I had tried to switch to Linux several times during the past three or four years, and every time had to roll back to Windows, because of the critical mass of inconvenience, of being unaccustomed to the new environment, of being unable to quickly solve everyday and working tasks, and in the beginning altogether – because of problems with device drivers. But this time, I think, I have switched for good – it is now month 4 into the flight and all systems go. Nowadays Ubuntu, and I have chosen that Linux distributive, has become quite mature, both with hardware support and with application software, also with documentation, published advice and recommendations. Additionally, I have developed some solutions facilitating the switch-over from Windows to Linux, which is the subject of this article.
Let me first of all tell what induced me to switch over.
1. Reasons for switch-over
The most obvious reason – freeware. Although now I would not have put it on the first place for myself. In my youth, the noncompliance to pay for the digital product in general, and software in particular, was a matter of principle. I spent a heap of time polishing the art of stealing software properly.
But since then, I have grown reluctant to use pirate software: both due to ethical and security reasons – more and more valuable and sensitive information is being stored on the computer. Pirate software can contain viruses and Trojans, including those not detectable by anti-virus software. Besides, updates may not work or may break the system. I must admit that this is not an issue for those who work in a company where Windows is bought anyway, and the home computer is used mainly for games, watching videos and browsing the Web. In that case, important information is not stored on the home computer and pirate software is of no real danger, at least until home users are persecuted for pirate software in this country. For freelancers however, this issue is more pressing. Even having a multilevel system of backups, including those on detached drives, the computer may contain sensitive information and a leakage may be rather unwanted. Also, if you have to go abroad with your laptop, the licenses may be checked on the border.
You can, of course, buy the license for Windows. And I even bought it twice, together with a laptop and a tablet PC. But you will have to buy it again after each major upgrade. And when you sell your old computer, hardly anyone will want to pay extra for the licensed Windows. Also, if the computer is broken or lost then the license is lost too. Therefore you should compare the time of learning Linux not with the price of one license, but with all of them you will have to buy during your lifetime. And the knowledge of Linux, you invest into it once and it is with you till kingdom come, or possibly even further.
Besides, there is considerably less free software under Windows, so you should take into account the cost of application software too.
Linux works noticeably faster, and occupies several times less space on the drive and in RAM. Especially if you customize it for your needs, disable and delete unused software. Windows can also be customize, but Linux beats it all the same and by far. And the customization of Windows is more complicated (more about it below). This situation with performance is no surprise, taking into consideration the fact that Linux is written by topnotch enthusiastic programmers. They do it for their own use and for the soul. There are strong programmers in Microsoft too, I guess, but there are plenty of mediocre ones, for sure, and anyway the incentive of working for a salary is always weaker than the enthusiasm of the creator, master of his craft. Moreover, a master of his craft will never be left without worthy compensation.
1.3 Customizability and openness
Linux has practically unlimited capability of customizing the environment, automating repetitive tasks and exporting settings. It is possible to customize, automate and export settings in Windows too, but you are very quickly blocked by various limitations which render the task so difficult it is not worth the trouble. In Linux on the contrary – a lot of tasks and situations have been described by the community, and detailed step-by-step solutions are provided, so that you don’t even need to read the official documentation. And if you are ready to read the documentation and modify the source code, then limitations do not exist in principle.
Also, more settings, hot-keys and utilities are provided from the box. Right after the installation, Ubuntu feels more convenient and powerful.
Open source code gives more assurance that the software will not contain hidden spyware. There are rumors that Microsoft inserts that kind of code in Windows. It can collect not just user experience as they claim, but actually the valuable and/or personal information, or even open remote control to the computer. In case of Linux, it will be possible at least to remove the undesirable code by choosing a different distributive or making one yourself, if/when that issue becomes really important.
1.4 Improving your qualification as IT specialist
The experience of working in Linux may become handy if you come across a personal computer or server with that operating system and need to do something there. Linux also is often installed in various exotic devices, like network communication equipment. I recently had to update firmware in smartphone Xiaomi Redmi 3, and I was excited to discover that the update from Linux is much simpler and faster.
Also it is a solid skill for your resume, which can be called for at any time.
1.5 Stability, security
There are more viruses under Windows, that is for sure. It is especially important if you use pirate software, but I already wrote about that.
As for stability, that is a controversial question. There is an opinion that Windows often crashes, hangs or reboots. Indeed, up till version XP SP3 that happened pretty often, but starting with Windows 7, I do not observe any such behavior. Though that may be due to the fact that now I experiment with new software only under virtual machines. And I sometimes restore the image of system partition or reinstall the operating system completely, in order to clean it up. How much Linux clogs during exploitation, I cannot say for the lack of personal experience. But judging by the reviews, Linux should be cleaner. All in all, this issue has become irrelevant for me recently, but it may be important for someone, so I’ve mentioned it here.
1.6 Emotional and rather subjective reason
I enjoy being involved, at least indirectly, in the glorious open-source community. Also I delight in finding solutions for programming tasks – it is like playing a point-and-click adventure game. Thus I understand that I haven’t yet “userfied” completely while working as a Project Manager.
1.7 Drawbacks of Linux
For the sake of justice, I must admit that several issues still annoy me in Ubuntu, I hope temporarily. Teamviewer client for Linux has rather limited functionality. Performance and picture quality in RDP are inferior. Canon LBP 6020B driver (self-made, no official one) crashed the system after an OS update. Siemens PC Adapter USB (device for PC-PLC communication) does not work under Windows XP (demands USB 3.0).