I tried. I really wanted to go with a free, open-source operating system and programs. There were clear benefits, including not having to worry about viruses and anti-virus software. I wouldn’t have to locate and disable hidden options that compromise privacy, including the “keylogging” option [checked “on” by default] that sends your every keystroke to Microsoft! I opted out of the whole pay-to-compute scheme. It was liberating, and I came to like the clean, simple, uncluttered, Ubuntu OS. But there were annoyances, inconveniences, drawbacks, red flags, and then a full-on deal-breaker.
I was willing to sacrifice proprietary software, including Photoshop, which was my main artistic tool for a quarter century. The free alternative, GIMP, was much more clunky than I’d expected, and nothing like Libre Office, which I am learning to prefer to Microsoft Office. That was just a crutch I was going to have to slowly and painfully overcome.
I couldn’t find a decent working timer, which struck me as cuckoo. The one that comes loaded doesn’t notify you when your time’s up, which makes it utterly useless. The audio program didn’t allow me to change the volume until I did some unintuitive altering of plugins. My printer wouldn’t work with the Linux equivalent drivers, and nobody had bothered to create a fix for my model. Guess I’d have to buy a new printer. I could work around these. I used my $150 smartphone to do things my $1,500 computer couldn’t do.
I have two internal hard-drives, but Ubuntu only recognized one. Well, I’d already bought a new external, so, not a biggie. I then discovered Acer didn’t make the program to monitor CPU and GPU temperatures and control fan speed for Linux. I couldn’t find a Linux program that would allow me to monitor my fan speed. I tried several.
Next, I noticed my monitor was dark. I couldn’t see detail in shadows in my own artwork. There’s a simple slider to adjust brightness, but mine was mysteriously missing, and in all the places where you could access it. I looked it up. Sure, just type some code into the terminal, and it will fix it. Ah, if it doesn’t — it didn’t — then you gotta’ put on your next-level geek helmet and start tinkering with programing.
OK, I was stuck with a dim monitor.
The system had some anomalous error messages popping up. Saving Libre Office files took 30 seconds. Cycles render wasn’t working in Blender sometimes. Blender was freezing.
And then I booted up to a black screen with text. That was the deal-breaker. Much as I detest the bloated monstrosity that is Windows 10, it hadn’t crashed on me once since I got my new laptop. No bue screen of death. And here I was, after just a couple weeks of using Ubuntu, with a black screen of death.
My girlfriend has been running Ubuntu on her desktop for a year or so, and she’s had this same problem. She knew the code to type in to fix it! She typed in the patch — which she has to do about once a month on her computer — and then after a lag, text just started to cascade over the whole monitor, endlessly, as the computer fans revved at capacity. Ah, the computer was in self-destruct mode, hell-bent on frying itself! We tried it again and got the same result. Force shut-down.
Fortunately, the governor of our city lifted lock-down the day before, and my local computer shop where I bought my laptop was open. I brought it in and asked if they could put Windows back on it. The main technician let his fingers fly over the keyboard, quickly discovered my original Windows was still on the C drive, and immediately booted it up. Voila, my old system was back, even the old crap on my desktop. He just had to do another adjustment to get it to recognize my slick, extra, solid state drive, and I was good as new. It cost me nothing, and took 5 minutes.
Now I’ve got my Photoshop back, and it’s a stand-alone version that doesn’t require a monthly fee. My laptop is designed for gaming, and I’d souped it up with a NVIDIA GetForce RTX 2060 graphics card loaded with 20 gigs of RAM (on top of the 32 gigs of RAM I’d opted for in the machine), so, it can run Windows without a hitch. Compare this to a bargain HP laptop I bought at Walmart a couple years ago in an emergency. That one came with Windows 10, and was just $50 more than Windows alone. Well, it worked fine for about a week, until Windows updated, and there wasn’t enough room on the hard-drive for Windows, period. I put Ubuntu on that system, and it ran like a dream, but I only used it for the internet and text editing.
So, I’m back in the fold of the big tech monopoly on computing, but at least I didn’t have to fork over another $140 for a new version of Windows. I still hope to switch to free, open source programs when they get the kinks out, and you don’t need a next-level geek helmet just to adjust the brightness of your system, or to get a timer to ding, or to monitor fan speed, or to get it to boot up at all.
I may have had some bad luck and flukes. I don’t mean to discourage others from trying Linux, but since I’d announced I’d made the switch to open source, I don’t want to maintain a false impression. I haven’t used my emergency computer (fondly known as the “egg beater”) since I got my new laptop, but I assume the Linux OS still works just fine on it.