Firstly, in 2012, while he was at École Polytechnique, Ciro Santilli was introduced to LaTeX (thank God for French mathematical obsession), and his mind was blown:
Ha, so I can write my own books, and so can anyone, for free?
he though. Why isn't everyone doing that!
One particular event stood out: Ciro made a small change to his teacher's course material, who blessed be him (dude's a legend, Ciro just noticed he has some Chinese publications with another French dude, e.g. www.amazon.co.uk/高效算法-应试与提高必修128例-克里斯托弗-Christoph-Durr/dp/B078SJQPVK "High-efficiency algorithm competitions 128 examples", did he write it the Chinese himself?? Must be of course to complement the notoriously low French professor salaries), made it available, and then Ciro gave him back the .tex file. Ciro was just a bit worried about how the teacher would be able to tell what he had changed in the file to validate the change. The teacher just said of course, "no problem, I'll just use diff". Ciro had never heard of diff. Let alone Git of course, though yes, this was a bit early in Git's history version control systems had been around since forever of course. This was 2011 or 2012, about 4 or 5 years into a superior education curricula with various courses involving computers, some requiring quite a lot of "fill these empty functions" style programming. Education is a joke. Anyways, this was a prelude to exactly what Ciro wanted to do in OurBigBook.com. This might have been the one actually: webia.lip6.fr/~durrc/Iut/Notes580.pdf
Not long afterwards, Ciro started playing with Linux. Until then, Ciro had had some contacts with the mysterious operating system at university, and was a bit puzzled what the point of it was! He clearly remembers:
  • at the University of São Paulo that they had some "UNIX" computers in some classes, and at the library
  • at École Polytechnique, he took a course about mathematical analysis and there was a "lab" where students were supposed to use FreeFem, great initiative BTW. And Ciro distinctly remembers being paried with a nice Chilian colleague, and the guy was alreay super at ease with the shell: "cd", "ls", etc. WTF was all that!
University should be forced to use only open source software and hardware in undergrad teaching courses by law BTW.
Then came an Ubuntu live disk on his own machine, and finally a measly 40GB dual book partition in a Microsoft Windows machine on a laptop. At first, it took a lot of time to learn all the crazy new terminal stuff! Yes, at this point, Ubuntu was already usable enough without the terminal, an accomplishment actually. But as a programmer, Ciro felt obliged to learn. Many hours were spent reading man pages at the library. But it all just felt so right, and sometimes powerful... true wizardry.
And ten years later, Ciro was seriously considering buying a computer without Windows pre-installed. He had not used Windows a single tie on a personal machine even once in those ten years!
Finally, to finish things off Ciro found two websites that changed his life forever, and made be believe that there was an alternative: Stack Overflow and GitHub.
The brutal openness of it all. The raw high quality content. Ugliness and uselessness too no doubt. But definitely spark in a sea of darkness.

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