go to college - nursing first (for two years), and then I went back to college at the age of 28 in Applied Information Technology.

I quit the nursing because I was tired of schools and the pressure that my parents were putting on me. I had to quit the IT training because of both financial and health considerations - I was rushed to hospital in an ambulance twice just before the exams. But that said, there were several horrible teachers there. They went too fast and they didn't care about properly explaining things - that's what you get when you have a military officer for a math teacher - or you couldn't even understand a single word they were saying because they were mumbling all the time.

I do still perpetually educate myself with all kinds of material available, and in multiple disciplines. I'm autistic and I have an eidetic memory, so I easily retain things I read about the subjects that interest me. My high school training was in science - physics, chemistry, biology, math and geology - and I'm still interested in physics, mainly general relativity and quantum mechanics.

I'm also still interested in information technology, but specifically desktop workstations, minicomputers, servers and mainframes. I don't care much for the IoT. I do own two smartphones, but I use them as regular phones - texting and calling, and that's it. I'm not a smartphone zombie yet, and I don't intend to become one.

What kind of things you like doing? hobbies, travel, fishing, camping?
I don't like traveling, although I do like driving, and I'm quite a petrolhead. I grew up with that. My dad was a truck driver and he would work as a mechanic in a local garage on Saturdays and when he had days off from his main job. Most of the men in my family and in my parents' circle of friends were all well-versed on automotive technology.

Another thing that I've had in me since birth - it's probably genetic - is that I'm a musician. We had musicians in both the paternal and maternal branches of my family, and my dad was a trumpet player when he was young. I've been playing all kinds of musical instruments since I was a toddler, but my true calling came when I was a teenager. That's when I fell in love with the electric guitar, although my parents weren't quick to allow me to have one - it still took until I was 16 before I had my first guitar, and my parents have never endorsed me in that, because they wanted me to have a traditional job.

I've been in a couple of bands, but nothing professional. I have a very eclectic taste in music, and so I have an equally eclectic number of genres that I incorporate into my playing, all the way from progressive rock and hard rock over to funk and jazz, and maybe even a wee touch of heavy metal. My hay days were the 1990s, though. Because in the early 2000s, I moved to a different apartment - where I don't have enough room - and then the internet came into my life as well, and health problems started domineering my well-being, and so I haven't exactly been playing much anymore in the last 15 years or so.

Why and when did you start using Linux?
In December 1999. I had never been one to accept the hardware manufacturer's choice of operating system, and while my first ever PC came with DOS 5.0 and Windows 3.0 - which I've used for about six months - I wanted to have OS/2 on my computer, and so I've used OS/2 for over five years. Then I needed a new computer, and I really wanted a UNIX system, but that would have been very expensive, and it was hard to come by. My friends were (of course) all using Windows 95, but that was a DOS-based system, and after having used a real 32-bit operating system for over five years, and with the new computer having a Pentium II processor, I wasn't going to settle on anything DOS-based. So I compromised and I got Windows NT 4.0. I used that for two years.

Then, late in 1999, I read an article in a computer magazine in which they were discussing several GNU/Linux distros - SuSE, Mandrake, RedHat, Slackware, Debian, Caldera and TurboLinux. Two weeks later I was at a software shop to buy a Microsoft Encarta for my brother as a Christmas gift, and there on the shelf were several of those distros that the magazine had touched upon. I hesitated, but eventually I picked up the Mandrake box - it was the 6.0 PowerPack - and I took it with me to the cashier.

I ran Mandrake in dual-boot with NT 4.0 for about a month, and then, on the 1st of January 2000, NT 4.0 refused to boot, in spite of the service packs and the official Microsoft Y2K pack I had installed. GNU/Linux booted up fine, and so my choice to stick with that was easily made. I was already seriously impressed by GNU/Linux and the whole Free & Open Source Software philosophy anyway. I've never looked back.

I've used several distros over the years. On my own computers, it has mainly been Mandrake (before it became Mandriva), PCLinuxOS, Mageia and Gentoo. But between 2002 and 2009 or so, I ran an IRC network with a bunch of people, and we ran Mandrake and CentOS on our servers. We also had one machine with Debian, but that one was located in Norway and I wasn't the admin of that box.

What specific equipment do currently use with PCLinuxOS?
Right now, a desktop and a laptop. Do you feel that your use of Linux influences the reactions you receive from your computer peers or family? If so, how?
I've had a few strange looks from a few people, but other than that, nobody really seems to care, and I've even had people who started using GNU/Linux themselves in the meantime then ask me for assistance. Of course, when you talk about computer matters, then most people still assume that you'd be running Microsoft Windows, although I also know a few people who use a Macintosh.

The thing is that nowadays, most of people's activity is centered around the Internet, and applications like Firefox, Chrome/Chromium, Opera, Thunderbird, et al, are cross-platform. Whether you visit a website by way of Firefox on GNU/Linux or Firefox on Windows, it doesn't make a whole lot of difference. And thanks to LibreOffice et al, we can easily view and even modify and save MS-Office documents.

What would you like to see happen within PCLinuxOS that would make it a better place. What are your feelings?
Well, there are still a few minor bugs that I would like to see fixed - a few security-related things - but I cannot commit myself to reporting on all of those at the moment because the computer I'm typing this from - and which is the only workstation I can use right now - is dying. The hardware is incredibly unstable. It crashes multiple times per day. It was a refurbished machine - because that was all I could afford when my other computer broke down. (Disabilities fees are not exactly intended to make you rich, you know?

PCLinuxOS Family Member Spotlight is an exclusive, monthly column by YouCanToo, featuring PCLinuxOS forum member. This column will allow "the rest of us" to get to know our forum family members better, and will give those featured an opportunity to share their PCLinuxOS story with the rest of the world.

If you would like to be featured in PCLinuxOS Family Member Spotlight, please send a private message to youcantoo, parnote or Meemaw in the PCLinuxOS forum expressing your interest.

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