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Vets Who Code

Why I'm sort of leaving Linux

heytimapple profile image Tim Apple ・2 min read

I've been a pretty heavy Linux user for over 15 years now. I have all the badges, Gentoo installs, Arch install, I have compiled my own kernel, used Debian, Redhat before Fedora existed, Slackware, SUSE, all the buntus, and on and on. I've participated directly with Fedora, Ubuntu-Mate and Archlabs Linux.

What I'm saying is, I've been around.And I love Linux. I enjoy installing distros. Tweaking config files is my game. And the keyboard, oh! give me some i3 and I can kiss the mouse goodbye. I love almost everything about Linux. So why would I leave?

Well, my arch-nemesis Windows has actually gotten sort of good. It's practically a pleasure to use. And have you heard of the 'Subsystem for Linux'? Yeah, the penguin now lives under the hood on Windows 10. I can be really productive on it. But is it enough?

By themselves, these things may not make it an absolute game-changer. But there is something else that happens when I am using Windows. I accomplish my work.

Yeah, I said it. I get things done on Windows. There isn't anything for me to really tweak, no new desktop to install, I don't change icons and themes. I have no distractions on Windows. This leaves me with one main thing to do. Get to work.

I have even tried to go back to Linux in the past couple weeks. But I'm just not content there. I inevitably end up tweaking and theming until the proverbial cows come home. Let alone the thousands of free apps to try.

On Windows I have my core apps, they are all high quality, some that are available on Linux also. But some that aren't. To the surprise to some, I'm sure, everything just works for me also, same as on Linux. The only drivers I installed were unnecessary. Mainly for updating SSD firmware and getting the latest and greatest from Intel. Mind you, I had no way to update my SSD firmware on Linux, that I knew of at least.

Now, remember, I'm not bashing Linux. Not in the slightest. I am acknowledging my ability to be distracted by the shiny. Like a dog who hears the word 'squirrel', I am instantly distracted. That is of no fault to Linux. But it does make the semi rigidness of Windows work well for me now that the 'Subsystem for Linux' now exists. I live in the best of both worlds.

So maybe give ole' Windows a shot again if you find yourself with the same issues I seem to have. Or, if your a bored Windows user, looking for more action, maybe go give Linux a try. Either way lets all just be as productive as we can be.

Cheers
Tim

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heytimapple profile

Tim Apple

@heytimapple

Developer, veteran, player of ukuleles, plant geek, Baha'i Faith, and Family guy. Re-educating myself via Udemy and @vetswhocode

Vets Who Code

Vets Who Code,is a veteran-operated distributed 501(c)(3) that teaches veterans how to program remotely in leveraging the Javascript ecosystem for free.

Discussion

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The WSL does indeed look promising. It's one of the top reasons I've lost my deep-seated resentment for Microsoft (which had built up from over a decade of indie computer repair work.)

Still...let me know how you do with the inevitable malware risks, slowdowns, and badly timed updates that Windows is still known for. I'm always helping clients with those things on their Windows 10 machines...and those are precisely the things that drive them to Linux.

In other words, please post an update in six months on just how much time you had to (or didn't have to?) put in on just maintaining Windows, or indeed, in just letting it try to maintain itself. ;)

I swear Windows Update has always had an AI that detects urgency in the user, and chooses those times to cheerfully demand that you leave it plugged in and turned on for 40 minutes while it installs updates. If you ignore it, Windows often just bricks. (Clean reinstall, anyone?)

 

When it comes to the malware risk, during the past few years, I have had a malware issue only once, after downloading many not-exactly-legal things from torrents, so I was kind of asking for problems myself. And I only have the Microsoft defender antivirus.
Slowdowns - they actually don't happen with NVME SSD. With older SSDs - afaik also no, but on HDDs - yeah, Windows can be pretty slow (it's because of how it manages the disk space on a low level - if you're interested, let me know, I can tell you more :)).
Updates are also not a problem. You can set them not to run automatically.
I think Windows' bad PR comes from the fact, that its users are less experienced with computers than Linux's, so they can't actually set up Windows the proper way and be productive on this OS.

 

Yeah, I work in a windows IT shop. To this day I have never had a virus. And I only rely on defender. And with very little reading you can get it running very well.

Although I can say with certainty that it doesn't protect against everything (no anti-virus does), I have been impressed with Windows Defender. The independent lab tests have been ranking it at the top, alongside top performers Kaspersky and Avast!, my go-to AVs for older Windows systems. Windows 10 certainly gets infected far less often than XP, 7, or 8.

Yeah, as a product I think AV is a wasted purchase if your running Windows 10. Defender is as good if not better than the rest.

 

I think Windows' bad PR comes from the fact, that its users are less experienced with computers than Linux's, so they can't actually set up Windows the proper way and be productive on this OS.

...except, these problems have always shown up not only on my system (and I fix Windows), but on those of other ITs and computer technicians I've known over the years.

I won't speak to how an NVME SSD factors into it, as I've never used that specifically, but 6-8 months of basic, regular use, with or without the recommended maintenance, results in marked drops in performance. Again, I've observed this across all Windows systems, with no exceptions for hardware, expertise of user, or use case of the machine. Home Edition deteriorates more quickly than the higher-tiered versions, but they all do it.

it's because of how it manages the disk space on a low level - if you're interested, let me know, I can tell you more

Like I said, I've been fixing computers for over a decade (actually, 15 years). I know exactly what you're talking about. And that doesn't explain many of the systems I've seen, where more than half, even more than three-quarters, of the disk were untouched.

When it comes to the malware risk, during the past few years, I have had a malware issue only once, after downloading many not-exactly-legal things from torrents, so I was kind of asking for problems myself.

Drive-by malware, email malware, and spoofed websites are three more common payload delivery vectors. It's extremely easy to get infected.

I think it’s fairly easy to get infected for the casual user. And remember, the more popular Linux becomes the more exploits will target it. It is by no means infallible.

It is by no means infallible.

Certainly not, although the architecture of Linux does make "drive-by" infection far more difficult.

I have reinstalled Windows on my computer only once during two years of ownership and it was not because of any performance drop, but I wanted to have Linux alongside Windows and... let's just say they didn't want to work together, so I had to wipe the disk.
The performance actually goes up with time. I remember some time ago my computer booted ~15s and now it's ~14s.

It doesn't matter if even more than 3/4 of disk is untouched. This is exactly how Windows saves files on disk: sequentially, not giving a file space to grow. That's why it needs defragmentation on HDDs, but on SSDs it doesn't have impact, because there's no head (I think it's called head) nor platters that have to move and spin.

People experienced with computers can spot malicious emails and spoofed websites can break also Linux. I was actually quite surprised my neighbour has managed to infect his Ubuntu in such a way that there were p0rn ads all over the desktop.

I have reinstalled Windows on my computer only once during two years of ownership.

So it's perfectly possible that you reinstalled at the right interval to coincidentally miss the worst of the performance drops. There are indeed techniques you can use to delay that performance issue, but it is inevitable you'll need to refresh at some point to actually avoid it.

So, I'll be interested to see how your performance is on that SSD after 2 solid years without a "Windows 10 Refresh" or reinstall.

It doesn't matter if even more than 3/4 of disk is untouched. This is exactly how Windows saves files on disk: sequentially, not giving a file space to grow.

Mm hmm. Like I said, I know that.

People experienced with computers can spot malicious emails...

Usually. Spoofing is getting harder to detect. Also, this doesn't account for drive-by viruses delivered via the web.

...spoofed websites can break also Linux.

Occasionally, although it actually takes a good bit of naïvety to get infected this way. I always train my clients on safety regarding installation sources, scripts, and when to not enter your password.

Or, as I explain it, "It's entirely possible to get malware on Linux, but you really have to work at it." (And then I explain what not to do.)

Like I said, I've been doing this for over a decade.

 

I don't understand the Windows update annoyance. I set up my working hours once, and it seems to find a time at night to apply updates--I never see it.

The only inconvenience is sometimes needing to reopen apps, but it also helps keep the system stable by rebooting every so often so I won't complain.

 

Windows updates are annoying for three reasons. They are very slow, and very rebooty. This can be hidden to nighttime now. But problem number three is that they break. It's probably a good thing that there is no direct report from Windows to Microsoft's CSuite these days because I imagine there would have been some very awkward moments in the past six months. It's a legacy product causing a lot of horrible headlines. Over the years I've had so many mysterious update breakages with weird error codes that are fixed with strange incantations, hotfixes and various evolutions of fix tools from Microsoft. Doing windows system admin is like a priest searching the holy texts for spells. When Linux breaks, you can fix it (if you are a skilled user). That's a big difference, although it is only meaningful to a small user base.

Of course, nothing is perfect. Windows with WSL is an attempt to stop developers defecting, since basically all IT innovation for the past ten years has been on Linux and runs better on Linux desktops. And windows does some things better, not just gaming. It does mixed DPI screen better ... I'd say it is five years ahead of linux, it's pretty good on Windows now, and two to three years away from that maturity on Linux, which is just starting to move away from early-adopter phase. For many people, that is really a big factor.
And Windows 10 is the best Windows by far, at least, Windows Pro.
But the future of Windows is a nagging concern. How will Microsoft monetise it? Will they keep investing in it? It is commercially a dead-end product in the enterprise. Will the future be a locked-down Windows (they keep trying this, now consumer users have to go through tricks to make locally authenticated accounts). The wise power-user would be careful to keep their options open.

Soon I believe Windows won't matter as much to Microsoft's bottom line. The goal these days is all things lead to Azure. I don't think they necessarily care how you get there. Windows is just the path they maintain. Just as Gmail doesn't make money for google. It just feeds the machine that google does make money on, advertising.

 

"but it also helps keep the system stable by rebooting every so often..."

This is a thought I haven't had once since switching to Linux. My work desktop's average uptime is 2 months and my laptop tends to hover around 2 weeks (with it shutting down when I neglect to charge it every so often).

 

I must be odd for actually enjoying updates...

For you:

(Kidding. Different strokes for different folks.)

HAHAHAHAHHAHA I can't even argue with that

 

I think it just depends on peoples workflow and patience level with such things on how much they hate it.

 

Yeah man no clue what you're talking about unfortunately or fortunately. I can't see someone who doesn't know how to schedule updates outside of working hours as someone who should even consider Linux.

Come to think of it, I've never experienced a "forced" update. You either accept the notification or reschedule it, and still you can reschedule it as many times as you want.

This is all coming from someone who uses new release builds with fast ring by the way. So I mean idk.. I just really gotta scratch my head anytime someone mentions having issues with something so seemingly trivial.

 

"and still you can reschedule it as many times as you want"
I don't think that is correct. Only some Windows licences allow deferring, and no Window licence allows indefinite deferral of feature updates.
Microsoft wants to cut costs associated with maintaining Windows as it is now a legacy product, and I imagine it is an incredibly expensive product to support per version. Forced upgrades make it cheaper since eventually, when Windows 7 reaches end of live, Microsoft will have a much reduced number of versions to support. I think this is a good thing for everyone.

howtogeek.com/223083/what-does-%E2...

I don't know if I can go for permanently deferred updates. I guess, for feature updates. But most of these contain security fixes also. I think it's a bad idea not to update.

What I see more of is third party software doesn't move as fast as Windows, especially on the enterprise side. I work with a lot of Dentists and the biggest issue we face is their practice management software either doesn't work with Win10 or the Dentist themselves refuse to update the PMS and updates break things because they are determined to stay on old code bases... fear of change.

Either way, Windows 10 came out 4 years ago..it's ridiculous some vendors have not caught up yet.

 

I can't see someone who doesn't know how to schedule updates outside of working hours as someone who should even consider Linux.

I am well familiar with scheduling updates. Unfortunately, in my experience, that has no effect is the computer is on hibernate or powered off at the time you've selected. Desktops that are left on at all times can easily handle such a situation. Laptops for people who have no set schedule are not quite as easy.

I'm certainly glad you've never experienced a forced update, but I assure you, it happens.

Ahhh okay. That clarification helps a lot. I mean yeah, I guess if you turn off the computer when it needs to update, there is no real basis of control for that.

I was under the impression that you were acting as if it would just kick you off out of no where without any prior mention in advance.

Thanks for clearing that up. We can be friends again (:

Ha ha, no, Windows has never done that. It just has a nasty habit of jumping into the midst of a user-triggered startup/shutdown/restart, and it seems to (inexplicably) do it at the most unexpected and worst possible times.

 
 

As someone who has primarly been a Windows user all their life and was introduced to Linux in University back in 2007 I completely get where you are coming from with this. I'm very at home in the command line (use Git daily without any GUI) but I've never bought the whole "Linux is better for development spele" that everyone tries to spin just to make them look / feel better. Don't get me wrong, use whichever OS you enjoy the most but every time I've tried a switchover to Linux I've always found it unproductive, lacking adequate tooling and generally just a mess. Ultimately Windows is a lot more productive which is a shame as I love tinkering with Linux.

 

Indeed! @jasonEspin: "I've never seen anything that Linux could do that Windows can't."

Well, there is that whole Supercomputer-IOT-HP/HA-missionCritical-vehicleControls-runsStockMarkets-setTopBoxes-Phones-NAS-CloudComputing-andPrettyMuchAnythingNotTheDesktop "thing" that Linux has cornered.

Don't let me intrude too much on your reality, but the writing is on the wall for Windows. There is very little lock-in left.

 

While not strictly Linux, I did recently learn about this little experiment DHH did - m.signalvnoise.com/back-to-windows...

It's got some interesting insights into the things the *nix (and Apple, but a lot of what he talked about is the actual *nix subsystem) ecosystem does better than Windows even right now, coming from a guy who knows a thing or two about development. (For those that might not know, DHH is the guy who wrote Rails and Basecamp.)

The best Linux subsystem is provided by a Linux computer. It is amazing the days and weeks Mac users spend working around these incompatibilities. Any guess why DHH didn't compare the MBP to a recent Linux developer laptop? My guess is it is Linux would win objectively, but works lose emotionally due to the affinity to MBP trophy status.

As someone who uses both Mac and Linux extensively, I don't really know what incompatibilities you're referring to with regard to Mac, given that it's a BSD based system.

And did you read the article? It had nothing to do with "trophy status" (whatever that's supposed to mean in DHH's case). He wanted to switch away from Mac because of the drop in build quality and the disaster that is the butterfly switch keyboard.

Instead of judgementally speculating on his reasons for not choosing Linux, you could ask him. There is a comments section.

Given that he was looking into it for his company as much as himself, my guess is that compatibility with mission critical tools and availability of business agreements played more of a part in his decisions than "trophy status."

Shauna, have you looked at the version of the bash shell shipped with Mac OS? It is 6 years old. And those BSD tools are NOT the same as the GNU tools on Linux and have numerous incompatibilities. At my last gig I spent weeks retrofitting scripts to work on the outdated and incompatible MacOS, an OS we will never deploy to. The alternative was to get the Mac users to upgrade bash and use GNU utils. And most of them weren't capable of that.

As for DHH, I'd like him to try a system 76 solution and compare.

Don’t tell anyone, but I’m running Windows on a System76 galago...

Mac's version is where it's at, because they froze it at the latest GPL-2 version, probably for legal reasons, which is a whole other discussion, but it is a fair criticism.

That said, the incompatibilities you're referring to would really only apply if you're trying to switch between a Linux and Mac system. Since DHH has never (or almost never) switched between those two (at least not for the host system), there are no incompatibilities to work around, because there's nothing to be incompatible with.

I run a Docker workflow, too, and it's literally never been an issue going between the Mac host and the Docker containers for me, largely because they serve totally different purposes and therefore rarely have crossover in scripts that I would use with any regularity.

I think it's also worth pointing out that BSD predates Linux by nearly 15 years. If you want to bitch about incompatibilities between GNU Utils and their BSD counterparts, you might want to take it up with the GNU Utils people, instead of the BSD people, because it was the former who implemented the utils differently. In other words, it's Linux that's incompatible with BSD and, by your own logic, you're the one spending a bunch of times on workarounds.

Don’t tell anyone, but I’m running Windows on a System76 galago...

::gasp!:: Blasphemy! ;)

 

You know full well that I was referring to Linux as an OS for a desktop user. As a desktop OS, Windows is still the pinnacle when it comes to productivity.

The reason Linux is superior for development is because of these markets. Unless you're creating Windows apps (even MS isn't doing to much of that these days), your deployment target is Linux. So why split your time becoming mediocre at notepad++ and vim when you can be a rock star in vim? And who's using install shield to deploy to set top boxes? I'd rather focus on one set of tools and one deployment environment and minimize context switching.

How to make Kubuntu 19.10 rock:
mmikowski.github.io/k19-10-guide/

Why using something besides Linux works against you:
quora.com/Why-do-most-of-the-devel...

 

Well it depends what you need to do with the OS.

 

I've never seen anything that Linux could do that Windows can't.

I think the draw to Linux for many is more the libre spirit. The doing things on your own terms and no one will make you do different. Plus the whole privacy thing also.

I find that Linux distros have all the tools i want for free, and many are preinstalled. e.g. When i install Windows I have to find a decent DVD writer app when Linux has K3B for free. Mac OS doesn't have an equivalent either, you have to pay for something like Toast

What’s a DVD?....... I’m just kidding, that is a good point but personally an item that doesn’t matter to me.

that's just the first thing that sprang to mind. It usually takes me far longer to get Windows how i want it since it lacks so much out the box.

I'm curious to what it lacks out of the box.. I install, edge-dev, chrome, firefox, VSCode, Slack, Spotify, Standard Notes, Windows Terminal, and WSL... Minus firefox, I have to manually install all that on Linux also after an install.. Of course WSL isn't needed, nor the terminal. But not to big of a difference.

it's not just what's missing, it's that you have to go through finding all the exe files for them or browse the net for them. In Linux they are an "apt install" or search in Synaptic or whatever away

Spotify, VSCode, Standard Notes.. I all go to the actual website for and download deb or appimage. No different. I do know Spotify is in a lot of repos now or you can use the snap.. same with code. But I like to get those straight from the source. And Standard notes I have no choice. Once Windows is installed and updated (Which is slow) I can have everything else done after that in 15 or 20 minutes at most. Maybe even less.

updates are still the major rub for me with Windows. They are so much smoother in Linux, they don't get in the way or slow down boot time

Updates can suck, but to be honest I haven't had much issue with them. It's a lot like iOS now..where it will download it but you can wait on the install/reboot till the end of the day if you want.

i don't have set times i use the machine, and it prompts me about updates in the middle of GTA V sometimes!

That would suck, I haven't been in that situation. I'm usually working and if a update alert comes up I can just ignore it and keep at it.

Quick tip on the reinstalling everything front. Use chocolatey. I've have one script setup that installs all of my applications in Windows on a fresh build. Only pre-requisite is installing chocolatey which doesn't take any time at all.

I just discovered chocolatey recently, used it to install git... I need to get used to using it more.

 

I've never bought the whole "Linux is better for development spele" that everyone tries to spin just to make them look / feel better.

There was a time when the interpreters and compilers for various languages literally weren't available for Windows, or if they were, usage was like swimming upstream. Python didn't have Windows support at all until a full decade after its first release. PHP was the same (regardless of what you think about PHP, it was the king of mid/late-2000s dynamic web development). Then, there's the GNU Utils and tools like git itself, which were downright painful to run, even under Cygwin. Powershell didn't exist until 2006, so there was a solid decade or so between the original MS-DOS and the release of Powershell where the command line in Windows was severely hamstrung.

All of these added up to a painful developer experience for anything other than Windows (and later, .Net) development.

Now, the development ecosystem for VB6 and .Net were (and are) fantastic. I mean that sincerely. I actually love Visual Studio, proper, for what it can do. But development on just about any other language family? Not so great until the past decade or so. Even now, some of the tooling for certain things lags behind on Windows.

The combination of things like Github Desktop for Windows (which came with a decent transparent installation of the GNU Utils, if nothing else), Microsoft's shift to start embracing open source, instead of totally fighting it (and they did, even into the mid-2000s; they even had a FUD campaign as late as 2005/2006 against Linux), and Apple's resurgence as a viable end-user ecosystem in the late 2000s (prompting a need for Microsoft to take action to remain competitive and not sit on their laurels) converged to help make Windows more hospitable to development as a whole.

every time I've tried a switchover to Linux I've always found it unproductive, lacking adequate tooling and generally just a mess.

The inverse of this is basically the tl;dr of my response, above -- until the past decade, going from Linux to Windows, for developers, the main complaint was exactly that - lack of adequate tooling, unproductive, and generally a mess.

Ironically, your reasons for not switching to Linux still echo my reasons for not switching to Windows for my primary systems. Not only am I just not really productive on Windows, but the tooling (that I need) isn't there whenever I do consider switching.

 

For me I just can’t justify the cost of the Mac. They are pretty over priced. But someday when I hit the big time maybe I’ll be writing a “why I moved to the Mac” article..lol

 

They're overpriced but they're gorgeous. More of a status symbol than anything else.

They are damn good looking. The new Surface Laptop 3 is pretty sexy also though.

I know, but it's at basically the same price point. I wanted to get a new phone and laptop for myself for Christmas this year (haven't updated since late 2014 / early 2015), but buying both at once is a $2k+ investment nowadays.

Heck, more than that really...closer to 3k

Yeah, with the low-voltage processor is almost twice as slow. But it looks beautiful.

 

Very interesting view point. I think I completely agree with your perspective, as one who went the other back in 2008, I moved from Windows to Linux because I just wanted to get sh*t done, I do tend to agree with you. There are quite a lot of temptations and distractions with Open System of Linux, and for people like us who like to understand why sh*t works and to search for ways to break I appreciate where you're coming from!

With a name like Tim Apple, I would've thought you'd be firmly entrenched in the Mac ecosystem :-)

Only if Apple shares royalties with me for using my name ;-)

On the name thing...we have a Mac Siri on our team :D

 

Fundamentally incorrect statement. On par with HP Lenovo and other manufacturers. In its price category.

XPS - 13 $1899
10th Generation Intel® Core™ i7-10710U Processor
Windows 10 Pro 64-bit English
16GB LPDDR3 2133MHz On-board
512GB M.2 PCIe NVMe Solid State Drive

Similar spec Mac Pro 13” - $2499

Minus the fact the processor will be 8th gen instead of 10th.

Surface laptop 3, build quality just as good as MacBook. Again 10th gen processor $1999. Still beats it by $500.

Apple hardware is beautiful, but subpar and overpriced.

Yeah, current gen Macs don't really live up to their price points right now. Up until the last one, I'd say build quality and overall longevity made up for the price difference (hell, I'm still running my 2015 Mac work machine that I've run 8+ hours a day since 2016), but the lack of updated specs in the new ones makes power longevity questionable.

Modern specs with the build quality and longevity older Apple machines are known for? Sure. Old specs with build quality barely on par with other consumer laptops? Nope.

 

However, it never caused me to reinstall.

You're fortunate, then. The last thing that drove me to Linux (for gaming, no less), was because I had to reinstall Windows 10 three times on a fresh install for different reasons, including driver conflicts (not really MS's fault) and (MS's fault) a bad critical, required, and forced (regardless of update settings) update that forced even my husband (who's an MS sysadmin) to give up and just reinstall, because it bricked the system so completely that even he couldn't get in far enough to roll the update back. This was a system I had built specifically with gaming on Windows in mind.

This was earlier this year.

Not going to point fingers, but if it was a custom built system, could it have been hardware choices that ended up bricking the system? Poor drivers provided by manufacturers and the like? Not sure if 100% of the blame can fall on Windows.

I work for an IT shop, we have customers with custom built machines and we give them 0 warranty on any work with them because we have no control over components.

 

I've been forced to using a Windows machine by the company I work at after a long time of using macOS for development and general usage.

At first, I hated it and was really adamant about using Windows and was looking into ways to setup Linux on that machine or bring and connect my mac to their network.

After a while though, I've discovered WSL and then Microsoft released Windows Terminal. And my life got so much better! Having actual Linux in your shell with all the config you can dream of, while being able to get things done and have Office Suite and other Windows only software is really great.

Plus, given all recent Apple mess ups with Catalina, their insane prices for subpar hardware, I think my next personal machine will definitely be Windows based with WSL on it. And Microsoft has released some really awesome hardware recently, which is looking promising.

Props to Microsoft for looking out for devs <3

 

Macs are an order of magnitude slower with disk IO using docker. That's the only real difference I notice apart from them having generally poor UX.

 

Not just in Docker. In most benchmarks it is slower than Windows or Linux.

 

Docker everywhere will be slow except Linux. But the last couple of years I have not experienced problems with this. The docker added cache i/o and now everything is fine for normal web development.

 

This seems to be a fairly common thing among Linux enthusiasts (myself included). The list of distributions and desktop environments I've experimented with is longer than my arm.

However, around a year ago I found the sweet spot for me in the Linux ecosystem: Arch and KDE Plasma 5. Plasma suits my needs pretty well out-of-the-box and only needed minor tweaking for me to feel truly productive. This time around I have also been pretty strict with myself about how I spend my time on maintenance/customisation - "do I really need to download and configure urxvt or can I just use Konsole?"

I'm definitely interested in WSL though. I remember I tried it back when they first released it and found that it wasn't as performant as I expected; seems like they may have fixed that with WSL2. I'm semi-considering hopping back on and giving it a try as I've found Windows 10 enjoyable to use overall.

Like Jason C. McDonald mentioned, I would be interested to see an update post in 3-6 months time!

 

Yeah KDE 5 had been my choice of DE for about a year or so, though KDE Neon is my distro of choice. I haven't needed to tweak it much either, and I life that i can keep configs between installs, since i use a separate /home. It's also lighter on resources than Gnome despite having more features.

 

Plasma has gotten really light.

 

Will do an update post. Plasma is really sweet. Performance is getting crazy with it also. But my will power is not that great and of all the DEs, geeze is plasma tweakable. Even when using Linux I avoid it..lol

 

"I get things done on Windows. There isn't anything for me to really tweak, no new desktop to install, I don't change icons and themes."

I switched to from Windows to linux (popOS) for the same reasons. I found I was spending too much time tweaking the UI and wanted to be free from distractions (Windows has many e.g bloatware).

Initially it worked, the cleanness and simplicity of the shell proved to be less distracting and I didn't tweak because I didn't know how. But (un)fortunately linux makes it easier to tweak so now I'm distracted again.

So I guess the true distraction is my discipline (and I like to tweak). My guess is that if you like to tweak too, you'll eventually end up doing it in Windows (e.g. customizing the powershell prompt.)

"I'm not afraid" you say - you will be, YOU will be.

 

I actually have felt the same way recently. I have been trying to make the jump to Linux for a while now, but I kept getting paralyzed over things like "which distro is best," what DE to pick, and all that. I made it through several successful installs, but then kept hopping to something that I thought was better, then back, then to something new, then something else, etc.

I reinstalled windows after a while because I just couldn't decide which stuff I liked best, found windows terminal to be amazing and easy to use, configured permissions and update schedules, and haven't had to look back. Windows is actually good now? I was surprised to find that for me the answer is yes.

 

I've been using the three major "vendors" in the past: Linux, Windows and OSX.

The struggle was real when I decided to install Redhat 5 on my then new computer system in the late 90s only to discover my graphics card was not recognized / working. If I remember correctly, I spent almost two days to get it working.

Since then, I've always been moving back and forth between Linux and Windows for personal and professional use. I like the lightweight environment of XFCE and the endless tinkering Linux has to offer. However, as a creative, I use Photoshop, Lightroom, Illustrator, After Effects, etc. or Adobe products in short. I don't want to launch a debate here and perhaps I didn't give the "alternatives" enough time but for me personally there's no alternative on Linux. I'm sure people who got the hang of Inkscape, Darktable will try to convince me otherwise but I think Adobe is still king for content creation. Or at least, it's the easiest route for me, working with Photoshop since version 4.

But I missed the flexibility of Linux. Fast forward to modern day and two operating systems remain: Windows (personal computer) and OSX (work issued laptop). I do prefer OSX for its easy of use, I think the interface is more polished compared to the other two and everything just "works", the only problem is the pricing. I can build a PC just as fast or faster, for less or equal money. I never ventured into hackintosh builds.

I'm tied to the Apple ecosystem. I have an Apple Watch, iPhone.. it's wonderful. My Macbook asks for a password but I can just double tap my Watch button instead. I can write something on my phone, and continue on the laptop. I can pick up the phone on the laptop, so I don't have to run down the stairs if I hear it ringing and it was the perfect hybrid between all the great software, like anything from Adobe with the power of the command line.

Now with the integrated linux subsystem, Windows appeals even more. However, with all the integrations I'm running on Apple, it would be hard to leave the platform for me personally. That's also the power I believe of Apple. It starts often with an iPhone, AirPods, Macbook, Homekit automations and once you're locked in the eco-system, it's hard to get out because it really is a nice place to be in.

 

Again, I would give Apple a go maybe someday when $ isn’t an issue.

I don’t use any adobe products, but instead the Affinity by serif ones. I really like them and price is right.

 

With great power comes great responsibility.

Linux does invoke my internal tinkerer, but I've learned to push back against that. Sometimes I don't feel like sitting down to work, but if I sit down to customize my machine it often naturally leads to hours of work from 15 minutes of tinkering.

Plus, I wouldn't survive in my job if I couldn't control my urge to configure. I spend a huge chunk of time using Linux servers.

 

You have better will power than I. I’m a combat vet diagnosed with ptsd, I often wonder if that has anything todo with me being easily distracted. I don’t think I was as much that way when I was younger.

 

Did you ever try out elementary? I'd say one of its main selling points is that you're not supposed to customize anything but say the wallpaper

 

Elementary is too Apple like for me both in looks and in the devs attitudes, they don't like customisation, even worse than Gnome

 

Every time I'm getting annoyed at Gnome and have had a recent backup I go through a string of distros that always end up at Elementary for a month or more. Then I have to use something that requires a systray icon and I just go back to Ubuntu...

For elementary and indicators read this from my blog.. oldvetcodes.com/things-todo-after-...

Nice. I'll keep that in mind for the next distro hopping cycle. Thanks!

 

elementary has the terminal so dialed in though. Out of the box I don't want to even mess with it. It looks so darn good as is. I like their text editor Code also.

And the filemanager - last GUI FM with Miller columns left in Linux.

 

I really do like elementary. I’ve used it quite a bit. In the past year it and Pop!_OS have been my main distros. But I always end up leaving elementary, something about it bores me after awhile.

 

Kind of like Windows for me :p

 

I'm not sure which distro you use, but slowdowns aren't something most DEs are free from.

Yes, but the worst Linux-based slowdowns I've seen are in the ballpark of 5-30 seconds. The average Windows-based slowdowns I've seen are in the ballpark of 1-3 minutes.

On Windows Update, yeah, it tends to be a bit inconvenient. However, it never caused me to reinstall.

You've seldom/never hard-booted out of an upgrade then. I've fixed at least four computers, IIRC, where that had happened, and the system had bricked.

AFAIR you can set it to manual or to ask for confirmation, just as your regular Linux.

That's the promise on the box, but it will eventually force your hand. Turning on or off (including hibernating) the computer will also "manually" trigger updates that have already been downloaded. I've known people who have been late to things because they couldn't move their laptops.

Linux, by contrast, never forces your hand. It will wait indefinitely, as my aunt discovered when she neglected to install updates for three years, and then discovered that her web browser was too out-of-date to do anything.

I really don’t see the update thing as a big deal. It’s occasional and you can control it these days.

Jason: Proper hibernating never triggers updates. I've delayed updates by months and months by hibernating repeatedly. And as Tim says, the controls for updates have improved a lot since the first couple of windows 10 releases.

I also have a windows desktop with a NVME SSD. Haven't seen any slowdown in the last 18 months of use. Certainly nothing on the order of minutes. In my experience such slow downs are usually caused by specific apps that are not well developed, often consuming excess resources on system startup. Things like proprietary scanner/printer/camera software are often the culprit.

I get you've seen bad things, but please be open to the fact that it's also possible to have a good experience with Windows too!

...as Tim says, the controls for updates have improved a lot since the first couple of windows 10 releases.

Well, at least they've fixed it, apparently. As of a year ago, it was still a problem.

I also have a windows desktop with a NVME SSD. Haven't seen any slowdown in the last 18 months of use.

That's certainly interesting! I'll have to investigate that more for clients. Like I said originally about that, I have no experience with NVME SSDs specifically, so I wouldn't speak to it.

In my experience such slow downs are usually caused by specific apps that are not well developed, often consuming excess resources on system startup.

In many cases, I've seen it occurring with system-default apps only, and nothing added to startup. I made sure of that, because startup apps certainly can make the issue worse!

Things like proprietary scanner/printer/camera software are often the culprit.

Or, if you remember this one, Roxio EasyWrite (or whatever that was called?)

I get you've seen bad things, but please be open to the fact that it's also possible to have a good experience with Windows too!

You'll have to excuse me. It's a brand new possibility. ;)

I also didn't appreciate one person's insinuation that problems are only ever the result of not knowing what you're doing. Every technician I've ever known would laugh at that. As to everyone else's responses, it's been a constructive back-and-forth, really.

 

I've been using Linux for a year now. I can't explain how many times I had to mess with a config file or do another sudo thing and restart just to get something working.

I like using Linux. But I also really hate how much time it eats up just to get the damn thing working.

All the complaints about windows? I probably have a problem once every few months. But with my Linux machine? It's almost every few days.

Where windows doesn't help is in web development and rolling out servers. Honestly, I'm starting to see the appeal of Macs just to have a coding machine.

But linux... While I'm still using it as my primary, I'm not convinced I can recommend it to most developers.

 

As far as web dev is concerned, wsl takes care of most things if you haven’t given it a go.

 

Oh that's very nice. Thank you!

 

I'm same as you (Linux long time), stuck to Ubuntu for the last good 5-7 years simply because I get things done. I don't need to compile, fix, theme, etcs... it does everything I need it to do right out of the box. It's ability to handle my 4 displays is superior to what I've been able to achieve in windows 10, so I only boot to win10 to fortnite :) where I get no things done lol

 

Cool enough.

Note: If I actually had Fortnite on my machine my children would steal it.

 

Lol... that's why they have 2 of their own in their "toy" room, we do squads in fornite, and they do minecraft together.. I do catch my son my machine once in a while... he likes my gaming setup, even though it's obviously for coding, not gaming ;)

I'm not a Windows hater by any stretch (I fix it for a living), but I still feel more at "home" with Linux... not sure how to explain it...

I'm still a little torn. The activist side of me says stay loyal to Linux..other wise Windows is just fine. I'm sure if I tried it I would probably find the Mac not all that bad either.

There's that, then if we add in the conspiracy theory side of us, using a system that's closed source makes you always wonder what it is that they do with your information, personal privacy nowadays is very quickly comfortably settling in to history. I like at least knowing that it's the corporations spying on me... not my own PC.

 

“ There isn't anything for me to really tweak, no new desktop to install, I don't change icons and themes.”

Out of curiosity, why do you feel the need to “tweak the UI” in Linux then?

What sort of apps do you have on Windows that would not exist or have no alternative on Linux?

I’m asking because, considering work, I spend most of the time in: the browser, Visual Studio Code and terminal. What’s so different about your work that would require throwing a fit at Linux and switching to Windows?

By the way, it’s Red Hat Linux.

 

I'm not throwing a fit. Just switching, I really do like Linux. I just tend to tweak to much, distro hop to much, etc.. it's literally a problem I have. Has nothing to do with Linux itself.

As far as apps, I believe the only one I use now that isn't available in Linux is Affinity Photo by serif.

 

I’m reading your answers to other comments and I just can’t escape this feeling...

The problem with your answers here is that the tone paints it as “it slows you down because this is somewhat necessary”.

The fact is, you tweak it because you want to tweak it. Is it a form of procrastination?

Don’t get me wrong. There will be a lot of people who will read your article and take your “tweaking needs” as a necessity.

I believe I have stated it is a problem I have. I am easily distracted and the flexibility of Linux makes it to easy for me to stray on the things I shouldn’t be bothering with. Procrastination is a good word, I agree.

 

I sort of see what you're getting at re an OS which puts you into work mode, vs play mode.. I used to have that relationship with Windows, where Windows == work. But I now have that same relationship with macOS, and I find it's kind of the best of both worlds of a usable OS, and productive for dev with a *nix core, without being a any kind of distraction.

 

Someday I may give it a go.

 

LOL, okay, for most of your article I couldn't tell if you were being serious or sarcastic... Until the end, at which point I did a little facepalm.

To sum it up, you went back to Windows because it limits you, because you had too many choices and freedom on Linux. LOL, okay.

Well, on the flip side, you describe why I left Windows. I was constantly tweaking the thing to get it to do what I wanted. Working out theme configurations and scouring the internet for utilities and programs. What a waste of time. Switched to Linux and everything was at my fingertips, all the freedom and choices were available and I finally was at peace.

 

I do say I love Linux, it is a cross between the freedom and my own self control, or lack of that is my issue.

Add the fact that Windows isn't that bad these days and there is WSL, it works for me.

It all comes from observations of my own behavior.

 

I was actually going to follow-up with an observation about that... because Windows itself is a new shiny. And it DOES have some nice things. But in the end I'm going to wager that you'll eventually find yourself frustrated.

FYI, I also work in a work environment steeped in Windows, and I cut my teeth on Windows 3.11.

Like you, I love to tinker, and Windows became a distraction for me. Not only was I always looking for stuff, I was constantly cleaning... I found that it's not the day-to-day of Windows that bogs you down, it's the accumulation of cruft over time which creates the need for a constant cycle of clean-up. Registry cruft, temporary cruft, prefetch cruft, etc. I found that with Linux, if things got a little slow or glitchy, a reboot remedied the situation... every few weeks... maybe. With Windows, it became a weekly issue, sometimes daily. And over time the little things would pile up and I added additional clean-up tasks. After a few months of using Linux I was amazed at how much I didn't worry about maintenance. I was free to work, but also explore, without the nagging concern that I would inadvertently introduce another glitch to the system.

But what about the issues you mentioned, with customization and the choice over-load? Well, when I started exploring Linux, about 7 years ago, I decided to take a rather disciplined look at Linux. The criteria had to be that I didn't get too distracted by the OS and was able to find solutions to being able to WORK. In doing so, I actually disciplined myself to be more focused and somewhat more time conscious. This has really boosted my ability to learn new things, new PRODUCTIVE things. Because many of those shiny things that Linux can provide actually help with productivity. And because of keeping my focus on production, I've been able to expand my expertise regarding VoIP telephony, clustered virtual systems, networking, firewalls, monitoring, and now programming. All the things that I found so frustrating to learn on Windows, I was no longer shackled. Don't get me wrong, I still get distracted on Linux... but I'm much better off.

So, I'd suggest a couple things, instead of switching OS...
1-Work on the GTD (Get Things Done) type of methodology and work on self-discipline.
2-Delve into the WSL and apply your Linux knowledge to that and don't get sucked into the Windows software quagmire.

 

What, windows can do that? I've been running linux for 2-3 years now and I'm thinking of moving to windows. Is there anything you missed from linux after you moved from it?

 

Really just the tweaking and changing things up, which is the stuff that slows my productivity.

 

But you only have to tweak it once. It stays where you put it. (Unless it's a Gnome desktop, which breaks your extensions with each update, which is why i use KDE)

Do we ever just tweak it once?

i haven't touched my KDE config in ages

Your a better man than me.

i am more distracted by the internet, social media etc than anything else

Yeah, that stuff gets me also...all the more reason to minimize.

 

I completly agree! I did the same path but two things:

  • WSL in version 1 isn't really not reliable for devs from my point of view. I can't docker things for example nor do others stuffs
  • With Windows when you loose you productivity it could be for weeks... Just wait the next Patch Tuesday ;)

Windows can lead you to the same mistakes, from tunning constantly your env to the continuous upgrading softwares...

But yes Windows is more and more attractive but I always need of my Linux computer (virtual or not) to get some things done!

 

I've tried WSL and it's ok. I found that running docker through it wasn't actually as good as just using the Git for Windows Bash terminal.

I prefer Linux because all my development tools feel native to the system. I used to tinker with the UI but I never settle and now just leave it.

 

Yeah, as far as tinkering goes, I have issues. The few tools I use feel pretty native to me in wsl. I work out of VSCode and a terminal within which is Ubuntu. So I cat tell a lot of the time if I were in Windows or Linux.

 

I was really excited for WSL and really tried to make it work.

One insurmountable issue I ran into was corporate controlled anti-virus rules. These made doing almost anything in WSL really sloooow. Git checkouts, apt updates, npm anything.

That said I recently switched to Mac at work (they won't let us use Linux) and am for the most part happy. I'd never pay for a Mac myself but since the company is footing the bill... :)

I hope you post a followup in 3-6 months and let us know how things are going...

 

Yeah, I avoid antivirus all together.. other than Windows Defender. Everything works smooth so far.

If someone buys me a Mac, i'm not gonna say no. I would definitely give it a go. I think it's good to be familiar with all possible work environments. Even if you don't use the regularly.

Will do a follow up for sure.. or a I switched back to Linux.. time will tell. I'm happy for now.

 

Tim,

I can see your point. I switched to try and get 1 more year or so out of my computer hardware. Windows has lots to be admired but it is a resource hog. By the time you run anti-virus/malware, skype, slack, etc.. you're lucky if your IDE can change pages at all.

There's a lot to like about Linux. The only thing I've missed about windows are things like Office (but I really like Libre Office), Variety of email clients, and one or two apps that don't have Linux versions (Trello do you hear me???)

But that's it. In a month or sow of Linux, not one single system hang up. There is a lot to be said for reliability. The fact that I use the command line makes working on web servers that much easier.

All that to say, the opposite is true as well. Linux makes me more productive. I'm less distracted by the ancillary stuff with Windows.

 

Oh, and welcome fellow Texan (shhh.. i'm really a migrant from Chicago, but been here about 14 years now.)

 

I have no issues so far as far as resources...but I have a pretty beefy laptop. I believe there is an electron wrapper of trello in existence..I have run it on Arch, it's in the AUR.

 

Nice to read your self knowledge. At least I agree, that using Linux might needs kind of self discipline, because you can adjust anything on it.
But as you noticed, it's not a downside, but it might show you that you have a lack of self-discipline.

For me I finally got this self-discipline since some years now.

The changing Point for me was to see Linux as it is... an Operating System (OS). Nothing more, and nothing less.

The exact same thing like you have on windows now, was my result: I have full configured Linux, using my awesome working Applications for doing my daily work (App & Mobile-Development), and nothing more.

What really helps to archive this? I use a rolling Distribution (Manjaro), and I don't care about Eye-Candy or other stuff on Linux (btw: Manjaro/KDE is Eyecandy out of the Box). I think about, what at least is the benefit to spending time in this (Linux tweaking) or that (earning money by productivity). So the decision is easy.

So no need to waste time to change the OS. But hey, if it helps you out to focus again, and give a new starting Point for your productivity... it's fine.

Finally to say: What ever OS you use: Set your goals, and reach them.

 

Yes, my self control is awfully weak. And I’m easily distracted. I accept those weaknesses.

On the other hand Manjaro is great. I used their cinnamon spin for some time and played around with the i3 and flagship xfce. I really enjoyed it.

By the way, did I say I was a chronic distro hopper also.

 

Try to use "git status" command git-bash(or any shell you can run on Windows) shell on Windows in a mid large git repo and compare it with Linux one. (In one of my project it took just a glimpse in Linux and over 2 minutes on Windows.)
WSL is the best second thing after Visual Studio Code but it might not be enough in some cases.

 

Have you tried it in WSL2 , to be honest everything I work with is real small. Simple web pages and markdown files..right now at least. So anything I do with the repos is super fast.

 

Yes, I've tried. But the issue that I've mentioned is about Windows file system accesses. It can be tried with "git status" command to see Windows filesystem access methods are not as efficient as Linux's. WSL and WSL2 only provides system call optimizations.
( WSL is best second thing from Microsoft after VS Code, I appreciate MS. And thank you for a grate post)

 

Yeap, I've tried. The issue that I've mentioned is not about kernel calls which is improved in WSL2, it's about file system management of windows(When accessing files in Windows drives).
(WSL2 makes me think about switching back to Windows. At least when microsoft leaves all old things except working ones)

 

This is why I switched to Deepin Linux earlier this year. I prefer to stay on Linux since I manage our Linux infrastructure, but I was tired of the endless tweaking to get things going right. I toyed between Elementary and Deepin but settled on the latter and haven't looked back. I use ansible to install all of my apps, shell config, Dev environment, etc. Other than tweaking small things like dark mode, keyboard shortcuts, and other GUI accessible configurations, I don't really touch config files.

 

Hi Tim,

This was an interesting read. Three weeks ago I finally had enough of Windows Updates and installed Linux on my main laptop.

Two points:

  • Every time you play on Linux (tweak etc) you are learning so it's not all bad.
  • I had not identified this as an issue. I will keep a close eye on it.

Thanks mate.

 

Yeah, no fault of Linux. Its more me and being distracted by shinys things, procrastinating, and chronic distro hopping.

 

For me, Windows does get in the way of doing stuff, particularly when it wants to do updates, which means reboots and long boots when i least want or expect it. The SFL is not enough, is just not the same as using a full Linux distro.

 

May I quote you:

"I get things done on Windows. There isn't anything for me to really tweak, no new desktop to install, I don't change icons and themes. I have no distractions on Windows"

I've used Linux (Ubuntu) for years and never compiled a distro or did any other fancy stuff, aside from some minor tweaking or "apt-get install ..." to get programs installed (which you'd have to do on Windows too, but then via a clunky GUI instead of via handy terminal commands).

What I mean to say is: you can use Linux (at least a major user-friendly, polished distro like Ubuntu) just like you would use Windows: just to get stuff done. Spending time on all that other stuff (compiling kernels and whatnot) is a choice, not an obligation, if you use Linux.

And the bonus is that on Linux you CAN tweak/customize stuff if you really want, which is impossible (or very limited) on Windows or OSX.

The main advantage of Windows is that it tends to come preinstalled on hardware (especially laptops) which saves you some hassle. And compared to Max/OSX it's cheaper of course.

 

I completely understand.. I know I can install Ubuntu, Pop, Solus, elementary and a few others and not change a thing and things will be fine.

I have a self control issue..or procrastination may be a better word. I do better fighting it on Windows...this may change as I gain more knowledge of Windows itself. But for now it works for me.

 

I've always had a Windows machine for gaming and I always tinker with WSL on it. It has gotten undoubtedly a lot better but one place where it still fails me is when trying to deal with a lot of files. Supposedly this is a Windows kernel issue.

Also I'm too used to i3 at this point so unsure if I can ever move to something else.

 

i3 definitely is magic sauce for productivity.