Using Linux Full-Time for Work & Play

Published: June 19th, 2021

I've been using Linux off and on for the better part of 16 years. When I was 18, I volunteered (and later became an intern) at a local computer recycling non-profit called Free Geek that operates in my hometown Portland OR. Free Geek's goal is to divert technology that would otherwise be recycled or thrown away, refurbish it, and give it back to our community at no or low cost. Hardware that cannot be reused is recycled in a responsible and ethical manner. Volunteering here gave me valuable exposure working at a non-profit, repairing computers, teaching other volunteers, and also working with Linux.

I've dual-booted Linux and Windows throughout college, coming back to Windows in order to play video games. Later on in my professional life I would use Linux for personal stuff, and used Windows and MacOS when it came to "actual" work. I had this impression that Linux was for personal use and tinkering, while Windows and MacOS were for work. My work at this time was either social media management (done entirely through a web browser) or general office stuff (editing documents, sending emails, researching county code, etc). However, one day out of curiosity I decided to use Linux exclusively for a day for work. Then a week. Then a month. As it stands currently, I've been using Linux exclusively for both work and personal use for more than a year and a half, and between two separate jobs in wireless and digital marketing.

Let me talk about the reasons why I made this switch. Today, I avoid using Windows at all cost (with the occasional exception of running it in a virtual machine for specific uses) due to the sheer amount of garbage that comes bundled with the operating system. On a typical Windows 10 install, there are dark patterns cramming Microsoft Edge down your throat and forcing you into creating a Microsoft account at install in order to use your computer. There are advertisements literally baked into the operating system which I paid for, telemetry (ie data collection) everywhere – even within calculator. With each update, some part of the OS UX changes so that some manager at Microsoft can say that they did something rather than improving functionality. Not to mention forced rebooting and the fact the system settings are a complete mess (Settings vs Control Panel).

Windows 10 Home (and Professional for that matter) is incredibly bloated with nonsense applications, most of which can't removed directly. Certainly there are ways around this by using Windows LTSC, but from my own experience it's quite difficult to find an actual key since they're sold in bulk by Microsoft.

As privacy, it is possible to dive into settings and switching off at least some of the telemetry, but there's still nonetheless still a lot of data collection occurring. Even if you do this, once there's a new software update, these switches are magically turned back on. Of course, the "all your data are belong to us" mentality doesn't only infect Microsoft products, but sadly the same can be said for any modern smartphone and other devices available today. The primary reason I won't use Windows 10 is due to the complete lack of trust that the OS will respect my privacy.

As for MacOS, it's a bit of a different story. There is some tracking that can't be turned off, yes, but this is minuscule compared to what's found in a stock Windows OS install. MacOS UX also isn't the clusterfuck that Windows is. Software comes from a package manager, which is a big plus for security over Windows. The reasons why I don't use MacOS (outside of some mandatory work tasks) is that 1) Apple devices are stupidly expensive, 2) I don't want to buy into using the Apple ecosystem, 3) the OS is locked down with little to no room for customization. It's also not free and open source, so again I have an issue with trust.

So after years of frustration with Windows, enter Linux. As it turns out, Linux has worked out just fine for me over the last year and a half. This of course entirely depends on the line of work you're in. My current role is done almost entirely through a web browser. My previous line of work in wireless did unfortunately require me to occasionally run a virtual machine of Windows 10 so that I could use Adobe Reader Pro for forms and signatures, and sometimes MS Word since client documents wouldn't render correctly in LibreOffice. Other than that, Linux is supported quite well for the vast majority of software. Hell, even MS Teams runs on Linux (which I reluctantly have to use). If I were to guess, the reason why Microsoft doesn't port MS Office to Linux is is order to keep people (and Enterprise) on the Windows platform.

I think that my experience shows that even people with non-developer/programmer jobs can use Linux full-time. There is a bit learning curve, of course, but it's an OS that respects it's users. And hell, most stuff is done through a web browser these days anyways.

Thanks for reading. Feel free to send comments, questions, or recommendations to hey@chuck.is