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Friday, May 27, 2016

PC crash: back to a working state in 5 minutes!

For the last 15 years, both my hardware and system upgrades always evolved AROUND my work, and not the opposite! The overwhelming majority of configuration files, preferences and application shortcuts survive through both system software and hardware upgrades for decades... when you are running Linux.

linux beats them all - crashed my pc had urgent work to do moved 2 hard drives took me 5 minutes back to work
Linux is never putting its foot in the door. Focus on your work, it even keeps your preferences and settings.
Yesterday night my motherboard died without warning (hopefully it is not my high end i7 CPU!). I had work in process to deliver, and some of it was not synchronized with my remote servers yet.
No biggie! I brought my 4-year old old Core2 duo Desktop back from the dust in the garage, I plugged my hard drives into it, and I booted.

Bang, back to work in 5 minutes in the exact same state. Linux is so useful and so efficient!

So why is it so easy to change your computer on Linux without impacting any of your own data and preferences?

Via itsfoss.com (who is the author?)
In comparison, reinstalling windows (prior to Windows10?) would probably take between 1 and 5 hours, and then you need to re-configure it most of it if not all. The funniest was at a time when a virus could slip from the internet in even before you had a chance to upgrade and install an anti-virus, so the hole is secured. So ridiculous!

And reinstalling a Mac... Well, who really re-installs a Mac? One buy a new one ;)

I have just checked: the old PC I am typing on right now is in fact 5+ year old, as the production of its CPU stopped in 2011. It just plain runs, I compile my C++ project, I use the latest Chrome browser and I use Jetbrains PHP IDE just as yesterday. It is almost boring (and quite slower for these tasks!)

Actually I admit I like how people react in awe when I tell them how easy it is to bring my work to a new PC running Linux... Buy, copy your home folder, add a few missing and safe applications with two clicks and a few keystrokes and start working.
  • First, Linux is not "locked" onto the PC you bought. Windows and MacOS are deeply attached to the very hardware they were installed on, so that when you change your computer you need to pay again for a licence instead of re-using the same drive on the new computer (update: Windows10 seems much better in this regard -- I must admit I stopped counting some time ago and I need to try this last one, check the comments below). They say it is for security reasons, but they simply want your money in the first place.
  • Linux checks for all the hardware and each time it boots. This is incredible since it still boots faster than the other systems. It also supports an amazing variety of plug and play hardware out of the box, without the need for additional and sometimes conflicting drivers. As such, Linux makes no "definitive" choice when it is being installed. Now, MacOS does it well here since you mostly have no choice of hardware anyway.
  • All of this makes it backward-compatible to older machines, as in my case here! No other bloated and locked OS would allow this. And when you might succeed, your PC would feel sluggish which is just not my case (Linux does nothing when you do nothing, and writing a post in a browser for a blog is just considered doing nothing for a well-optimized OS).
  • Eventually, and more importantly even, your data is in YOUR folder and only in your folder. It is not fragmented everywhere in the system or on the cloud. When the system goes down, your data is still in YOUR hands. This includes almost everything, from application settings and preferences to wifi network passwords. Even when fully re-installing a Linux, you will need only a few "apt-get install the_application" and you feel at home with the_application, just as before. In fact, your home is better on a separate hard drive, but you could move it even remotely without any impact on the system, or even on a USB drive: it will not prevent nor complain about your choice. It is your own data, it is not under the control of the operating system, and it is even less under the control of a 3rd party company. MacOS switched to a Unix kernel with appropriate user separation a while ago so it might be quite good here, in addition to Apple owning all your stuff remotely ;) It will not be as transparent as Linux by the very nature of Macintosh own self-esteem (check, e.g. "without using itunes" on Google which spits out 45M results!).

So upgrading or downgrading the hardware and the system has usually no impact on your work, your files, your network configuration, your preferences and even the configuration of the system.

Think about it the next time you have a hardware failure, or even when you simply buy a new machine. Wouldn't it be cool to feel back at home immediately? An application is missing? Just apt-get install it and you're productive again, even with your settings, shortcuts and your very own "last opened files" in the menu. Try to beat this!

Pros and cons of Linux vs Windows or MacOS imho.

If you really want to hear my point, keep on reading...

One of the increasing advantages of Linux today is security. There are no trojans and more importantly even, it is safe from the increasingly dangerous ransomware.
Note that scarewares are even funnier: they ask you for money or they say they infect you...

How to deal with it? Just ditch this unsafe crap and move to Mac OS or, better imho, to Linux.

I switched our parents a decade ago. Honestly, they do as much and they complain as much as when they were on Windows! But my own life got much better since! No more headache, no more fear they install something nasty. In fact they probably do not even know about being root so they cannot screws the machine themselves. In the worst case I can even control they PC, securely and from anywhere, wherever they are. I only check or upgrade their PC once a year or so. Using Ubuntu LTS versions is very convenient: the release from 2014 will live until 2021. And still, I can upgrade without expecting any trouble.

By Christiann MacAuley at stickycomics.com
On Windows I no more recommend anything else than open-source software, or sometimes old and reliable freeware. Actually even the opens-sourced Notepad++ managed to beat Ultraedit (pleaaase stop using the pitiful incompetent notepad!). People shall better use extreme caution with new shareware or freeware, because they are to be considered loaded with invisible trojans or even nastier ransomware (unless you consider the latter as "in-app purchase"!).

In the end, it is a pity because if you need to use open source software on Windows, you would better switch to Linux in the first place...

As for me, I sometimes work with Windows for clients, but they run exclusively on virtual machines. It is so convenient because each of my client work has its own instance of Windows. I can have multiple variants of Windows on my Linux machine(s). Theses systems are just plain single big files when seen from Linux: so I can copy, duplicate, move or backup them just as easily as with files, and move them even from one PC to another (virtual one). When an old software no more exists on recent Windows, I can keep an old version just for it as a simple file (e.g. a 2GB file is largely enough for Windows XP!).

Multi-tasking is much more efficient on Linux

Now as a programmer, Linux gives me an extreme gain in productivity with a real shell, highly reactive, non-invasive and fully controllable multitasking.

Sure, Windows is multitasking in its way: it does a lot of work in the background while it tells you it is idle.

And MacOS is also multi-tasked in its own way: it keeps popping up stuff in front of your eye to tell you what it is doing (or not). Oh, and for a multi-tasking OS, well, you have only one menu... for the currently active application! How stupid when you have multiple applications, and more over large or multiple monitors: the active application may be far away from its menu. Miles of mouse movements just to get to the menu and realize it is not the active application! Also, you have to learn many key by heart on a non conventional keyboard (e.g. where is the damn back-quote on an outrageously expensive Mac keyboard?). I do not call this intuitive at all.

Stability concerns on Linux? Fear no more (well, almost)

For long, stability was the most controversial issue with linux, but it tends to be non-existent nowadays. E.g. my older PC had a NVDIA video cards while my new one was ATI. After rebooting, the screen resolution was set back to the ugly "safe mode". But it took me probably a half of the 5 minutes to fix it -- I just had to run the official corresponding driver again. This is no more as painful as it was 10 years ago :) And Windows has so much trouble by itself that no one can decently say that Linux is less stable than Windows nowadays.

Even with deeply encrypted hard drives, upgrades are easy. The latter is quite important since I can throw, store or lose old drives and nobody can read them anyway. And in case of trouble, the online community is incredible. Just keep a second, possibly extremely obsolete linux at hand, so you can browse and get the info for the other PC. Oh, everyone has a smartphone nowadays.

Market: just an inertia?

Interestingly, Linux owns the market both for the entry-level hardware (e.g. Rapsberry Pi or other $20 machines, most of the Internet Of Things to come, almost all routers and wifi boxes, and so). No-one else fits here. Linux also owns a large share of the smartphones via Android. It owns most of the internet servers and routers. It finally it also owns all of the supercomputing market...

As for users, I really think that Windows is there only because it was there for ages. I hear that things may change with Windows 10, and I still have to check by myself. But it has no merit and it did so wrong for so long that it became a pile of gigantic unstable crap. This, even though Microsoft invented many interesting features (e.g. the "Start" menu is among them, which they ditched, then put back...).

Mac OS is OK-ish to me. I stole most of its features and did not invent a lot more than just well-done marketing. And it sucks a lot of your money for sure since they have the monopoly and will not let other deal with them easily. Many people are OK with that, so why not. I guess many also fear that Linux is too hacky for them, and they want something that works out of the box (which it does since you have no big choice of the box). Also there are those who want a good looking, stylish, but exceedingly standardized object (functionally-wise also). I often redirect them to the Stockholm Syndrom wikipedia page.

Why use a proprietary OS for free software and services?

The only major trouble with Linux is that once a while people keep on sending you very proprietary files or calls for events, specifically because they are using themselves proprietary software that do not want them to keep their money.  However, enterprise slowly switch to opensource tools like odoo ERP or owncloud. I helped some and they like it: they get recent stuff, that works transparently across platforms and hardware updates, and they get more options for free... while they keep it entirely under control. Good.

Sure, there are a few software that are still better on Windows, like Adobe Photoshop or Premiere and many CAD programs (SolidWorks, Catia, and some like Mach3 much more than LinuxCNC). But the opposite is true: many linux software exist that are not so well integrated on windows, especially from programmers. Also more and more software are cross-platform, even top notch games.

Interestingly, I still have to find a single piece of software that exists on MacOS that I would miss on Linux though, and please, no, do not tell me about XCode. So here it is, aficionados: tell me I and will have a look!

Anyhow, in the age of webapps that run in browsers, no OS is really interesting per se. Linux requires less resources to do the same job as others here, so it will probably get more and more shares with time, mostly driven by mobile devices. Making hardware with Linux costs less and is more efficient as the Linux core is very well made and modular. See how all the Chinese tablets run on Android?
It is cheaper and without a loss of features and of quality... I see no reason to complain.


Many people say that switching to Linux is annoying because it differs from Windows or from Mac.

Hell, sure it is! And this is an incredible chance in my opinion!

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