Have you heard of Linux? You’re probably using it already in embedded form in some of your electronic devices and didn’t even realize it. Linux is an operating system, or a layer of programming that allows interaction with your computer’s physical hardware. Most often Linux users download a ‘distribution’, or a collection of programs that includes the Linux operating system as well as a number of other applications that makes using Linux more user friendly.
What makes Linux different from Windows and iOS is that you can usually get the underlying source code for all of the components of a distribution and inspect or modify them on your own. Further, there is an active community of Linux users that do just that on a regular basis, and they contribute their efforts in the form of security updates, bug fixes, and new applications back to the broader community.
Rogues will appreciate the ability to use the vast majority of Linux applications for free (cost), as well the ability to view and modify existing components of the operating system to their hearts content (liberty), as well as the control that it can give them in controlling their own computing lives.
If you’re new to Linux and want to know more, a few user-friendly distributions to begin with are Ubuntu, Mint, and Debian, but there are many others. A handy listing of distributions can be found at distrowatch.com, where they describe and track the popularity of various Linux distributions.
Rogues can earn up to three medallions in the Linux category. Of course, before they begin on their path of computing freedom, Rogues should make sure they back up their existing data. The penguin on the Medallions is Tux, the mascot of Linux.
Bronze — Earning the bronze Medallion requires learning how to install a Linux distribution on your computer in either dual boot configuration, or from a thumb drive, and then learning how to do your 5 most common computer tasks using Linux instead of Windows or iOS. Dual booting installs a Linux distribution on your system along side your existing operating system, and allows you to choose which operating system to use when you are booting your machine. You can also choose to boot Linux from a thumb drive, which you can then remove and take with you. You’ll probably need to learn how to add applications using the package manager if you find that you need programs that didn’t come with your new operating system.
Silver — To earn the silver Medallion, you should fulfill the requirements for the bronze Medallion, as well as start to learn how to use the command line and to begin writing scripts by completing these tutorials: Shells and Scripts. These are just an introduction, and can be taken far further, but they are a start to allow you to see some of the cool things that can be done to allow you more control over your computing experience.
Gold — Earning the gold Medallion requires you to complete a linux project of your own design. While you were going through the first two medals, you probably noticed how powerful the command line can be, allowing you to tie together inputs and outputs of multiple existing applications, without even having to use the mouse to open them. Hopefully while earning your bronze and silver medals you were inspired with a few ideas of your own on how to get the most out of Linux. To earn the gold Medallion think of a project that ties together the command line and existing applications to do something that you think would be cool. Maybe you want to set up a home music server that allows you to stream your music library at home and on the road. Maybe you’d like to download the outside temperature at midnight daily and store it in a spreadsheet. Perhaps you want to automate the collection of tweets of a particular political candidate to see how their ideas change throughout their career. If you’re still looking for inspiration, this reddit thread may be useful. Whatever it is, complete the project, document the final results, and display your new shiny new Medallion in your social media feeds.
A nice guide for activists who are looking to learn about how linux and open-source software can be helpful for them can be found here.