Use Free (and Open Source) Software for Your Daily Computing Needs


When I made the conscious decision to transition to GNU/Linux (“Linux” from this point) earlier this year, it’s not a difficult one, nor something that was considered in one night. I did months of reading and research, not only on the software side, but also on the hardware side. You see, it’s a running joke among software enthusiasts that when one decides to use Linux as their daily driver, one is prepared to figure out things for themself. One must have the patience to RTFM, or Read the Full Manual. (I kid, I kid, F doesn’t really stand for Full, if you know what I mean.)

Most of the top Linux distributions (or “distros”) work with a wide range of hardware out of the box. So if you’re new to Linux, you need not to worry about whether it would work on your machine. Most probably, it would. Take note, though, that if you’re machine is 32-bit (in layman’s terms, it roughly means Ancient), you will have to check on a Linux distro whether they have a variant that supports this architecture. Debian is one that has an installer for 32-bit, but there are others.


Takeaways, now na!

  1. If you haven’t had the time to do research, and just want something that works, get Manjaro XFCE. Reason: It’s lightweight yet with enough features to get you started.
  2. If you have a little bit of time, you may look into PrivacyTool’s OS suggestions. They listed Fedora (the one I started with, actually) and Ubuntu as the beginner distros for newbies looking for an easy transition to Linux.
  3. If you’re starting out, don’t distrohop (i.e., trying out every Linux distro out there). It’s a waste of time and resources. Just stick to the first choice you’ll make for at least a few months, before even considering looking at another distro. There are a lot of Linux distros out there, so it’s easy to have analysis paralysis. Refer back to item 1 or 2.

But I’m not a programmer, software engineer, IT person, etc.?

And neither am I.

You don’t need to be a computer wizard to get into a new operating system that’s not Windows or, god forbid, macOS.

Ask yourself: how did you learn using Windows? Were you guided by someone more knowledgeable on computer? Did you play around with the clicky things and see what would happen when you do click on them? Did you need the Office suite for school or work? Did you need it for games, entertainment, surfing the web? Whatever the answer is, the same thing can be applied to Linux. A lot of the things that you can do on Windows, you can do too on Linux. Only that in Linux, you won’t be limited to proprietary software over which you have no say whatsoever.

Linux offers more wiggle room, more configurability. After some experience with it, you can begin to tweak some of the configuration to enhance your workflow. For example, if you’re an excellent touch-typist, it’s possible to have a working environment that is purely keyboard-based; your fingers will never have to leave the keys to reach for that mouse!

Another one: if you’re the type who wants their whole screen utilized, then you know the hassle of constantly resizing windows to maximize screen real estate. In Linux, there are things called Tiling Window Managers, which are programmed to automatically to fit to screen window/s so that there’s no wasted space.

I have no time to move away from Windows. Convince me!

Windows is a privacy nightmare.

  1. Data syncing is enabled by default. Unless you take the time to configure things in the Control Panel, the data is sent to Microsoft servers for their analysis.
  2. Your device is tagged with a unique advertising ID by default, which is used to serve you with personalized advertisements by third-party advertisers and ad networks.
  3. Beware if you’re using the assistant Cortana – it can collect any of your data.
  4. Actually, “even after all telemetry features disabled, Windows 10 is phoning home more than you could ever think of.

It’s also free: free as in freedom, and free as in free beer. The former empowers the user to decide which software to use, to tweak the system according to their needs, etc. And the latter means you don’t have to pay for anything to do all that.

I know that many of us simply do not have time on their hands to learn a new OS. Except that, if you own an Android-powered smartphone, you do! You’re already using Linux. Android is based on the Linux Kernel. If you had the patience to learn how to use a smartphone, you have the patience to do the same on your PC. Which isn’t really that much, especially if you have a non-demanding use case.

You can try it out first.

You don’t have to wipe out your current sytem and flash it fresh with Linux. It can be daunting to learn new things. Good thing that Linux community is very much alive and vibrant. You can look up for solutions online for any problems you might encounter, or just straight up ask in the forums. People are generally helpful to newbies.

You can look into dual-booting. Meaning, you can install Linux alongside Windows. When you boot (i.e. turn on your computer), you can choose which OS to use for that session. Gamers usually do this: their games are installed in Windows (since most PC titles are programmed only to run on Windows), and have everything else set up in Linux.

You can also look into live USB boot. Meaning, an entire Linux is set up on a USB drive which you only plug in on your computer every time you want to access this distro. When you turn on your computer, choose to boot from the USB drive, and you’ll boot into Linux. When you’re done, just unplug your drive, and you’ll boot into Windows on your next session.

There’s actually more to this!

Linux (or more appropriately, GNU/Linux) is one of the UNIX-like operating system family.

Other UNIX-like operating systems include, but are not limited to, macOS, Solaris, and BSD (Berkeley Software Distribution).

Each of them offers unique UI/UX for varying use cases, but let’s not get confused with a lot of options right now. My purpose of mentioning them is to let you know that there’s a whole gamut of OS that you don’t need to pay for, while actually being objectively better than Windows.

TNU



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