Yesterday was a red letter day for me. Two decades after using Linux for the first time, I have finally managed to fully convert all of daily driver devices to boot Linux. Any of you who know me, know that for years now I've been running Linux natively and in a single boot configuration on whatever primary personal laptop I happened to be using at the time. You might also know that just over a year ago I managed to get my wife using it on her laptop. But I never fully converted to Linux. My dirty little secret was that for years I have run a desktop as my so-called server and that desktop has always run Windows. Once upon a time I even went so far as to run some version of Windows Server on there, but in the last few years it was dialed back to just running client versions of Windows.
"But why?" I can hear you asking. That's a great question. Honestly? I was lazy. When I built my current desktop machine in November of 2014 I had originally intended to load it up with Linux. I did exactly that. But lo and behold my luck was poor as this was the first machine I had built in 11 years and I had received a bad motherboard. The end result of this was that after plugging more than two USB devices in, the system would become very unstable. I had no idea whether I had a hardware or a software problem. I decided to narrow that problem down by installing Windows. After installing Windows, I found that I had the same issue only there it required one more USB device to recreate it.
Nevertheless after this discovery, I exchanged the motherboard for a new one and all of my problems were solved after installing it. However at this point, I was very frustrated with the process and since Windows 8.1 was already installed and all of my files were sitting on NTFS partitions (over 2 terabytes of files) both internally and externally, I decided to stick with it. In time I came to rue this decision especially after I began to be subjected to the nonsense that is/was the Windows 10 forced upgrade campaign waged by Microsoft.
Eventually as a result of that campaign, I upgraded to Windows 10. To be fair Windows 10 does offer some improvements but overall, I have no love for it. Technical considerations aside, Windows 10 represents the height of arrogance from the operating system division at Microsoft. It is their way of attempting to change the rules for billions of users under the premise that anything offered for free is allowed to fill the role of a trojan horse. Does that sound extreme? I'm sorry, but truth is generally best served black without any additives. To be clear, I'm not claiming Windows 10 spies on you. I'm not claiming it's a security risk. All I'm claiming is that the tactics associated with the forced upgrade to Windows 10 have eroded enough of what little trust I had left in Microsoft that I'm no longer willing to trust their operating systems in any significant way.
News of antagonistic changes made to Windows 10 Pro as part of the so-called anniversary update became the straw that broke the camel's back. While reading/raging over a story covering those changes that I saw posted on reddit Friday morning I thought to myself, "Why the fuck do I even care? Why haven't just installed Linux on that desktop and moved the fuck on already?"
Nevertheless I obviously knew I could do everything I needed to do on Linux. I had been planning on it for years. I had slowly converted all of my workflows and server jobs to use utilities and programs that also existed in Linux over the years. The only thing stopping me was that I really didn't want to spend my time moving around a couple terabytes of files (mostly my retro gaming and retro software collections) as I wasn't going to seriously consider running a Linux OS and storing my files on a NTFS filesystems. It is a massive pain in the ass. But I finally started consolidating those files on Friday morning into a single NTFS partition and by Saturday morning I was ready to install Linux. After installing it, I created my new ext4 partitions and copied the files off the NTFS device. As of this morning, everything is now back up and running again.
It occurs to me though that the problem I had with Windows 10 is demonstrative of the core risk we take when using proprietary software. We are in essence putting our fate into the hands of others. Once upon a time many years ago, I argued on this very website that open source software couldn't ever live up to the expectations of end users because there was no financial motivation present to force the authors to take end user feedback seriously . But I realize now that the core mistake I made was in confusing software that was free as in beer and software that was free as in freedom. Windows 10 is/was an example of software which is free as in beer. It cost me nothing to acquire, but did nothing to enhance or promote my freedom as a user and offered me no real control over my end user experience. Whereas Linux is an example of software which is free as in freedom. Though in this case it cost me nothing to acquire, the hood is unlocked so I can tinker. I can dive as deep as I'd like and configure the system to function however I see fit. I can't do this with Windows 10 mainly because Microsoft doesn't consider it in their best interests to let me.
Does this mean I'm against proprietary software? No. I write proprietary software for a living and will likely continue to do so short of a career change. Besides, I'm an indie and retro gamer and the vast majority of software in my collection is proprietary and closed source. But at the end of the day a video game isn't a threat to my freedom as a user. It is merely a source of entertainment that I can choose to take or leave without any true consequences. Operating Systems on the other hand are a different story. Which OS you choose has a ripple effect on nearly every other subsequent software choice you will make. It's a massive decision and its not one to be made lightly. So it's a real shame that so many do take the decision so lightly.