Leaving Windows

Leaving Windows

I recently left Windows For Linux

As a techie, leaving Windows and adopting  a Linux distribution as my everyday operating system was something I was always going to do, but never got round to. I’d run up a few virtual machines every once in a while, played with them a bit, didn’t find a compelling reason to swap over to Linux, so it was never more than a plaything. But then, all of a sudden I made the jump and I was leaving Windows. Linux was no longer a toy; it was my operating system,

Then around the time I did my last laptop refresh, I was doing a bit of penetration testing and created a Linux partition on my hard drive to assist me in this. I resolved to use this for a while see how it went. I switched back to Windows a couple of times, but it was really starting to bug me.

There was the 100% disk utilisation thing that happens when you first log on. You can sort of fix this to a degree, but even when you do you find that in other ways it’s a resource pig. Once you have a few apps open you’re likely using a good chunk of your RAM. Once you load the apps you use, you’re probably looking at 100GB or more of bloatware soaking up space on your hard drive.

By comparison, right now, I am running Ubuntu 19.04. The install, including all of the sofware I use takes up 20GB. I am running a virtual machine, I have a VPN running, Viber,Skype,Firefox with 10 tabs open and this word processor open and my memory usage is running at 33%.

That, in my view is a very light footprint. That’s one advantage. For most people’s daily use, you need a lot less powerful machine to run Linux than Windows. For me, what this means is that I can’t find any practical reason to upgrade my laptop for quite some time. I know I’d like to, because an 8 core processor would be sweet, but fact is the machine I’m using now is doing what I use it for with ease, and it’s nice to step aside from the upgrade cycle that has been forced on users by the cabal of Microsoft and Intel for many years.

However, one thing that Microsoft knew years ago.. people go where the apps are. Apps have kept Microsoft at the top for years. The big two being Word and Excel. Well, it just so happens that every single piece of software I use on Windows has a viable free alternative on Linux.

In fact everything is free on Linux. The operating system is free, as opposed to the licensing fee you pay for Windows and Microsoft software. All software I use is legally free. No more sneakily finding cracks for software.

If I want to use Windows apps there is an emulation program called wine that I use. If I find an app that will only run on Windows, I can run up a Windows virtual machine. Thing is, I have yet to find one of those apps.

Appearance? looks smashing. Check out the image at the top of the page. That’s my desktop. If you like nice interfaces, it’s the one for you. That’s a photo from Bing daily wallpaper by the way. Gives my device a different look every day.

Installation? It’s actually quite easy to install. Of course the problem here is that most people purchase a PC with Windows pre-installed, so it’s something you have to do if you want to try Linux. For an install that is suitable for most people, the install process is no more difficult than installing Windows.

Could the average user make the switch like me and end up leaving Windows as well? Hmmmm, good question. I don’t really know. What Microsoft and Apple have been really good at is creating systems that can be used by non technical users with relative ease. I personally find it easy to use and very polished these days, from the OS install to software installs. However, I think that if something goes wrong, I can fix it. I’m not sure it would be as easy for someone less technical. Bottom line I guess is try it, but only if you have a friend who is a computer wiz.

If you want to find download a linux flavour you can go to distro watch  This will give you endless options. How do you pick one? Well the way I pick is usually on screenshots. If I like the look of something, that does it for me.

Could you go without Windows for a day?

xubuntu-desktop-980x657

Microsoft. For years I’ve used their products. I’ve usually been quite happy with them to be honest. That satisfaction only lasts as long as you don’t have a problem that needs their assistance. Then frustration builds.

You speak to some guy in Mumbai. He speaks English, but doesn’t really understand you. Anyway, as it is he is limited by the parameters of his job; he has no authority to help you with anything outside of the norm.  He can’t help you so you are passed to another department.

You are put on hold. After 20 minutes of being on hold you speak to someone else, explain your problem and he tells you that you have been transferred to the wrong department. He transfers you again and you are put on hold again. Now you have a choice. Do you continue to waste hours of your life or do you give up in frustration?

There is no complaints department that you can contact to voice your complaint about their service and see if you can get your issue resolved. All of the people you speak to are low level  (no one high level works on a technical support phone line). These phone support systems are set up to give you the appearance of being able to get support without actually giving you support.

You can see reviews of Microsoft customer support here – customer service scoreboard. Largely negative, yes, but in the interest of fairness I have to say people are more likely to complain than they are to say job well done.

I would also like to say that I don’t think Microsoft are alone here. Most corporations, especially in the IT space, use such a system. I do believe part of their business model is to set things up like this so that people just go away and try to sort out their problems themselves without bothering them. Either that or pay for premium support.

But what is the alternative? If you work on a laptop you usually either have a Windows PC or you buy a Mac. Macs account for 10% of the market (roughly) and Windows accounts for most of the rest. When you buy your laptop it comes with Windows pre-installed, so why bother with anything else anyway?

In my case I wanted to do it to see how relevant Windows was to my day. To see if I would miss it if I didn’t have it. Also, Windows is a commercial product; it costs money. Linux, which is the alternative I chose, is what is known as open source software is free.

My laptop has Windows installed and I didn’t want to wipe it just like that. I may do it at some stage, but I’m not that brave.

Fortunately you don’t need to wipe Windows from your hard drive these days to try an operating system. All you need is a usb drive. With most modern laptops, you can set it up to boot from the usb drive.

Onto the usb drive you put an operating system. What I chose was Xubuntu, which is a type of Linux. If you are no technical, you may have heard of Linux but don’t really know what it is; it’s not familiar to you.

You may not know it but it’s actually all around you. Android is Linux based. Macs actually run on a Unix like base (Linux is a type of Unix). Chances are that the web server you go to is powered by Linux.

The image at the top of this post is Xubuntu by the way. As you can see, it doesn’t look very foreign to a Windows user.

Anyway, without going into the technical detail, I put Xubuntu on my usb drive, booted from the drive and there I was, running Xubuntu.

It recognised all my Windows files, so I could grab any documents I needed. It came with the Firefox browser pre installed, so I could get onto the web straight away. Network setup was as simple as putting in my wifi password and sound took no configuration.

I have written in the past about the shift from desktop centric computing to cloud centric computing. The main driver for this is internet apps that run via the browser.

What I found is that 90% of my computer time is working within a web browser. I develop websites in WordPress. It doesn’t matter what platform I run. I research using Google, which of course is browser based.

But what about if I want to edit a Word document, or an Excel spreadsheet? You have options. Two are online and one is not. You have Onedrive, which is actually Microsoft (but they don’t charge you for it so that’s ok).  You have Google Docs (from Google obviously), which offer a word processor and a spreadsheet. If you want software there’s Open Office, which apparently has over 100,000,000 downloads (bit of social proof there) and runs on Linux.

But what if I want to run Powerpoint? Are you for real? In that case, seek help. Never heard of Death by powerpoint?

Anyway, I went without Windows for a day and I didn’t even notice. If you want to try it as well, go to pen drive Linux where you can download a utility that will allow you to make a bootable Linux drive with no hassle whatsoever. You will also need Linux. All you need to do for that is search Google for “Linux distros”.

I know the experiment is not for everyone, but if you try it, you will be amazed at how little you use Windows.

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