The, or better, my main problem with Linux, a thought on cascading privacy and what I mean by that, other oses and how I should use shorter titles

First up, let me apologize for having posted anything in a while, but rebooting the company after lockdown has eaten up a lot of my time and I somehow did not want to spend the free time left sitting in front of a screen. There also have been some developments in my private life that occupied a bit of time. But enough of the excuses, let’s get into it

My main problem with Linux

Those who know me, also know how much I love working with Linux systems and there are so many reasons, why some linux distriputions are among the best operating systems I have ever seen. If you want to work on a computer that does exactly what you want, the way you want it done, at the time you choose, then a linux based operating system is your best chance to to make that dream happen. They don’t constantly reboot, flatten your internet traffic because they decided it is update time (and actually let you choose the updates you want), if something goes wrong there are detailed reports on it so you can fix it. All in all, that is how an os should work.

Also, that has nothing todo with the way it looks, there are so many different options for your desktop environment, Gnome, KDE, MATE, XFCE, Deepin, and many more, all different. One distribution recently extended its Gnome desktop by adding something called window tiling to it. That feature prevents windows from overlapping and arranges them side by side, automatically. Brilliant.

So why, given all these wonderful features and stability am I writing this post on a Mac Mini running Catalina?

The answer is simple, marked share and the diversity of the distributions. Why would I care for marked share you ask? I don’t, if all my neighbours run windows or mac it doesn’t really interest me. But developers are interested in marked share, it determines whether or not they are going to put in the effort (and money) to develop their application for a certain operating system.

Take a look at Adobe. Photoshop is the industry standard for image processing, period. If you work with a graphics designer there is a huge chance data will be exchanged in .psd files (Or in some vector graphic format, but let’s stick with the example). If you want to work with them, you need to be able to open that file, maybe make some changes, save it and return it. After that, the file should be 100% readable by the original photoshop. The only way to make sure that happens is: Run Adobe Photoshop.

There is no photoshop for Linux, I am also certain there won’t be one any time soon.

Why? After all about 2% (rounded) of all PCs in the world run linux, that is millions, what a marked right? Sadly, no. Many Linux users are hardcore opensource and won’t install anything that is closed, many don’t use their computer commercially and are happy with their free alternatives.

What is left is a couple hundred people spread accross hundreds of different distribution, separating the marked even further. Each needs to be tested, possibly the code needs to be adapted, even with new technologies like flatpak and snap. It is a nightmare and won’t make a profit for the company.

Alan Pope form Canonical (the company behind ubuntu) once said to make Linux succeed whe should put all our focus on ubuntu. He has a point, but not a very good one, the diversity is what makes is so brilliant.

It is the same with hardware, mainstream manufactures don’t care if the product works well with linux, chances are maybe a dozen of the will be in a linux computer, the rest will be used with windows. Why would they care.

As less and less software and hardware supports linux, less and less people move over, or even worse, some leave. Reducing the market share even further.

Will we see the end of the linux desktop? I don’t think so. Us Linux users are a small village of indomitable gauls still holding out against the invaders, wait no, that was something else….

But there is a core of users, developers, scientist, web designers and enthusiasts who won’t let the linux desktop die.

That is a good thing, because right now we need it more than ever. With freedom being on a global retreat and big tech companies installing tracking software on users devices without consent open source is the only way to make sure we can hold on to our privacy and free lifes.

But what about that software you said you needed, also you are on a mac dear Mr TheWK, so what is with all the hypocrisy?

Glad you asked, let me explaind

Cascaded privacy

What do I mean by that? First take a good look at the devices you are using. Most likely there is a smartphone and a PC of some sorts, be it a notebook, desktop or tablet. Most people have all their data spread about on all of them. And that is a very bad idea. Only one of them needs to be compromised to gain access to everything you stored there.

Depending on what I do with a device and where I take it I apply it to a different level of needed security and privacy that are cascaded.

Let me start with mobile devices. The one I always have on me is my smartphone. It is exposed to many different locations, Wifi Networks ( If I cant avoid it) and basically follows me around all day. As I am moving around with it and expose it to threats without being behind a proper firewall and ips it needs to be two things.

Number one privacy focused.

I would not want to be carrying something with me that tracks my location all day, listens in on my conversations and monitors my communication on it.

Number two expendable.

The danger of losing it is high, so there should not be anything crucial on there. Plus if someone gains access to it they won’t get much out of it.

My solution:

What I am doing there is using a relatively cheap, de-googled android phone with encryption of the main drive and sd, it is permanently in a vpn tunnel so all traffic is encrypted. But a device like that lacks a lot of support for commonly used apps, depending on google play services.

Leading two a different class of device, the tablet:

I only use it at home for casual browsing and running apps, maybe a spreadsheet and some remote connections. Therefor a high level of privacy is not a main concern here.

Since it is not leaving the flat it doesn’t need to expendable either.

What I am using here is an iPad Air with the keyboard case. It is a great device and iPad OS is most likely the best tablet operating system out there. On this device I can run pretty much any app I want to and since it does not have any access to anything important I do not need to have a headache when it comes to privacy. But it is turned off and stored in a drawer when not in use, so the microphones don’t have it so easy to listen to what I am saying.

As you can already see the level of privacy and security that is needed for a device very much depends on what you use it for.

So far we have:

A privacy focused device with little functionality and no access to data.

A functionality focused device with little privacy and no access to data.

That is not going to make the cut is it?

One device needs to have access all the data right? Well no, but most of it and that is where Linux comes in. I have a linux server running at home virtualising many different machines and one of the is my main computer.

It is a private machine, always at home, behind a firewall and since it is a kvm vm easy to backup. In other words very trustworthy and dependable. It runs on an Ubuntu LTS version so I have updates for many years to come. And of course, it is heavily customized.

This machine is part of the highest of cascades, private, secure, access to data. But it has two downsides.

A.) Not all programs I need for work run on it

B.) It is still connected to the internet, even behind a firewall exposing it to threads.

As far as part A goes, here comes the mac. It runs MS Office and the full Adobe creative suite. Also X-Code for App development on iOS devices. As far as privacy goes: Apple says they don’t want my data, but it is better to be safe than sorry, so it only has limited access to my network.

As for B: As much as I trust my linux systems having an internet connection is still a risk and there are some things that I simply can’t put at risk, stuff like financial and medical records or plans for world domination 😉

These things are stored on a PC that only saw the internet once while installing and never since. Is backed up to two encrypted harddrives, one stored off site at all times. This is the absolute highest cascade of privacy and security I have to offer, but it is not a convenient device.

I have also got a linux laptop, that is kind of inbetween all of them, I use it for travelling mostly, it is encrpyted and locked down as much as possible with little to no data on it and mostly used for connection to the other desktops at home. But for most people this is not a must.

It might seem like a complicated and way out of bound system, but it enables me to be out and about without having to worry, using all the software I need and not having to worry too much at any given time.

Other OSes

I promised you that one at the beginning, so here we go.

As I said Linux, as far as only the os is concerned it the best thing on this planet. If you want to see prove, make a quick web search about its marked share when it comes to servers…

But on the Desktop side of life there is only one major player and its overpriced sidekick, Windows and Mac OS.

As this is, at least I think, the first time I mentioned Windows, why don’t we start with it?

Windows is the king among desktop operating systems, no question. But as many kings it has its flaws and sits on top of system that has been held up for generations always hoping it won’t be the generation having to deal with a revolution. I think the reign of windows peaked somewhere around the XP or 7 era and since then there has been a slow decline.

Leading to the latest Version, Windows 10. The problems already start when trying to install it. If you are connected to the internet, it will force you to setup a microsoft account to proceed. There is absolutely no reason to do that. If you did not connect id to the internet while installing, it will prompt you to change to a microsoft account once you connect it the first time. (at the time of writing, you could skip that and it would not return).

You can’t set it up to send no telemetry to windows, and once you enter the start menu the sheer amount of bloatware that comes pre-installed explodes in your face so you have to take cover in order not to be blown of you chair.

But after you removed all of that and rebooted it about 20 times to actually install all available updates, cleaned the C drive of all the trash the updates left behind (can go up to a couple of gigabytes) and spent about a day installing it, your are left with an operating system that runs just about any program ever written, window management is so far beyond what anyone else is doing (except Pop_Os!) that it is hard to believe that Apple is serious about calling the mac a desktop operating system.

But there still is the stuff about remapping drive letters to removeable drives that where assigned to network drives that are just not available at the moment and not being able to use either. The moments you need to quickly fix something, boot you pc just to be greeted by a message stating the update will be done soon. The system spying on your ever move on it and showing it right to you in it timeline of recently used apps, websites and documents. Which, by the way, could easily be synced over all you devices using onedrive, as the system told you a million times, just one more time to be sure you really don’t want that…

As you can tell, I am not a fan. But I have to add, microsoft delivered the most thought out mobile operating system I ever used, Windows Phone 8. Never knew why it did not catch on, other than missing the start of something new, they did everything right there

But there still is MacOS right?

I have to say, it does some things better than windows, or at least more logical to me, for example network shares are mounted as folders, with proper names to the file system instead of using non-exclusive letters, limiting yourself to 26 (never really tried what happens after 26 drives on windows… weekend plan…). Applications come packaged and are sandboxed to some extent, it has a proper terminal. But as I said earlier, window management can only be a practical joke that has been running for way to long, the last two updates where 3.5 GB, EACH. That is 7GB of my way to overpriced ssd. At that rate it will be filled in 6 years with updates only. But at least I can choose when and if I want to update. Not sure what reason they had to alter the keyboard layout, what was the problem with using ctrl+c instead of cmd+c?? Also what’s with that top bar having app menus?

So not perfect either.

The conclusion

First up, too long titles lead to too long posts. Yeah, that is how I worked that in 😉

But also there is no perfect OS for everything right now, but combining them in a sensible fashion gets you the best of all worlds, privacy where needed, functionality where required and security all the way. But it costs you convince and money to get there.

Oh and so much of you spare time, be warned, at the end you might even start a blog….. All Rights Reserved. Theme by 404 THEME.