Digital Migration: After over 20 years with Windows, I'm moving to Ubuntu

Written by Josh Twin on . Posted in Tech

After over 20 years of using Windows, I have decided to ditch Windows 8 and try out Ubuntu as my main OS.

On 30th September 2015, Kampala was host to two international ICT conferences. The International ICT BPO Conference took place at the Kampala Serena Hotel and attracted a wide variety of participants, ranging from students studying IT at the various Ugandan universities to visitors from faraway lands. Several delegates flew in that morning from Nairobi after the close of the Indo-Africa Expo the previous day. I was on the team of 15

Ugandans who attended the conference and exhibited at the expo, with support from the ITC NTF III project, and we flew back Tuesday night so that we could attend the conferences.

Meanwhile at the shores of Lake Victoria was the Innovation Africa Summit at the Speke Resort Munyonyo which I also attended. The IA2015 Summit was well attended by high level officials from over 40 countries, speaking more than 4 languages. At some point we had a panel of 4 speaking 3 languages, so we actually got to use the headsets.

Microsoft was one of the partners of the Summit, and had a booth where they were showcasing their efforts towards ICT in Education. I arrived quite early on the 2nd day and as I strolled around I ended up at the Microsoft booth, and the gentleman in the booth at that time welcomed me and invited me to take a look around, handed me an info pack and we got into a conversation:

Mr Microsoft: What do you think about this software that we’re rolling out for use in institutions?

Me: Since its Microsoft I guess it’s gonna be great, and it will serve the students and institutions well.

Mr Microsoft: *After a brief hesitation, probably trying to decide whether it was a sarcastic remark or a sincere complement* Correct answer! *laughs heartily and gives me a high five*

Me: BTW I’m not just saying this to be polite since I’m in your booth, I actually believe that with your history you will put out a great product, just like you’ve done with your other products.

Mr Microsoft: Thank you! You know we do our best, we’re not perfect but we learn from our mistakes and improve. Because we’re often trailblazers, we have to make some mistakes ourselves along the way but we quickly learn and come back stronger. Take Windows Vista for example, we learnt the mistakes from that and Windows 7 was a resounding success… *blah blah*

I agreed with what he was saying, indeed there have been some Windows versions that suck and some that have been great. For instance Windows 3.1 (ok I just mentioned that one because that’s where my journey started!). Windows 7 was such a great OS that I refused to upgrade until I forcefully got onto Windows 8 when I bought a new laptop and found that all PCs had Windows 8.

It was fine initially, I couldn’t decide whether I liked it or not, but apart from the dramatic touch screen like menu, it seemed to be Windows 7 in a new dress / suit. No major issues. Not even minor ones actually, it just worked like it should. This is one of the reasons I had expressed my confidence in Microsoft.

Then several few months down the road, my computer started slowing down, and in several instances it ground to a halt, I couldn’t do anything. The thought that came to my mind was how much (or how little, for that matter) I’d spent on the PC. I kept telling myself that next time I’m buying a laptop, I shouldn’t use the strategy of walking into one of my favourite computer shops on Kampala Road and asking “what’s the cheapest laptop you’ve got here? Is it a Toshiba? Or Dell? OrHP? Great. Can you top up the RAM to 4GB? Great. Where do I pay?”.

Yes I always negotiate for a RAM upgrade because for some reason manufacturers still ship computers with 2GB RAM. I mean, seriously??!!!

Anyway, back to the Windows situation. It turned out my system was slowing down because something which I’m yet to identify was sucking up all my resources randomly. I say randomly because I’ve not yet been able to identify any pattern or triggers. A process called “Service Host” keeps using up more and more RAM until it has used up all of it. Then when I disconnect internet, It slowly gets back to normal. Until I connect again. Then I try rebooting. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. Sadly, this has happened before in the many years I’ve used Windows, situations which require reinstalling as the solution. Infact at campus we used to memorize product keys because the frequent re-installations of Windows XP!

I then remembered that I had recently made several tweets that poked fun at the ruling party and I quickly concluded that the government had successfully installed spyware and was funneling my data to their servers in Mbuya or Bombo or wherever it is that they have those Citizen Spyware things set up.

Then I googled and realized it was a more widespread problem, but solutions weren’t nearly as plentiful as the complaints and user reports. I have since talked to a few more people locally who are being affected by the same issue.

Then out of the blue, it hit me: Linux. Yes I just said Linux after telling a Microsoft rep that they rock!

I first used Linux dressed as Ubuntu a few years ago when I was in programming class. Everyone said “you need Linux”. I’d managed to avoid it all my computing life but this time round I bowed to pressure, and set up a dual boot so that I could fit in when in class, then get back to Windows when in real life. I’d actually shut down Linux when leaving school and boot Windows!

Then I let go of the laptop some time ago. You see, one of the advantages of buying the cheapest laptop is that you can quickly sell it on OLX or Trade Links Africa and get good cash to buy the latest version of the cheapest laptops. This particular one was sold within 1 hour of posting on my Facebook page!

After careful consideration, consultation and preparation (read: thinking about it for a few minutes), I have decided I’m going to switch to Ubuntu this weekend.

I’m going to write about the “migration” process so that if any of the people I advised to buy a Windows PC want to follow in my footsteps they have the details at their fingertips. For the start I’m going to set up a dual boot so that I can keep my options open, you know what they say about the color of grass on the other side of the fence! But once I’ve confirmed that all the programs I need can run, I’ll put Windows 8 on hold.

In case you’re wondering why I shouldn’t upgrade to Windows 10, let me take this opportunity to inform you that I considered that! I talked to a few people who had taken the plunge but the general impression was “Give it a little while, maybe the next update will be better”. Talk of Wi-Fi connectivity issues, requiring frequent restarts etc were enough to convince me to leave it alone for a while.

This isn’t the first saga I’ve had with Windows, I’ve used windows since Windows 3.1, and like I mentioned earlier, I have at some point memorized product keys because we had to re-install regularly. Yes regularly. So this is just the last straw really.

My next post will be about the Linux installation which I’m going to embark on this weekend.

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