My 70 year old mother has been using Linux on the desktop for the past 21 years

Published on 2022-01-07. Modified on 2022-01-08.

My mother turns 70, February this year, and she has been using Linux on the desktop for the past 21 years. My mother-in-law is 65, she has been using Linux on the desktop since 2015.

I originally advised my mother to migrate from Microsoft Windows on the desktop to Linux because before that I had to go to her apartment about once a year to make a clean install of Windows because Windows had suddenly broken and didn't work any longer, or because everything suddenly started to become really slow. The classical Windows problems.

This was the typical problems with Microsoft Windows back then and it was a pattern. In the companies where I did IT support, we always had a couple of Norton Ghost images from the latest Windows install lying around because everyone knew that in about 6-12 month, Windows would need a fresh install.

My mother is not a skilled programmer or anything, she's not even an average computer user and she definitely doesn't know what a terminal is. Rather, she's actually quite difficult to help sometimes because she makes many mistakes when she uses any kind of technology. Like having caps lock activated while typing her password, or pressing the wrong buttons, and pressing multiple buttons simultaneously by mistake, etc.

Still, when I ask her if she remembers back when she had Windows on the computer, she curses the thing and calls it "utter trash". Whenever she talks to someone in her building or on the street and they mention computer problems, she tells them to use Linux instead of Windows. And I am not exaggerating.

She uses her computer daily for banking, email, online shopping, browsing, printing, writing documents, etc.

My mother-in-law is even less tech-minded than my mother. She is 65 years old and she is the type that types very slow because she is afraid of making mistakes. She also started out with Windows when she bought her first laptop. Eventually I had to do support for her as well, the occasional re-install of Windows and removing of viruses. I decided to push Linux on her as well and have never had a single complaint in all these years. She also uses her computer both for banking, the casual browsing, emailing, and even for gaming too.

My mother have tried several Linux distributions over the years, where she started out with Ubuntu (I think it was Ubuntu), then turned to Linux Mint, and then eventually landing on Debian, which she has been a very happy user of for many years now.

My mother-in-law got Linux Mint installed and has only used that.

I have other family members and friends that also only run Linux on the desktop as well. I converted my wife to Linux about a year after she got her very first laptop, she also never looked back. She has been using Linux Mint, Ubuntu, Debian and eventually landed on Manjaro, which I believe has been her favorite Linux distribution since then.

Now, you might think that all of that is because they have me to help them, but that's not the case. I stopped doing computer support for them when they stopped using Windows. They do all their daily work by themselves using only Linux and the desktop experience that the distribution of choice provides!

In all my years of doing tech support, in all the various areas of work I have been doing, I have not seen a single case where it was not beneficial to migrate from Windows to Linux whether we're talking about servers or desktop. The only real problems I have seen have been a few cases where a particular company or user managed to get themselves interlocked so closely to Windows that they could not escape - due to some stupid software they had purchased or had had developed, that made them depend on Windows.

Gaming is another problem on Linux. It's not that it is not possible to game on Linux, but very few games are being made for Linux. And this is a major problem, because it is an evil circle. The big game developing companies don't want to support Linux because it has a very small market share, and NVIDIAs driver support for the GPU is not on par with their Windows version (NVIDIA is a company that truly deserves to be completely boycotted). And gamers wont play games on Linux because, well, there isn't too many native games.

And no, Proton and Wine is NOT the solution, they are a part of the problem. Proton and Wine are helping prolong the Microsoft monopoly on PC gaming! What we need is for some of the big game developing companies to release some of their biggest names on Linux only, with absolutely no support for Windows. This will help break the monopoly and make gamers want to migrate to Linux for PC gaming.

While it is possible to play a lot of Windows games on Linux using Wine and/or Proton I don't recommend it. Getting Windows games to run on Linux in the first place is "a miracle", it's amazing how well many games run and perform. However, you're really not supposed to run Windows games on Linux. Just like you're not supposed to run PlayStation games on Windows. Windows games and Windows applications are meant to be run on Windows, not on Linux.

Now, don't misunderstand what I am saying here. I am not talking about old and outdated hardware which we emulate and then run the "good old games" on (once that state has been reached). And I am not saying it is "wrong" in any kind of meaningful way. What I am talking about is that Wine and Proton are keeping the Microsoft monopoly going. Nobody will care about making games for Linux when every Linux user is simply using Wine or Proton to make the game work.

More and more people are migrating from Windows to Linux for very valid reasons such as better privacy, better security, open source, and to avoid all the crap that Microsoft is pulling with Windows 11. But the gaming industry is actually holding people back. I know many people, young as well as old, who wouldn't dream of using Windows where it not for the gaming aspect. Some use a multi-OS setup which 2 different hard drives, one for Windows and another for Linux and they then only use Windows for gaming, some still dual boot, but many just don't bother with Linux because they mainly game. It's not that they don't want to use Linux, it's just too much of a hassle to run both OS's when they mainly game.

In any case, if you're not a hardcore gamer, but simply use your desktop or laptop computer for normal work, you have absolutely nothing to loose from running Linux on your PC, rather you will gain a lot. Not only is it much less likely you will ever get a virus on your computer, but you will also enjoy better performance, much more control and multiple choices for many applications and desktop themes. All the free and open source software you will ever need is only a single command or click away from installing on your computer via the build in package manager, and you wont ever have to worry about licenses or having to manually download anything from anywhere online.

Still, it is to your advantage if you spend a little time doing some homework before you start migrating. Test things out on a virtual machine or some old hardware, if you have something lying around. Study and read up about packages, package managers, file extensions and file formats. Locate some of the different places where you can ask people for advice, many Linux users love to help newcomers to Linux. All of this will help ease the transition from one operating system to a completely different operating system.

When I jumped ship from Microsoft Windows to Linux and BSD back in the day, I bought a couple of books and did a little research before I fully started my adventure. I experimented and gathered information and then eventually migrated. This was necessary because so many things are different. I remember I only knew Windows related file extensions such as .exe, .msi and zip files with the .zip extension back then. The word "packages" was extremely confusing and unpacking a tar.gz file and compiling source code, which you did a lot back then (you don't need to do that anymore), made very little sense to me. Had I not done some homework prior to my adventure, I don't think I would have had too much success migrating.

Last, but not least, expect a little learning curve, it's not steep, but it's there. You are changing to a completely different operating system after all.

Oh, and by they way, if you have an Android smartphone, you're already running a Linux distribution :)