Moving from Linux, back to Windows 10 and Office. Ugg.

I’m defeated. I’m crawling back, with my tail between my legs.

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Linux has failed me. I REALLY wanted a non-Microsoft, non-Apple alternative to computing and Linux has come SO far! So, I’ve blogged several times about the transition one might make.

Before I go on, let me say – for MOST people, I do still think Linux is a totally viable option!

So what happened? After all this work, why give in? Well, it’s a combination of a few things.

The Setup:
For me, I have two primary computing environments:

  • Workstation – with has three 1920×1080 displays and one 3840×2160 (4K) display
  • Laptop

I mention the monitors for the workstation because that was a big problem. However, let me summarize the problems like this:

  • Support for multiple monitors, 4K monitors, and in my case, a DisplayLink/Plugable device for the 4K display (main workstations only)
  • Issues with LibreOffice (Calc, specifically)
  • Issues with Mozilla Thunderbird (for e-mail)

Let me explain each, and hopefully you’ll see why I gave up!

Multiple monitors:
Linux does support multiple monitors, but this setup was problematic. The main issue is that the vendor required a version of Ubuntu later than 14, but less than 15. I couldn’t manage to get exactly the right version of the kernel installed (I think 3.17). So, I used Ubuntu 15 – which was unsupported. What became of that? Well, I used regular Ubuntu and Ubuntu Mate, but with either there were several issues:

  • The login/greeter screen was on a different monitor upon every boot. Sometimes it was on all monitors. This wasn’t so much a problem, but it doesn’t make me feel like my computer is very stable and reliable when the login screen acts differently every time!
  • About 50% of the time, the 4K wouldn’t come on during bootup. I had to be very specific about how I started or restarted the computer to make the 4K monitor come on. Now again, I was using an “unsupported” configuration, but still – this was the ONLY way for me to get this working. I spent DOZENS of hours trying to get the “supported” configuration going.
  • When coming back from a lock screen, if the power turned off on the 4K monitor, it wouldn’t come back – which means all my open windows moved to the other windows and I had to reboot to recover.
  • Even when I installed the native, OEM video drivers, the 4K was still “slow” (sluggish). This is fixed in Windows by having the native OEM drivers so that the Plugable device will use the GPU of the video card. In Linux, this never worked quite right so there was always a 1/2 second delay – which does get agitating after a while.

After dealing with this for several weeks, I just had enough. So, I decided to bring my main workstation back to Windows 10.

How is Windows 10 in comparison? Well, it works perfectly in all scenarios – 100% of the time. Even better, when you install the OEM video drivers, the screen still has a slight delay, but not nearly as noticeable as under Linux.

LibreOffice Calc:
Of any “Office” type application, I use the Excel-type application the most. So, when I switched to LibreOffice and used Calc, the Excel equivalent – I was pleased to see that it supports .xls and .xlsx files. However, it doesn’t support these file types perfectly.

I have several spreadsheets which have complex conditional formatting, and graphs. In LibreOffice, several of these are slightly-off. I can “fix” them in Calc and save as an .xlsx, but how confident am I that these will still look and work right in Excel? Or worse, I would go to open a spreadsheet to add one thing – and the formatting was all messed up. If I add that value and click save, it’s going to save the “slightly off” version and mess-up/corrupt what-was a perfectly fine Excel spreadsheet.

Since there are several key things I track with spreadsheets (finances, health stuff, etc…) – this really started to become a major thorn in my paw.

Mozilla Thunderbird:
I was already coming to terms that I might go back to MS Office because of the issues with Calc, but when I couldn’t find equilibrium with Thunderbird, that was the final nail in the coffin. Using Thunderbird for my @outlook.com e-mail address was pretty problematic. Many days, it “forgets” the folders that it needs to sync, so I have to go re-point it. Also, it kept creating a: Drafts, Sent Items, and Deleted Items under the inbox. If you delete them, they just grow back.

Anyhow, there were two main, persistent problems. First, was that Thunderbird is not very good. It sometimes didn’t retrieve mail for hours. If you want to do several operations – like view and delete e-mails, Thunderbird wants to re-sync on every operation. So, if you view->deleted e-mails too quickly, it would hang/freeze the app. Also, if you clicked on Check Messages, that would hang the app for about :30 seconds.

The second issue is the one I’ve hinted at before – archived e-mails. I don’t believe in storing important messages on an IMAP server. This is primarily because of how my old @live.com mailbox got corrupted and Microsoft just ‘gave up’ on it – so I lost some mail. If I use Outlook, I’m forced to use a proprietary .pst file to store archived messages. If I use Thunderbird then I have to use their own proprietary folder format. So, while I’ve been on Thunderbird, I never did find a good way to parse through my old messages (which I did need to do a few times). I wrote about using the Linux command line for this, but even then, it’s not really ideal because you view those messages in a raw format.

In short, the app itself is flaky AND I couldn’t find a way to interact with my years of archived messages.

Bottom Line:
All of these issues have been spread out over the past several weeks. But I finally decided: I need to be productive on my computers again! So, although I really love Linux and prefer it for many things – I still can’t use it for my primary workstations for the reasons outlined above.

Despite these issues, I didn’t really have any other major issues. So, whenever Calc becomes more bullet-proof with .xlsx files, and if there was some reasonable e-mail client – I would switch my laptop back over. As for my main workstation, I will likely get a new video card at some point – and when I do, if it’s supported on Linux and if the DisplayLink stuff is more stable, I could switch back my main workstation.

For me these things were hindrances that bothered me every day – enough to the point where I decided to go crawling back to Windows 10 and Office. So, I’m defeated right now – but Linux has come so, so, so far – and it’s just a matter of time when it will be a complete, comparable replacement for MacOS and Windows 10. It’s already there for most computers – but the MS Office and e-mail client story is not great yet.

Posted in Apple Stuff, Computers and Internet, General, Infrastructure, Linux, Organization will set you free, Professional Development, Uncategorized, Windows

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