How to break free from your computer operating system — if you dare

Kia Farhang did it.

Weary of the “awful” hour-long updates his Windows computer forced him to periodically endure, usually during prime work hours, Farhang recently abandoned his PC operating system. He switched to Linux, an open-source OS.

The result? Linux turned his laptop into a “very good Mac OS clone,” he says. And the price was right. He paid nothing for the software.

If you’ve upgraded your computer during the holidays and also are thinking of upgrading your operating system, you might be tempted to follow Farhang. But it’s not an easy path, and it’s not for everyone. I know because I just tried to do it.

While open-source software may represent the future of computer operating systems, it is a distant future for many of us, particularly those who need to run complex tasks on their laptops and desktops. But if you’re comfortable around technology and do most of your work in the cloud — in other words, everything is saved online — then you might be ready to make the switch now.

First, a reality check: Microsoft’s operating systems remain ridiculously dominant, with almost 90 percent market share. By comparison, Apple’s MacOS claimed a skimpy 4 percent share in 2016, and Linux at barely 2 percent, according to Net Market Share. The year before, Linux barely registered (it had just over 1 percent). That barely noticeable shift led some observers to predict an impending open-source threat to Redmond’s monopoly.

Well, it’s a start.

Moving to an open-source operating system, which is to say an OS where the original source code is freely available and may be redistributed and modified, is probably inevitable for you at some point. It can lower costs, make you less dependent on a single product or company, and most importantly, it can keep you from having to upgrade your laptop or desktop every two years. Plus, open-source software promises to deliver better products in a more collaborative and transparent way. If those values and that value proposition resonates with you, then you might be ready for the next step sooner rather than later.

And what, exactly, is that step?

How to switch

Farhang, who works for a digital marketing agency in Riverside, Calif., says he “took the plunge” after a series of patience-testing updates. Forced updates are automatic updates to your operating system that seem to occur without your explicit permission and can consume minutes or hours of computer time.

Linux isn’t a monolithic operating system. Rather, it comes in several versions. Farhang chose a version called Ubuntu, which is compatible with a PC and does not cost anything. All told, it takes about half an hour to install and configure Ubuntu on your computer.

The process is dead simple — no line commands to memorize, no special installation skills required. Just point, click and download.

“The only issue I’ve run into relates to specialized programs like Photoshop, which just aren’t available on Linux,” he says. “You can usually get by with open-source versions.”

Would he recommend Linux to other computer users? Sure, he says. Ubuntu runs faster and takes up less processor resources, and if you work in the cloud — on Google Docs, Sheets or Gmail, for example — then it can make an aging, slow computer run like new. And the price is right.

“If you can install Windows, you can install Ubuntu, so you might as well save 150 bucks and go for it,” he says.

My turn?

Envious of users like Farhang (and prodded by my 14-year-old son), I decided to try Linux. The fan on my 2012 MacBook Pro had been spinning uncontrollably for the last few months, even though I run only two programs: a web browser and a text editor. We chose a different version of Linux, Fedora, for my MacBook, because it had the necessary drivers for my hardware.

The results were mixed. In order to make it work, I had to wipe my hard drive — something I had wanted to do for a long time. Fedora is a gorgeous operating system, with a sleek and intuitive interface, a clean aesthetic, and it’s wicked fast. I believed that the processor problems would be fixed by switching to Fedora, but after I got it running, the fan noise resumed.

I wanted to stick with Fedora. I actually like it better than the Mac operating system, which is large and unwieldy (though not as clunky as Windows). But after playing around with it, I decided to revert to my old OS, but kept Fedora on one of my older MacBook Air laptops. The permanent switch will take a little more time and maybe a different computer, but I’m determined to break free from the tyranny of a proprietary OS — and soon.

I’m the ideal candidate for a switch. I spend almost all day working in the cloud. (My family will readily agree with that statement, although they might add that I have my head in the cloud.) There’s no reason to be running the bloatware that Apple and Microsoft force-feed their customers.

Not for everyone

Experts caution that an OS switch might not be the right move for most users. The applications for Linux are limited, so if you think you’re going to run your favorite programs from Adobe or Microsoft, you might be out of luck.

“I strongly advise against changing the operating system that came with your computer,” says Dave Greenbaum, who owns a computer repair business in Lawrence, Kan.

For starters, installing a new OS like Linux can add time and costs to your computer.

“It’s like ordering the appetizer at the restaurant and then putting your main course in a doggie bag,” he says. “You’re missing the point.”

Never mind the warranty and support issues. A manufacturer may try to void your warranty if you install a new OS, meaning that if anything goes wrong with your computer, you’re on your own. Linux also has compatibility issues — hardware that doesn’t work with certain software — that can eat up your valuable time.

For now, say computer experts, it’s something you should try only if you’re good with gadgets.

“If you are an enthusiast or a computer science student playing with Linux makes a lot of sense,” says Mike Tipton, a retired software engineering project manager from Gassville, Ark. “But if you’re not an enthusiast, stick with the native operating system that came with your PC or Mac.”

It won’t stay that way forever. Long-term, open source operating systems have a bright future and are worth keeping on your radar, say many of those same experts.

“Linux is a viable, usable and practical open source OS, at least as close as we can get today,” says Michael Fauscette, the chief research officer for G2 Crowd, software solutions and services review website. “I doubt that open source is the killer of Microsoft and Apple, but it will continue to provide better and better alternatives to users.”

It’s a future that’s free of obese operating systems that help themselves to your bandwidth and your time whenever they please. And it’s a future that consumers will want to live in.

Underwritten by

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Cavalry Travel Insurance

Cavalry takes the worry of out travel by providing 24/7 access to medical and security professionals combined with the best medical evacuation and security extraction services. Cavalry gets you home safely when you need it most. Learn more at Cavalrytravelinsurance.com.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Seven Corners

Seven Corners has helped customers all over the world with travel difficulties, big and small. As one of the few remaining privately owned travel insurance companies, Seven Corners provides insurance plans and 24/7 travel assistance services to more than a million people each year. Because we’re privately held, we can focus on the customer without the constraints that larger companies have. Visit Seven Corners to learn more.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Sodexo North America

Sodexo North America Sodexo North America is part of a global, Fortune 500 company with a presence in 80 countries. Sodexo is a leading provider of integrated food, facilities management and other services that enhance organizational performance, contribute to local communities and improve quality of life for millions of customers in corporate, education, healthcare, senior living, sports and leisure, government and other environments daily. Learn more at Sodexoinsights.com.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Travelex Insurance Services

Travelex Insurance Services is a leading travel insurance provider in the United States with over 55 years combined industry expertise of helping people dream, explore and travel with confidence. We offer comprehensive travel insurance plans with optional upgrades allowing travelers to customize the plans to fit their needs. Compare plans, get a quote and buy online at Travelexinsurance.com.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by AirHelp

AirHelp is the world’s leading flight delays compensation company, helping passengers apply for compensation following a delayed or canceled flight or when boarding has been denied. It is AirHelp’s mission to fight for passenger rights by holding airlines accountable for flights disruptions that are out of passengers’ control. AirHelp has already helped 5 million people, taking the stress out of applying for compensation and making it as hassle-free as possible for travelers around the world.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Allianz Travel Insurance

The Allianz Travel Insurance company has built its reputation on partnering with agents all around the world to provide comprehensive travel insurance for their clients. Contact Allianz Travel Insurance for a comprehensive list of coverage.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Chubb

Chubb is the world’s largest publicly traded property and casualty insurance company, and recognized as the premier provider of insurance for successful individuals and families in the U.S. and selected international markets, offering coverage for high-value automobile, homeowners, recreational marine/aviation, valuables and umbrella liability coverage. As an underwriting company, Chubb assesses, assumes and manages risk with insight and discipline, and combines the precision of craftsmanship with decades of experience to conceive, craft and deliver the best insurance coverage and services to individuals, families and business of all size.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Enterprise Holdings

A family-owned, world-class portfolio of brands. A global network that spans across more than 85 countries. Some 97,000 dedicated team members sharing common values. And more than 1.9 million vehicles taking our customers wherever they need to go.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Fareportal

Fareportal’s portfolio of brands, which include  CheapOair and  OneTravel, are dedicated to helping customers enjoy their trip. Whether you want to call, click, or use one of our travel apps, one thing is clear: We make it easy to take it easy.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Insuremyrentalcar.com

An independent provider of low cost CDW/LDW insurance for use with rental cars. Up to $100,000 cover with no deductible. Policies available on a per day, per trip or per year basis. Also works with overseas rentals. Try  Insuremyrentalcar.comnow.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Mediacom Communications

The nation’s fifth-largest cable operator, serving the smaller cities and towns in the Midwest and Southern regions of the United States. We are a high-performance broadband, entertainment, and communications company that brings the power of modern technology and quality customer experience to life inside the connected home by combining ultra-fast gigabit speeds with personalized local and over-the-top entertainment choices that fit your lifestyle. Details at  Mediacomcable.com.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Arch RoamRight

Arch RoamRight is one of the fastest growing, most-highly rated travel insurance companies in the United States. Travel advisors love working with us, and travelers feel protected with our trip cancellation and travel medical insurance coverage. We also make it easy to file a claim online with our fast, paperless claims website. Learn more about RoamRight travel insurance.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Virtuoso

The leading global network for luxury and experiential travel. This invitation-only organization comprises over 1,000 travel agency locations with 17,500 advisors in over 45 countries, and holds preferred relationships with 1,700 of the world’s finest travel companies. Virtuoso advisors collaborate with their clients to create personalized itineraries featuring exclusive perks, while also providing advice, access, advocacy, and accountability. For more information, visit  Virtuoso.com.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by VisitorsCoverage

As a company that is constantly striving to simplify travel insurance, VisitorsCoverage, is on a mission to help travelers make the better decisions about purchasing travel insurance, quickly. VisitorsCoverage has helped millions of travelers globally to buy the suitable travel insurance and explore the world with confidence. Get insurance for your next trip at  VisitorsCoverage. Lowest Price Guaranteed.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by MedjetAssist

Medjet is the premier global air-medical transport, travel security and crisis response membership program for travelers. With a MedjetAssist membership, if you become hospitalized more than 150 miles from home, we will get you from that unfamiliar hospital all the way home to the hospital you trust. All you ever pay is your membership fee. MedjetHorizon members add 24/7 personal security and crisis response benefits. Elliott.org readers enjoy discounted rates. Travel safer with  MedjetAssist.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Southwest Airlines

The mission of Southwest Airlines is dedication to the highest quality of Customer Service delivered with a sense of warmth, friendliness, individual pride, and Company Spirit. We are committed to provide our Employees a stable work environment with equal opportunity for learning and personal growth.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by TravelInsurance.com

TravelInsurance.com makes it fast and easy to compare and buy travel insurance online from top rated providers. Our unbiased comparison engine allows travelers to read reviews, compare pricing and benefits and buy the right policy with a price guarantee, every time. Compare and buy travel insurance now at  TravelInsurance.com.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Squaremouth

Squaremouth helps travelers easily and instantly compare travel insurance policies from all major providers. Only companies that meet the strict requirements of Squaremouth’s Zero Complaint Guarantee are available on the website. Compare policies on  Squaremouth.com to save over 70 percent on your next purchase.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Travel Leaders Group

Travel Leaders Group is transforming travel through its progressive approach toward each unique travel experience. Travel Leaders Group assists millions of travelers through its leisure, business and network travel operations under a variety of diversified divisions and brands including All Aboard Travel, Andrew Harper Travel, Colletts Travel, Corporate Travel Services, CruCon Cruise Outlet, Cruise Specialists, Nexion, Protravel International, SinglesCruise.com, Travel Leaders Corporate, Travel Leaders Network and Tzell Travel Group, and its merger with ALTOUR. With more than 7,000 agency locations and 52,000 travel advisors, Travel Leaders Group ranks as one of the industry’s largest retail travel agency companies.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Travelers United

If you’ve been mistreated by the airlines, Travelers United is your voice in Washington. Join the #1 travel advocacy organization working with Congress to improve and protect travelers. Plus, get $400 of annual benefits you can use for travel for only $29/year. Add your voice to ours. Make travel better.  Join today.

Send this to a friend