The other day, I was reading The amount of crap Windows users have to put up with is incredible. It got me thinking I should explain why I left Windows and why you should at least try something else. Up to you to stick with Windows afterwards.

Windows XP: the great

The first thing I should start with is that I started to really use a computer during the Windows XP era. So I’ve never used dinosaurs like Windows 95/98 but while at friends’ houses.

When I got my first computer at home, I was like “OMG, how this computer thing works? There’s no user guide but only this Getting Started with Windows XP few-page long leaflet.” But I ultimately found my way along and got it working.

That was good ol’ time, I was digging into C:\WINDOWS\system32 running every exe to see what it was doing… One day, I found a program named syskey which was writing some sort of key file to a floppy and making Windows XP to require this particular floppy in order to boot. That was quite pointless but it was the kind of fun things you could discover in system32.

While I was in high school, Windows Vista was about to be released. I remember a geeky friend of mine and I being all excited about it. We were trying betas and RTMs because we were so looking forward to upgrade.

Windows Vista: the downfall

Eventually, Vista went stable and was officially released. I was using it for quite a while, probably a year or so. I was getting some blue screens from time to time, there were more annoying bugs than with XP but the overall experience was okay.

Then one day, my WiFi driver just vanished out of nowhere. My wireless card was still present in the Device Manager but marked as unsupported or the like. That was weird but anyway, I tried to reinstall it of course and then: BSOD! Annoying, really annoying on a laptop.

After weeks searching the Internet, asking help on forums and trying a gazillion solutions, there was no way to fix but to “format and reinstall”.

I was like “Doh! That totally sucks!”. At the same time, there was this new kid in the block named Ubuntu so I thought I’d give it a try and see how it goes.

Linux: the great again

The first steps were quite hesitant. I had no idea where I was going so I kept Windows on a dual boot of course. Once I had managed to install it and get it working, I was a bit lost: everything was so different than Windows.

I remember myself googling things like “how to install programs on ubuntu?” and then came the “how to uninstall programs on ubuntu?”. I then realized that there was this thing called the package manager. This awesome piece of software allows you to install, uninstall and upgrade all your software at once. I think that blew my mind. “Such a great idea, why Windows doesn’t have such a thing?!”, I thought.

After a month and a half using Ubuntu, I was so delighted with it that the dual boot became quite useless. Basically, I was booting on Windows only to play video games.

This Linux thing was being so great I had wish I’d knew about it earlier. To be fair, I should actually thank Microsoft for releasing this half-baked Vista that somehow forced me to look for alternatives.

Free Software philosophy: the beautiful

When I was using Windows, I already enjoyed writing small programs, well, it was actually pretty basic games using Word macros because VisualBasic was the only language I could use easily without Internet at home. I naturally continued programming under Ubuntu. Writing C code using Geany then compiling with gcc was really interesting and got me eager to learn more about the inner working of the system, like when I was digging into system32 back in the day.

For the first time ever in my computer experience, I felt like I was actually using my computer and not trying to keep it working properly to be able to use it a little, which is very different. Sure, Ubuntu was not bug-free but it was working much more smoothly than Vista on the long run. That feeling of being nearly 100% productive with a computer is really good. You, human being, actually master your machine and not this other way around!

After a while, I progressively learned more about Linux trying other distributions, reading the web… All this Free Software philosophy was so resounding to me (Free as in free speech, not free beer). All these people working on open-source software that can be used freely by anyone on the planet was and still is probably part of making this world a better place IMHO.

If you think about it just a second: how crazy is it to run some unknown program written by who-knows which could fully do whatever he wants with your hardware? This may sound a bit paranoid but that’s actually how viruses, keyloggers and generally malwares propagate. Just knowing that you’re able to see and edit the source code of every single piece of software running on your computer is very pleasant. This also allows you to fix any bug you encounter or to get it fixed by someone else who’s able to fix it. It doesn’t depend anymore on some company’s willing to fix it.

What now?

Now I realize most people are simply too lazy to even try something else. They may be using a computer several hours a day yet they refuse to spend just a few hours trying a live CD of another OS.

I’m not sure why actually… could it be because they get such a terrible experience of computers at work that they don’t want to spend more time on it at home? Well no, it can’t be, in fact they do spend another few hours at home on Facebook or the like…

It feels perfectly normal for them to close that one useless popup which opens every time they boot their computer. Personally, it feels like a bug to me and I would go straight to the application’s settings and try to disable this irritating popup. But the thing is that most people simply don’t care, they click that close button and go on.

Human beings can be really irrational sometimes.

If you happen to be willing to give something else a try, I cannot recommend you to go with Ubuntu though. It’s particularly unfortunate to see how this distribution has been turned into a money-making thing over the years. Yeah, I’m talking about the recent addition of invasive ads for Amazon products whenever you want to launch a program.

You can take this test to see which distribution would fit you the best. Mint LMDE and Fedora seem to be a good fit for people at large these days. But again, do not hesitate to test other stuff.

If you think you’ll be more comfortable with OS X, go for it. Although Apple has a closed philosophy, Mac users at least did try something else than the “default” Windows OS, this is great. OS X doesn’t have all this Windows non-sense but still, it’s a very closed system which goes against the philosophy I embrace with Linux.

If you feel really adventurous, you can also try exotic systems like BSD, Haiku, etc. but be aware they are generally not designed for people at large.

To sum up: stop complaining that computers are all broken and go find an OS that works for you!