My transition from Windows to Linux in an anti-customer age

I am a computer professional that helps the public with technology. I have been troubleshooting computer problems for over 25 years. To find out more about me, visit my home page.

Here I am, back in Windows. I’m realizing that my journey to a Freedom-Of-Choice Desktop environment is riddled with traps from my past. My familiarity with the apps and processes of Windows haunts my every move. It’s challenging to find replacements and workarounds for what I used to be able to do… But then my determination kicked in. If I really think about it, would it be such a loss to switch to a Linux alternative? I rebooted back into Linux and got to work. Any hope for a Windows-centric guy to transcend his limitations and biases? Only time will tell…

Windows 11 has reached the height of anti-customer practices.

In 2015 when Windows 10 rebooted my machine to automatically install an update, closing down an unsaved document I was in the middle of working on, I vowed to stop using it. What the hell was Microsoft thinking? What happened to customer choice? I wasn’t completely ready to switch away from Windows at that point, but the idea of forcing updates in that manner seemed inherently wrong. It wasn’t until recently, with the release of Windows 11 that I decided I needed to do something.

I had been in the process already from switching away from Adobe Acrobat for my form generation tools, I provide computer services to the public using PDF forms to handle data collection. I did some major research on Linux alternatives for Acrobat. Realizing the options were next to zero due to the proprietary nature of XFA technology, I decided to find another approach. My contact resource management (CRM) solution, which I used to track jobs was ten years out of date, and at the time, I considered switching to another open-source alternative. But I would have to manage and maintain a server. As a one-man show, I realized I didn’t have the time for that. So I decided to pay the $65 a month and to switch over to ZohoCRM. It’s not an open-source solution, but I vetted the company and the service over the years and so far I have found them customer-friendly, and service orientated from a security and reliability perspective.

Please note that if you are, or plan on being a customer of mine, I will always support Windows as long as it survives. I am concerned about the Windows 11 online login requirement. I feel that this switch is really about data gathering on Microsoft’s part. Many corporations like Apple, Dell, HP and others are making unethical decisions in the pursuit of profit. As more and more consolidation happens in the market of software and hardware technology, attempts are made to lock customers into platform-specific eco-systems by creating a perception of reduced choice, delivering ad-based content without consent while making it difficult to opt-out, and circumventing 3rd party applications that attempt to route around these issues. And yes ethics is important for any business, if you are one of those people that think that ethics and business don’t go together, good luck with that.

When I heard about Microsoft’s new Windows prompts attempting to stop people from downloading Chrome and the changes they make to future builds of the OS to prevent browser choice workarounds I realized I had enough. If this is the direction Windows is heading, I will have no part in it. I have an obligation to myself to support freedom of choice, which Is why I wrote an article outlining the future of open hardware and highlighting organizations that support the right to repair movement.

In the years past, making a permanent switch to the Linux desktop environment always ended in defeat, eventually requiring a switch back to windows. Recently I saw the Linus Tech Tips video “Install Linux instead of Windows 11” , hosted by one of Linus tech guys “Anthony” (Great host btw), and I saw how far Gaming on Linux has come with SteamPlay (Thank you Valve) and decided it was time to try the PopOS Linux distribution.

Along with the improvements to Gaming, I found that navigating the PopOS was a breath of fresh air. The pre-loaded App Launcher is exactly what I needed. I needed more fine-grained tiling of windows so I went with a few customizations like “gTile” a plug-in for Gnome that gives you more fine control over window placement.

What’s improved, and what can use work

The Linux Operating System has come a long way over 10 years and I appreciate that it’s becoming more of an alternative to Windows. But it still has issues, and not the fault of the operating system specifically but probably more about the support it has from the hardware and software developers.

For instance, the biggest problem for me was printing to my Epson Work Force Multi-Function device. CUPS or the Epson Linux drivers are problematic. Certain settings like duplex printing failed to work. I couldn’t for the life of me get the option for duplex printing to stick by default for my print jobs, and even manually selecting the option from within whatever program I was printing from didn’t always yield accurate results. I did some research online and some instructions involved editing script files, but come on man, I don’t want to be editing scripts just to print a page on both sides of the paper.

I did encounter issues around which versions of software I should have installed, at least with Wine. Especially when trying to get some of my preferred Windows applications working. Sometimes everything just works having the right PPA’s configured and in other cases, I’m not so sure. The package management system in Linux seems to be evolving, which is a good thing, but it can cause headaches to know which version of a piece of software you need and how to install it.

On the other end, the installer for PopOS makes installing basic apps very simple. I even tested a situation where I had a Zoom call and did not have Zoom installed yet and I was up in running within minutes.

Gaming seems pretty flawless with SteamPlay so far. But don’t fall into the trap of thinking you can install games on your mounted-in-linux windows partition as I did, what was I thinking!?!

If you are a power user like me, Linux is getting closer to a real alternative to Windows and it’s about time as more and more companies move to anti-competitive practices, harming public trust and individual choice. In the long run, the products we use should be in our control and not the other way around. Do what you can to make it harder for shady companies like Microsoft to dominate markets and support the end of creative monopolies.