Linux Revisited Again

She’ll be coming ’round the mountain when she comes

— traditional

I seem to be coming back around to linux again, and feel like putting down some of my own thoughts about the decision. While the “year of desktop linux” has been a running joke for the last two decades, I think we’re now getting to the point where the decision is less of an issue.

I should probably clarify that my home computer is a home-built Frankenstein built on an installment plan: I buy an upgrade, and I install it.

The Politics: Why not Windows 10?

Privacy. It seems that with Windows 10 that Microsoft has gone opt-out rather than opt-in on certain forms of data reporting. While it looks like a lot of this can be turned off, the recent finding that parental modification was turned on by the upgrade disturbs me. Of course, I’m 44, own my computer, and am not accountable to my parents. But it opens the question about what other kinds of reporting might be turned on as a useful feature by a future update.

Why Linux? The Hobbies

At the moment, two of my hobbies involve writing and programming. In both cases the workflow I prefer to use is slightly better supported on Linux.

Writing

Currently my preferred workflow includes markdown or emacs org-mode and pandoc. Both emacs and pandoc have been ported to Windows but linux remains the primary platform of support. Windows introduces some annoyances to the process.

Programming

My programming hobby involves solving simple puzzles in multiple programming languages. Most of the programming languages I work in have Linux as a primary platform and Windows as a secondary platform. In Common Lisp for example, SBCL offers a bit better features and performance compared to any of the open-source lisps for Microsoft Windows. Working through cygwin for gcc and clang is something I find to be a bit awkward.

There are exceptions. Racket has always impressed me on any operating system. Microsoft has F and C#, but I don’t have an investment in learning them.

Question 1: Games?

One of the reasons I went to Windows 7 in building my Frankenstein was access to AAA MMORPG and RPG games. I think that’s less compelling to me now than it was previously for a couple of reasons.

The first is that I’ve had a loss of faith in game design lately. Dragon Age 2 and Mass Effect 3 were huge disappointments. Generally speaking, take away the cinematic cut-scenes and the primary game mechanic involves cutting your way through dozens of dehumanized mobs to get from spawn point to goal. Even Bethesda’s Fallout and Elder Scrolls series hinges on boss fights and ambushes to move the story forward. So I’m no longer as interested in playing those games as I’ve been in the past.

Images via pixelcurious.

And on the other side, Valve and GOG.com have made great strides in bringing new games and back-catalog releases to OS X and Linux. 20 out of 54 of my Steam games have Linux ports, along with about half of my GOG.com titles (including three of the games I’ve been playing the most this year.) Playonlinux has moved WINE gaming forward a fair bit. It’s an area where the last few years have seen a lot of progress.

Question 2: Streaming Video?

Late last year, Netflix got support via Google Chrome, so that’s taken care of. Still, a big test before install involved watching videos through a liveCD.

There’s Always Dual-Boot

And if all else fails, I’m not burning any bridges by dual-booting.

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