Apart from your phone, which likely goes wherever you go, your computer is your next most commonly used window into the internet. This means that a huge amount of information can be gathered about you from the way you use your computer. Everything from search results, to the apps you use, and the people you email can be collected if you use a Windows or Mac computer.

Both Windows and Mac have personalised marketing based on the usage data of the user. There is an option buried in the settings to opt out, but that’s just the marketing they show you. You can be sure that they are still creating detailed profiles about you from your data to use for other purposes. The fact is, the code for either operating system is closed source, which means that no one can independently review what is going on in the background. Considering these large tech companies profit greatly from collecting and selling, or otherwise using their users’ data, simply trusting in the options they provide is not enough to prevent them harvesting your data. But if Windows and Mac aren’t safe for your privacy, what other option do you have?

The Alternative Computer Operating System

A Linux Distribution (or Distro) is a free and open source operating system that allows for independent review of the source code to ensure no shady collection is going on in the background. There are thousands of variations of Linux, but they all mostly boil down to the same base code, taken in different directions to satisfy a variety of use-cases. Like the Custom ROMs that we use on our de-Googled phones, most Linux distros are community developed, which leaves no commercial reason to collect user data.

Common Linux distros are used like any other computer you’ve used in the past; if you’ve used Windows or Mac, you will be fine to navigate around the desktop and web browser in more or less the same way. Linux, however, gives you far more control over your computer than Windows or Mac, which can have dire consequences for your computer if you are not careful (i.e. Don’t run commands you find on the internet without knowing what they do).

Using Linux daily is usually not very different from using any other computer. If you do run into things not working though, you will need to rely on your web searching ability to find solutions. While this can be a pain at times, it is a great opportunity to expand your tech support skills, which your friends will love you for. Not every program on Windows or Mac has a Linux version unfortunately, which may mean searching for alternative programs that will do the same job. Microsoft Office for example, can be replaced very nicely with Libre Office. Again, a simple web search will offer solutions, but most desktop distros will come with alternative software preinstalled or easily accessible.

The simplest and easiest Linux Distro I have used so far is Pop!Os, it just works out of the box with nearly no fiddling. It’s focused on being highly compatible with hardware of all sorts, as well as being very user friendly. It has almost everything needed for regular computer use already installed, and a great little app store called the “Pop Shop” for easy access to a bunch of commonly used apps and programs. Be aware that not everything on there is open source or privacy respecting, but the fact that you aren’t on Windows or Mac will have a greater impact on your privacy than almost anything else.

If you’re interested, and up for a little learning, you can check out our article on how to install Linux on your computer. Otherwise, we will be selling Laptops preinstalled with Linux soon.

Categories: PC Smarts