Opinions or Options: An Honest View of Windows versus Linux

A war is going on in my house. Yes, that’s right. I call it “The War of O.S.’s.” My wife prefers Mac. My son is clan Microsoft. And I come from the foreign land of Linux. However, in recent years, we have called a truce. I don’t bring up why I think Linux is better and they don’t try to sell me on why it’s not. As long as we keep to the treaty, there is peace at the Catron household. Well, maybe it’s not quite that bad.

We are, however, people who have strong opinions, preferences, and tastes. That’s pretty much universal. Most people have a favorite sport, favorite team, favorite TV show, or favorite topping on their pizza. Not everyone drives a Ford, Dodge, or Chevy. Nor do we all have the same choice in a restaurant or shop in the same store. Everyone has their own set of likes and dislikes, some more popular than others. And that’s okay. In fact, I believe that is a very good thing.

How many of us would enjoy going to a restaurant that only served one thing on the menu? Sometimes it’s good; sometimes it’s not, but there are no other choices. Would we be okay with that? Would we come back? I suppose it depends on if we like what they are serving, but for the most part, we expect businesses to give us options that way we have the freedom to choose.

Now I want to tell you why I fell in love with Linux. Back in the 1990s as a young boy, I discovered computers. My dad ran a construction company and bought a brand new Tandy Computer, which I thought was fascinating. Later we got a Personal Computer with Windows 3.1. It had icons and folders, all this neat stuff that I’d never seen before. I became an avid Windows user for many years clear through Windows XP and then straight to Windows 7. There were times when things went wrong; times when I’d get malware or a virus or I’d do something to mess up the registry and have to start all over – reinstall. But for the most part, I was satisfied. It was something I knew. I understood. It was comfortable.

Then came Windows 8. Yes, the infamous game changer. In 2012 Microsoft released Windows 8 with a completely new interface called the Start Page, along with other things like an app store and newly designed settings menu. The main focus for these changes was to make it easier for touchscreen usability. At first, I was excited about the new release, and even though it seemed intimidating, I learned my way around. After a while, however, I became frustrated. I could no longer use my computer the way I was used to using it. So many changes made for slower productivity. I had trouble finding things and learning to jump through new hoops to find them. I was so used to a “Start Menu,” that getting used to a “Start Page” where I felt almost forced away from having a desktop, made it seem uncomfortable and stressful. On top of that, I found the app store hardly ever worked. It would take forever to load and many times wouldn’t. But the last straw that “broke the camel’s back” was when my system kept breaking down with the “blue screen of death.” I was stuck with a computer that I could no longer use and no installation disk to reinstall the software. What was I to do? What other options were there? All I’ve ever known is Windows and every PC I’ve ever bought came preinstalled with this Operating System. It was like going to a restaurant with only one thing on the menu and now I didn’t like what they were serving.

So I began to search. What got me interesting in the first place was when I found out that Office was no longer included. It was a trial that eventually you’d have to pay for. Well, that made me a little upset. Here’s software that I’ve always used, it’s always been included with the purchase of the computer, and now it’s no longer free. I’ve got to buy it on top of what I’ve already spent?

That began my search for something free-of-charge that I could use in place of Microsoft’s Office Suite. I came across OpenOffice and then discovered LibreOffice. I found it very similar to what I was used to using and (YES!) FREE. That sold me. That got me thinking, were there other options out there besides Windows, without “blue screens of death,” registry issues, malware and viruses, and FREE?

Recommended read: 6 Best Office Suites for Linux

The answer – Yes! I found something called Linux, specifically Fedora and then Linux Mint. I installed it on my laptop and became a Linux user ever since. I’ve never looked back.

Linux set me free.

You see, the common misconception with Linux is that it’s something only computer gurus, geeks, and coders can use. Many people think that the only reason you’d use a Linux based Operating System is for hacking purposes. The other misconception is that a Linux based Operating System is so much different than Windows or Mac that you’d spend all your time learning something new.

All of this I’ve found to be untrue, by a long shot. Yet fear – fear of the unknown is what keeps many from trying it.

What is truly interesting about the Linux Community is the vastness of options. When I discovered that I had a choice, that I wasn’t stuck with something I didn’t enjoy, it was like my eyes were opened to a brand new world that I never knew existed. Plus if I didn’t like one, I could just download another distro and try it out. If something wasn’t stable or fast enough, no problem. Why? Because I had options.

The popular site DistroWatch.com lists the top 100 most popular Linux distros with ratings and details for each, but there are literally hundreds, if not thousands of options available. Now if that seems intimidating, it can be, just as it would be if you went to a new restaurant and needed a few minutes to look at the menu before making a decision. But you’ll never know if it tastes good if you don’t try it. The same goes with Linux. I’m not saying that you have to try it, especially if you are satisfied with your current Windows Operating System. But don’t feel like you are stuck with what you have. Most Linux distros follow the same similar layout as Windows 7, Windows XP, or Windows 10 with an application menu on the lower left of the screen. The system tray and time are on the right with your open applications in the middle, all on the taskbar (panel) at the bottom of your screen. You don’t need to know code to use Linux. It can’t hurt, but it’s not necessary.

Currently, I use KDE Neon because it is the latest and most feature-rich desktop environment in my opinion and it operates very much like Windows with more ability to configure to my liking. In the past, however, I’ve tried several different options that are available. Coming from a former Windows user, I’d recommend Linux Mint Cinnamon, Zorin OS, Feren OS, or MXLinux. Any of these would feel very at home. Although, there are many other fine choices as well. Each distro provides detailed documentation and it’s own set of preinstalled software out of the box. If you’re looking for something with not a lot of bloatware, then I’d recommend KDE Neon. Neon provides only the essentials and the latest Plasma Desktop with all the features.

And never forget, having options is a good thing. You have the freedom to choose your desktop experience. Use it wisely. As far as the war in my house, well, everyone is entitled to their opinion.

Recommended read: Linux vs. Windows: A Casual, Realistic Perspective

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