Transitioning to Linux… sort of

I admit it. I’m a Microsoft Windows addict. It started a long time ago when I switched from CP/M to MS-DOS. Then Microsoft Windows 1.0 came out, and I tried it… and even ran some programs under it. When Windows NT came out, I was totally hooked. I learned to use several other operating systems, but those were always for a specific job or maybe just to play with. For ministry, professional, and personal use, I stuck with Microsoft Windows, with one exception. For web hosting for real (not experimental) web sites, I have always stuck with Solaris or Linux.
Every addict has rationalizations or reasons for their addiction. Here are my reasons for using Microsoft Windows, some of which are admitedly subjective:
  • Excellent hardware support and ease of installation.
  • Almost all serious consumer computers and peripherals support Microsoft Windows.
  • There is more selection of high quality software for Microsoft Windows than any other PC operating system .
  • I already know how to customize, use, and tweak Microsoft Windows to suit my needs.
  • I already know how to use much of the software that runs under Microsoft Windows.
  • I already know how to write programs for Microsoft Windows several different ways.
  • Some software that I need to use professionally is only available on Microsoft Windows.
  • Lots of support is available for Microsoft Windows because so many people use it.
  • The biggest market for PC software is for Microsoft Windows, so it makes sense to support it both as a software developer and a consumer.
  • Even when there are good alternatives to software that runs on Microsoft Windows, the Microsoft Windows version is often better in some ways.
That said, why on earth would I want to transition to Linux instead of Microsoft Windows?
  • Linux is free software in the sense of programming freedom and close to being free in terms of cost per copy.
  • Microsoft has been convicted of several violations of law and engages in some corporate practices that I find objectionable. Why should I support such corporate behavior?
  • Microsoft Windows is expensive to buy and expensive to upgrade.
  • Linux has vastly improved in hardware support, installation quality, and user friendliness over the last few years.
  • Some excellent software has been written that runs on Linux, including, Firefox, and Thunderbird.
  • X-Windows and Gnome or KDE are at least as good as Microsoft Windows.
  • Linux is inherently more secure than Microsoft Windows, by design.
  • All of the most damaging viruses and other malicious software runs on Microsoft Windows, but not on Linux.
  • I write software for Bible translators, most of whom don’t have large software budgets.
  • I am in a position where I can write free software that can be freely distributed with Linux.
  • Much of what I do on a computer can be done under Linux, one way or another.
OK, so with all of those reasons, what is holding me back from suddenly and completely dumping Windows and running Linux?
  • I still need to use some Windows-only programs for work.
  • I still need to support Microsoft Windows as a host platform for most of my customers.
  • I haven’t yet learned everything I need to know to use the new programs on Linux that replace the ones I was using on Microsoft Windows.
  • Even though I can do some things in both operating systems, there are still times when the software that requires Microsoft Windows just plain works better.
  • Sometimes I need to exchange data with other people who only run certain programs on Microsoft Windows, and either the conversions to/from a Linux alternative don’t work or are imperfect.
OK, so a “cold turkey” approach won’t work for me. What will? Since I will probably have to support Microsoft Windows for my customers as long as they use it, I may never totally kick the Microsoft habit. I can, however, greatly reduce my dependency on Microsoft Windows, and help others to do the same. How?
  • I’ll run both operating systems (preferably on separate machines, so they can be running at the same time), and keep trying to do more of what I do on the Linux system.
  • I’ll write cross-platform software that will run on either Linux or Windows; and if I can make it work with Mac OS X, too, that would be the icing on the cake.
  • I’ll keep learning how to do more with Linux and Linux-based software.
  • I’ll keep using Windows-based software as necessary, but keep looking for Linux-based alternatives.
So far, the plan is working. As I write this, my computer is running Linux, and so is the server hosting this blog. 🙂 I’ve figured out how to send, receive, and organize my email (including access to all past history and sorted messages pending action that I got in the Windows environment), use office software, manage files, maintain a web site, browse the web, write some simple programs, etc.
Now, I’ll just reboot back into Microsoft Windows and do a couple of things I haven’t figured out how to do in Linux, yet…