I'm switching to Linux

I've been using Windows since I was a kid, and to be fair, it's always been a really good OS in my opinion: easy to use for the noob, powerful enough for the more experienced user, good looking, stable, and backwards compatible with nearly 30 years of PC software and games.

It all changed about 4 years ago when Windows 10 came out. With its fast development cycle of 6 months like a mobile OS, the system became less and less stable with every update, more bloat was added, and they even made it hard to get rid of it, and let's not even get into the whole privacy topic. I mean, look at my Windows 10 privacy guide, it's 25 pages long and it's getting longer with every update.

Let's discuss the reasons that pushed me away from Windows.

Note for Stallman fans: I will refer to GNU/Linux as just Linux.

General instability

Windows 10 is NOT stable, especially in the first months after a major update, you have to expect all sorts of issues. In my case, after the 1903 update, I ended up with a ton of applications failing to execute because the .NET platform broke, and the only way to fix it was to reinstall Windows. You can't expect the average user to be able to do that.
After reinstalling, everything seemed was fine for less than a month, then Windows update broke and kept trying to reinstall the 2019-05 update and failing because it was already installed. If this was Windows 7, I could have simply ignored that update, but no, this is Windows 10 so it keeps breaking my balls every few hours because that update is pending, and it fails every time, and it will continue to do so until I reinstall Windows again.

Oh, and good luck if you need to share things using SMB (network shares), discovery has been broken for years.

This is the result of Microsoft going for a fast development cycle for a product that is simply too big and complex to allow for this kind of development. Almost no testing goes into these updates before they are pushed to the general public, because there isn't enough time, and because Microsoft replaced its whole testing department with the Windows Insider program, where a bunch of kids test the latest updates before release. Obviously, nobody there is going to test old software, or the more enterprise-oriented features.

Forced driver updates

Windows update also downloads drivers for your computer. What happens if you install a driver that works but it's older than the one on Windows update that doesn't work properly? It forces the shitty driver with every update. On my desktop, the sound driver installed by Windows update (for an absolutely standard Realtek HD audio chip) causes random popping and dropouts, it sounds like a vynil record, and I have to reinstall the old driver every fucking time.
"But wait, you can disable automaic driver downloads!", you yell at me. Yes, but that also means that every time I connect a new device like a printer, it won't download the driver. That's very annoying. Again, if this was Windows 7, I could have simply ignored that update.

Additionally, Windows update also forcibly downloads "utilities" by your device manufacturer (like ASUS), and we all know how well that can end.

Breaking backwards compatibility

The most important thing in Windows, the main reason why it became popular in the first place, was backwards compatibility with older software. With every update, I see more and more old games not working anymore, old apps freezing or crashing for no reason. This is terrible.
Here's an example: I was recently replaying The Talos Principle, a game from 2014, last updated a few months ago, and after the 1903 update, the game freezes in certain spots and needs to be restarted. Meanwhile, my friend was playing it just fine on a similar machine with Windows 7. And this is just one case, look at the comments section on my Harry Potter 1 on Windows 10 guide. It's a catastrophe.

Backwards compatibility is the most important thing in any OS: to be better than the OS that you're trying to replace, you need to at least run everything that it could run. To me, backwards compatibility is far more important than innovation.

Too much preinstalled garbage

As soon as you finish installing Windows, the first thing it does is download GIGABYTES of trash from the Windows Store. Free to play games, useless applications, updates for the preinstalled bloatware. And you have to let it finish downloading that crap! If you dare to uninstall it before it's done, it downloads it again! What if I'm on a metered connection? Too bad, fuck you, gotta install Candy Crush. And let's not even talk about the LITERAL ADVERTISEMENTS in the start menu for more of this trash.

And for the love of god, why does it come with Adobe Flash in 2019? And you can't even uninstall it!

Windows Defender

A preinstalled antivirus that the user can't disable or uninstall, and all it does is delete cracked software and send "suspicious" files to Microsoft. Need I say more?

Privacy

See my Windows 10 privacy guide. Windows 10 is LITERALLY a botnet, don't let it fool you.

Is Linux any better?

The question we should be asking is, which is worse? The current version of Windows or a Linux distro? Let's have a little comparison:

Windows Linux
Spies on you Yes Maybe
Deletes your files at random Yes Maybe
Easy to install new drivers and software Yes Sometimes
Forced updates Yes No
Updates break your system Yes Yes
Battery life Good Meh
Backwards compatibility Yes, but it's getting worse by the day LOL
Can run KOTOR Maybe Maybe
Preinstalled bloatware Yes No
Average number of open terminals 0 There's one open right now
Muh games All of them Some
SMB works properly No No
Makes you feel intelligent and superior No Yes

Ok, I could go on forever, but the point is, Windows is driving power users like me away from it, and a GNU/Linux distro is the only viable alternative I have.

Problems with Linux

Windows is becoming bad, but that doesn't mean that Linux is without problems. Here's a very comprehensive article about the problems of Linux on the desktop.

Here's a list of some of my pet peeves on Linux:

  • File picker in many applications doesn't have thumbnails. This issue with GTK has been open since 2004.
  • When trying to move a file into a place where the user doesn't have write permissions, the file manager simply refuses instead of asking for the administrator password. You have to open the terminal to do it.
  • The system asks for your password ALL THE TIME, even when downloading system updates
  • Who thought "executable" is a file permission rather than a file type? Do you execute MP3 files?
  • Generally less snappy then Windows. Sometimes takes half a second to open the file manager
  • The monolithic nature of the Linux kernel is stupid, and makes installing drivers a painful experience
  • Speaking of drivers, the nVidia drivers are trash
  • When opening a file via on a SMB share, sometimes it needs to copy the whole file before it can be passed to the application. This wasn't the case when smbmount existed, a few years ago. They've actually gone backwards!
  • Don't even get me started about ALSA and PulseAudio
  • Or X.org and Wayland
  • VSync breaks easily, stuttering is out of control
  • Write cache is enabled by default on removable media. You need to safely remove USB drives before unplugging them or data can get corrupted
  • File associations sometimes change at random for no apparent reason. Yesterday, GIMP became my default PDF reader.
  • Sometimes applications are launched twice at startup for no apparent reason
  • Adding items to the "start menu" is not easy
  • No way to disable trash and permanently delete files immediately (also, the trash is stored on the main hard drive, so if you're deleting something from an external drive, it will transfer it entirely to the internal hard drive to put it in the trash). You can press Shift+delete to directly delete files, but you have to remember to do it.

My Linux machine

I wanted a machine that was well supported by Linux, so I went with a Thinkpad T480, with a Core i5, 16GB of DDR4 RAM, 256GB NVMe SSD, 14 inch 1080p IPS display. It's a pretty comfy machine to be honest, and the keyboard feels amazing to type on.

I decided to keep my desktop as just a gaming machine, so I will keep Windows on it, but it will stay offline and unplugged as much as possible.

Since I wanted something easy to use I decided to go for an Ubuntu based distro, in my case Kubuntu 19.04, because I prefer KDE to Gnome. Here's my software selection for the moment:

Windows Linux Notes
Text editor Notepad++ Kate VSCodium also a really good option
File manager Windows Explorer Dolphin Explorer was better IMHO, easier to use
Media player MPC-HC VLC MPV also a really good option. Went for VLC because it has a better UI
Image viewer JPEGView Gwenview
Office suite Libreoffice Libreoffice
Email and calendar Thunderbird Thunderbird
Web browser Firefox Firefox Debotnet guide
Archive manager 7-Zip PeaZip and Ark Nowhere near as good as 7-Zip
File, contacts, calendar synchronization Syncthing, Nextcloud Syncthing, Nextcloud
PDF and ebook reader SumatraPDF Okular and qcomicbook
Screenshot tool Greenshot Flameshot Both are excellent
Notes Notebot Notebot
Virtualization VirtualBox VirtualBox
Calculator SpeedCrunch KCalc
Graphics GIMP GIMP It kinda sucks
Firewall Simplewall ? Even on Linux, I would prefer to have some kind of firewall to stop applications like Unity games from going online.
Disc burning software Infrarecorder K3b I need it like once a year but ok
FTP client WinSCP FileZilla
Image mounting WinCDEmu gcdemu

I made the switch only 2 weeks ago at the time I'm writing this so I'm open to any software suggestion, in particular I need stuff similar to Bulk Rename Utility, WinMerge, WinDirStat and CrystalDiskInfo.

Effects on my projects

Everything I need for development is available on Linux so there shouldn't be any repercussions on my projects... except the Windows 10 Privacy guide: 1903 will most likely be the last update for me, except maybe LTSC releases every 2-3 years, so I definitely need a maintainer for this project and I will start looking for someone soon.

Do I recommend this?

I don't know, I'd say it's up to you. I'm not completely new to Linux, I've had a home server with Debian since 2013, and before that I had used it occasionally as a secondary OS on my laptop, but I never used it seriously because Windows was still good (despite the whole Windows 8 flop at the time).

I pretty much had no choice, it's a matter of time before Windows becomes a completely locked down piece of shit. If you're a developer or you care about your privacy and freedom, give it a try, because there are all the tools you need. Just be prepared for some tough days at first, because the whole user experience of Linux is not up to par with Windows.

Share this article

Comments