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!


4 thoughts on “My experience switching to Linux: Intro

  1. My only problem with Linux (and I too have been around for ages and ages) is the fact that you have to run so many darned terminal commands to do the simplest things! I mean, I understand that this is exactly why Linux is such a secure OS, but it’s still migraine-producing.
    I guess I need to just study on the system more. If I ever get the hang of it, then it’s “Goodbye Micro-Crap” for me! LOL!
    Michael, I really love your Blogs….It’s a real pleasure to read them and to reply! Please keep on keeping on.

  2. Michael, like you, I remember Unix. But in those days, it was so complicated, I stuck to DOS (then 3.3, if I recall), happy with my $10,000 286 machine; happy, after some years battling with Commodore and Trash-80. Am still a Lotus 1-2-3 version 2.01 junkie, which I run in a DOS window of XP.

    Now, after reading the PC World articles on Win 8 aka WinHate, I bought two more XP machines, determined to go no farther. Apple has always been a NO for me; ever since it was born I’ve hated it.

    So that leaves Linux. Can I just install it on an existing XP machine? Or do I have to do it first, and THEN install XP? How complex a process is this? As it stands, whenever I want to use Linux I just insert a boot CD and turn on the machine, to bypass Windows. Some of the jargon takes a few extra seconds to understand, but not much. I’ve never learned the commands, though, so couldn’t program anything into it.

    Thank you for any time you spend in reply!

  3. Is it just me or is everything I used to defend Microsoft for in it’s real innovations is just being taken away one product at a time for my home use. Heck, I almost swore off Cisco last month because they were forcing me into a privacy agreement to have to use the cloud to access my own home router. Hotter heads won that one leaving Cisco backtracking, but that’s what they said about privacy at first and now I find my Facebook profile pic can’t be privatized and no one seems to care your personal information is being sold and where Privacy Policies used to say they wouldn’t, now they just say how they will.
    I’ve always prided myself in taking change and sorting the good from the bad, The good always seemed to outweigh the bad in computing changes in the past, but I do not like the way Microsoft is going and for that matter, computing in general. To be honest, I have been a fan of alot of innovations by Microsoft and have always found ways to get the job done and do interesting things I always dreamed of doing with computers with their help. I have been programming and using computers since the TI99 and I see the writing on the wall when you begin ignoring the consumer as Apple does, (they’re one innovation is running out, no matter how much they sue) telling us what we need, when we need it, and for how much rather than bringing many great companies together, with a flexible platform on hardware of choice. Now tech reporters enjoy their weekly feeds of how many colors a device will come in rather than what it will actually do.
    Now Microsoft wants to be Apple and I don’t want to go along for the ride and I think it’s a great time to move to a more open platform. Some of my favorite things that have built up to this decision along with your great article and my amazement at what Android can do was….Taking a new job and watching a few less tech savvy developers with executives ears, afraid of server hardware, force their apps into Azure and together with Microsoft’s outages have caused more downtime and slow response time, than the locally owned servers ever did with a higher cost too. WHS going down with no commitment to the future and killing useful features. Media Center taking a backseat to a less powerful console. Paying monthly fees to use software that is slow as molasses cause it needs to be controlled by Master Control. MS Flight simulator dumbed down and smart strategic games becoming almost extinct. The Best MP3 Player Interface and Wireless syncing ZuneHD, killed before it’s time. Best looking and functioning iTunes killing Zune desktop software that was never marketed and now cutoff at the knees with only Windows Phones to support it. Now the two knockout blows, nothing innovative in Desktop gaming in Windows 8, and killing off the powerful free Live Mesh unlimited data sync with all my pc’s. My mission, to stay out of monthly service fees as much as possible and fly under and over the “cloud” where I can, is not being helped by Microsoft going into the future. I still access my homeserver from my phone and tablet on the go until I can replace them with comprable open source software. I will give Linux all it’s due time and while it may take me longer to find and implement some solutions to what I need, there really is no alternative for me in the near future. While innovation with computing takes a pause(in my opinion) while bad software is boxed up in closed devices, while people are trying to figure out how to do the same things they used to so easily on a desktop or local server, on mobile os’s or cloud based apps, it seems a perfect time to relearn to walk (so to speak) with my main computing devices. I am more than happy with my Asus Transformer Prime and an HTC Amaze phone, so why not bring my desktops, laptops, and servers along for the ride as well.

    Feels like the dawn of a new computing age, diverging from the smart appliance heavily tied cloud service age, where the real computers are going to be separated from the everyday household appliances (smart phone, smart fridge, smart tv, smart car, smart bike, smart shovel, smart toilet, etc.). That’s all great, but not when you want to create something rather than just consume.

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