I already know the questions you might have from reading the tittle, but let me just state why I decided to write about this so then we can move on 🙂
I have a lot to say about it and nothing prevents me from adding a misc category (thanks WordPress 🙂 ) and I have been lazy playing ff7 lately (I did plan to post an exhaustive review about it). Since this one is going to be SUPER long and imo is very interesting to let other people know what I actually think of Linux and what I had in mind before I tried it, I figured why not?
So there, it’s not gaming and not really engineering oriented (altough……there is stuff about these OS I will talk about), but it should still be interesting.
Still, why you do this?
Because I feel I hear a lot of talk about Linux that are either not true, or coming from misinformed conclusion. Some even doesn’t know the main idea that makes Linux appealing on its own and how widespread it is actually. But I also hear a lot of what I would say generalised criticism on it that I feel people don’t know what the kernel is and why it’s different to use than other platform. It’s clearly not a perfect kermel, and it definitely has its cons, but I somehow feel that given more people knew about it, I feel it would become an interesting consideration. Hence this post.
It should be noted here, this is MY experience with switching, not a comparison. I do this because I felt if I was describing my legitimate experience from switching that it would sound more like I actually realised it was an interesting choice and why instead of saying “THIS IS INTERESTING AND HERE’S WHY!”…..which is shorter, but also not helping much people get the idea imo. It also makes people more aware that anybody could be at some point interested in Linux.
I used to run Windows…
I had an ASUS laptop and it was my first PC, I think I got it in 2012 until it died on me in 2014. I am not going to go over the specs because……they are kinda uninteresting, but the only thing relevant in this post is that laptop had a kinda slow hard drive. To boot an operating system (OS), it would take around 2 minutes. Of course, it goes to say that this laptop had Windows 7 pre-installed.
And I am going to be honest, at the time……I was quite happy. I mean, it did what I wanted it to do, it was responsive enough and thanks to having a dedicated graphics card, it was ok enough for stuff like running games or the Dolphin emulator (I use this program heavily because of my glitch hunting). So it’s not that I disliked Windows before, I actually kinda liked it at first.
But given how curious I was, I kept hearing about this OS called Linux…..and I only heard of Mac OS and windows so why I never really hear about Linux much?
When I learned about Linux
Well I did some research on it and I came to…..weird conclusion. Because….people were telling advantages over Windows that felt as if it was surreal at some point. Rare viruses? An update system that actually updates everything? No defragmentation or reformatting necessary? NOT EVEN NEEDING TO RESTART MUCH?
Tbh, I did found these unexpected advantages, I mean, I thought for my whole life that these things were not really possible to have in a computer. Like defragmenting for example, I always thought it was needed for any pc as much as……changing oil in a car is needed. What I actually learned is for NTFS (the Windows file system), it’s needed, but for the most popular Linux one, ext4, it arranges files in such a way that you don’t need to do it as much.
And what about the fact it’s open source?
It was a time when I was starting to realise that FOSS (or free open source software) despite a lot of them being free (as costing nothing AND you are free to do whatever you want), a lot of them felt…..either superior or doing the exact same job for no money. To me, the first example where I realised how true this was is VLC, it’s a media player that can read……hum everything? it’s crazy, it can even read my capture card audio! While Windows media player, the one included within Windows…..it only does basic stuff. Or how the Dolphin emulator keeps progressing because people keeps submitting great commits ideas and stuff.
But an ENTIRE kernel OS to be a FOSS??? It honestly felt a bit too far-fetched. Can it be more prone to errors? Can it be more reliable?
Because not going to lie, as someone who had ONLY used Windows at the time, these benefits like I was actually questioning if Windows is the best one. Like,. there’s a lot of benefit to be open source: the fact you have an entire community and anyone can submit ideas and changes means that you have the most diversified opinions you could have on something which means that it gives more potential to have really good stuff coming from that. And on top of that, bugs fixing are in theory quicker because since it’s the community that build the software, bugs gets known quicker and ideas for fixes does come quicker. The way Windows differs on this is it’s entirely controlled by Microsoft which…..is reliable, but it doesn’t mean what SHOULD be fixed will be soon.
So at this point, I am far from convinced, but tbh……I really was tempted to try it because…..I don’t know but it felt something had to be wrong. An entire OS to be free…..it just doesn’t sound real, but I figured that I had times so I should try it 🙂
Before I go there, I just want to clarify something
I wasn’t that experienced with computer as I am writing this post…..VERY far from it. I think the most advanced thing I did was learning how to reinstall Windows (because you do need to reformat from time to time) and I clearly remember that at the time, it felt an adventure lol. Today, it’s like doing baby steps, but yeah, the idea here is I am in general knowledgable, but not as much. in fact, that Linux experience made me learn A LOT so, keep this in mind because it’s going to become clear why I need to point this out.
Actually trying it
So after some research, the install……is also different from Windows. Well, it’s a similar procedure, you burn a dvd or a usb stick with an image file, insert it, tell your system to boot from that media before your hard drive and there you go. Except that media now isn’t JUST an installer unlike Windows, it’s like….the OS with the installer….
If it’s confusing, basically, the file has a crunched down Linux distribution in it so you can actually use it as a full OS (slow because you don’t use a hard drive though), try it, fiddle with it and if needed, you could optionally install it. It doesn’t do ANYTHING on the system until you install it (or I guess…..do stuff in your Windows part, but tbh, idk why you would do that lol). What’s so good about it is, it’s more than a demo for new users here, it’s like a preview of the full thing. I was surprised at first because…..I felt Windows should have that considering you actually pay for it.
As for the distribution part, the thing is, you have literally hundreds of choices. Linux is a free kernel, the OS can use this kernel, include stuff on it and then label it as a distribution and share it. If it sounds weird that they can do this legally, well reminder this is a FOSS, it inherently gives you the legal rights to do this. The advantages is…..hoenstly you cannot find an OS that doesn’t fit your needs here, even if it’s VERY specific (I even saw stuff like a distro made for blind people or a distro made for emulating other game consoles).
Since I am only going to test it and I don’t really want a complex thing, I chose Ubuntu and…..i think it was 12.04 at the time? I am not sure, but it doesn’t matter much for what i tried. Ubuntu btw is the most popular linux distro because it’s very user friendly. I in fact heard a lot more stories of people switching to it from Windows because of that. So, for what I wanted to do, it felt fitting 🙂
…..until I realised that because I was using a dvd, it was so slow that it was hard to test. The one thing I did noticed that…..quite honestly surprised me is….why my hardware is working already?
I DIDN’T EVEN INSTALLED ANYTHING! How can I possibly be able to go online, have my touchpad working and pretty much the only thing that wasn’t really used is my dedicated graphics card (more on that later, it’s actually not because of Linux here).
So ok, that was surprising, but the next thing I noticed is…..the OS isn’t like a fresh Windows because it has a lot of programs pre-installed, but I soon realised that most of these programs could very well form a full OS that you wouldn’t even have to install much because……the most used stuff is there already. I had my firefox, an office suite, image editing, media player (of course it’s VLC) and tons of system utility…….particurlarly the settings apps. That one had……a lot of stuff I never expected. It really felt I could customise much more than in Windows which btw, I thought you could do a lot with it still.
But since I already learned about the option of dual booting (you have 2 OS installed and you choose which one to start on boot with a menu) and how convenient the installer make this choice……I figured that I need to test it with real hard drive speed and just uninstalling it when I’m done.
Honestly, if you ever installed Windows……it’s the same thing, but slightly better. It’s shorter, but it’s much smarter. It detects the requirement and will even remind you buy that way that you should have internet. Windows, has only 3 choices, install, upgrade and custom install, but to be really sure of what it will do, you most of the time have to choose custom isntall because you can see where it will install. The Ubuntu one, you have that option too, but even that is much more advanced (you might have to google if you actually pick that option because without knowing how Linux works with files here, it might be annoying, but luckily, that installer has quick options that clearly tells you stuff). And when you actually come to isntall it, well it install AS YOU TYPE THE INITIAL CONFIGURATION! I didn’t even know it was a thing, as I was choosing stuff like timezone, username and keyboard layouts, as it was installing. Windows, you reboot after the install and this is where you enter your stuff, yeah it’s not that smart.
So it finally install and then I get to reboot and as promised, I got my boot menu.
Now finally using Linux for the first time
Sp finally, I am there.
And to be honest, everything just worked. Sure, the Ui is really different (more on that later), but I didn’t took much time to figure it out. The OS was quite fast too, maybe slightly faster than Windows, but that I don’t remember that part well. No because to tell the truth, after some time of actually using Ubuntu, I just didn’t like all of it.
For example, the “taskbar” is on the left, but I would have wanted it to be down, I dislike the “start menu” (they call it dash) because it’s a search box that takes the whole screen, etc…
And other little UI thingy that frankly, I don’t like at all.
But removing that……to be very honest, it’s not only very usable, but also very powerful.
See, the fact that I actually got that most of my stuff working for not even paying for it, this is impressive. Sure, you don’t have stuff like Word or Photoshop because these don’t have a Linux version, but at the end of the day, I found that most stuff has an alternative that works under linux. And it’s not like you have 0 Windows compatibility, you can always get wine, a compatibility layer or even do a vm if needed, but it’s clearly not perfect and it will never replace the true native Windows.
But as far as the OS is concerned….it just works so it was true after all.
And this is when I realise that Linux might be very interesting. Because it does feel that it has advantages over Windows like for example, Linux has an “app store like” packaging system that pretty much can update everything, but can scan for dependency and pretty much solve most freaking DLL missing things on windows because this thing will detect it. You can add repositories in it so yeah, it’s smarter.
But the next VERY hype thing I experienced is you could be installing pretty much everything but a kernel update and NOT HAVING TO RESTART! Remember, I have a slow hard drive, booting takes 2-3 minutes and it annoys me, but Windows doesn’t even help by prompting for a reboot almost every single update or install……seriosuly, I learned to live with it before, but realising that you have Linux which isn’t even a problem here…..you get why i am legitimately starting to question Windows reliability and stability here.
And then you come back to all the other things like no real reformat needed (it’s actually taking forever on Windows because you have to reinstall everything after while Ubuntu, you have the OS with lots of stuff pre-installed), rare viruses (they’re there, but it’s that it’s so rare that having an antivirus…..is kinda pointless) and all the other things I heard, this came at no cost……and it works.
The ONLY thing I found that wasnt’t working much is my NVIDIA graphics card and I’ll detail more later because it wasn’t that big of a problem for now, but the idea is nvidia has a thing called optimus where it can switch between integrated and dedicated graphics in laptop. That part, due to nvidia being…….a bit unfriendly for open source stuff, it lacks official support so the only way to do it is vis some projects that had to reverse engineer that. So, not like I could do much here, but it does show that you might want to check what hardware you might use because despite Linux not having the same problem as Windows for drivers (you don’t have to hunt for them most of the time), there can be instances where the manufacturer doesn’t care much, btu from my experience, most of the stuff I EVER tried worked fine.
Despite this, I didn’t even started to learn the OS, I actually realised that if I could, I didn’t really had to! I could see someone (assuming they are ok with the UI unlike me) being exposed to this OS, not knowing much about how it works and actually start using it daily without really needing this much of assistance. Of course, it assumes you had to install it, but is this really that much different from Windows? Installing Windows is very similar to install Linux, if you don’t know what a BIOS is and why it’s important to know here, you probably will need to do research before being able to install either of them.
I didn’t have to learn how the directory of the system was structured because….I could just mess with my home directory only and be fine. I didn’t really have to learn how powerful the commands interface was because most stuff I would do can be done in GUI (it helps to troubleshoot stuff and to have more automation, but it’s nto really necessary if you don’t need that).
My point here is unlike what I am hearing a lot, Linux CAN be very intuitive, I didn’t even know how to change the kernel and I could use fully the OS. And I wasn;t very knowledgable in programming either, it’s not really hard to use as much as I heard.
But I eventually uninstalled it for several reasons. 1: I just didn’t had enough information to feel comfortable switching it, 2: I don’t like some stuff like the UI and 3: I wasn’t even planning to keep it, but to at least test it and that test gave me the idea that there might be soemthing interesting to explore here.
Admitably, I didn’t test it for long enough to get the idea of a good Linux OS, but I will say: I was interested enough to do research, as I said earlier, you have hundreds of choices so maybe one would be better for me so I kept searching on it.
But the main reason I was interested is I just installed and uninstalled an OS without paying that had most of the stuff I wanted, that I could use it for a very long period of time and it had some part that felt smarter than Windows which I can’t modify as much as I could on the ubuntu (except that taskbar, that really annoyed me).
Eventually I learned that you could swap your UI environment entirely and I only tried one of them (Unity) so I guess it wasn’t a big problem, but again, I looked at my Windows 7 thinking you can’t possibly do this as you are forced to use the same shell.
The only reason I wasn’t that much ready to switch is simply because I was worried about support. The main con I noticed with Linux is Windows only stuff are not that easy to make them work, Wine helps A LOT, but it’s not perfect. So in the event that a Windows only app existed that I had to use, the worst case is I would have to make it a vm for that to use it. I really had to check what it feels like to use Linux for a very long time to eventually realise if it’s good or not.
And then I came across another distro called Linux Mint. Based on Ubuntu (so it had the convenience I liked), the UI had one flavor that felt more like Windows and it has a green theme so WHY NOT?
So redid the same thing for the install and NOW, it feels much better. I could use the Ui very quickly and it really told me how I could definitely use it. At the time, it was Mint 15.
Actually learning what it is like to use Linux
So of course I didn’t test it long before, but I did read more on the distro, the Linux kernel and how it works and stuff. it turns out that I got a much better description of why the packaging system works and all kind of stuff. Then…..tbh I kept it for a bit longer, I don’t remember how long exactly, but I guess a week minimum. So I eventually got to the point where everything was fine, but then I realised, this is a linux so maybe I can do stuff I woudln’t be able to?
Which is what I tried…..and I failed most of the time (stuff like installing another environment and switch session to that, you can do it, but your program are going to be messed up). I tried other environemnt…..I actually didn’t like them as much as the one I had. I tried fiddling with the settings and I LOVED doing that 🙂 . I even tried to start learning how the commands work and tbh……WOW it’s like 10 times better than Windows omg. You could install 20 programs by just typing their name with the install command, you can output to input with one character etc….. I really liked it.
Unfortunately, learning the different parts of the system took me a very long time because it’s very hard to know where to start. What I didn’t know is the system has a philosophy where you have these little programs that does only one job and does it well so at the end, you have tons of little programs.
And because I used to troubleshoot on Windows, it’s not the same experience. On Windows, you would try to google your problem and the solution mostly rarely involve advanced task because most of the time, you would have a very common solution. Linux, you have MANY different possible solutions and worse, all varying in difficulty of understanding what they do something you don’t really invest too much on Windows because…..it doesn’t tells you much (more on that later).
So guess what? I thought it was going like having a common solution, but what I was doing were completely unrelated or I even break stuff sometime. it became VERY obvious when I finally tried to fix that graphics card problem, I probably broke my OS I think 3 times trying to do this and honestly, it wasn’t actually broken, you could have fixed it, but I didn’t even know that. It took me a long time before realising that there isn’t much I can do for that graphics card problem so I eventually left it that way and it was fine for me tbh.
But the idea here is I did had to learn the hard way sometime. What I learned is that in the event you want to troubleshoot stuff, you want to have a solution that you know EXACTLY what it is going to attempt to do. I will talk about this more later in the post, but Linux is made in such a way that it’s very easy to know this information. it might take a lot of googling here, but tbh, as it goes, it becomes easier and easier to guess. Even the OS does help you this, there’s one command called man that pretty much tells way much more than you need to know on any command.
For these learning reasons and stuff sometime not working as I wanted (like wine not running anything I could want for example), I couldn’t stay on that for more than a month so I did uninstalled it again, but I was clearly not ended with Linux.
When I started to really consider what OS was better for me
After the second uninstall, honestly, I was thinking a lot about the idea. Like, this time I learned a lot, but I also learned other stuff about Windows: it’s not as good as I thought it was. I can give a couple of example, but I already hinted at some, I could say uninstalling program, a lot fo the time, something is left like registry stuff that you have to clean a lot, but on Linux…..I never got that, it just is organised so that this wouldn’t happen, even I could read configuration file pretty easily on Linux.
But the main and VERY huge thing I learned about Windows that really made me consider Linux is how it’s……kind of like a magician if you want.
Windows has a forced trust relation
Let me explain what I mean. Windows is doing stuff for you which is completely normal in an OS that tries to be friendly, it’s like a TV remote, the button pushing does the stuff for you to send electrical signal to have the right IR light so your TV respond, this is compeltely normal, every OS does it.
But Windows goes further by not allowing you to get what is actually happening. In normal cases, you don’t NEED to assuming the OS responds normally all the time you could just let it go and it would be fine.
But I just learned very questionable things about this. For example, why does it seem that Windows update takes so long to download while my internet is very good? In fact, that updater doesn’t tell me what it is doing, even the names are cryptic with KB…..something (I know they give some change log, but tbh, it doesn’t inform me anything about the update install status at any case and again, I feel it’s taking longer than it should). Or installing and removing program, how can I be sure something was installed or remove cleanly? especially the removal part, I had cases where……you coudl doubt a lot.
And then you get to where you start to think, if it is supposed to do everything for me, why do I have to defragment and reinstall Windows to improve performance after long usage considering the reason I have to is because of the file system? Or why does I need to reboot every time it installs something?
And what if something goes wrong? I rely on the error message which from my experience…..isn’t always useful, if I could check some kind of log or something the program tried, then it could work, but on windows……it’s really not easy and on Linux, well, that’s the thing, Linux almost present these to you if you wanted.
And there was the thing that made me realised that Windows isn’t this reliable because it forces you to trust it. it’s as if it was magic and you are not allowed to see what is happening Linux allowing you to see what it is doing makes it more reliable because if something goes wrong, chances are, you could potentially know what it is. In fact, there are lots of features that allows to do troubleshooting even if your GUI fails.
To me, I don’t like this. Sure the OS is friendly, but the amount of trust it asks is ridiculous. Considering I pay for it….shouldn’t it make sure everything is fine rather than hiding it from me?
So this is where I started to install mint and uninstalling it several times as it goes, I really was unsure with this argument now. Eventually, I kept it more than 2 months and I found better ways to make my stuff work even under wine and even with a virtual machine that’s actually booting my Windows.
After several months of not booting into Windows, I finally decided to shrink my Windows partition……this is where I consider I made the switch.
After the switch
Honestly, I never regretted it. In fact, it was that time when Windows 8 was released which I really didn’t like, but as I used Linux for so long, I grew from I’m happy with Windows to I find Windows disgusting and annoying to use. Being exposed with so much freedom in an OS that I didn’t even paid is just making me question the paid alternative. Sure, it takes time to learn……but so is Windows or any OS that is inherently different for that matter. Sure, it has compatibility problems with Windows only stuff…….but the same can be said for the opposite and most stuff has alternatives (there’s still stuff that has problems like directx games, but vulkan and a growing interest from valve with steam OS should help).
As I used mint for sop long, I did noticed a lot of cool stuff I didn’t put the time to notice before. A very notable one was being able to change the font of EVERYTHING in one place, Windows only allows the feature partially. Only Linux could do something like this:
And Mint kept getting better too, but without drastically changing everything….and I don’t really have to explain why I am targeting windows here…
The last thing I really started to like with the release of Windows 10 is because the OS is open source, everyone knows what’s in there so no people would want to know your personal info, but as we know, Windows 10 tracks a lot of stuff…..it really shouldn’t for privacy reasons. I even heard it tracks your touchpad movement 😦 So yeah, you are free to do whatever you want, but then you get these advantages, you can even have like 7 sessions open at the same time (it does help to troubleshoot stuff btw) and it sounds silly, but you do need to pay a lot for this feature on Windows (it will disconnect the other session if you try to login in another one).
After 2 years of using Mint, I switched to arch Linux which is a more advanced distro made for more advanced users that constantly update itself and there’s no multiple versions really. I actually switched to desktop custom build pc a year ago and recently, I was surprised to realise my new gtx 950 works really while on first try 🙂
So I think it is time to tell what I was trying to point out here.
Linux isn’t made for advanced users at all, it’s actually an alternative for…everyone
A lot of people don’t know this, but a lot of the web services you use like facebook, twitter, amazon and many of them uses servers that runs on Linux because its security is reputated to be really good for servers. Your android phone is actually using Linux, mac os is based on free bsd which is a Unix based system and linux is a unix made open source so even mac os has the same base. At the end of the day, the only place Linux isn’t widespread is on desktop, but you gotta be thinking, if it’s THIS used everywhere else, there must be good reasons…even for a desktop users, it works given you did learned it, but like I said, you had to learn Windows didn’t you?