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Chris Stephens (Vice President - Operations)

My first few weeks with Linux

Written on March 27, 2014 by Chris Stephens

I posted a few weeks ago regarding my move to Linux. I received some great feedback from our readers, and encouragement to continue posting about my experiences. If there is something specific about the Linux experience you would like me to discuss, feel free to email me at cstephens@pugetsystems.com. Hopefully, you will find these posts helpful.

Two weeks have passed since I walked away from Windows and a couple of things have really struck me in that time.

First, the change was not as jarring as I expected. Changing over to a brand new operating system has not brought my productivity to a halt. I am actually somewhat surprised by this, I thought it was going to a be a big time suck and learning curve. The reality is that I do MUCH of my work in Chrome browser and the change there is largely aesthetic. Sorry Firefox, you didn’t get this Linux convert.

Second, I really believed I would be starved for my Windows applications, turns out...not so much.  I gave some serious thought about this perceived dependency. I believe I conceived this trick of the mind around 1998. Despite the drastic change in the technology landscape I really bought into the idea that in order to get anything done you had to be on Windows. Many Windows users have been using the platform for so long, we can’t even imagine the world beyond our own OS yard. 


Saying farewell to Office

In that vein, the biggest challenge for me was walking away from the software I use everyday: Microsoft Office. I have cobbled together some thoughts on what it is like to quit Office cold turkey.

1. I haven’t been happy with many changes in Office over the last 10 years. This program has suffered death of a 1,000 cuts, or perhaps more accurately, death by the slow addition of 10,000 pounds. I haven’t acted on this long accumulated pile of frustration because, like the boiling frog, I got used to it.

2. News Flash: Office isn’t the only word processor in the world. Ever wondered if MS kept Works around so long as some sort of strategy to convince users that all other word processors suck? The Office suite is one of the best out there, but there are strong competitors. I took this opportunity to challenge myself to switch to Google Docs, which I have really enjoyed.

3. I didn’t really need all those features in Office, I only needed about 10% of them. Brett and I always have bantered back in forth about the slew of niche features in the Office programs. It creates a lot of noise, which reduces signal. The suite is designed for power users, the rest of us just live in their world, and have to deal with all that comes with it.

That brings us to you

I know, you are the exception. You HAVE to have that one feature, only available in Word/Excel/PowerPoint.

First, pause and reflect on your situation, it sounds desperate. Second, take this as a challenge to change the way you do things. Make it better, simpler, easier to digest. Have you been presenting this essential material in the same fashion for 10, 20 years? C’mon, you can do better.

Personally, Office had become a communications crutch. My communications had a lot of sizzle with Office, but the limitations of Docs have helped me think and serve up more steak.

Tags: Linux, Ubuntu, Microsoft Office, Google Docs

Interesting! I am still on Windows myself, but have transitioned to Docs for about 95% of my document and spreadsheet needs... more out of convenience (files always available everywhere, before Office 365 started offering this) than anything else. It definitely does what I need most of the time. When I fire up Word any more it is only for making a nicer looking document: a newsletter, pamphlet, brochure, etc.

Posted on 2014-03-27 22:17:54

Made the switch to Linux three years ago same in not going back anytime soon. It was tricky at first_, but now I'm a pretty casual power user running Arch. The only thong I even use Windows for today is gaming, but that is even coming to an end with the work from Valve to move the industry. (I used Windows 7 yesterday, got so frustrated at how slow it was compared to my build of Arch.)

Posted on 2014-03-28 17:57:12

This comment process that typing long paragraphs on an auto correcting phone keyboard is bad.

Posted on 2014-03-28 17:59:32

I switched more than 9 years ago after being a Microsoft OS user since MS-DOS 5. Never looked back, never had any major problems and actually, when I am sitting on my Windows 7 PC at work I am missing many features I have on my Linux PC at home.

Posted on 2014-03-28 18:34:47
Travis W

Even for those features that aren't offered by Google Docs, you could easily download a free (and powerful) alternative such as LibreOffice or OpenOffice, both of which are Linux friendly.

Very few things make it necessary to stay on Windows. Even gaming, which was previously a Windows dominated environment, has gained immense steam (hah) with support through Steam, Wine, PlayOnLinux, etc.

Posted on 2014-03-28 21:27:47

Your point about Steam is a good one. I have heard from a number of our readers that they would consider a switch, but for gaming. Do you think Windows has a future in gaming as robust as its present? I guess we will know more about the future of Windows next week at Build!

Posted on 2014-03-29 16:50:05

Glad to here it! One quick suggestion, install the Microsoft core fonts on your system, somewhere in the future it will save you some minor head aches.

Posted on 2014-03-28 21:56:31

Interesting. What kinds of headaches did you run into?

Posted on 2014-03-29 16:47:33

Well by using online documents you partially avoid my most common one which is the slight difference is the open fonts can cause formatting in documents between windows and Linux to be messed up. There are other things related to font display that rarely happen, however when they do, especially when you don't realize why, its quite annoying.

Posted on 2014-03-30 02:10:50

Great article and discussion. Thanks to all.

This article inspired me to re-examine my Windows-only programs. I think I would have nostalgic sorrow for losing a few faithful friends, but the truth is that the Linux alternatives do actually meet all the needs I can think of. The only programs I would consider myself a power user, are also programs that have equal Linux options.

Now if I could only find a good calendaring program... I searched several years ago and settled on Outlook because it is at work. Never cared much for the program, but at the time I couldn't find a better alternative.

I guess it is time to start making a change. I accept the challenge. Linux is looking more and more like the right choice for my next system.

Posted on 2014-03-29 02:42:48

Hey, that's awesome. If you want any help, either keep reading future posts, or you can email me, cstephens@pugetsystems.com!

Posted on 2014-03-29 16:46:47
Donald Kinghorn

I'm enjoying your posts on this transition.

I'll make one comment about one of the comments ... I personally do NOT recommend installing the MS core fonts (I do concede that there are people that really like those fonts! no offence Trever! you are correct that there can be occasions when you encounter some font strangeness in a document that originated on Windows but it's pretty rare these days in my experience). The Linux font smoothing and rendering is nearly on par with the Mac and is way better than the Windows fonts, especially in the more recent Linux distro releases. Fedora 20 looks great and the beta of Ubuntu 14.4 is gorgeous! I've made the mistake of installing the MS core fonts several times over the years thinking they would somehow be "better" and then had to undo the mess. I can work and read on a Linux system all day but on Windows I have eye strain in an hour or so. It was one of the (many) things I disliked about Win 8 because the fonts seemed even worse than Win7! I run two identical color calibrated IPS displays side by side often with Windows on one and Linux on the other. The system and application fonts in Linux are way easier on the eyes in my opinion. If you want to try the MS core fonts on Linux to see if you prefer them I recommend doing it in a virtual machine so you can compare side by side with your default sys before you make a big non-standard system change like that. Best wishes -don

Posted on 2014-03-30 01:59:08