Lately I have been thinking about the psychology of a computer user who is switching from one operating system to another. It is very easy for someone, like myself, to justify many reasons for a windows users to start using Linux, mostly because I am very comfortable using Linux and I understand the advantages of making the switch. But the fact is I don’t represent a typical computer user, aside from the fact that I spend 8 hours a day in front of the computer I am also very proficient with all major operating systems and use them on a regular basis. So obviously I don’t understand how difficult it is for a typical computer user of one operating system to make a switch to another operating system and stick with it. I think in the middle of all the fan-boy war we sometimes fail to understand how difficult it might be for someone to make a switch.
So I decided to try it out myself.
The plan was to only use Windows (Vista) for 10 days. Now, windows is nothing new to me and I have been using windows on virtual machines at least once a week for certain applications. But I have not used ONLY windows even for one day for probably a year or so. I think it will be difficult to find a Linux user who have never used windows in their life. I had a windows partition that I have not booted into for about six months, so I decided to use that instead of installing from scratch.
Here is my experience:
- It wasn’t a surprise that it took so long to boot up and log in to windows (another few minutes to initialize all applications after login), but definitely seemed longer than I remember or thought. Almost like booting in to a virtual machine instead of a full install.
- The first thing I did was download all the updates and patches. This is not unique to windows but even for any popular Linux distribution, if you do not use it for six months there will be a large update waiting for you. In case of Ubuntu, after six months you will have a new release waiting for you. What was unique with this update was that certain updates depends on other updates to install first before those updates can be downloaded and installed, only after a reboot. So, I had to go through three cycles of reboot to install all the updates.
- I already had Spybot and AVG installed but each update required reboots, probably because they had new interfaces or scan engines. So far, five reboots in total. This is also how I spent the most part of my first day with windows. Before going to bed, I decided to run defrag so that I will find my windows zippy the next day.
- The next day when I sat in front of my computer, the fact that I have to use windows made me a little annoyed. Perhaps a bit biased reaction, but mostly because I was forcing myself to use it – not because of necessity. How does a regular windows user who switches to Linux feel about their experience? I remember when I first switched Linux I was actually very excited, maybe because I am a geek and I get excited about the prospect of trying out something new with my computer. I had the same feeling when I used a Mac OSX for the first time, it was new and exciting.
- The most interesting thing to me was that I didn’t actually miss any (non-terminal) applications from Linux. Since most of my activities are done online, Firefox was more than good enough. I did have to update and install all the Firefox plugins I needed. The slow response time was very noticeable, even with Firefox, for someone who is used to a Linux environment.
What I learned.
From my somewhat biased opinion, I think switching from one operating system to another is more difficult in the mind than it is in practice. Even though, I think there are clear benefits of switching to Linux compare to switching to windows, I think the important argument is how much benefit do you need to justify the switch and what is Linux community doing to outline these benefits?
In the end I could not wait to go back to my familiar Linux environment and not help but wonder if that is how the windows users, who tries Linux for the first time, feel?
This post is not about which OS is superior or a comparison of these two OS, but an attempt of trying to grasp the psychological aspect of someone who is trying to make a switch.
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