It's not you its me – 90 days with Pop!_OS
~ 90 days ago my Windows computer system crashed and burned. Microsoft pushed an update that corrupted the system and rendered it unrecoverable. I had back-ups so reinstalling the operating system and restoring the files would have been an adequate solution, albeit a pain-in-the-ass. I didn't go that route though. I was irate and didn't want to be a Microsoft Windows user anymore.
I have always been a Linux “tinkerer” and keep an extra Thinkpad with one distribution of Linux or another installed. The most recent was Pop!_OS from System76. I was so impressed by the system that I often thought, could this be a daily driver OS? I decided to answer that question when my Windows 10 system crashed and burned. Not just on a spare computer, or in a virtual machine, but on my main computer, as my everyday operating system. Will Linux work as my main computer operating system? Is 2021, finally the “Year of the Linux Desktop”?
Pop!_OS is a fantastic operating system that lives up to the hype-slogan “it just works”. Pop!_OS is sleek, polished, and aesthetically pleasing. It functions flawlessly on my Lenovo Thinkpad X1 Carbon (5th gen) and displays accurately on an external monitor. System76 actively develops the distribution and provides fantastic support to users and the community. The few problems I've had with configurations or installations have been easily solved by System76 support or documentation published by the community. Most importantly it has been stable. I have not had a single crash or unexpected system shut down and System76 has never forced the system to auto-install updates. The Pop!_OS user experience is good.
But, I must return to Windows.
The reason I am returning to Windows has nothing to do with Linux or System76 or Pop!_OS and everything to do with Microsoft, and its dominance in the business world. Pop!_OS would absolutely remain as my daily driver OS if I was completely self-contained, or only worked with groups who also used Linux as their main computer operating system. Unfortunately, I don't. The majority of my co-workers, colleagues, and students, use Windows which leaves me as the continuous odd-man-out. This creates a situation where I am in an endless act of translation converting documents and files between one format to another.
I work for a government that is completely run on Microsoft Windows, including my department-provided desktop workstation. Everything is based on Windows software and Office 365. The business world I interact with daily operates the same way. Word documents, Excel spreadsheets, and Powerpoint slide shows are the common language. Conducting any business away from my work desk requires a conversion process that takes time and effort.
O365 and Office cloud services are not the answer. At least not if speed and efficiency are a consideration. WINE and software translation applications are equally non-productive and inefficient.
This document translation process is even more onerous in the academic world where I also spend some time each week. I instructed two classes this semester and required students to regularly submit written assignments. I also have to share documents with students. The translation between .docx to .odt and .ppt to .odp is constant and time consuming. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, both of these classes were instructed through Zoom. The Zoom client for Linux is functional but not nearly as polished as the one run on Windows or macOS. I managed to successfully instruct every class session using the Linux application but it wasn't without some glitches and technical difficulties, particularly with screen-sharing.
Productivity! My decision to switch back to Windows is based on the value of my time. I am busy and place a high value on my time. I need things to work without extra steps. And I certainly can't expect others to do extra work because I choose to be different. I need to be in sync with those who I work with every day. Communication and productivity rule the day.
There is a saying that Microsoft doesn't make the Office Suite for Linux because there would be no reason to use Windows. I have found that to be mostly true. There is a macOS version available. I suspect that Microsoft never considered MacOS would be a legitimate competitor. Now they are but there is no going back. I suspect they know that modern Linux distributions are capable of competing with them for market share and will not make the same mistake. Hopefully, I'm wrong and 'Office for Linux' is released shortly.
I am not giving up completely on Pop. I enjoy it so much that I am keeping it installed on the Thinkpad and purchased a new Dell XPS 13 with Windows 10 Pro to be the daily work machine.
Wait, why the XPS and not another Thinkpad? That's a future story!