In my previous column’s comment section, Chad brought up an interesting point, he said he did not understand why I used Linux as my primary Operating System (OS). This is a valid question, after all Linux is at best a niche OS, claiming somewhere between 3% and 5% of the total market. Windows 7 by all accounts is the best OS Microsoft has ever put out and has solved most of the security problems that have plagued previous versions. I am a very capable and advanced Windows user, after all I use it at work perfectly fine and up until this week, my job was helping other people solve their Windows problems. So why the hell don’t I just give in and switch to Windows. The short answer is, I like it better, the long answer is a bit more complicated.
Back in 1993 I was in Germany and I discovered this cool little store that sold software in a fairly novel manner. They had these computers sitting around where you could search their catalogue for what you wanted. They also had regular printed catalogues, but anyway, once you chose what you wanted you went to the desk and they would copy it onto a floppy for you, you’d pay a couple of DM for it and walk out. They also sold CD’s full of shareware, freeware and crapware. I purchased one of these CD and one of the things I found on it was an image of a bootable Linux floppy. I wrote the image to a floppy and booted my system it. It was mildly interesting but not really useful. However, it did teach me there was more to computers than DOS and Windows 3.1.
Later in the year I discovered another CD at this store, it was a Slackware Linux CD. I had to make a bootable floppy off the CD, then boot to it with the CD in the drive and then through a very convoluted series of steps, install Linux along side DOS/Windows, my first dual boot. I ended up wiping my system a couple of times before I got it all right. Since then I have pretty much always had a Linux box in one form or another. Although I did have a side trip into OS/2. I dual booted Linux and Windows until 1999 or so. Over the course of those years, Linux improved by leaps and bounds. It became easier to install, the UI improved, programs improved. I learned how to compile a kernel, make a CDRW work, write X configuration files from scratch, I tried at least a dozen distributions, I tried all kinds of windows managers and a whole host of other things I am sure most of you would find boring. Then one day I realised I had not booted to Windows in probably six months and when I thought about it, I could not see a reason I would need to in the near future. So I deleted the Windows partition, recouped the space and Linux became my full time OS.
I guess it really comes down to is Linux became easier for me to use over time. In an environment where I could choose between Linux and Windows (and even OS/2), I simply became more comfortable using Linux. Now I can’t imagine using anything else. Even when I do have to use Windows, I tend to spend a considerable amount of time fixing it so it works more like Linux. Besides, so far , no one as of yet has given me a good reason to switch to Windows.