My experience switching to Linux: Intro

I’ve been a Windows user ever since 3.1 and before that I was using MS DOS. I’m not a Microsoft fan boy, but the Microsoft operating systems to date have for the most part served their purpose.

Windows 7 is a fantastic operating system and I’ve been happy using it since it launched. Looking back there have been a few Lemons, in my opinion prior to Windows XP SP3 there was no such thing as a stable Microsoft operating system. However all Microsoft PC operating systems so far have had 1 thing in common they have targeted the desktop user experience. And by this I mean users of Desktop computers and notebooks who typically have larger screens, no touch (or don’t rely on it) and regular input devices such as mouse and keyboard. There should be nothing surprising about this, after all that is what OS manufacturers should do, release an appropriate OS for the platform they are targeting.

Microsoft have officially thrown common sense out the Window, and have developed their next version of Windows (Win8) to target tablet devices leaving their existing desktop users with an OS not specifically designed for their platform.

The thing is, I’m one of those people lucky enough to have got into computers early in life and have been around for pretty much the whole evolution of where things are today. I’ve been around computers before Microsoft, and before the IBM style PC. I come from the days of Amstrad, Commodore and Spectrum. And so I have personally witnessed things go from loading apps with tape cartridges in 8 bit to Blue ray disks. I’ve been around LONG before the internet got popular, and lived through the 14.4k modems, 56k, first broadband connections, ever increasing technologies such as vdsl etc. I’ve been programming too for most of this time, and seen html emerge, seen languages come a long way such, lived with them for years, things like JS -> JQuery evolutions. I’ve also personally used every version of IE, and witnessed all the browser wars which started with IE vs Netscape.

And in all this time, I must be honest and tell you, I’ve never once witnessed a more blatantly selfish and greedy move on Microsoft’s part than Windows 8, effectively Microsoft selling out their existing users in one foul swoop and focusing on the more lucrative tablet market.

As you already know I wasn’t born yesterday 🙂 And so I remember the launch of Vista which although was a disappointment full of typical Microsoft marketing hype, at the end of the day Vista was released prematurely. Windows 7 is what they originally had in mind, and that is why if you look at the internal versioning of Windows. Windows 7 is actually Windows 6 – because it is essentially THE REAL VISTA. My point is I was annoyed at the time, but at least Vista was designed to target my platform. Windows 8 is an evil on a whole new level – and a big slap in the face. It is what happens when the top level of management take a great product and ruin it, adding in features to boost their profit, and not because these features are good for the end user.

Because of this recently I found myself in the market for an operating system that targets the desktop platform. Naturally I turned to Linux. Linux was the obvious choice but to be honest I haven’t had a great experience with Linux. Since you already know I wasn’t born yesterday, I had my first encounter with Linux before desktop environments existed. And when they started emerging there weren’t a whole lot of drivers. Linux was very much a geek only experience, but even back then it did do one thing really well – IT WORKED. Linux has always been a work horse. Linux is like the electricity of the internet. A great deal of EVERYTHING runs on Linux. Java likes to boast that it runs everywhere – but a lot of the time that same Java is running on Linux or something derived from Unix. Macs all run a flavor of Unix. All Android phones too – yup that is all Linux. MOST web servers the world over. Point is Linux has been sitting there working – and it is still working!

Linux is a great server, but how does it do on the desktop? Actually it does pretty damn fantastic, and this said based on my recent experience with Ubuntu 12.04. I don’t care if 12.039999 was shit or buggy – 12.04 is great. I know there is a lot of war going on right now with the different IDE’s (KDE, Unity, XFCE) ect, each one trying to be defacto and the best! This is perhaps why all of them are getting dramatically better – and fast!

Linux is nearly completely focused on the user experience. Yes you will find bugs, and things that suck, but for the most part in the Linux desktop experience it is an environment designed by the people for the people.

It will take time to learn, but it is changing and improving and NOW is the time to get into it. It really is an exciting time for Linux.

Gaming platform? Perhaps not as good as Windows, but to be honest a lot of new games coming out now look flashy, but suck. And a lot of games run great under Wine, and Linux gaming is emerging (but not fast enough).

Age old question: What can you do in Linux you can’t do in Windows?

NOTHING! more or less. But its not what you do it is the way that you do it!