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Linux Pilgrimage

I know I've been making a few blog posts lately, I've just got some bug in me. Maybe due to starting to shift away from typical social media, more onto self-hosted stuff like my own blog and Mastodon. Which feels like the healthiest way to post content on the Internet at the moment. Anyway..

Linux Time (again)

As I've posted about before, I've been hopping on and off of Linux on my main PC. I've had some issues with Linux on the desktop, in that it can't run certain games (like VR) and on my laptop it's had HDMI over USB-C issues. But I've worked around those issues, so now I can use Linux on both machines.

Telemetry - Or Commercial Spyware?

One main reason I'm back into Linux this time is telemetry! I've seen a few eye-opening YouTube videos of what Windows does when you open up Wireshark and monitor network connections. Data being sent to various different servers, some not owned by Microsoft.
For example:

Kinda scary.
It's my new belief that makers of operating systems ought to be more transparent about the telemetry that gets sent. There's definitely the possibility to collect data that you wouldn't want to be sent to the Internet. Microsoft has complete control over the OS and could collect keystrokes, screenshots of the screen. One thing I recall that is being collected is the frequency of how often you use each application. I'm not sure I really want Microsoft to know how much I'm using my VPN or collecting data about what games I play. It's like someone looking over your shoulder when you're using your PC.
It should be a policy that OS makers provide explicit details on what data is being collected (in an easy to read way) and where it is being sent to (server names etc).
I have a Firefox plugin called "Terms of Service, Didn't Read" which gives me a popup on new websites saying how respectful each sites policies are in a simple way. Like how for example, YouTube says "This service can view your browsing history". Hmm scary eh! Operating systems should have a similar thing. Maybe more than just data collection but other user privacy policies as well.

Trusted Platform

Another reason I'm trying to invest in Linux is just the direction that Microsoft is heaing in, with TPM chips and hadware requirements. Smartphones and tablets already have implemented tough security such that you can't run certain untrusted programs. And MacOS now has super strict security policies on programs downloaded from the net (reuqires signing from Apple developer account). Windows could do a similar thing. Which could make sites like itch.io (indie game hosting) a lot less useful. Many executable files just wouldn't run any more, so if your mate Bob comes up with a cool little game, they can't easily share it with you unless they sign up as a Windows Developer, which may incur fees and development bottlenecks.
Linux though, will just run any binary executable, that's fine no worries. No one is planning on adding restrictions, because quite a lot of open source developers would push back against that idea. You just have to be careful with programs that require root access (such as driver installers).

I found this video:

Where he talks about TPMs and the Bitlocker security keys being stored on Microsoft's end, but even if you request to keep them yourself, do they even delete them? It's all about trust moving away from the user and making Microsoft and Apple responsible for the security of each user's computer, however they deem suitable, perhaps if it benefits them. With government backdoors no doubt.

Going forward

I used to use Linux just because it was fun, the terminal was so powerful and it's a free alternative to Windows. Fun. But then Windows Subsystem for Linux came out which brought me back to Windows again for a while. Now, I'm thinking more about what's quietly going on behind the scenes, what MS and Apple are doing to collect my data. And it's dragging me back to Linux again. So I'm running Ubuntu on my home desktop PC and my ASUS Zenbook (2018) laptop (dual boot). Plan is, for the Windows-only games I fire up the laptop with eGPU attached to run those. Have two PCs anyway, one which gets main duty, the other my secondary (HTPC) computer. If you want me back Microsoft, improve your privacy policies and be more transparent! To start with. But it feels like the more I use Linux, the more I want to stick with it for a longer time again. It's becoming a more natural fit.
On a related note, I'm now using Nextcloud and Syncthing as my main cloud storage solutions. Owning my data. I might post about that later.

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