First, I will state that I think Windows 10 is a fine operating system. I switched back to Windows from Ubuntu Linux when I could upgrade my Windows 7 for free. I thought I’d try it out, and then stuck with it. There wasn’t anything I couldn’t do, and it ran all the software I wanted. On a technical level, I believe it is a superior product in the market, certainly better than the MacOS, and, as far as companies go, I believe that Microsoft is less nefarious than either Apple or Google.
My main reason for going back to Linux is that Windows 10 is a marketing machine for Microsoft. For example, when I click on my start menu, I see things like Candy Crush Friends Saga and Township, which are things I have no desire to play. I didn’t put them there, and while they are free, they have in game purchases that I don’t like. Honestly, I’d rather pay for a good quality game up front than to have on-going in game purchases. What’s wrong with Mine Sweeper or Solitaire? Another example is when I run an older version of Microsoft Office, it tells me that my Microsoft Office is out of date and wants me to buy the new version, even though there’s nothing wrong with the old one. Even my lock screen is constantly telling me how great Microsoft Edge is, and why I should use it. It’s constantly calling home to send data about my usage to Microsoft servers, in order for advertisers to be better at manipulating me through targeted ads.
I get it; Microsoft is a company, and so they need to make money in order to fatten the wallets of their shareholders. I have no problem buying a good quality operating system or office suite; for example, I bought legitimate store box copies of Windows 98, Windows XP, and Windows 7. I also paid for a legitimate copy of Office 2003, student and teacher edition as I was using it for non-commercial purposes. I didn’t need to be told when to buy these products; they offered something I wanted or needed, and bought them – or rather, paid for a license to use them.
That license is another thing that is an issue. For example, my copy of Office Student and Teacher edition 2003 has qualifying criteria: Full or part-time student, home-schooled student, full or part-time faculty or staff of an accredited educational institution, or a member of a household meeting this criteria. This means that the average minimum wage earning joe struggling to make ends meet who just wants something to create a new resume so they can find a better job would have to shell out a lot more money for the “Standard” edition, while an overpaid tenured professor gets to use the inexpensive version. I have a problem with that. It also states that it’s licensed for non-commercial use on up to 3 home PC’s. I don’t get it; why should Microsoft care about how many PC’s I use this product on in the privacy of my own home? No wonder I switched to LibreOffice.
Then there’s the way Windows behaves. For example, every week there’s a new system update. Often, these will force my computer to restart. Ubuntu Linux doesn’t do that. One time, I got an update that linked my documents and pictures folders to my OneDrive, but then my OneDrive filled up, so I got a message that I could “Buy” more space. Yuck, more harassment from the marketing department. I have to “Opt out” of things that, if they were “Opt in,” nobody in their right mind would participate in.
My journey back to Linux started with giving new life to an old netbook; an Acer AspireOne. I replaced the hard drive with an SSD, and installed Lubuntu Netbook edition. Lubuntu is a lightweight distribution of Ubuntu. This became my workhorse and travel companion; I installed LightZone on it so that I could have a digital darkroom with me anywhere I went. I followed that up with installing and configuring Ubuntu Server on the computer that hosts this very blog. My main PC is one I built from hand picked components in 2017, and I had intended it to be a powerful Linux machine, but I ended up transferring my legitimate Windows 10 license to it. Today, I finally got around to installing Ubuntu desktop 18.04 in a dual boot configuration from a USB stick. I was pleased when the installation went flawlessly, and everything worked. It even found my network laser printer and set it up automatically, no need to go hunting for drivers!
My first impression was one of peace. I went with the clean Unity desktop that I hated so much when it first came out but now have come to appreciate. No advertisements. No visual noise. No pressure to upgrade and spend more money. Nobody watching, nobody tracking to figure out what to sell me next. I configured the Thunderbird mail client; I hadn’t used an honest, clean, functional mail client like this since the last time I used Ubuntu Linux. I was shocked to see that my neglected inbox had over 15,000 unread messages; thankfully, Thunderbird allowed me to quickly and easily cut that down in a reasonable amount of time. I installed the NextCloud client and synced everything.
Ultimately, my greatest satisfaction comes from the knowledge that every single clock cycle and every bit of memory in my computer is dedicated 100% for my benefit, and is not wasted for the benefit of a company forever trying to extract more money from me. No wonder my computer feels so much faster and responsive now.