Saturday, August 8, 2009

From Windows to Linux... Is it that hard to adapt?

Many people feel that making the switch to Linux is difficult. And in all honesty it does require a bit of effort and willingness to adapt to a new Operating System and its applications. But in reality, it is no more difficult than learning to use a computer for the 1st time.

Most might recall that time and remember some aggravating moments. Fortunately, having had some experience under your belt already, you can take that with you and use it to help you use a different operating system. Unlike your 1st time on a PC, you now have an idea of what you need to use to get your tasks done. So its a matter of learning what applications do what, and familiarizing yourself with their menus.

It may sound like too much effort, but in reality its not that bad. And of coarse, it doesn't hurt to be able to turn somewhere for help. But the key is to be willing to learn and not get discouraged.

You might ask yourself why change to begin with? Well that is a very good question, and one that may have a different answer depending on the individual. However, chances are that if you are reading blogs such as this one, that you are able to answer that question for yourself. In my personal experience, the answer to that question was simply that I was tired of not being able to browse the net without having to spend money on security tools, and even then some attacks still made it through. This was a particular recurring problem with my children's computers.

Linux offers a real solution to that problem, and that was one feature I was willing to take advantage of, and set off to find out at what cost.

Back in April, I decided to switch from XP to Ubuntu. One of my 1st fears was HW compatibility and those were quickly dismissed with nearly 100% of my hardware working right away after the initial install. There are some issues out there with some HW, don't think those do not exist. But I quickly found out that my older systems were easier to setup with Linux. This was good because, the old HW I have for my children actually couldn't handle Windows Vista and was just getting by with Windows XP. More more on that later.

Setting up my system and getting everything to work was much easier than I anticipated. Many of the answers I needed I quickly found in forums and using Google search. Within the 1st week of using Ubuntu, I had my Flatbed scanners, printers, and even my colorimeter (Monitor color calibrating hw) working. So I can say that for the tech savvy, Linux has made great strides to be easier to use and setup.

I have been using Linux since then, and will admit that I am still learning and likely will for a long time. But to me it feels no different than when I work on Windows servers at work. In fact, I feel that I was able to use my work experience as a Windows Server Admin to good use with Linux.

Pleased with my personal computer setup, I began seting up the rest of the computers in the house with Linux. I expected some resistance from the kids. But it wasn't too hard to convince them to change when they were complaining that their systems where once again being compromised with adware and other junk they were picking up from browsing the web.

At 1st there where many questions from the children. How do I do this, where is that and so forth. It was to be expected. But surprisingly, the kids were soaking it all up. Getting games to work was a bit challenging at 1st, but we have learned to focus on games that work in Linux, be it natively or via WINE. And I am happy to say that 5 months later, they are doing their own installs of games and such.

It is often said that kids adapt to change much better than adults. And while that may be true, they are also at a bigger disadvantage since they do not have the level of comprehension we have as adults. I believe that if we get past the will barrier that adapting and making the necessary changes would come easier.

One particular challenge popped up during the end of the school year for one of my kids. He had to do a Power Point presentation for a school assignment. But after 10-15 minutes, I had him working on his school assignment using Open Office. And it was no problem for the teacher to view and grade it with the Windows systems at school. This was a very satisfying experience for a few reasons that are worth mentioning here.

  • OpenOffice was free and readily available for install from the trusted repositories for Ubuntu. My jaw nearly dropped! We will not go over how much I paid for an old version of Ms Office a few years back in an effort to save me from popping a blood vessel and bleeding to death.
  • I watched in amazement as my son simply didn't let the different menu layout intimidate him into thinking he wouldn't be able to find the features needed to get his presentation done. I was proud of him, and couldn't help but think again, that it was his willingness that kept him focused in learning to use the tools available to him.
  • Did I mention that OpenOffice was free and that i didn't have to make a trip to the store to spend a couple hundred on MS Software? ;)
I mentioned earlier that I have some old hw that my children use for their computer needs and entertainment. 1 in particular struggled with XP and I new would never run Vista efficiently. The other would probably run Vista very slow. But neither of these systems have any trouble running Ubuntu, even with Compiz enabled. And if you are wondering what Compiz is and does, some have told me its like having the eye candy of Aero in Vista enabled.

The children have adapted to their new systems with little fuss. And I believe it's because with Linux their systems are fast, responsive and safe from being compromised with junk while browsing the net. This not only keeps them happy, but it sure has saved me a ton of valuable time and aggravation. There was nothing that got under my skin more than having to fix a virus or adware ridden windows install. Those days are over for me.

I will say that we are blessed to be able to adapt so easily. In reality I almost feel guilty it was this easy for me and my family to adapt. But even if I had to pay someone for Linux support, it is easy to see how in the long term it would be a much more affordable computing experience. Having a secure and much more hardware efficient operating system means that trips to the computer tech would be few and far in between.

In my experience, the small challenges to adapt were easily met and conquered. it is certainly within everyone's scope of possibility to do so as well. The rewards are many,
  • longer lasting hardware
  • more efficient computing experience
  • less financial impact to use and support
  • more secure internet experience
Again they key is to be willing to meet the challenge. If you are not willing to put in the effort, then it will be very difficult to justify and conquer.


robert said...

For the most part, I agree. My experience with quite a few distros are annoyances more than anything else and seem to be with sound, mp3 players (creative) and programs that work fine in Windows (Audacity) not working the same way in the distro (same hardware...dual boot).

Sound hardware that worked on one version stops on the next version...that kind of thing.

While I'd love to "convert", it's not possible just yet.

Anonymous said...

One of the best well said blogs I have ever read. Very eloquent, straight to the point with no going in circles.

Good job.

Anonymous said...

It might be helpful if you give some specifics, like what distro and hardware. Some one might be able to help. You also could join a forum, I am sure you will find many friendly people willing and eager to help you out.

mrbig4545 said...

lol, nice blog, but you should use gentoo, it takes all the easy away and replaces it with fun and headache!

Tyson said...

I agree a very good article.

Gentoo for a new windows convert..... lol

Lee said...

quite frankly what he mentions here is absolutely true. notice his background.. a windoze server admin. he knows what a computer "file" is. well john q doesn't (john q thinks that a "picture" is really a picture (not a file)). most of us migrating from MS to linux are in the former boat while those that "knock" linux are in the latter. most of us that use linux know the diff between a bit and a byte but john q is clueless... and worse they don't care about continuing to remain clueless. thus they also don't know about "partitions" (except in housing). I'd find it very difficult to format a HDD not knowing about these "innards" and thats the diff between a typical windoze user and a typical linux user. sure. one can learn but the desire to do so needs to be there before embarking upon this road...

"DAVE" said...

Nice Article. I used to use different "live CDs" on the computers at work so I could get on the internet to get work done without fear of viruses and spyware. I have been using Gentoo as my main distro since January of 2008. Using Gentoo has been a real treat. (With just a few headaches)

Kevin (aka Padma) said...

"But in reality, it is no more difficult than learning to use a computer for the 1st time."

From my experience, I think it would be more accurate to say, "it is no more difficult than switching from WinXP to Vista, or Win7."

You yourself point out that if you're already using Windows, you have a basic understanding of the computer. Yet, the switch from XP to Vista was rather traumatic for many users, and have you looked at the hoops you need to jump through to "upgrade" from XP to Win7 ? What they really want is for you to buy a new system with Win7 pre-installed.

If "John Q" is too clueless about formatting and partitions and such, they just need to have a geek friend do the initial install. Once the software is "pre-installed", it will be no harder for them to adapt to Linux than it is to adapt to Win7.

Purple library guy said...

Actually, I think switching to Linux from Windows is about as hard as inheriting *someone else's* Windows computer. That is, the menus have stuff in different places and the installed software isn't what you're used to and there's different icons hanging around the desktop and different stuff in the system tray, so it's going to take some work to make it the way you like it. You're less familiar with the rules for how to do that than you would be with Windows, but on the other hand in Linux you won't have to deal with stuff that stubbornly refuses to go away.

Akshay Guleria said...

Very nicely written blog. I had similar experience converting our only home laptop to Ubuntu (for my wife). It wasn't without a few issues but I was linux admin so could get around the issues. And then you learn a lot of things n the process too. You save money too.

Hardware compatibility is an issue (not Linux fault though) in some cases but generic drivers work for most of the hardware most of the time.

With 9.04, everything just worked - either out of box or with little googling.

Infact, to my surprise, my sony handcam, cameras, bluetooth everything just worked perfectly. 3-D desktop is a big eye-candy on linux. Its far ahead of aero. I used Vista Ultimate and there was hardly any 3-d effect other than alt+tab effect. In all, moving to linux is straight forward in many many cases.

Its those small issues that happen with Linux that prevent "humans" to move away from where it already works. Things like - not being able to get the fingerprint reader to work perfectly on linux or watch online TV on websites that stream only to media player.

Anonymous said...

I recently came accross your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I dont know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.


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