Hello! This has been requested from me dozens of times, and finally, from years of experience, I have created this guide that will serve an insanely large portion of computer users, from the most novice to the intermediate and advanced users. Everyone will find something here, this is a guarantee for both Linux and Windows users. This is something I have put my heart in, easily much more than the smartphone guide that people know me for. This might be one of my most definitive works by far, I carry this much confidence.
A little briefer, I have used Windows since the W98 dialup days, and Linux for the past 5 years. I have a fair amount of experience with data compression, archival and preservation, besides the OPSEC work I do here.
Before I move forward, I will thank many people:
* Narsil (https://git.nixnet.services/Narsil)
* DigDeeper (https://digdeeper.club)
* Ameliorated Team (https://ameliorated.info/)
* simplewall by henrypp (https://www.henrypp.org/product/simplewall)
* WindowsSpyBlocker project (https://crazymax.dev/WindowsSpyBlocker/)
* Energized HOSTS project (https://github.com/EnergizedProtection/EnergizedHosts)
* many who I cannot name or are lost in time
* and my dumb brain for remembering everything I put out here
There are some prerequisites for using this guide:
* You must know how to move mouse and type on keyboard, and copy paste files
* Have a little patience and vigour to learn things
Now that the basic things are out of way, we can move forward to the guide, which consists of 13 sections.
# IMPARTING BASIC PHILOSOPHY
### F(L)OSS VS CLOSED SOURCE
F(L)OSS means Free (Libre) Open Source software, and it means that the software is freeware, AND the source code that are building blocks of software, are available openly and freely for modification, reverse engineering, compilation and studying purposes. The correct way to say it, as Richard Stallman says, is FLOSS and not FOSS.
There are nuances to various software licenses (Apache, GPLv2, GPLv3, LGPL, MIT et al) which is out of scope of basic philosophy and concerns developers and highly advanced users or business users.
Generally freeware software (free as in free beer) exists whose source code is not available. This is freeware software and not open source or libre.
Closed source software does not provide its source code, and may be free or paid. The developer closes source code from public usually for these reasons – inclusion of non-free software code components, or monetising software, making a free artificially restricted version to monetise, or inserting ads/spyware/malware of some form.
As is obvious, FLOSS is highly transparent towards community and is generally laborious work done for free for the society’s greater good. This is rare in the case of closed source software, which serves one of the forementioned purposes.
The soul and spirit of FLOSS is socialist/communist, in a similar way to piracy. The purpose of it is to serve the greater good. In comparison, the soul and spirit of closed source software, outside rare cases of benevolence, is highly corporate and fascistic, similar to a leech, which in many cases these days may suck money out of your wallets for subscriptions. It may also serve as a leech to suck your data for telemetry and spying purposes.
FLOSS will rarely cause telemetry issues, and if it does, there will always either be a developer announcement or community uproar about it.
Always try to pick FLOSS software wherever possible, unless absolutely necessary otherwise, depending on job or social circle circumstances.
### DEVELOPING EXPERIENCE AND VIGOUR
To do computing, there must be developed a little taste for computing. It is no different than a collector’s hobby, or an enthusiast for anything, be it pens, pencils, watches, cars, bikes, clothes, food and so on.
Computing is an art, and not just a way to get shit done and shutdown. You can not just do things but live with a computer. It has more capabilities and a bigger canvas than your itty bitty locked down smartphone or a crappy iPad. You may think that smartphone gets 95% of the job done, but there is no personal taste in convenience. This is the most non-human like part of convenience that people miss. There is a certain work ethic and class that computing has, when you sit on the desk and chair (not gaming chair).
There are simple ways to develop this vigour and proactiveness, like reading changelogs of software you want to download, install or update. This readies you in advance for knowing what the new software version carries with it, and forces you to learn more things naturally.
You should also, instead of blindly clicking the system update button, check what things are being updated. You will not die if you take a few minutes doing this practice every week. You may also benefit from it, at times.
There are examples of how this can save you, like the famous uTorrent 2.2.1 we all know, or Ubuntu’s file manager having to disable a functionality temporarily so that a vulnerability could be fixed, and so on. The most critical software to update is internet related, but everything else is not so critical. However, one of the biggest examples clearly would be the free upgrade offered to Windows 7 and 8 users, to Windows 10. Windows 10 was a nightmare of bugs and telemetry when it released, and there were no solutions. I primed my computer for the free upgrade, waited a couple days, and the forums and news all over basically taught me not to rush for upgrades. Let other people be guinea pig testers.
### IDENTIFY PRETEND EXPERTS AND DRAMA QUEENS ON INTERNET
There are a lot of pretend experts these days. Some do it in the name of security, some do it on YouTube, some do it for drumming up hype purposes. Everything has a pretend expert these days, but I will restrict myself to the computing domain.
In the case of security, there are many people that ignore privacy and anonymity implications, telemetry implications, and act apologetic for corporate closed source software. This is generally done for Western Big Tech, especialy Google, Apple, Microsoft and so on. Most of them are generally either hopeless people, employed on behalf of companies for marketing, or secretly have shareholder stakes with these public companies. RUN FROM THEM! Run as far as you can. These people never have your security interests as a priority.
There are a lot of technology YouTube channels that try to capitalise and bank off of prominent and big software, and “recommend” it to people by reading the marketing sheet or website pages. Usually, they lack substance or are going to make a 2147483647th video about a topic, rinse and repeat. Unless something is FLOSS, if something comes from the corporate lovers, take it with a bag of salt, not just a grain.
It is not just corporate lovers, though, that have cults. There are some projects that are FLOSS but have toxic or propagandistic cults behind them. One of them has some wonderful recent examples, related to FlorisBoard or Bromite (Chromium-based web browser). One of them is largely known for scammy crypto currency and creating a harmful network effect by giving sponsorships to tech YouTube channels.
# HARDWARE AND BASIC TIPS TO CONSIDER
* Do not fall for the special 50000 DPI mouse meme. 800-1000 DPI mouse works.
* For a desktop, get a $30-50 mechanical keyboard with replaceable keys. Get keyboard switches that make less sound (Cherry MX Brown or Kalih equivalent). You will save money forever instead of replacing membrane keyboards every year.
* Prefer brands for keyboard and mouse that can run without extra software. Zowie and Logitech are good brands. A lot of brands like Razer, SteelSeries and so on have spyware in the form of special software they “require” you to use for things like RGB lighting functionality.
* Get a $2 clip-on or USB strip lamp for your laptop, instead of finding a backlit keyboard laptop. Lasts years. And your laptop purchase choices will never be limited again.
* Get yourself USB 3.0 flash sticks made of metal instead of plastic.
* Wipe and clean your monitor screen, keyboard and mouse with alcohol every week.
* Take computer breaks every hour, and rotate your eyes and shoulders.
* DO NOT USE DARK MODE AT DAYTIME! Also, USE DARK MODE AFTER EVENING.
# DIFFERENCES BETWEEN WINDOWS AND LINUX, SIMPLIFIED
You will not believe this, but Linux and Windows are almost identical today, with absolutely no emphasis on “almost”. The gap is so small, it is almost non existent now. Currently I have a setup of software that is identical and cross platform on both Linux and Windows, and the only difference lies with MS Office 2007 and CrystalDiskInfo.
You can easily keep Windows in a virtual machine (VM) using VirtualBox on Linux, and use MS Office inside it. Works even with Windows XP, and can run any 16 bit nostalgic programs (although you can use DOSBox or any of its frontend GUIs for it on any OS).
There is a compatibility layer (not emulator) called WINE, which you can use to run almost any Windows program natively on Linux without issues. A further improvement of it exists in the form of Bottles, a software based on WINE, available as a sandboxed Flatpak package. This allows to run things properly that even Windows 10 would not run today via backward compatibility.
**Why would you need Windows?** If you want to play one of those 5-10% specific non-Steam or non-Epic store games or some anti-cheat games that are unavailable on Linux natively or via WINE/Proton, this is a reason to use Windows. Or if you want to use the proprietary VSCode for your job, it is a valid reason. There are a few software like video editors you can count on fingers, or the latest subscription based Photoshop.
For videos, frame height, frame width, total bitrate, video bitrate, bit depth. For photos, height, width and other details. For audio, bitrate. Windows has all this in its Explorer, but lacks tabs (Clover adds that) and has a joke of a file search (Everything Search fixes that).
Integrating, extracting and displaying nicely some essential metadata for multimedia files using Exiftool or Mediainfo or other methods is largely unrecognised outside Directory Opus, and Windows Explorer straight up provides that as columns in detail view so you can sort files based on them. I do not think anyone realises how powerful Windows Explorer can be for serious file management for data hoarders and preservationists, with Clover tabs or 2 side-by-side windows.
Edit: checked Dolphin, apparently it decides to not show any video, photo or image info for some reason in detail columns, even though preview has the info. It fell just a sliver short of making me its biggest shill.
Edit 2: Baloo indexing just does not happen for Dolphin, this is why I prefer GNOME over KDE. Atleast shit works when GNOME claims it does.