Seven years without Windows

The last time I ran Windows was seven years ago today. On 4 July 2004, I removed Windows from my systems, declaring Independence Day in more ways than one.

Since then, I’ve run Linux exclusively. For the first year or so, I ran Xandros, which was a training-wheels version of Linux that became moribund soon after the company signed a deal with Microsoft. At that point, I immediately removed Xandros from my systems and installed Ubuntu/Kubuntu, which I’ve been running ever since.

I’d actually had Linux installed on some of my systems since the late 1990’s, but only servers. By 2004, desktop Linux had made sufficient progress that I decided I was ready to take the plunge.

It was never about price. As someone who wrote computer books for O’Reilly, I could simply call Wagg-Ed and they’d send me free copies of whatever Microsoft products I asked for. I abandoned Windows because it was–and reportedly still is–insecure, buggy, and unstable. Serious bugs went unfixed for literally years, and an entire anti-malware industry had grown around protecting Windows from its own inherent security holes.

Linux, on the other hand, was and is rock-solid stable and inherently secure. (In seven years of using Linux, I’ve yet to install any kind of AV software or malware scanner; it’s simply not needed.) Linux bugs were and are fixed very quickly, usually within literally hours of being discovered or reported.

Of course, abandoning Windows also meant abandoning MS Office, Outlook, Internet Explorer, and other Windows-only applications. No great loss, as it turned out. In fact, it was a major gain. OOo Writer did everything I needed to do, and it’s never once eaten one of my documents, which happened regularly with Word. Kompozer was an adequate replacement for FrontPage, and Kmail/Kontact was noticeably superior to Outlook, which corrupted its database more than once and frequently forgot to notify when I’d set reminders. Firefox was worlds ahead of Internet Explorer. In terms of core productivity apps, Linux had everything I needed and those apps were generally at least as good as and often better than the Windows apps they replaced.

The same was true of other apps such as video and audio players, disc-burning software, backup software, and so on. Each time I needed to do something new with Linux, I found there was at least one good app and often several to choose from.

When I started shooting DV video to post on YouTube, I was a bit concerned. Prevailing wisdom was that Windows apps for video production were decent, Apple apps were superb and Linux apps were primitive and lacked function. That turned out not to be the case.

While I was playing around with video editing, my editor was kind enough to lend me a Mac Mini with iMovie installed. My first impression was that it was easy to use mainly because it didn’t do much, and that was confirmed as I used it more. It simply wouldn’t do several things that I wanted to do.

There were one or two Linux apps that resembled iMovie, both in ease-of-use and lack of functionality, but I eventually settled on an industrial-strength video editor called Cinelerra. Industrial-strength as in powerful enough to be used by commercial video production companies, including major film studios. But Cinelerra is also simple enough to use for basic functions that I never felt the need to look any further.

So, here I am after seven Windows-free years. I’ve never looked back.