Feb 3, 2014

Linux Mint vs Windows

Off topic: My experience with Linux Mint:

I have been using Windows for a long time now, but after reading the article Convenience Before Freedom: How Tech Companies Are Slowly Trapping You by Chris Hoffman last year, I decided it was time to see how hard it would be to get out of the Windows environment, just in case Microsoft ever locked everything down too much. I gave Linux Mint a try. Here's what happened.

The first thing I noticed was that USB devices such as a Netgear wireless network adapter or a game controller just worked immediately. No waiting for drivers to install like on Windows. Even a Sprint mobile broadband card was usable without installing anything. It just showed up as a CDMA connection when I clicked the network icon on the lower right.

With Linux, so many things are just built into the operating system - things that would require installing third party software on Windows. For example, I can just type md5sum "file name" in the terminal and it will calculate the MD5 for that file. For files with long names, I can hit the tab key to auto complete. Another example is that simply typing lscpu into the terminal produces vastly more information about the CPU than I could ever get out of Windows. Mounting ISOs can be done by right clicking on the file, and selecting open with, disk image mounter.

It is nice to not have to worry about malware so much while using Linux. And if something does go wrong (probably something other than malware) reinstalling is easy. No wondering if the product key can be found or if it will still work.

On windows, the updater sometimes does strange things such as suddenly showing up, saying that it is downloading updates, then disappearing. Why does it do that? On Linux Mint, the update manager icon is always visible, doesn't disappear, and doesn't try to install anything automatically.

The Linux Mint Software Manager makes it easy to see what might be worth installing because reviews are listed right next to each item.

Basic tasks such as browsing with Firefox, word processing etc. were no problem.

I was impressed by the fact that the video players that Linux Mint came with by default could play any video I could find. I later installed Openshot and found that it could do some things (but not all) better than any free video editor I came across on Windows.

The desktop backgrounds were outstanding.

Linux Mint also came with a decent BitTorrent client, Transmission.

Other software I later installed and found particularly useful includes:

Hardinfo - system information and benchmark tool
System Load Indicator - displays CPU, RAM, swap space, hard disk, networking
UNetbootin - creates live USB drives
Wine - compatibility layer for Windows applications
GParted - partition manager
Stellarium - planetarium software

Sadly, some of the game system emulators that I use almost everyday don't work quite as well on Linux as they do on Windows. Also, I couldn't get Google Earth to stop crashing on Linux Mint. So I am still using Windows most of the time now. But I am very happy to know that an open source operating system can do most things as well or better than Windows. With a little more work, it just might be able to completely replace Windows for me.

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