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New Zealand's longest-running online daily news and commentary publication, now in its 25th year. The opinion pieces presented here are not purported to be fact but reasonable effort is made to ensure accuracy.

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Call me a Linux fanboi

22 Apr 2024

Yesterday I spent a surprisingly short amount of time installing a new OS on an old computer.

The PC is an ancient third-gen i5 system which has slowly been upgraded over the years such that it now sports a GTX1060 GPU, a 480GB SSD and a brand new 600W power supply.

This thing had been laying around for quite some time, awaiting a little love and attention after the original spinny-roundy hard drive decided it would no longer talk to the world and I'd stolen the original PSU to fix up another machine.

However, I now have a need of a box that will be dedicated to act as a staging platform for some of the software I'm working on so I decided to tidy it up and kit it out with the latest offering from Linux Mint.

How did this work out, I hear you asking.

Well installing Linux on this box was so simple that it makes the installation of Windows look ridiculously overcomplicated and slow.

I downloaded the .iso file, imaged it to a USB thumb drive, plugged that into the target computer and booted from it.

Up popped the Linux desktop whereupon I simply clicked on the "Install" icon and away we went.

Only a few brief questions were asked and then the OS was written to the SSD, some extra files were downloaded from the Net (it recognised the no-name USB-Wifi adapter instantly and transparently).

Confirm the timezone, download a bit more stuff and bingo... all done!

Reboot and voila, a full Linux Mint install up and running with all the usual (and useful) applications such as Libre Office etc.

A few extra bits of software will be needed on this box so I simply clicked on the Software Manager icon, searched for the items I wanted and clicked "install". Once again, everything was smooth, fast and drama-free.

No ads, no bloatware, no nagware, no need to create an account with a cloud-based service, no up-sells -- just what I want, exactly how I want it. Ah... such a contrast to Windows!

And of course... it's 100 percent free.

The crazy irony of Linux in 2024 is that although for years it's been considered a geek's OS, suited only to those who want to get down and dirty with text-based commandline operations, it is now probably the best OS for those who know almost nothing about computers.

How many elderly or non-computer-literate people get hit with viruses and malware every year because they're running Windows? How many of those would have been far safer if they'd been using Linux instead?

Ever wondered why there's bugger-all in the way of anti-virus software for Linux?

The reality is that because Windows is such a huge target, most malware, ransomware and other nasty stuff focuses on the Windows user-base. As a result, you're far less likely to become a victim if you're using Linux for your email, web-browsing and day-to-day personal computing.

The other huge benefit is that Linux makes old hardware really useful again, in an era where Windows requires ever-faster processors and ever-more memory and storage.

This old third-gen i5 is perfectly fast enough for almost anything your average non-gamer might throw at it when running Linux. Word processing is a breeze, YouTube vids play flawlessly and webpages load in a trice. What more could you ask for? I really wonder how many perfectly servicable PCs have been replaced simply because they were no longer up to the burden of running Windows. How many of those could have been given a new lease of life if they were simply re-OSed?

And finally... I can use Linux without fear of having my work interrupted by incessent nagging about installing updates or upgrading to a new version.

Yes, Linux Mint has a fantastic update system but it's something you have full control over, unlike the one in Windows. You can control the type of update and exactly when the update occurs -- or you can turn off updates altogether if you choose to do so. The updates are not forced on you, as is the case with Microsoft's OS.

In short, this new install reminded me why I have been using Linux as my primary desktop and development environment for over 15 years now. I have only a single Windows computer and I use that grudgingly because I have to. It's my video editing machine and although Davinci Resolve does run under Linux, it's a bit of a mess in regards to the way it handles audio for .mov and .mp4 files which are my primary output format -- so it's just easier to stick with Windows for that. However, the day Resolve gets that sorted I'll kick Windows out the door for good.

Carpe Diem folks!

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