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.


5 thoughts on “Seven years without Windows”

  1. “Of course, abandoning Linux” not what you meant to say?

  2. Fixed, thanks.

    It must have been a Freudian slip. I’ve been longing to return to Windows. Not.

  3. I have also mostly abandoned Windows for Macs, with a couple exceptions. I am forced to maintain Windows machines to deal with U.S. military websites–I am a reservist. Their contractors have seen fit to tie everything–EVERYTHING–to IE specific code that only works under Windows. I have not been able to successfully spoof it using other browsers. The military has followed the Southwest Airlines self-serve model in a big way. So I am stuck there. My kids’ school mandates Windows machines, for whatever reason.

    I have dabbled with Linux since it first appeared on the scene–I first downloaded it over a telnet connection and saved it on about 20 floppies with good old rawrite. But I have to say that I am very happy wearing the Apple ecosystem velvet handcuffs–my Macs Just Work (as Jerry Pournelle is wont to say) and do everything I need. Even better, it has Unix under the hood, so I can happily commune with the command line, toss around a few shebangs and start up X windows and use the Gimp.

    Every time I turn on a Windows box, it takes at least an hour to “catch up,” and I of course have no choice because it absolutely grinds to a halt.

    What led a former heavy-duty Windows developer astray? It was the iPod. It was so much better than every other MP3 player I had used (and I had used a bunch of them) that I ended up buying a used Mac and wondered what the heck I had been missing since OS X fist appeared.

  4. Hi Bob,
    I’ve been using some flavor of Linux as a primary desktop for more than 10 years now. And Yes, it certainly has gotten much better and easier to use. Even back then, it was, and still is, far more stable than winCRAP! (I’m trying to be somewhat nice; I have more far less adjectives/pseudonyms for whatever that junk happens to be called.) I can’t even tell you how many times I had been let down by winCRAP. While I have had some problems with Linux, certainly nothing in comparison. Currently, I’m running Ubuntu. In the classes I’m taking, I have no problem what-so-ever giving my opinions about what I use and why – including specifics.

    Have a Great Day!!!


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