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The Alternative To Windows 10

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I have five computers. Two run Windows 7 and 8, respectively, in order to access certain programs that only work on Windows. The other three run Linux. I love Linux, and I'll tell you why. It's easy, for one thing. Over the years, Linux distributions have gotten smarter and made more of their operating system GUI, which means the times a user needs to drop to the command line to type anything in are few and far between. It's free. That matters in a world where Microsoft charges $100 a pop for an OS install. The spyware situation is a lot better than in Windows 10, too. Linux is not designed from the ground up to spy on its users, unlike Windows 10, which notifies Microsoft anytime you do something on your computer. Finally, Linux will run on anything. That old computer that ran Window XP until Windows XP finally died? It will run Linux fine. No problem. All the software we know and love--Firefox, Chrome, LibreOffice, qbittorrent, and SMplayer--are all on Linux.


I recommend keeping one or two Windows boxes around just to access those occasional Windows-only applications. There's seldom a good excuse to make an application Windows-only nowadays, because software languages can compile for many operating systems, including Mac, Linux, and PC, but some developers just don't get it or don't want to spend any extra effort toward supporting operating systems used by a small subset. Qbittorrent is an excellent torrenting program that runs on all three operating systems. Torrenting, by the way, is how we download Linux. The Linux distributors deliver their work to you via fast, efficient torrents to ensure a valid download and minimize consumption of web server resources.


Why do people bother making Linux distributions (distros)? Much of the motive I think centers around enthusiasm for knowledge, but having a Linux distro on one's resume certainly will lead to job offers, if one is in the market for one of the great-paying Linux jobs in corporate America. A large chunk of the Internet runs on Linux, incidentally, so Linux isn't going anywhere except continuing to improve, and will be around several generations from now.


One area where Linux has low adoption rates is the desktop/laptop market. Probably 1% of desktop users use Linux. This is mainly due to lack of awareness of what Linux is and what it offers and scarcity of knowledge resources. If your family uses Windows, then more than likely, you are going to go straight to Windows and not think twice about it. Microsoft has been great at marketing, and it does make a fairly good operating system, as well. I like Windows and use it. I just believe that Linux is a valid option that should be considered, especially by people who have been or may be victimized by malware.


The one thing about Linux that people don't know about is that Linux is secure. Your operating system is not going to go to hell because you clicked on a web site. It is not impossible, but it just does not happen, and why? Partly because the bad guys don't see a margin in targetting a 1% minority with generally higher levels of tech knowledge. Also, Linux is designed for security from the ground up. Goal number one was security. For Microsoft, goal number one was pleasing the business customer and making things as easy as possible all the time. Different philosophies, both laudable, but those who know less about computers ironically have a horrible experience with Windows once their computers become infected, which over time, they will.


Firefox is my favorite browser, when I don't have to use Internet Explorer or Chrome in order to access a specific web site for work-related reasons. I like Firefox because I like their philosophy, emphasizing security and efficiency. I do not know what Internet Explorer emphasizes. I trust Mozilla, the makers of Firefox, and I also like their mail reader, Thunderbird, another seldom-used and seldom-appreciated gem out there that makes reading email a lot safer and faster. Why people use a web browser to read their email, I do not know. It seems like a lot of trouble to me.


No-Script is my favorite add-on for Firefox, because it gives control back to the user as to what a web site can and cannot do. I can surf the worst malware site on the planet and yawn. Because the malware site cannot touch me. No-Script blocks everything they try to do. The most a malware site can do is annoy me with their tackiness. Meanwhile, the sites I love and trust, like gayauthors, work fine, and I let them do whatever they want. No-Script is a bouncer. You train it for a couple days, and it keeps the troublemakers out of your bar.


My advice to the desktop or laptop computer user is simple. I've said it before and I will say it again. Install a distro of Linux, any distro, and if you don't like it for some reason, fine, install another one. I am partial to Xubuntu and Linux Mint XFCE, but there are hundreds of distros to pick from, each with different philosophies and styles. Next, use Firefox as your browser. Install No-Script as an add-on within Firefox. Open your mind and learn as much as you can about Linux, Firefox, and NoScript, the golden triad of secure computing. From that point on, malware is something you do not worry about. You are more secure than 99.9% of all computer users out there. Period. It is as easy that.

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I can see you are a linux evangelist, and I can sympathise with your point of view.  That said, I think there is a significant amount of bias in some of what you say that I would like to balance out.  To be clear, I have also spent some time playing around in the 'alternative' OS world; OS/2, Linux (Red Hat, ubuntu, fedora), and some playing around with unix and solaris (not great for desktops).  In my work, I am an IT professional - but I should caveat that by confessing to being at a leadership level rather than 'on the tools' so to speak, so for most people my opinion on this would probably be worth less than a trained monkey's.


So, onto Windows.  Yes, $100 a pop - but for anyone running Windows 7, 8, or 8.1 it is (currently) free.  So for anyone already on a recent version of Windows, your investment has already been made.  Windows is a de facto standard, which means that for most people there isn't a learning curve.  For people like you and I, the learning curve might not seem like much for linux, but for a huge number of people even a minor change in the environment can be tricky to navigate.  The new UI in windows 8 and it being an utter disaster shows how a relatively minor conceptual change can damage the ability of people to adapt.


Onto the spyware and security aspect.  As you rightly pointed out, around 1% of users have a linux distribution and they tend to be tech savvy.  Conversely, there is a smaller pool of users, and those users are less likely to be fooled into downloading malware or spyware.  Therefore the possible return on investment is much lower for the creators of such packages.  As Linux becomes more popular and accessible, that situation will reverse considerably.  It is more secure for now.  And while yes, Windows does send information back to Microsoft, that is completely within the users control and can be countermanded by changing settings.  Microsoft could and should make this process much more intuitive, but you do them a disservice by claiming they are notified "every time you do something on your computer".


In terms of software availability, yes - it is "easy" nowadays to compile into multiple OS environments.  But compiling the same code for 3, 4, or 5 operating systems is not fool-proof and for a commercial product to run to the same standard on each it WILL require customisations.  Not least if you are calling a custom class or method within Windows that doesn't exist elsewhere.  Theres only so much you can achieve (efficiently) with software like wine.  There IS an overhead to maintaining different distributions, and so a commercial company will of course look at return on investment.  A good example is the popular Steam gaming client for Windows.  It has 781 MILLION games on it for Windows.  It also produces a version for Linux, which has recently hit a major milestone of 1,000 games.  Whichever way you sell it, using linux limits your choices at the moment - and while that might not be an entirely fair state of affairs, no amount of grandstanding is going to change the reality of that in the short term.


So, yes, there are many drawbacks to Linux for a standard user, and they should be aware of that before they step - like Alice - through the looking glass into a world that is vastly different from their expected reality.


I agree with you very strongly about security.  Windows is notoriously poor in this area, but it must also be said that a massive volume of security issues stem at least in part from poor user behaviour.  Not installing anti-virus, scripts on websites (as you alluded to with your firefox comments), or downloading without checking the trustworthiness of the source.  I'm not completely wedded to firefox - it has some behavioural kinks that I don't like.  My browser of choice is actually opera, though I use chrome at the office.  All three though have something in common - install the right plugins and change the right settings and you are vastly reducing your level of risk.


On the web side, the company I work for has moved to make sure all our sites are standards compliant, which hopefully should ensure that whatever OS or browser you are using, you get the same experience.  That doesn't always work in reality, because compliance to a standard is an elastic concept for both google and microsoft.


I am impressed at the moment with the new "edge" browser from Microsoft, but the lack of plugin availability for blocking ads, scripts and other nasties means it is not (yet) something I would recommend.  That said, from a performance and resource control point of view, it is miles ahead of any version of internet explorer.


I have just bought myself the most expensive laptop I have ever owned.  It's Alienware, and sometimes I feel sick about how much it cost.  But I can tell you, based on my own experience, professional judgement, and a fair amount of gut feel - it will remain a Windows-only machine.  I'm not saying you are wrong in what you say, but for my own activities, Windows remains by far the better option right now.



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Well, I'd just like to say thank you to both Drak and Westie for the advice in both the above posts.

There were useful things to learn from both.

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Informative post, West. Remember, I use and like Windows too. I am not anti-Windows. However, the situation has always been that no-one even considers Linux. To them, it does not even exist. My argument is simple. Consider it. It's a player, a valid option in the marketplace, and perfect for someone who just wants to surf the Internet, read email, watch movies, or use a word processor--in other words, most home users. For the business user, most of them are going to go with Windows for business reasons--various applications that are Windows-only.


In summary, my argument is not "Linux is better," but "Linux is a valid option that should be considered by anyone that wants a secure, low-cost operating system."

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