MOVING to LINUX [Part 2] – “Why I’m moving to Linux”

So in the previous blog post about Moving to Linux, we talked a bit about Microsoft’s Operating System called Windows. And although it was subtitled “Why, what’s wrong with Windows?” I don’t feel that I completely covered the reasons why I’m personally not moving to Windows 10 in January of next year; which is when they stop commercial support for Windows 7. I wanted to just quickly touch on the key reasons why I’m moving away from Microsoft as it will become a good framing point for the continuation of this series.

1) Forced Updates

Microsoft has come under a lot of fire recently for the way in which they are forcing their users to be on the latest ‘build’ or ‘version’ of their Windows 10 Operating System. When Windows 10 is ready to update, it will, regardless of what your doing or might be about to do. I heard an amusing story about a couple who were reading their wedding vows from Windows 10 tablets and when the minister said; “If there is anyone here who has reasons these two should not be wed, speak now….” their tablets both decided to start doing an update and effectively locking them out. This is a funny story, but imagine that you’re about to give a presentation to a large potential new client or trying to do your taxes online or something else that you would not want to be interrupted. Not fun.

Now, in Microsoft’s defence, they are starting to implement a change in this area, allowing using to delay the update for one week, up to about 4 times I believe. Please also note that this is NOT a recommendation to NOT update your OS or other software. You should definitely keep your system up to date, but you should be able to choose when this happens.

2) Dodgy Updates

A few of the recent Windows 10 updates actually caused some major issues for its users. The one that comes to mind for me was where users found that their ‘My Documents’ folders had been deleted. Gone, not coming back. This only happened to people who had mapped their default My Documents to a different location, but there were enough people doing this that Microsoft had to roll back that update, which actually took them a while to admit.

A quick reminder; in the IT world there is an old saying, “You always have one less backup than you need” or “Two is one and one is none.” We’ll be talking about backups in a near future post, so keep an eye out for that one.

3) Data collection

The more I learn about computers, and in particular, the big companies that are controlling data online, the less comfortable I become about who has my data and what they do with it. The five biggest companies (in terms of active users) are; Google, Facebook, Apple, Amazon and Yahoo (source: https://datafloq.com/read/what-data-do-the-five-largest-tech-companies-colle/427). You might notice that Microsoft does not make it into the top 5, mainly because they do not monetise their collected data like some of the other listed companies do.

There were reported stories of families using Windows 10 when it first came out and the parents unexpectedly received a report at the end of the first month of usage, reporting on all of the sites their children had been visiting. This actually ousted some kids who were not yet ‘out of the closet’ sexuality wise and caused a lot of heartaches. This feature is still around but can be disabled, by the parents, Source 1: https://www.pinknews.co.uk/2015/08/26/this-terrifying-new-windows-10-feature-could-out-kids-to-their-parents/

Source 2: https://support.microsoft.com/en-us/help/12441/microsoft-account-see-child-device-activity

My main issues with companies collecting my data are;

* They don’t seem to be able to treat it with respect or look after it. How many data breaches have you seen in the news recently?

* Intellectual Property (or IP for short) can become contestable when it exists on someone’s server.

* Data stored on someone’s server could be breached and original works or sensitive data could be stolen or copied.

* Data is traded and sold between companies, it’s how you can end up with a ton of spam when signing up for a service with your email address.

I think we should do a blog post soon on data breaches, it might be part of a ‘Digital Hygiene’ series I think. The above reasons are why I have taken all of my ‘work files’ (in my case, training documents) offline and now store them on my computer and a few backups. This is not the solutions that will work for everyone one, but it’s the one that makes me feel most comfortable. We will cover this in a lot more detail in coming posts, as well as how to sign up for services without getting spam.

The other big thing that I’ve become interested in is the ‘Open Source’ movement. Wikipedia describes, in part, open source as “… a term denoting that a product includes permission to use its source code, design documents, or content….” Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Open_source

Which I find to be a good definition. It means that if a programmer wanted to look ‘under the hood’ of a piece of software, and it was open source, they could. If enough programmers do this they can all collectivity agree that a particular piece of software is not hiding any malicious code or code that redirects your details to a 3rd part service. It also enables people new to programming the opportunity to see how other people have made their program work, which we support because we all love learning here in this community!

The term is also often synonymous with free software, but not all free software is open sourced and not all open sourced software is free. I don’t want to get bogged down in that discussion, as it would take a good few pages to go in-depth on this issue. We can, for the most part, think of open source as a friendlier system with less to hide and most often, cares more about helping you keep your data private and belonging to you.

Which finally brings us to Linux! Linux is an OS which is built on something called Unix. Unix isn’t free but is designed to be super stable for businesses to use. In particular, most Internet servers are running it, so you rely on it without even know it. Linux was created as a free (open source and free to use) and has several different types which are referred to as ‘distros’ (short for distribution.) We will be looking at a few different distros in posts to come soon, especially some which have been created to make it easier to move from Windows.

Don’t get scared about looking into distros either. A lot of them can be run from a USB flash drive to test them out. If you like them, you can also boot them alongside Windows until you get comfortable enough with them to switch, if you so choose to do so.

I think that’s enough for everyone today, a heap of information to think about there. It’s a lot to take in really, congrats if you made it this far.

Let me know in the comments down below if you are comfortable with how big companies collect and use your data, a lot of people are.

Next week’s post is going to be the first in a series about ‘Computer Hygiene and then I think we might switch between that and ‘Moving to Linux,’ what does everyone think about that? Let me know if that will be annoying or confusing.

Warm Regards,

Paul

P.S, sorry, no fancy images this time. 😛

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