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. 😛

MOVING to LINUX [Part 1] – “Why, what’s wrong with Windows?”

Prologue;

David Tenant was MY Doctor. For anyone who’s not a Dr Who fan, I apologise, that last sentence won’t make any sense. But for those who do know a bit of Dr Who, this was all to say that Windows 7 was MY Windows. But sadly Microsoft will be stopping support for Windows 7 as of January 2020. This blog post will look at my history with Windows Operating Systems, the future of Windows, what people should do about it, and what I’m personally going to be doing.

Windows 7 is the operating system which I have spent the most time using, and the one I still use to this day (Q2 2019), and, sadly to say, it is the last version of Windows I intend to be using as my ‘daily driver’ (or, ‘computer I use every day to do my work and play games.’) That’s right folks, I’m NOT going to be going to Windows 10. Now at this point, you might be asking yourself “What the heck is he on about? What’s the difference between Windows 7 and 10?” or “What happened to 8 and 9“ and “Why do I need to know or care?” all very good questions that we WILL answer in this blog post.

My history with Windows;

But first… let me take you back to my childhood. I grew up on computers before they had the shiny click-to-do interfaces we have come to know and love (there are actually called GUI’s Graphical User Interface.) When I started to learn how to use a computer it was all controlled by typing commands into a ‘command line’ which is a method still commonly used in Linux operating systems, more about them soon.

Image 1 – My Computer

Fast forward to 1990(ish) and the first version of Windows that my Father installed on our home computer was 3.1 and it was amazing. It was the first GUI that I had used and it was such an advancement (to me anyway) that it was hard to go back. However, in those days we still had to open the Command Prompt to do some tasks, it was still easier sometimes.


Image 2 & 3 – Windows 3.1 start screen and Interface, Source: Microsoft


End of 2001 saw the release of Windows XP, the operating system I’ve spent the second most amount of time with, gets installed on my Fathers computer. By this time, I’ve just completed my Diploma of Information Technology and I’ve gotten good at using computers. Looking back I can’t believe that XP came out at the same time I finished my Diploma.

Image 4 – Windows XP interface, Source: Wikipedia

Windows XP served me very well until Windows 7 arrived in 2009. Eight years of long and consistent reliably saw XP as one of the most stable operating systems to date. I guess I call Windows 7 MY Windows because it’s also the one that I taught my partner and kids to use, even if they don’t have the same connection to Windows as I do, my wife says she remembers using Windows 3.1 when I showed her the images above. But, all good things must come to an end…

Image 5 – Windows 7 Interface, Source: Wikipedia

As of January 14th 2020, software giant Microsoft will be stopping its support for Windows 7. Support will continue for businesses running Windows 7 however they will be charged incrementally larger amount each year, for each computer they have running Windows 7. The idea for Microsoft is that they want to get everyone to move to the newest version to Windows 10 so that they can move forward without having to support old versions of the operating system, which makes good business sense.

Image 5 – The Windows 10 interface. Source: Wikipedia

The future of Windows;

So what does this mean to the average person using Windows 7? It means that as of January next year a decision will need to be made. “Do I upgrade to Windows 10, or continue with Windows 7 but run the risk of having security vulnerabilities being discovered that won’t be fixed?” For most people, I would have to say that upgrading to Windows 10 is the easiest and safest option, and it’s the option that Microsoft is hoping most people will be doing. The problem is is that there are still just under half of all computers running a Windows-based operating system, running an older version of Windows, so Windows; XP, 7 or 8.1. Windows 10 is allegedly that last version that Microsoft intends to release, so all other updates will be to this version.

As I mentioned in my prologue, I won’t be moving to Windows 10. I’m looking at moving instead to something called Linux! When I originally wrote this blog post, I included quite a bit of information about what Linux is and why I’m choosing it over Windows, but it was getting way too long. So I decided to split it up into smaller, bite-sized pieces. For this blog post, I’ll just finish up by summing up what steps people will need to think about taking before January 2020.

Solutions;

First off, I don’t recommend you stay on Windows 7, you will be too vulnerable and I can almost guarantee we will see problems for the people that do stay on it before the end of 2020. So your options are;

  1. If you own a properly licensed copy of Windows 7 then there is a relatively easy way to upgrade to Windows 10, possibly for free. This is dependent on if your computer hardware is fast enough to be able to run this new version of Windows; however, it seems that it runs quite well on computers that are a few years old.
  2. If you were to purchase a new computer it will have Windows 10 already installed on it.
  3. Another option is to outright buy a copy of the new Windows 10 and install it on your computer. Note: at the time of writing this, it looks like you can expect to pay about $139AUS or $195USD for a single, personal use copy of Windows 10. Source: https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/store/cart?cid=Windows10
  4. Stop using Microsoft Windows all together, but that will be covered in another blog post as I said.

If you are not sure what version of Windows you are running and you would like to make sure, please email me; hobstar@protonmail.com with the subject; “Blog Post #3 – What’s my Windows?” and I can walk you through how to find out.

Take away message;

Don’t freak out! There is still time to work this out, whether it’s to upgrade, or buy that new computer you’ve been thinking of getting, we can work this out. Let me know down in the comments of this post what you are planning on doing.

One last thing, I’m excited to introduce a new page to the site, a collection of buzz words and terms that you see in these post along with a brief description to explain them. I plan on updating it often so do stop by and see what new bits of lingo you can pick up. https://hobstarblog.wordpress.com/glossary/


Thanks again to everyone for reading.
Warm Regards,
Paul

P.S. I forgot to talk about Microsoft’s odd numbering system. So Windows had a version 1, 2 before 3, but I never used those. XP then went to 7 and they release a version called 8 which was updated to 8.1 (which is how you will see it listed) but we don’t speak about this one… it was not widely like. With 8.1, they tried to make a hybrid version that would work on desktop and tablets, and it was not a good experience. And finally, they skipped 9 all together, perhaps trying to distance them selves form the tragedy that was 8.1. 😛