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Use Linux

Whenever I pontificate to non-technical people about digital freedom and boycotting proprietary systems, there's usually an elephant in the room: Windows (or Mac). This is the single most important proprietary system in an average person's life (as far as software goes, at least) and the most important to get rid of - but also the hardest.

First, let me shoot down some oft-echoed but ill-informed reasons not to use Linux:

Compatibility / program availability

Yes, Windows programs don't work on Linux out of the box. But!

Wine

"It's for smart people" or "It's all terminal commands"

Nope. There are user-friendly Linux distributions that come with a guided installer (similar to the installers you see in Windows programs) and a desktop environment similar to Windows, such as Ubuntu, Mint, Manjaro, and Trident. You can use Linux without ever opening a terminal. Some of my friends do!

With that out of the way: no, I'm not going to bullshit you, switching to Linux is extremely tricky for a non-technical user. That's why I'm here, not just to impress upon you the importance, but to *make it easier*.

I think the aspect that most desperately needs better guides is how to actually *install* Linux. Because while it's possible to buy a computer that comes with it installed (System76 computers, for example), I would be loathe to suggest that people should buy new computers when their current ones work; and installing it yourself is really easy to mess up and end up with a computer you can't boot and don't know how to fix (though I guarantee it is fixable). If you're ready to install Linux on your computer, *make a backup of everything before you start*.

The install process generally goes like this:

Rufus

And did you know you can install Linux without removing Windows? You can have them both on the same hard drive, although switching between them requires rebooting. It's called dual booting and it's really useful but unfortunately this is the real tricky part. Not every guided installer supports this, and even if it does, it won't be the default and you will lose your Windows installation if you select the wrong options.

Another obstacle with dual booting is that you might have to first shrink the Windows partition to make room for Linux. You can do this from within Windows, and there are decent guides on the internet, but again, you can royally mess this up and you should always make a backup first.

As I said before, learning to use a terminal/command-line is actually completely optional, but I do recommend it just because it's a more efficient way to use a computer. The website for Ubuntu (a beginner-friendly Linux distribution) has a good tutorial on how to use the terminal. The Rute User's Tutorial and Exposition is another guide with a huge volume of good information, but I think his explanations are overly technical. Still, it's an excellent resource.

Ubuntu terminal tutorial

My short appendix to the Ubuntu tutorial

Rute User's Tutorial and Exposition

The last thing I'm going to do to make it easier for people to switch to Linux is to offer free support. I can be by email or matrix and would love to help introduce someone to Linux. There are also lots of forums and mailing lists for getting help, and a valuable (but harsh) read on how to ask questions effectively:

How To Ask Questions The Smart Way

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