Matthew Nichols

How I quit being angry at Microsoft and moved on from Windows

September 05, 2023

I recently moved from Windows 11 to Ubuntu on my main daily driver machine.

I have been a happy Windows user for decades, since at least Windows 2000. I enjoyed Win 7. I recognize that a lot of folks didn't like the Windows 8, but I liked it just fine. And I Loved Windows 10. Soon there after Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL) came along; I was moving more and more into NodeJS so WSL was perfectly timed. In Windows 10 I had a shell I was enjoyably productive with, and I got many (most?) of the benefits of using Linux in WSL.

Then arrived Windows 11. I know that the new menu system is what I reacted to, it just seems unbelievably dumbed down, but it is probably other things as well. But I didn't enjoy using it anymore, and there were enough changes that the decades of muscle memory I had actually worked against me. And as Windows Updates started getting aggressive about installing it on existing machines I got angry, which is not a typical or healthy long term state for me.

I tried working around the problem inside of Windows; I tried StarDock's Start11 product, which is pretty good, but not a perfect replacement (for me). I tried moving my workflow to almost entirely use PowerToys Run instead of the start menu. Nothing was quite perfect, but it was workable. But little things kept cropping up, like the international keyboard switcher getting a non-optional keyboard shortcut that ran over a shortcut I had deep muscle memory on, and it all started seeming like I would be playing wack-a-mole forever.

I decided to give a Linux a solid try as my daily driver. I already had a couple of old Intel based MacMinis that are useless as Macs at this point but work perfectly well as local servers. But I had never installed Linux on a machine of the same level as my day to day Windows machine. I have an Asus Zenbook Duo 14 with plenty of power but pretty strange hardware, and was shocked to find that people had good luck running Linux on it. I tried out the Ubuntu Desktop Live experience on it, put it through the paces of my day to day work and found I could do all the things. I had plenty of drive space so I did a dual boot and started using Ubuntu as my daily driver.

The experience has been good overall. Obviously there is has been a lot of learning involved, and it took me a week-ish to get to full productivity. And I have had to figure out new applications to replace non-cross platform apps that are part of my daily workflow. But one of the things I realized is that, except for Windows, most of what I used regularly is already open source software, or online services through the browser.

One other thing happened that I think is interesting/puzzling. I purchased a new bigger SSD for my "walking around" laptop, a Dell XPS 13, (the Asus is more of a desktop replacement) with the intention of setting it up as a dual boot machine. I prepped a Windows 11 bootable install usb. With the help of iFixit instructions and their Essentials Toolkit I was able to swap out the SSD, but when I tried to install Windows the installer wouldn't recognize the new drive. I was worried I had screwed up the SSD install, but when I tried the Ubuntu 23.04 installer it recognized the SSD right away. So I installed Linux, non-dual boot. I find it ironic that the one thing everyone assumes is the strength of Windows, ubiquitous hardware support, is what didn't work but did on Linux.

So far I am enjoying the experience. I am sure there will be a Windows machine or two in my life for the foreseeable future, but this does feel like a better path for me. And I am no longer angry at Microsoft. I can go back to enjoying the stuff that they do that I do enjoy like Typescript, Github, VSCode, and C#/.NET.

Command Palette

Someday there will be really cool stuff here.