A brief history of leaving Windows for Linux (Mint is my latest flavor). Thoughts six months after the full switch.
You will probably find yourself in one of two categories here:
- "What's wrong with Windows?"
- "What on earth could have taken you so long?"
I guess you could be asking yourself, why isn't OS X the title of this post. And I'd have to tell you it might be a title in the future, but the markup on the hardware prices me out at current.
Whats Wrong with Windows?
There are those supporters of the free world that will deafen your ears with tales of monopolies and anti-competitive behavior. While there might be some truth there, those lines of thought are a bit more ideological than the functional experiences that moved me.
If you aren't in the computer programming world don't lose me here, I'll be brief. For me, the precipitator was workflow. As a web developer in Windows, I found myself spending a lot of time finding workarounds for shell modules that ran natively in bash (think Grunt, Gulp, Node, NPM, Heroku tools, etc.) but have limited if any support for use inside Powershell (or CMD). Running cygwin never seemed to tickle my fancy either. Working in Windows felt like I was fighting the community that was building tools I needed. I regularly was trying undo the push to or pull from a repo where I had forgotten to account for the difference in line endings. Long story short, I was wasting time dealing with issues that the majority of the community was not facing and so was not, in large part, concerned with streamlining (or even solving sometimes).
Dealing with development server and php installations always seemed to take more effort than it should have.
Other things that are wrong with Windows were things that I found after the move:
- The lack of a package manager from which to install software. This is so pleasurable.
- A baked in server, (this doesn't come with all flavors of Linux).
- The ease of installing and using tools like git and php far surpasses the Windows experience.
- Never having to deal with product/license keys again. It was no small feat to track the various installs and versions of Office and Windows on my machines.
- Cost of said keys.
- Time on phone calling Microsoft to manually approve keys being installed on new hard drives.
- No Workspaces! I'm told Windows 10 has something like this and I am sure there was something I could have installed, but for those of you not familiar, these are multiple desktop screens. In Linux Mint you can open a set of screens for a specific task, get a phone call, switch to a new blank workspace open up some other programs (even duplicates of those already open) and start new set of tasks only to be interrupted by an IM and have to look back at the set of windows you had open in the first place (switch back to original workspace)
- Only Left/Right Window positioning. Hold the Windows key and use the arrows to put windows in any corner or top, bottom, left and right. Or pass them to another workspace. Amazing.
- Less than native use of ssh. If you know what it is, you know what I mean.
- Bloatware. If you computer came from a manufacturer you got plastered. Even if it didn't Windows 8 felt like it. All those Microsoft apps for pictures and mail and videos and contacts and news. Felt like everything on your computer required your Microsoft account.
- Keyboard shortcut manipulation in Linux is all encompassing. Can't get enough of that.
What on Earth Could Have Taken You So Long?
The main hurdle to moving was leaving the software that only runs in Windows. I know there are options to emulate (WINE) and virtual machines (VMware and VirtualBox) but even fine tuned they don't feel as smooth (responsive and/or missing functionality) as native windows.
I was intimidated by my perceived need for expertise in the command line to use Linux. There is definitely a bit more that, but in no time at all I have become much more comfortable and efficient doing routine tasks at the command line (and scripting them for repetition later) than I did through the Windows UI and I am by no means a command line genius.
What Do I Miss Most?
- Adobe's Creative Suite
- There does not appear to be hope for Linux support in the future
- There are alternatives, but none are even close to as polished as the CS
- I used to do a bunch of drafting at a previous company and still like to have it available.
- Evernote Desktop
- The web app interface is just about as comfortable to me now, so I don't feel the pangs very often.
- Microsoft Office
- I had almost left this for Google Docs by the time I made the switch that it didn't phase me much. LibreOffice is a great alternative.
- I'm sure there are more, but the fact that I can't remember them says something.
Someday in the future I will put together a post about how to get Linux Mint up and running coming from a Windows background. It is the nicest Linux flavor if you are coming straight from Windows. Has similar UI look and feel and keyboard shortcuts are much in harmony.
Comment and let me know about your experiences.