One of my hopes for 2019 is that I can actually write and publish some blog posts. Rather than just thinking of them then draft writing half of them. To do this will need me to give up on trying to write perfect blog posts. That’s the quickest way to own a blog that features one new post a year.
I’m now using Arch Linux as the operating system on my main development machine, previously I was using Windows 10 since it was released a few years back. Windows 10 isn’t bad at all, in fact I think it’s very good, so why did I change?
Mostly it’s because Windows (and indeed MacOS on my Macbook Air), have become so controlling over force-feeding you updates when they think you should get them that I no longer felt in control of my own computer. Now for sure the situation is worse on Mac, but even on Windows every few months they seem to demand you download a large update, which may or may not include something you really didn’t want or ever ask for.
With Linux I can update my software whenever I want, and if I never ever want another update then that’s my decision, I feel like I am in full control of my own computer. That’s how it should be. We have been conditioned to believe that we’re basically borrowing our computers from the IT gods at Microsoft, or Apple or even Google (with Android).
Now I know that when it comes to security updates, ‘normies’ can’t be trusted to not download viruses and malware, and so the forced regular updates do mean that the average PC will indeed get updated from time to time. There is value in ensuring your granny isn’t still using Windows Vista with no security updates installed.
This main benefit though has morphed into the operating system providers in Microsoft, Apple and Google taking complete control over system updates as and when they feel like it. For the majority of people who could cope with keeping their system updated if they learned how to do it, it’s a sad state of affairs.
It’s similar to how car manufacturers don’t want end users making any kind of tweak or fix or modification to their cars these days. Everything has to be done through a ‘licenced garage’. It is put across as a way of ‘looking after the end user’, but in reality it’s a way to take control.
Now why would they want control you ask? Well in the case of Android, MacOS, and indeed Windows these days, having control means they can also ensure 99% of users’ app purchases go through their own stores, for which they take a handsome cut of each sale. Additionally they can have users so used to using a single operating system that they become afraid to ever try anything new. I’m not just talking about Windows here, iOS certainly tries to ensure it’s users would never dare try Android.
Using Linux puts me firmly back in control.
Now secondly with many ‘apps’ being accessed over the Internet these days, the old argument of ‘Linux has mediocre software’ is becoming less and less relevant. For sure Microsoft Word is good, and slightly better than LibreOffice Write, but now I can use Microsoft Word Online on Linux, and it works very well.
In fact I think only video editing and 3D printing are jobs that I am going to leave to Windows. It is very easy to dual boot your system, so I can get back to Windows in less than a minute if I ever want. For development tasks, blog writing, email, watching movies, watching YouTube, programming Arduinos and even playing the odd game, Linux has me covered.
Many people have wondered over the past 20 years why Linux hasn’t destroyed Windows, seeing as it’s free (both in terms of money and what you could do with it) and there is a large network of people online who are willing to help people get to grips with it.
The answer here seems obvious, Linux does require a small amount of technical knowledge to use (e.g. Ubuntu or Linux Mint), and a lot of technical knowledge if you want to install a distribution such as Arch Linux. People who are not interested in tinkering around with computers and operating systems don’t want to try it unless there is a very good reason why they should.
Seeing as Windows is bundled with 99.999% of computers purchased fully built and ready to go and the cost of Windows is built into the price of the said computer, people believe that it’s basically “free”. Microsoft were very smart in the 1990s, they heavily pressured PC manufacturers to install Windows 95/98 on their machines, giving them solid discounts on a regular purchase of the operating system. This led Windows to become synonymous with PCs, normal folk believed one always came with the other. This is completely untrue, but Microsoft successfully made society believe it was.
So a user coming from Windows to Linux won’t do it because of the ‘cost saving’, as they believe their version of Windows was basically free anyway. They probably won’t do it because they ‘want to tinker’, as the vast majority of people aren’t computer geeks. They might think it’s an interesting idea, but the technical skills required to actually get Linux working how you want it to work will put off 90% of those who download a ‘Live CD’ to try.
So we’re left with developers and system admins, people who are used to working with technology all day long. They have the skills to install and configure a Linux distribution, they have the desire to ‘play’ at it, and they are mad enough at Microsoft to want to get away from Windows.
It took about 2 days to get my installation of Arch Linux working exactly how I wanted it. I took a further day to get my printer to work, and I’m still looking into how I will get my 3D printer to work. I know that if I bought a car I think I’d probably want to be able to drive it properly during the first 48 hours of owning it, I’d also imagine that the idea of waiting 4 days to get the electric windows to work might be annoying. So I can understand the appeal of Windows, MacOS, iOS and Android, but there’s just something exciting and interesting about the world of Linux distributions.
Right now I don’t think I will go back to Windows 10, if I do I will update this article.
If you’re not a programmer, I still believe playing around with Linux is a hell of a lot of fun. The easiest route in would be to buy a Raspberry Pi 3 for around 35 euros/dollars/pounds. The Internet and especially YouTube is full of tutorials.
Here I’m going to be monitoring how productive I am on Linux full time vs how I was on Windows. I’ll update this article with my thoughts on this sometime in the future.
99% of regular Internet folk would never read an article like this, and have no idea what Linux is. So no, sorry, Linux will never replace Windows. But then that’s like saying ‘will good music ever replace pop music?’.