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Chris Stephens (Vice President - Operations)

Windows to Linux

Written on February 26, 2014 by Chris Stephens

This weekend I did something I never thought I would do: I moved away from Windows.

I ran Windows 7 on a Traverse laptop since I came to work here almost 18 months ago, and personally since I was a kid, starting with Win 3.1x.

After all that time and experience I can't take it anymore. I have jumped ship and I am not coming back. This weekend I wiped my Windows install and loaded Ubuntu 12.04 LTS onto my primary drive. Physically, installing the new OS was easy; only after installing the OS did I realize there was a psychological effect I had not really counted on.

My Microsoft History

I have been a Windows user for over 20 years, and have run some sort of Microsoft operating system for *about* 25+ years.

Before Windows I used DOS, and way before that I ran a Commodore 64 that hooked up to our TV as the display. I shared the the A/B switch with a VCR my dad bought for $500. Hey, this was the mid-80's! But I digress. 

I don't personally identify with my technology. Does anyone really identify themselves as a "Windows" guy? (Anyone reading this in 98052 is not allowed to respond.)

I certainly did not.

But, in the moment after I started the install process, I realized I had let go of my known computing world. However inelegant, with whatever faults and cumbersome processes, I understood Windows.

This mental state is perhaps equivalent to staying in a bad relationship, you may be aware there are better options out there, but you cannot visualize yourself in any of them.

Now, I have packed my bags and moved out. Time to start over.

The New Frontier

How did I decide on Linux as my next landing place? I thought I left Windows to make my life easier?

Fair question.

First, everyone has a first place you live after you move out of your parent's house. Maybe you stayed, likely you didn't. I am not here to proclaim Ubuntu as the answer to my OS prayers. We will see how things go from here.

Second, my Traverse laptop is awesome, and performs even better under Ubuntu. The footprint on my primary SSD cut in half and the memory management in Linux is fantastic. I am really impressed with how well my laptop is performing.

Third, an increasing part of our business involves open source operating systems and software. Our new Peak Cluster and Peak Stacker have been well received by our Linux fans. I want to develop skills in Linux and understand the challenges our customers face. Heck, I am even planning heading out to LinuxFest Northwest this year.

I will admit, it helps having a mad scientist two office doors away. The average Linux user probably doesn't have ready access to a PhD in Theoretical Chemistry, with 20+ years of history in HPC. 

It is a perk of the job.

My Simple Set-up

I had been using a Wubi install of Ubuntu for a few months before this, and I would recommend this as a first step to anyone else wanting to check out Linux. 

I have installed some Unity tweaks, PyRoom, XChat, Blogilo, Iced Tea, Evernote (via Wine), Netflix Desktop (critical) and a number of lenses. Most other tools I use are browser based, installation consisted of entering a user name and password. Pretty painless.

If you have any tips for a first time user of Ubuntu (running Unity desktop) please email me at cstephens@pugetsystems.com, I would love to hear from you!

Tags: Ubuntu, Linux, Cluster

I would love to see this article turned into a series. I am also a long-time user of Microsoft (back to DOS), and am heavily weighing a move to Linux. I have set up Linux in VirtualBox more times than I would care to admit, and while it is fine for playing with, the thought of leaving behind all my comfortable Windows programs is a bit intimidating.

It would be interesting to read how you deal with the Linux/Windows switch in mentality. There are infinite programs in Linux to do everything. How do you choose one when you don't know many of the names? How easily do you get used to the lack of good Linux development for some things (games, etc)?

I guess in the end, it would be interesting to see how your train of thought changes as you either adapt to Linux or decide to move back to Windows.

Posted on 2014-02-27 01:18:25

I think a series would be a good idea. I'll plan on posting again in a few weeks. Thanks for the feedback, I am glad you liked the post!

Posted on 2014-02-27 21:00:08

I think a series would be a good idea. I will take some notes and plan on posting in a couple of weeks. Thanks for the feedback, I am glad you liked the post!

Posted on 2014-02-27 21:02:18

Great to hear. I look forward to more!

I have to admit that like rgeiken, my motivation has a lot to do with Windows 8. What I have read about Windows 9 does not inspire me very much, and my 6 year old Puget computer is in need of an upgrade so I can't hold out for Windows 10.

Thanks in advance for the articles.

Posted on 2014-02-28 12:05:20

I go back to 1984 with DOS 6.0 and went with Win 3.1, W95, W98SE, XP, Vista, and finally W7 which is my current system and I have 2 computers with that which also contain i 7 processors. If I finally go to some form of Linux, I will likely get it as an extra unit and try it out and also all the relevant programs that you can use with it. I guess a lot of us W7 users deciding not to go to W8 and W8.1 are waiting to see what W9 brings. I have my Lenovo Desktop with an i 7 processor and 8 gig of ram so tamed, that is really the most enjoyable system that I have ever used. W8 was like a slap in the face with a wet towel. W7 can be set up to work like a dream and W8 reminds me of a nightmare. Why pay money to do something in a more difficult way. W9 will be the bell weather that causes a lot of W7 and former O/S users to move to some version of Linux or perhaps Android. I have two Android Tablets, a Nexus 10 and a Note 10.1, and enjoy using both of them. Android will be better when it becomes 64 bit and has 6 to 8 gig of ram. The current processors seem to be fine. Right now, Android is a lot more friendly than any version of Windows. It takes care of itself when you turn it on and it is easy to get lots of apps quickly from the Google Play Store. Anybody that is computer illiterate is better with Android than Windows.

Posted on 2014-02-27 02:49:16

I agree. Although I never installed W8 on any machine I use, I was able to "test drive" the OS on other machines. Nothing on W8 was as easy as it is on W7.

Posted on 2014-02-28 00:35:39