Moving to Linux from dated Windows machines

A tale about the decision to adopt Linux when the older Windows machines started falling behind.
459 readers like this
459 readers like this
Compute like it's 1989

LSE Library. Modified by Opensource.com. CC BY-SA 4.0

Every day, while working in the marketing department at ONLYOFFICE, I see Linux users discussing our office productivity software on the internet. Our products are popular among Linux users, which made me curious about using Linux as an everyday work tool. My old Windows XP-powered computer was an obstacle to performance, so I started reading about Linux systems (particularly Ubuntu) and decided to try it out as an experiment. Two of my colleagues joined me.

Why Linux?

We needed to make a change, first, because our old systems were not enough in terms of performance: we experienced regular crashes, an overload every time more than two apps were active, a 50% chance of freezing when a machine was shut down, and so forth. This was rather distracting to our work, which meant we were considerably less efficient than we could be.

Upgrading to newer versions of Windows was an option, too, but that is an additional expense, plus our software competes against Microsoft's office suite. So that was an ideological question, too.

Second, as I mentioned earlier, ONLYOFFICE products are rather popular within the Linux community. By reading about Linux users' experience with our software, we became interested in joining them.

A week after we asked to change to Linux, we got our shiny new computer cases with Kubuntu inside. We chose version 16.04, which features KDE Plasma 5.5 and many KDE apps including Dolphin, as well as LibreOffice 5.1 and Firefox 45.

What we like about Linux

Linux's biggest advantage, I believe, is its speed; for instance, it takes just seconds from pushing the machine's On button to starting your work. Everything seemed amazingly rapid from the very beginning: the overall responsiveness, the graphics, and even system updates.

One other thing that surprised me compared to Windows is that Linux allows you to configure nearly everything, including the entire look of your desktop. In Settings, I found how to change the color and shape of bars, buttons, and fonts; relocate any desktop element; and build a composition of widgets, even including comics and Color Picker. I believe I've barely scratched the surface of the available options and have yet to explore most of the customization opportunities that this system is well known for.

Linux distributions are generally a very safe environment. People rarely use antivirus apps in Linux, simply because there are so few viruses written for it. You save system speed, time, and, sure enough, money.

In general, Linux has refreshed our everyday work lives, surprising us with a number of new options and opportunities. Even in the short time we've been using it, we'd characterize it as:

  • Fast and smooth to operate
  • Highly customizable
  • Relatively newcomer-friendly
  • Challenging with basic components, however very rewarding in return
  • Safe and secure
  • An exciting experience for everyone who seeks to refresh their workplace

Have you switched from Windows or MacOS to Kubuntu or another Linux variant? Or are you considering making the change? Please share your reasons for wanting to adopt Linux, as well as your impressions of going open source, in the comments.

Public Relations manager at Ascensio System SIA, tech enthusiast, and an artist.

16 Comments

When Microsoft dropped support for XP is when we started using Linux. I started off learning on Ubuntu, then I switched to GNOME. Then, for a short time they made it difficult to customize GNOME. This made me switch to Kubuntu and we have been with that distro for the last three years. I also took same training via the Linux Foundation on OpenSUSE. I don't see us ever turning back now.

I get the impression that you bought new hardware. That would explain the speed increase.

If your old machines regularly crashed, that might be due to either hardware or software problems (in the latter case you would have tried to format the discs and reinstall the software - it could have made them run faster too).

I remember moving from Windows XP to Linux on the same hardware and it was an order of magnitude faster and more stable, so the author could still be describing the same machine.

Once I got the taste of Linux, I wanted to feel the utmost performance out of Linux, so I continued upgrading to the latest hardware just for Linux. It was quite a refreshing experience.

In reply to by Dan the Man

We changed both the hardware and the software. So yes, there was likely the impact of both that took place. However, I had XP on the machine with approximately the same characteristics, and, with the speed being generally higher, the stability issues were really close.

In reply to by Dan the Man

Surprised he found Kubuntu, of all Linux flavours, to be faster than Windows XP. KDE is prone to lagging on my modern hardware (16 GB RAM, 8x2.4 GHz processor, dual NVIDIA and Intel cards). Would have thought Lubuntu or Q4OS would have been more appropriate.

I remember hearing for a long time that KDE was bloated and slower than even Gnome. Recent experiences, however, has been completely opposite. I have found KDE to be lighter and more responsive than Gnome and somewhat on-par with Xfce.

Considering I only have 2 old laptops, these comparisons are on the same machine and sometimes same distribution family (Ubuntu, Fedora, openSUSE).

One thing I noticed is that while Gnome eats up RAM, KDE uses less RAM and more CPU. A trade-off I guess.

In reply to by Brenton Horne

I wouldn't have chosen Kubuntu as my first dip into Linux, I would have more gravitated towards Ubuntu with the MATE or Cinnamon desktops. But I guess everyone has their own story regarding their first foray into the world of Linux. I "started" with (of all distros?) Fedora....way back when they were on release version 12! They're currently up to release 27 with 28 around the corner...although I've tried quite a few distros in my time?...some which are no longer being developed...Fuduntu-a mix of Fedora and Ubuntu!.....PearOS....the most "Apple-ish" clone to ever exist!....Saline Linux....quite a few. I've always returned to Fedora, I guess its because I first "met" Linux through that distro? All I know is while its not for everyone, due to its rapid release cycle, and the fact that it runs the latest and greatest of apps and software, its been for me? the most STABLE Operating System I've EVER used!(And I had been using Windows since Windows 3.1!!!) I have been using Linux for so long, I could NEVER go back to using Windows....(and I never ventured to the "Mac" side of town!...they were just way too expensive!) But in the end I think its awesome that yet another professional has discovered the "Best Kept Secret" in the world of computing!

Next step a Rolling Release distro, a debian based one, Open SUSE or an arch based one, if it is arch Antergos or Manjaro are the way to go.

I tested many distributions of linux pclinuxos was my first choice I have always like it. It had issues with firefox plugins so I than tried Ubuntu never liked unity or the gnome GUI. was always slow and cliches on the graphics so than tried Linux mint 17 back than never now have a Thinkpad t520 with linux mint 18.3 cinnamon runs better than windows 7 did which came with the laptop. Hint ThinkPads are a great options for linux OS if you are looking for a good option.

I have to agree with you on that one topic: Thinkpads are the BEST version of a alptop one can buy. (And Yes....i KNOW there are faster....sleeker.....thinner....lighter more vibrant displaying, and higher cpacity containing laptops out there) But if you want a machine that you'll be able to upgrade to your hearts content, one that can survive a fall from off the top of a car, over the rail of a highway overpass, and being dsat on by a 117Lb teenage boy, then you can't go wrong choosing a ThinkPad. I currently have the following: T-410.....T-420....T-430...and a T-530 and they're all running a version of Linux (LxLE.....Linux Mint....Ubuntu MATE...and Fedora) For me Linux isn't just a choice...its a lifestyle!...LoL! I've already converted my mother's Dell Inspiron 1545 to Linux Mint, and she loves not having to worry about anti-virus software, and all the tactice they use to "scare" you into buying their "full" security suite....or all the mysterious toolbars that seem to pop up every time she tries to go to some of her favorite web-sites...(Like they would with Internet Explorer!) I've also helped my sister, her husband, their son, his wife...my younger brother, and my uncle and his family all make the change! Its a euphoric feeling when someone calls you excited about being able to "do" something they could never do in Windows...or finding out they no longer have to "do" something they used to do in Windows!

In reply to by Dave8671

I dabbled in Linux since the late 1990's starting with Linux Redhat and then on to Ubuntu 10.04 and beyond. These were all just that...dabbling. I tried a server set up to act as a file server for my little home network with Samba 'cuz I was still using Windows for the majority of my computing needs. Until Windows 7. That was a most unsatisfying operating system. It was stable but I was driven to distraction with some quirks of the file manager app. It jumped around never seeming to leave the directory tree in one place. When you wanted to open a child folder, it would move the tree up or down with the new folder open but never with that folder in the window?? I searched high and low for a resolution to that behaviour and was not successful. That was the most pressing issue for me. A number of other little annoyances finally drove me to consider Linux once again. I did try Windows 10 for a short time to see if it was improved over Windows 7 but it was worse in my opinion!! I had a user in the house who was not keen on learning another operating system so it would need to be introduced slowly and be relatively turn key for her.
I settled on Ubuntu 16.04 on my desktop, dual booting with Windows 10 so I could introduce her to it at a slower pace. I researched all the alternative Linux based Windows apps and installed them and road tested to ensure things would be as smooth as possible for her transition. I set up an old Dell laptop with Ubuntu 16.04 and Windows 7 just for her so she could keep up with her Windows based stuff until I had the desktop working as I wanted. I set bothUbntu pc's up with Chrome browser which let her keep her MS based games functional. I switched over to Ubuntu 16.04 "officially" in late August 2017 and have not looked back. Both pc's are still set up as dual boot as above 'cuz I have come across the odd thing I need to have Windows on hand for. The most recent thing was to test some video playback to confirm it was or was not an Ubuntu issue. It was but a quick install of a video player app resolved the problem.
I have since set up Ubuntu 16.04 server edition on an old Dell desktop pc to act as a file server on my network and it is working well. I am using NFS rather than Samba for file sharing and I am relishing in the stability and adjust-ability of Ubuntu on all those devices. My other user (wife!) has settled into Ubuntu and really has no opinion on Ubuntu vs Windows. If it is working for her needs she is happy. I have always been her "tech support" so that is the same...if it isn't working she advises me of the issue and gives up the chair so I can fix it.
I am loving tinkering with and discovering Linux. I refound my enjoyment in computers that I discovered in 1994 when I got my first pc...an IBM PS/1 133 MHz, 4 Mb Ram, 360 MB HDD with a CDROM drive. What a world opened up for me with that! Linux has brought that back. Thank you Linus Torvalds and all the folks who came after to enhance Linux in all its forms. I am having a ball!
Take care.

Gord K

Does anyone know of articles/studies/knowledge bases about why or how linux is more secure than Windows and MacOS? I know about some of the TOOLS used to secure linux, but I need to make a case to management about HOW Linux is more secure and I need written proof. On the Windows side we use management MDM, AV, loghost, encryption, LARS and other items and because you don't always or necessarily have equivalent software on the linux side, it is seen a less secure. I would like to find evidence to debunk that myth.

I am a huge advocate for more businesses adopting Linux on the desktop. There is almost no reason not too seeing as the majority of users just need an office suite and web browser to do their jobs. If they do need some other app that only runs in Windows there are ways to work around that as well. The more businesses that make the change the sooner software companies will port their aps to Linux, and not long after that, the home user will follow. Business is the leader when it comes to technology adotion.

I have been a user and advocate of flexible, configurable software since the beginning of my career in the late seventies. At the time I graduated from Michigan Tech University and started programming at General Motors, the IBM mainframe software was not anything like it is now. It required expensive hardware, but it was not very solid and stable, nor were our overloaded systems always up and running.

Fortunately the payroll systems and most of the 'You bet your business' logic worked, but it wasn't ideal. We were constantly looking for better functioning, less expensive systems. Ironically enough, IBM today makes some of the most robust commercial computing equipment - both hardware and software, and they also have a solid commitment to both their UNIX and Linux partnerships and the associated systems.

That said, we were looking. In 1982 I went to Bell Labs and the AT&T training facilities to take courses in C programming and UNIX systems. We started looking at UNIX hardware as a potential departmental procurement to solve specific problems, and we foresaw the possibility of using IBM mainframes coupled with UNIX departmental systems and desktop systems running various versions of personal computer software.

All of these solutions, while better than what we had in the seventies, and getting better each year, still were too expensive for our tastes across all sides and flavors of the hardware and software.

The personal computer "revolution" did seem to help. By the late eighties and into the early nineties, the costs had come down considerably. Instead of mainframe computers costing in the millions, only the largest systems still cost over a million dollars. There were a lot of mid-range computers 1/4, 1/3, or 1/2 that price, but still out of the reach of a typical consumer and even a stretch for a small business.

My first PC, even in 1995, cost me more than $2500, closer to $3000 when I got what I wanted. But by this time, I heard about this cool software that made computers feel like when the computer, mini and micro computer - and the PC - were brand new, and that's why I bought my own computer.

It was called Linux - or GNU/Linux as Free Software guru and inventor of "GNU" = (recursively GNU's Not UNIX) wants it to be called since many of the core utilities are GNU rewrites of UNIX software - individual tools that can be creatively combined to solve a wide variety of problems.

I knew this was what I was looking for. A few years later I went back to school for graduate studies, and wrote most of my technical prose in my classes about how Linux would dominate both the computing servers of the future and almost certainly the just barely emerging future of mobile technology - yeah, the stuff we all have and take for granted today, but I was less certain about the "desktop". Mainframes were still dominated by IBM, who first made them reliably work for business. Personal computers were dominated by Microsoft, who embraced the small microcomputers and started to sell their software with systems called PC's or personal computers.

Linux had to bring in it's own legacies and indeed it has. Phones with intelligence are dominated by either Android - a smart phone interface that uses a Linux kernel, or Apple's iosX, which uses a Unix-like kernel very similar to the Linux kernel.

Many appliances today use either Linux kernels or "free" derivatives of Linux kernels, which came from multiple projects that spun away from the original AT&T branded version of UNIX.

You have choices today. You can use a commercial version of Linux from a major supplier, such as Red Hat, SuSE, or Ubuntu. You can use a lesser known version of Linux made by one of hundreds of small development teams, or you can create your own system from free or "non-free" building block components from Linux or BSD projects - "Berkeley Software Distribution (BSD) was a Unix operating system derivative developed and distributed by the Computer Systems Research Group (CSRG) of the University of California, Berkeley, from 1977 to 1995. Today the term "BSD" is often used non-specifically to refer to any of the BSD descendants which together form a branch of the family of Unix-like operating systems. Operating systems derived from the original BSD code remain actively developed and widely used." ( from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Computer_Systems_Research_Group )

In early 2002-2003 I was using an older Windows 98 machine which was dog-slow and unstable. At the time my thoughts were either to get a new Window or Mac computer. Then a friend kept telling me about Linux.

I liked moving to it because it was more up-to-date than Windows (98, not even XP) and looked and felt a lot better than a Mac.

Since then I have picked up a number of computers second-hand and if I didn't have the media, product keys, etc. I always knew I had Linux as a fallback. So I received a lot of machines over the years (heck, haven't bought a new computer for myself since 2000 which was the one I converted to Linux) without too much worry since "if all else fails, install Linux and be done with it".

Even now, my main computer used to be my Mom's from about 2010. It works alright and while I did upgrade from the Windows 7 it had to 10 when it was made available for free, I am currently running Pop! OS Linux on it and considering whether I should switch it to Fedora (LXDE spin) to eek out just a little more "ooomph!".

I even was exploring Docker on it for a while, which is something on Windows requires Windows Pro which I don't have.

So Linux not only refreshes my old, aging machines. It also allows me access to technology that Windows bars me against using. Plus, even things like thin clients, web servers and more are available to try without a "limited time trial" or "x number of seats" limitations!

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