It’s been a good few years since I last regularly used Linux on my home PC.
However in recent weeks, the itch to ditch Microsoft Windows has been returning, and today I started scratching away at it!
I few weeks ago, I had some success at setting up my own server at home, using a dinky little Intel NUC11 mini-PC, on which I installed Ubuntu Server and the NextCloud ‘snap’, and I now have my own private ‘cloud’ storage, here at home, just like Dropbox, but without the monthly cost!
The other week at work, I got hold of a Raspberry Pi 4, which I have utilised as a print server, to replace an ageing old Windows 7 PC we had. It basically just allows our thermal label printers to be shared across our network. It’s also powered by Linux, coming with the Raspbian operating system, a fork of Debian.
So that recent activity has given me the urge to get rid of Windows and go back to Linux at home again.
Why do I use Windows at all?
It went downhill after Windows 7 in my opinion. That was a nice straight-forward operating system to use, but then Windows 8 came along, which was pretty much unusable, unless you used it on a tablet or touchscreen device, which at the time many people didn’t have. The release of 8.1 put a few things right, and gave desktop users a more ‘desktop experience’, but many people had either gone back to Windows 7, or like myself had started dabbling with the various flavours of Linux.
I eventually ended up buying a brand new PC, which came with Windows 8.1 installed, but with the option of a ‘free’ upgrade to Windows 10. That was more like it, Windows 10 felt like a fresh new version of Windows 7, and I was happy to use it.
Plus at the time, I’d started my current job, and so I found myself doing bits of work at home, and the software we used at work would only work with Windows – or at least only ‘properly’ worked with Windows.
Why go back to Linux now?
I guess in all honesty, Windows 11 is a nice operating system to use. When it is not updating itself or adding in new ‘features’ that is.
I guess I have concerns about what this OS is doing in the background, and why does it take up 23GB of storage space?
That’s some serious ‘bloat’ right there!
It seems that with every new release of Windows, the system and storage requirements increase, no wonder most peoples’ PCs slow down and need replacing every few years!
What’s so great about Linux then?
Linux is an open-source operating system which means in a nutshell it is ‘free’. You don’t have to buy it, or pay for updates and upgrades.
Linux itself is just the core operating system kernel, and mostly useless on its own, unless you’re some kind of hardcore command-line buff!
There are a whole number of ‘distributions’ which bundle together all sorts of packages, such as desktop window managers, as well as popular applications and utilities, into one easy to install operating system.
Some distributions are geared towards server use, while many are tailored for everyday desktop use.
In fact, the vast majority of web servers hosting websites on the internet are running some version of Linux. Yet the vast majority of desktop/laptop PCs run some version of Microsoft Windows.
Google’s Android operating system found on many smartphones and tablets is a heavily modified version of Linux. Even Apple’s MacOS and iOS are derived from Unix, which Linux originated from.
Who can use Linux then?
Anyone really! If you only use a desktop or laptop computer for ‘basic’ tasks, such as email, web browsing, or chat, then you can install a Linux distribution of your choice, and it will come bundled with all the basic essentials.
There are a huge number of open-source applications that be easily installed if they are not included in your distribution. You can also use tools such as Wine and PlayOnLinux which provide ‘application compatibility layers’ that allow you to install many programs that otherwise only work in Microsoft Windows, if there are certain programs you just can’t do without.
Which Linux did I choose?
In the past, I’ve used both Ubuntu and LinuxMint, but this time round I settled on Zorin OS. After trying it out on my laptop, I was suitably impressed enough to go ahead and install it on my desktop PC, so my home is now Microsoft-free!
Zorin is based on Ubuntu, but has a desktop interface designed to look and feel like Windows or MacOS, depending on how you want to configure it. While there is a Pro version costing just £39, the Core version is available for free, and there is also a Lite version, which will work on hardware up to 15 years old, so no need to throw away that old computer any more!
It feels like it is ‘my computer’ again, rather than ‘this PC’ (that Microsoft ‘allows’ me to use), and I’m no longer being constantly nagged by Windows making ‘recommendations’, such as switching my browser to Edge, using a PIN to log in, and I don’t have to use a Microsoft account either. The Zorin OS – as with other flavours of Linux – keeps itself updated in the background, and only prompts for a reboot when it is necessary, and even then it’s a simple reboot process, unlike sitting there unable to use your PC while Windows updates install after a restart.
The ‘Home’ directory is where the user account files are kept, so by some simple mathematics, the operating system AND program files use just 12.7gb of storage. Compared to before when the Windows system on its own used 23gb of storage space.
If you’re fed up with Windows, or just looking to ‘revive’ an older PC that has slowed to a crawl, Linux is a good choice to try before throwing that old PC or laptop away.
You also don’t get this ‘selective’ bollocks from Microsoft when it comes to deciding if your PC is ‘worthy’ of an upgrade to Windows 11.
I bought an ASRock 4X4 with dual-core Ryzen R1505, and that was able to upgrade to Windows 11 with no issue. After being suitably impressed with this, I bought another 4X4 for use at work, but opted for the heavier-duty quad-core Ryzen V1605 version, for the more intensive work it would be tasked with. Yet Microsoft has decided this processor ‘isn’t supported’ for Windows 11 upgrade? Despite it being better than the one I have at home!
I wonder just how many people have been ‘tricked’ into buying a new PC, just because Microsoft has ‘encouraged’ them to do so?
I look at the specs of many modern PCs and laptops being offered for sale, and in all honesty, apart from gamers and those that use CPU/GPU intensive applications, most are probably far more over-spec’d than they need to be.
If you only ever want to browse websites or check in with friends on Facebook, you shouldn’t really need a quad-core CPU and 8gb of RAM, or should you?
In fact, for most basic needs, a Raspberry PI would do the job
I’m not all about telling people what they should do. If you’re happy using Windows on your own PC then that’s fine with me. But if you’re happy to step out of your comfort zone and try something a bit different, then maybe you should look at giving Linux a go.