Midnight Pub

Long Term Servicing Conundrum


At the risk of branding oneself a pariah, I'm going to pose a question. While I'm a grateful user of much FOSS, I tend to approach this more from a functional perspective than a principled one. Is such a statement complete anathema to much of the crowd here?

To illustrate the point: thanks to decades of daily work experience since the mid 90s, I simply know the Windows OS inside and out. I have my 10,000 hours, and then some. I also have access, thanks to my employer, to the prized LTSC "Long Term Servicing Channel" version of Windows 10. Which means, no bloatware pre-installed (Candy Crush and Netflix on even an Enterprise install? Really MS?), no Cortana, only the basic admin utilities. No every 6-month "feature updates" whether you want them or not. Not even the Windows Store. Essentially, for LTSC they took Server and put the standard desktop on it.

That's the base of my system, and layered on top is FOSS-everything-I-can-find. For those not familiar, there's a simple and smartly designed 'package manager' called Scoop that functions like an apt-get for Windows. I've scripted out and aliased everything I can for the things I want to do on the system. I spend as much time in VS Code as I do in anything else.

For me this is very much a use-what-works approach, functional, pragmatic. It works well, it's second nature to me at this point.

But then a hardware change required 'reactivation', which didn't work and I couldn't get resolved until the next day. That's when I felt the whole arrangement hitting The Wall of Control.

 pardon the interruption
 the system is not yours
 until you are compliant

The issue is resolved and I am now In Compliance And Can Be Sure I Am Running Genuine Windows. It didn't occur to me that a hardware change meant some sneaky silicon sleuths might have replaced my existing, already Genuine install with a liar! Fake! Cheat! that just so happened to look and work exactly the same as before, except for said warning. But apparently MS thinks this is a thing. Or wants you to think so.

It's a little like having a house built and then finding the plumber installed a cut-off valve that only they have access to. And if you replace a faucet in the kitchen some months later, they just might use that valve until you show them the receipt for the new faucet.

I really don't like that. At all.

This isn't for me about hating on a software giant working for profit. And Windows has come a very long way in terms of performance and stability. At least in my experience, crashes and instability are a thing of the past. It's a different design philosophy than *nix, being inspired by VMS, and has its pros and cons just like any complex system design. There is a place in the world for capital investment-sponsored code and FOSS, in my view. We wouldn't have it as good as we do now without both, I believe. But I also believe that your system is YOUR system.

So I'm seriously considering the split-brain procedure I must perform to move to some variant of Linux. Go full FOSS. I've dabbled before but always ended up going back to the familiar. When you spend all your working hours in that space for years, well, it's just easier. I think this time I'm going to put a serious learning effort in, treat it as an exploration and going back to school. I'm a nerd from way back. I self-taught Atari BASIC and then went on to learn 6502 Assembler. I'm a "systems engineer" by trade but I learned to think like a programmer. I probably owe it to my history.


As you mentioned liking KDE: If you have reasonable hardware ressources (and for Windows you've probably run more than necessary), I'd also recommend using KDE as a Desktop. Like any other desktop (Mate, XFCE would be my next choices) it`s available for a ton of distros, so the freedom of choice is just another kind of freedom here, distrowatch.com may help you with that. And most distros could be started and run in virtual machines for a first evalutation.

My personal experience with Kubuntu was really bad (but should be re-evaluated again). So although I like debian based distros I've spend most of my 20 years of linux desktop usage on OpenSuse. To make it a grandpa tells from the great war story: I actually bought my first Suse-Linux in a box filled with a bunchfull of floppies and a book ...



I left behind the Windows world ~10 years ago. I still got a second partition with windows for gaming, but I barely use it anymore as most Steam games run on Linux.

I can only recommend Xubuntu as a starting distribution. Xfce is nice and simple and you get the full support of Ubuntu.



Another point for the Debian/Ubuntu family :) Looks like I have my starting point at least.



Yes! Join us! We have free (as in freedom) cookies!

The Linux world is no longer as good as it used to be, but if anything you won't get bad surprises, and you really have a chance at exercising real ownership on your system.

Now, everyone has their opinions on this topic, but my recommendation is to use Debian with xfce4 or mate ;-)



I’m genuinely curious, in what ways do you feel it isn’t as good? I tried the KDE variant of Ubuntu early last year and was very impressed how everything ‘just worked’ in terms of hardware support in a way even Windows ‘official support’ couldn’t match. Or is it about the community at large and not the technology itself?

I could try Mate, but I was quite impressed by how KDE manages to look like a 21at century desktop while being fast and with little more resource use than Xfce. Either way, it’s that flexibility of choice that is so appealing vs. Windows no matter how stable Windows is now.



Well... it might be just a matter of perception, of course. It boils down to the fact that, when I started, things were simpler and now they're awfully complex.

  • Administrating a system used to be about editing text files, processes with their pid, and services to start and stop via init scripts. Administration required root privileges. Today you've got services that wake up autonomously just be cause you hit a socket, dbus that opens up administrative operations to the unprivileged user, you can see processes in your namespace, but there are containers with their own namespace of processes, their network stack, their filesystem... and the tools became more complex accordingly.
  • The classic thing was to have a distribution with packages, libraries were dynamic by best practice, and you could had a drop-in replacement just by 'apt upgrade'. Today this is still true, but alongside you've got software written with languages that can only do static blobs (e.g. Golang), software that brings its own package manager (e.g. Python), software that is distributed via containers (e.g. Flatpack), everyone carrying around a private copy of the universe, possibly with security vulnerabilities.
  • We used to have X for graphical application, completely optional (type 'startx' at the tty). Now we've got X started from login managers. A screen/tmux session gets somewhat entangled with that, so a GUI crash manages to bring down your terminal multiplexer. And then X is obsolete, but Wayland is incomplete. And you can't use your fonts, because Pango devs decided what's best for you. And I won't get started on Electron...
  • Gnome and Kde used to be simple and usable, while now both seem to me horribly bloated. (Which justifies my preference for desktop environments such as Mate or Xfce. I'm not afraid of some command line administration task, so I don't need much graphical assistance). But this point is much more subjective than the others (plus, there's always Mate and Trinity).

But hey, I'm not saying that everything is horrible. Linux is probably the best trade-off between {simplicity, privacy, ownership, knowledge} VS {hardware/vendor support, gaming}. The former you can probably get better with *BSD, while the latter you can get better with Windows and Mac. Well, for gaming, I honestly still run Wintendo on a dedicated gaming computer.



You hit the nail when you said "your system is your system", the only way to achieve that is using exclusively free software. Now that is a more philosophical approach, but that is what I adhere to. Many times I go out of my way to use a free software, and if such thing doesn't exist I don't use at all, but I reckon this might be too much for the majority and there are some situations in which indeed one is forced to use proprietary software, so I'm not dogmatic about this, heck I even have a proprietary firmware for my wifi.

We should strive to free everything we can, in my view many have done that with other important matters for freedom, at high personal cost, so I don't wish to squander their efforts

Currently I'm thinking about many stuff related to the free software movement, how it relates to other important fights we have to reach a more just society and etc, so expect some big text from me in the future (near?), but the main point is: freedom is for human beings, not code, it is merely an instrument.



Excellent points about respecting and honoring the FOSS work by using it. I have contributed to a few projects financially but I can see engagement as a user being more in the intended spirit.

freedom is for human beings, not code, it is merely an instrument

Nicely put, and looking forward to what else you have to add on the topic!