Updated: February 21, 2022
A couple of days ago, I came across a forum post that pointed to a Web article that linked to the Windows 11 Insider preview Dev channel release notes, which mention a new requirement for Windows 11 Pro setup. Not Home edition, mind, but Pro. Internet access and Microsoft account will (or most likely will) be needed to finish the system setup. And I decided, that's it, I had enough stupidity for one lifetime.
This pointless cloudification of the classic PC desktop formula will never stop. It won't stop until desktop as a service is a reality and all that nonsense. No. I'm not going to cooperate with that plan. And so I've now finally decided that I'm going to properly start moving my production workflows away from Windows. That won't be an easy task. After all, I've been using Windows since 1992. But I have zero intention of using Windows 11, as it's pointless in its own right, and I have even less intention of being a subscription monkey. Services yes, products never. This article is a start of a journey whereby I plan to wean myself off Windows. Let's begin.
A bit more background and such
First, I need to give you a bit more context, so you fully understand what I have in mind. One, I use Windows, mostly because I need it for gaming and Office (publishers and such). Most other things work just fine in Linux, which is my second, secondary-primary setup. Two, I use Linux extensively, too, and the experience is rather decent. It's not perfect just yet, but things are slowly improving. A bit too slowly. But hey. You can read more about this in my now three-year-long series of articles on Slimbook Pro2 laptop & Kubuntu. That's going encouragingly well.
At the moment, my production Windows setup consists of Windows 10 Pro, plus an odd relic, which we will ignore for the time being. Windows 10 will be supported until 2025, so there is no immediate problem here. We have almost four full years ahead, and even then, things won't suddenly stop or become irrelevant. After all, people still use Windows 7 and such. But there are scenarios where you should or really must have a fully up-to-date operating system.
To add insult to the injury, Windows 11 also has the utterly bizarre TPM requirement nonsense, which means that my beefy desktop, which has TPM disabled in BIOS, is not compatible with Windows 11 (excellent), and will technically become "useless" for new editions of Windows even if I do decide to install them. But then, when you combine all the different stupidities being piled into Windows - Weather icon, Teams being installed without anyone asking, Rewards crap shown in the header of the Settings menu, Edge protocol hardcoding, no easy way to disable updates or Defender, and then some, one has to realize that there is no future for people with triple-digit IQ in this space.
This means I have to move away from Windows. But I want to do that in a nice, elegant, strategic manner that doesn't leave me functionally impaired. That means slowly, carefully, methodically mapping out all of my usecases to the finest detail, and then porting them over to Linux.
So what am I going to do (in 2025)?
The journey is still in the very early stages. But roughly, the plan is as follows. From now till 2025, I will write a series of tutorials and guides, covering every step of my migration effort, showing you how and what I did with this or that particular usecase. For example, how to install SketchUp 2017 in Linux. Check! I will also focus on games and the office suite usage, of course, because among the many different usage scenarios, those have always remained as outstanding gaps in the Windows-Linux parity.
Here's a quick list of some of the things that come to mind, for the time being:
- Software like Steam, GIMP, LibreOffice, VLC are already native in Linux.
- IrfanView and Notepad++ work fine through WINE.
- I will need to test the Windows builds of Kerkythea, Foxit Reader and KompoZer through WINE.
- I will try to install my old copy of Office 2010 in the same manner. Or maybe buy a license for something like the OnlyOffice desktop suite. Or I will pay professional book editors to convert my scripts and stories. I will rather pay hundreds or thousands of dollars to people for their work than participate in the must-online fest. This will be a conscious financial decision, and while it won't be in my favor, the MuSt-HaVe-OnLiNe crowd will not see a dime of it. A penny or a cent, if you prefer.
- I will keep or convert my desktop to a dual-boot setup and use Windows 10 beyond its expiration date for gaming. Maybe it's a bit inconvenient, but my favorite desktop, Plasma, has a superb save-workspace settings, including all your programs and files, so you can resume an old session without a hitch.
- I will most likely buy a new Slimbook/Linux desktop workstation and make it my primary system.
Can there be a scenario where I must keep on using Windows?
Realistically, that could happen. It is possible that there might be some corner usecase where one must have an up-to-date Windows workflow for something, I don't know, to be able to use a government site or fill in a government form somewhere or do online banking. This will be a difficult scenario to solve. I have no easy answers for that just yet.
If that happens, at the moment, given the technology and solutions available, the way I imagine it:
- Setup Windows (whatever future version) with a throwaway online account, something like goatlover9000.
- After the setup, create a local account.
- Delete the online account if possible.
- If not, create a dual-boot setup, and then purge and delete the online account manually from Linux.
- Use the system only for once-a-month specific need and do nothing else with it.
At some distant point in the future, even this may not be a feasible scenario. Perhaps if Windows goes subscription-only. Again, I have no easy answer for how to resolve this. But I will leave this battle for when it becomes relevant. At the moment, my focus will be on moving my CURRENT Windows setup to an equivalent Linux setup. That's my plan for 2025.
Timewise, even beyond 2025, Windows 10 will remain relevant for quite a way while, the same way Windows 7 is today. At the very least, this is because the LTSC version of Windows 10 will be around for another 5-6 years thereafter, and that means the software that runs on Windows 10 will remain available and supported. Especially if the pointless TPM requirement suddenly renders a huge, huge swath of Windows machines un-upgradable.
Any other dangers or pitfalls?
Yes. You may also have read about the "security chip" Pluton thingie. Trusted computing and all that. It is also something that could (emphasis on could, pure speculation for now) block other operating systems from running on the machine. Theoretically, you may end up with hardware that is locked to specific operating systems and/or doesn't support certain features in the BIOS, which may preclude Linux from being used on these machines. That could be a difficult scenario, too. In a way, this is not that different from what you have today with Secure Boot.
But. This hasn't happened, and it hasn't happened since 2004 or so, roughly when the concept of Trusted computing started making headlines in the tech journalism. Since, Microsoft and various other companies have tried to implement "enhanced" security features on the hardware and BIOS level, and for the most part, it didn't really make any big difference. For the most part, you can disable Secure Boot, and a variety of Linux distributions supports it (Secure Boot) nonetheless. I have personally not encountered any system that prevents you from turning Secure Off in the BIOS menu.
Still, there is a possibility that one day, things may turn extra bad.
Again, this is most likely to happen, using my prophetic skills, at least 5-10 years off. Like the must-use Windows scenario outlined earlier, that is a battle for after this current challenge I have. Peace and quiet until 2025, slow preparation for the cutoff. By then, I'd like to hope that Steam & Linux becomes a given, and I can put the whole corporate greed hysteria behind me. It's not a fun thing thinking about this problem, but ignoring it will not make the stupidity go away. You must face it, embrace it, and then fend it off.
The world changes. The world is changing. It's inevitable. And normal. But that does not mean every change is good, or that one should accept stupid or pointless things with a grin on their face. Nope. I am aware that the young generations are more accustomed and more accepting of the online-always account-everywhere computing, especially on their smartphones. But my desktop is not a phone, and I'm not willing to play stupid games of marketing greed and silly touch ideas on something that has "Pro" in its label. If I pay money for a supposedly top-tier product, I want to be left alone, and I don't want any of the modern crap.
There will come a point in the future when the computing model changes for good. In 15-20 years, no one will talk about the "offline" and "local" and such stuff. That will be the reign of dinosaurs, and the young people will of course ignore us, the same way "we" ignore people when they talk about radio or cable TV or any old idea that feels silly and cumbersome today. You can't win that battle. But there's one battle you can win. And that's where you put your hard-earned money. I for sure will not be giving money for a touchfest-inspired version of a classic desktop operating system. Call it "Low-IQ" edition, I might consider it. Call it "Pro", I don't want any of the nonsense. Simple.
In 15-20 years, I intend to be on a small island somewhere, open a bakery or some other post-IT detox syndrome business that people do once they get fed up with chewing on the sour end of the corporate stick. By then, I hope my biggest concerns will be the weather for the day and who I invite to my BBQ. And I hope to go online only when I need to shoot or race some friends in a game, or to check email once a week because that's what you do when you live on a small island somewhere.
Until then, I still must wrestle with occasional stupidity. I have already stated that I have no intention of using Windows 11, and the additional constraint on the Pro version seals the deal for good. I hope you find this little rant entertaining. The really interesting bits will be the follow up articles, over the next months and years, in which I will painstaking detail my migration experiences and hurdles. Hopefully, everything will work, but even if not, I'll do my best to solve the problems that arise. It took me five years to get SketchUp working again in Linux, and if it takes me another five to sort out a dozen other issues, so be it. But I will not give up.