Hi everyone and thanks for being an awesome community.
This is my first post and I am going to share my journey from using Windows as a primary desktop operating system to using Linux Mint.
Thanks for reading and I hope you will like it. Here goes...
My first real encounter with a computer was back in 2003 when I used a Windows XP machine to create an email address for a college project. Unbelievable, right? But hey, back in the day computers were not that personal in the parts of the world I grew up in.
To cut the long story short, I managed to own a personal computer soon after that which was a Windows XP desktop. I used the computer primarily to complete assignment projects as well as play music and watch movies.
The way the computer worked fascinated me so much that midway though my college degree I decided to drop out and enrol for a Computer Science degree instead. Crazy right? But I had already set my mind up that software development was a career path I wanted to follow.
For me the computer was now a tool of the trade and no longer an entertainment gadget. My expectations of the personal computer changed because of this and below were my expectations of what a computer should deliver-:
- Easy to use
- Affordable to buy and maintain.
My Windows XP machine fulfilled most of these requirements for me most of the time. However, as newer versions of Windows were released these expectations started to become threatened one way or the other.
With each version of Windows that was released (except maybe for Windows 7) I was left questioning whether my core expectations were still being met. I was also starting to feel less and less in control of my desktop computer, as most of the functionality started to be removed or was moved over to the cloud.
This got me to start thinking about switching to an alternative desktop operating system that stayed true to "my core values". Unfortunately for me the only alternative desktop I was aware of at that time was Mac. However I could not afford a MacBook and I also felt that it was too complicated to use based on a handful of encounters I had with it.
After I graduated from college in 2012 I was fortunate enough to find a job as a Junior Software Developer in Johannesburg South Africa.
This was around the time when Windows 7 was still the dominant operating system for Windows. As a developer we focused a lot on hardware integration and access control software for buildings and residential estates. We used C# as the primary development language and we worked with many low level SDKs to integrate our software with devices like fingerprint scanners and CCTV cameras.
I really loved what we did and was enthused at how Windows worked at such a lower level.
As a developer I was also tasked in writing small web-based applications that would support the needs of the company. For example I built an incidence report web-application that allowed clients to log faults remotely and be able to track the status of the query and communicate with technicians online.
This experience exposed me to open source technologies like Linux and PHP. I didn't know that one could be able to do cool stuff outside of Windows and closed source.
As time went on I started to focus more and more on web development and that's when tools like cygwin and xampp for Windows became more and more important. These allowed me to work on Windows as if I was on a Linux server. Pretty cool hey? I agree...
All this time I was using Windows 7 even though Windows 8 was now the official operating system for Microsoft. However, like most people I refused to use Windows 8 and tightly clung to Windows 7 as if my life depended on it.
Seeing that Windows 7 was a failure, Microsoft developed Windows 10 in an attempt to fix the issues that were raised in the Windows 8 release. For example the "Start" button was brought back and Metro UI concept was eased up a bit. But still Windows 10 looked like Windows 8 in a way and many users like me held on to their versions of Windows 7 which we "trusted".
Then Microsoft decided to "entice" users to upgrade to Windows for free because they were going to discontinue support for Windows 7. There was no choice left for me other that to upgrade.
I remember having to spend something like 3-6 hours upgrading my PC to Windows 10 over the internet connection I had (this was not a fast connection at all). I think the ISO file itself was at least 4GB in size.
Even though Windows 10 looked "modern" on the UI front, it was a resource hog. Almost every now and then there seemed to be an update that needed to be made to the operating system and this maintenance routine started to get into my way. Applications used to hang every now and then and I had to spend money to buy extra memory. Even then the performance boost wasn't that much.
A PC for me is a tool I use to accomplish a task, the more I use this tool the more I could get things done. Windows was literally preventing me from getting things done.
My critical software like cygwin or xampp/wampp would often stop working after some major security updates. Sigh...
This is a period I started to see that more and more developers online were not using Windows anymore but were on MacBooks or Linux machines. I decided to give Linux a try (like I said before I cannot afford a MacBook) and I started to spend more time researching about Linux as a desktop operating system and how it could fit into my work space.
And boy was I completely overwhelmed! After learning that Linux was the third most used desktop operating system, I soon found out that there were actually many versions of Linux to choose from - called distributions. It's not one operating system like Windows or Mac. There is Ubuntu, Manjaro, Linux Mint, Gentoo, Zorin. You name it, they have it...
My first problem with this choice was that I could not make up my mind on which "version" to use. I found myself distro-hopping between versions every other day.
I first tried out all the flavours of Ubuntu but they always felt a bit off for me. Then I tried out Linux Mint which at first felt more natural for me. However the "green" theme of Linux Mint made it difficult for me to want to adopt it - I din't like green. I continued distro-hopping on a few more distros like Manjaro and Pop!_OS but still I always felt as if I was missing something and kept coming back to Windows.
However, I remember one day I was in the support department when my colleague asked how I felt about Linux considering I had told him before that I was checking out Linux to see if it was for me.
That was an opportunity to let it all out and told him of all the frustrations I had had with it thus far. How it was "different" and "how it was complicated to find the proper distro". Not to mention the file permissions thing... I could go on and on.
Then he said, "Gavin. Stop for a second and I will help you out." He was indeed my guardian angel.
He showed me all the cool stuff that Linux could do and also showed me how fundamentally different it was to Windows.
He showed me the limitations of Linux in the app space in terms of the fact that mainstream applications like Adobe, Outlook and Word were not available. But he also showed me the alternative software I could use.
Every day he would check up on me to see how I was doing and tried to assist me in any way that he could.
After about a month or two I became more comfortable with Linux and eventually settled for Linux Mint (Cinnamon Edition) - I even like the "green" theme of Mint nowadays :)
I can say now I have been using Linux Mint as my primary desktop operating for my work computer and both of my home computers.
Only my home laptop has a dual boot with Windows 10 because I still have some .NET projects I maintain and are developed in C#. Plus my wife still loves Excel and Word and I cannot convince her to convert. At least not yet.
Before I finish off I'd like to say that I am proud of the decision I have made to switch to Linux from Windows.
I think with Linux as my desktop I have managed to regain the 4 qualities I expected from a desktop operating system i.e. ease of use, reliability, performance and security.
I would also like to thank the community for also helping out and assisting noobs like me to get on board such an awesome operating system.
Thanks for reading. Linux FTW.
Cheers to more posts.