It was about a year ago when I was experimenting with the Microsoft’s new Windows 10 Community Technology Preview as a part of the Microsoft Insiders Program. I wanted to see Microsoft’s vision of their future operating system and decide if it was worth the move. They were offering it for free, but I knew the cost of upgrading operating systems. Just because there was no monetary cost it did not mean there was a cost in time and frustration with updated user interfaces.
For years, I have used Windows 7 as my “production” operating system. I never upgraded to Windows 8 because I did not like its interface. When I previewed it, it was difficult to find features and settings I was used to because everything was reorganized. I also found many online complaints about software not working correctly in the new version because not all software vendors had not made necessary changes to their programming.
Another factor was the fact the process of “upgrading” to a new version of a Windows operating system was a gamble. Most of my tech support friends recommended never do an upgrade to a new OS. Always install a fresh version. Since I did not want to reinstall all of my software again, I held off on moving up. Everything was working fine, so why take the chance?
So here I was, examining the new latest and greatest Windows release and saw there were some improvements to the user interface, but I still hated all the ugly blocks of “apps” on the start menu. I also hated having to look for features and settings again in this new user interface.
During this time was also only looking from a user perspective, not really taking into consideration the underlying technology driving everything. In the past, I had trouble as an early adopter on Windows operating systems. I decided to hold off on the “free” offer until more information became available. I could not afford any down time from an upgrade that could render my installed software inoperable. Why fix something that’s not broken?
Well, the information began pouring in shortly after Windows 10 was released in late July of 2015. Some of it was good and some of it was not so good. Most of the good I heard was from end-users (not power users) who liked the new interface, the very thing I hated. The not so good was from IT professionals have misgiving about is technical flaws and possible security problems. Since these are the people I listen to, I was glad I did not upgrade.
Then came the big problem. Windows 10 was trying to install itself without my express permission. No matter what I did, it still tried. Thank goodness it was failing to do so, because there was something in my system that prevented the update from starting. I began scouring the internet to find out what was going on, and discovered it was a series of updates that came through Windows Updates that were trying to trigger the Windows 10 installer.
At this point, I had enough of Microsoft. I began the process I had been several time before. I toyed with Linux off and on for 20 years, even getting into a course on Linux system administration at one point. During those times, I liked what it could do, but I was left feeling it wasn’t quite ready for use by everyone.
I was in for a surprise, however. I went out to Distrowatch, a web site that tracks Linux distribution development, to see what was currently going on and what Linux distributions were available. At the top of the list was Linux Mint. I downloaded a copy and installed it into a VirtualBox machine. I was blown away. Somewhere along the way, Linux had finally matured into something I could recommend for all computer users.
But my surprise didn’t end there. There were many, many other distributions available that were just as easy to use as Mint. There was Linux Lite, Peppermint OS, Zorin, and so on, made to help Windows users make an easy transition to Linux.
After I had a dozen or so VirtualBox images, I decide to dust off some old computers and with great happiness, wiped them of their Windows operating system and began installing various Linux flavors. Falling back on my Linux administration training, I found many things had improved since I took those classes. I found that Linux worked better on the old and outdated machines. It is not as resource heavy as Windows. There were also no plug-n-play issues, unlike what I had seen just a few years earlier. Networking worked out of the box and setting up a printer was much easier.
The software included was also impressive. There were office suites, photo programs, music and video players, internet applications; just about everything you need to make your transition easier. There is certainly a learning curve involved, but it is one I feel is important to undertake.
I am now in the process of transitioning away, as much as possible, from closed-source products. I have actually given couple of classes recently at a local store telling about the security issues one could run into while on the Internet. I recommended, for those who could, to move away from Windows. Move away from proprietary software where you don’t know what is running on your computer, and move into the free and open world of Linux.