foobar on computers, software and the rest of the world

Becoming Windows-free - Part 1

, posted: 17-Sep-2007 13:11

As you can see from the profile in my blog, I am Windows-free. This means, I don't run Windows on any of my computers anymore and try to avoid Windows (if at all possible) at work as well. I would like to run a little series of articles for you, which describe what it is like to be Windows-free, and how you too can take this step, should you feel the desire to do so.

I should mention here that for me this was originally about not having to pay a Microsoft tax anymore and not find my data locked into proprietary formats anymore. Considering the recent resurging popularity of certain other proprietary platforms (Apple, anyone?), I should extend this: It is not only about avoiding Microsoft, but about avoiding any vendor with a demonstrated track record of locking their users in.

For me it all started some time in 2002 or 2003, I can't even remember the year exactly anymore. My employer at that time gave me a laptop, and of course it had Windows XP on it, as well as Office, Outlook, IE and all the other usual suspects. I didn't even think twice about it. It was just nice that it all felt well integrated and worked. It was my first laptop as well, and all around me all the other laptops I saw all ran under Windows. Everyone else at conferences and meetings seemed to be using MS Office and Outlook as well, so I fit right in.

However, many of our developers at that time had Linux on their workstations. And of course, they didn't use IE, they used Firefox - or 'Phoenix' as it was called back then. I was stunned by the 'tabbed browsing' that was possible with that browser, which instantly matched my browsing style in a very natural way. So, 'by by' IE, and 'hello' to Phoenix, which fortunately was available in a Windows version.

This small moment there was just the start of a journey for me, which eventually made me completely Windows-free, step by step.

In future postings, I will provide more details about it. But I can already tell you: It was not a cold-turkey switch from a purely MS environment to all Linux. Instead, I replaced one application at a time, until one day I realized that I actually didn't run any Windows applications anymore. And once I was at that point, there was of course no need to hold on to the Windows OS either. Every step of that way came with a strangely satisfying and liberating feeling, which gave me quite a kick.

I would love to hear from others who have become Windows-free as well, or are on their way. Just like Phoenix/Firefox's tabbed browsing 'nirvana' was the first step for me, what was the first step for you? When did you realize that you could go all the way?

Other related posts:
PC World: Move your business to Linux, not Vista
And you thought your computer would do what YOU wanted...
The great 'Windows collapse' of 2011?

Comment by BlueToothKiwi, on 17-Sep-2007 15:04

I think having an obsessive alliance (or anti-) towards a product / vendor or technology makes no sense at all.

In your case an almost religious rebellion against Microsoft.

I run Windows Vista as my operating system on my laptop and home PC's, Windows 2003 on my servers. I run SQL Server on the server database and for data warehousing in my banking services company.

As for productivity stuff, I use Microsoft Office 2007 and Outlook 2007.

My hand held has the latest Windows Mobile - and it never lets me down. For development I been using Microsoft Visual Studio 2008 Beta lately.

Ofcourse I use a lot of non Microsoft prodcts - I use Firefox for Web Browsing (I switched to it when a version of IE was unstable and memory hungry, and never seen a reason to switch back). For my music stuff I use ITunes from Apple. For all creative work I use Adobe products.

The point is, I never felt locked down by Microsoft technology. It worked well for me and made me more productive for majority of the stuff. I believe I have the best of breed for each of my application rather than making an obsessive choice that has no bearing on the suitability of the product for a purpose.

Just my view - and I am sure you will disagree with me, Foobar.


Comment by chakkaradeep, on 17-Sep-2007 15:35

I use Windows and Linux and never felt any wrong in using both. Have a free mind(free not as in OSS,lol). Windows and Linux are TWO DIFFERENT TECHNOLOGIES.Embrace them

Many OSS friends of mine dont like me becoz am using Windows but my Windows friends dont neglect me saying that I use Linux. Thats the difference I have seen been in the OSS field for quite a long time.

And my policy is this - Use the proper software when need comes. Dont try to convert/prove people that this is better, that is better, let them ask for alternatives. Period.

Author's note by foobar, on 17-Sep-2007 15:47

Tim, I wouldn't describe my stand towards this as religious or obsessive. I don't go around trying to 'convert' people either. I do share my view on my blog, though. Maybe some of my experiences and views are helpful to someone.

I'm also happy that your choice of products works well for you.

I am even more happy that my choice of things works as well, and that I don't have to pay anyone anything anymore. I also enjoy being able to take my data wherever I want and I'm happy about the fact that it is stored in open formats. It's also not just about MS, as I said in my post, but about openness.

That is important for me, but not for everyone. If you are happy the way it works for you right now, then I don't argue with that at all.

I choose to not pay for the software I am using and to do that in a legal manner by using open source software. In the end, I am saving myself thousands of dollars. And if you choose to pay for all your software and buy proprietary data formats with it then that is of course your choice as well...

Author's note by foobar, on 17-Sep-2007 15:53

chakkaradeep: Yeah, as I said in my previous response, I'm not trying to convert anyone. This is my blog, though, and you choose to read it. Therefore, I can talk about this. I'm not forcing anything on anyone though.

Also, my laptop is still dual boot. That's more out of necessity in case someone sends me something in a format that is not yet supported under Linux. So far, I haven't had the need for this, though. I haven't booted into the Windows partition in a long time.

I don't look down on anyone just because they are using Windows. If so-called 'friends' of yours don't like you because of some choices you made, then they aren't really your friends, you know? :-)

I am surprised that I am getting this backlash here, just because I talk about enjoying being Windows-free. If you feel like reading the remainder of my ramblings, by all means do so. If you don't like it, though ... I didn't force you to read it! :-) Why giving it this semi-religious feeling by talking about 'conversion' or 'obsession'?

Comment by timestyles, on 17-Sep-2007 17:30

I guess saying proudly "I'm xxxx free" (xxxx being anything, drugs, Microsoft, Linux, home electricity supply, American products, children etc etc) will get people replying, if people think that there is nothing with xxxx. Human nature, really. I'm childfree and if I had a blog stating it, I'm sure that parents would leave messages saying there is nothing wrong with them.

That said, it's probably better to have those sort of blog comments than none, although you might disagree.

Comment by paradoxsm, on 17-Sep-2007 17:48

I have for many years used my Windows Hack and am very faithful to it.... Windows98 and WinXP are good operating systems in the core and then bloated over.

First my Windblows985 37MB which I hacked up back in 1998 utilizing the best of Windows98 and Windows95, and more recently XP using Windows 2000 Core components for the shell and XP for the underlying Kernel.

A comination of file swapping and hex editing was used and a couple of comonents were stolen from the various betas also.

I'm completely MSHTML aka Trident aka IE free!
(I do have a Portable version of IE6 I hacked up for Webpage design testing)

Asides my current machine which has some bugs, "XtraPunch" ran utterly perfectly on my Pentium4 and runs games on that machine at a speed unimaginable! The "Windblows985" run inside the "Synthbox" which is an AMD k6-II 500 with a pile of circa 1995 nostalgia MIDI sound standards (KORG, Yamaha, Roland) inside.

However, Vista sucks, I'll say it.... Horrible OS so my next step will be a Unix base (Linux) runing WINE as the development is accelerating at quite a good pace.

Comment by chakkaradeep, on 17-Sep-2007 20:23

foobar, a blog is read by everyone. Each one can take it in different sense . You had written - "I don't run Windows on any of my computers anymore and try to avoid Windows (if at all possible) at work as well." - This can be interpreted in many different ways

My take - Use proper software at the proper place.

Just one question - If whatever Linux you are using costs you $100 and then the update server service $100 for an year, will you use it?

Author's note by foobar, on 18-Sep-2007 06:29

chakkaradeep: 'Use proper software at the proper place'? Yes, absolutely. I wouldn't tell people who absolutely need Adobe Photoshop for certain features to go change to the GIMP, if that feature is not available there. Just like I wouldn't tell a truck driver to use a bicycle instead.

I don't think anyone doubts that.

Interesting question about the hypothetical cost of my Linux. Would I still use it if it would cost $100 plus $100 annually for updates. Yeah, I guess I would. The next question: "How about $200? Or $300? Or $1000?" I don't know, I would have to see if this would happen. At some point I definitely would have reached a limit. Maybe that limit even is $1. In fact, for some people it probably is: Because this is open source, in the moment Ubuntu wouldn't be available for free anymore, someone would make a fork and it would be free ($0) again. Personally, I would be happy to reward them for a good product and so would be willing to pay at least something, I guess.

And if Ubuntu completely disappears or becomes unreasonably expensive, then I have other Linux distributions to choose from. And since all of my data is stored in open formats, I would have no problem at all migrating to a new Linux, or FreeBSD, or even Windows with the proper open source applications installed (even though the latter is less attractive for me... Smile ).

I like that kind of choice. In the moment your data uses open formats, the vendor can only 'lock' you in via superior features, which benefits the user. But if the data is in proprietary formats, you have no choice at all, and need to stay with the vendor, or it just becomes very difficult to move anywhere else.

So, I like my data stored in open formats, with open source software. Therefore, if someone starts to charge for my favourite Linux distro or application, I can choose whether I want to stay with them or not. I like having that choice, but that's just me.

foobar's profile

New Zealand

  • Who I am: Software developer and consultant.
  • What I do: System level programming, Linux/Unix. C, C++, Java, Python, and a long time ago even Assembler.
  • What I like: I'm a big fan of free and open source software. I'm Windows-free, running Ubuntu on my laptop. To a somewhat lesser degree, I also follow the SaaS industry.
  • Where I have been: Here and there, all over the place.

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