Windows as a service? Now, there’s an argument for Linux

pete_c

Guru
Microsoft wants to control your Windows 10 desktop. Now are you ready to try a Linux desktop?

By Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols

Computerworld | Apr 12, 2017 8:56 AM PT

Expert Windows writer Ed Bott recently pointed out that the “Windows as a Service” tagline for Windows 10 isn’t just a marketing line. He’s right.

Now, Microsoft is not ready to offer a true Windows-as-a-service offering where you’d be running your desktop from the cloud. Not yet, anyway. But if Microsoft were to buy Citrix, that would be another story.

Yes, you’ve heard that Citrix rumor forever and a day, but it looks as if Microsoft may finally do it. The combination always made sense, but with former Microsoft executive Kirill Tatarinov now in charge of Citrix as president and CEO, Microsoft has its man on the inside.

Additionally, Citrix has just started offering Xen Desktop Essentials. This latest Xen program enables you to manage Windows 10 remote desktops from Azure for $12 per user per month. Earlier, in 2016, Microsoft enabled some of its partners to offer enterprise editions of Windows 10 — Windows 10 Enterprise E3 and E5 — from the cloud.

I should also mention there’s a new version of Windows 10, dubbed “Cloud,” coming. Don’t be misled by the name. This appears to be a re-baked version of the failed Windows RT. It looks like it has the same goal: grabbing back market share from Chromebooks. Good luck with that, Microsoft.

In the meantime, even as true cloud-based Windows 10 desktops start rolling out, Bott pointed out that users already have far less control over “their” Windows 10 desktops. For example, if you’re running Windows 7 SP1, you haven’t had any major changes in six years. Now, that’s stability. Windows 10? The upgrade cycle is now about 18 months. More annoying still, while you can defer the upgrades, you can’t refuse them.

As for patches, you can’t refuse them either. It’s all or nothing. God help you if you have mission-critical applications or hardware that’s broken by a new patch collection. You can’t roll back the one bad patch to fix compatibility problems anymore.

If you’re a sysadmin, you’re already seeing this happening. It’s only going to get worse as Microsoft takes charge of “your” desktops.

What can you do? Well, you can keep your Windows 7 machines staggering on, but Microsoft has changed 7‘s patching to a roll-up model as well if you use Windows Server Update Services (WSUS).

Or you could switch to Macs. <Crickets> OK, so much for that idea. Besides, the notion of moving from Microsoft to Apple if in search of more control of your system is a bad joke.

So, if you really, really want to control your desktop moving forward, there’s only one choice: Linux.

I know, I know. I can hear your screaming from here. But think about it. Do you have another choice?

I’ve been happily using Linux desktops for decades. They work. In fact, they work well.

In particular, I recommend Linux Mint. It’s stable, it works like a fine-tuned watch, and it’s free. If you use the Cinnamon desktop, your users will think they’ve traveled back in time to the Windows XP desktop.

Applications are easy to set up. These days, you just download and install them from an app store.

Linux programs are also simple to use. Personally, I find that LibreOffice works just fine for office work. It’s latest version, 5.3.2, works better than ever with Microsoft Office’s OpenXML formats. And there’s always Google Docs.

What’s that? You can’t live without Microsoft Office? Then don’t. You can run Office 365 on Linux. For that matter, when a user pointed out that OneDrive ran like a dog on Linux, Microsoft fixed it. Yes, you read that right. Microsoft fixed a serious bug with how a Microsoft app ran on Linux.

Much as I like the Linux desktop, there are real problems with deploying it in business. For example, Mint, my personal favorite, doesn’t offer corporate support. You can get business support from other Linux distributors, such as Canonial (Ubuntu), SUSE and Red Hat, for their distributions.

It’s also not as easy to get Linux pre-installed on desktops. There are specialty Linux PC vendors, such as System76 and ZaReason. But of the major PC vendors, Dell is the only one that makes a point of selling ready-to-run Linux PCs. You can get Linux desktops and laptops from other top vendors, including HP and Lenovo, but they don’t make it easy.

All that said, if you really want your IT department to be in charge of your PCs and not Microsoft (or Apple, or Google with Chromebooks), it’s time to start seriously considering the Linux option. There really are no other viable alternatives.

Personally here have moved two home computers to Ubuntu 64 bit Linux (and VM's of XP, W7 and W10 (and Android).
 
You can also add a current Apple OS to the mix of VMs if you wanted to.
 
Still utilize Windows RDP (from Linux laptop) to Windows servers which are still on line here which are sitting next to the Linux servers.
 
Many of the new Windows 10 tablets come with Android.  With a bit of modification you can run Ubuntu tablet on these such that you can boot the tablet to W10, Android and Linux.
 

BobS0327

Active Member
It looks as though Microsoft is trying to effect a recurring monthly revenue (RMR) strategy by  moving the OS to the cloud with access to the OS via monthly subscriptions.
 
I currently only have one Windows 10 box and that is primarily used for Leviton/HAI PC Access software.  All other desktops and back end servers are various flavors of Linux.  
 
I have no problem using the cloud services etc. but I can't justify paying a monthly subscription for a Windows OS since IMHO, Linux is a more appealing alternative.  Unfortunately, as previously stated, I have PC Access, a Windows only based application which would put me in a difficult position if/when MS implements a OS subscription.  The question is, whether I want to pay a monthly subscription for one application or should I just phase out a really old system which requires the Windows app?
 

wuench

Senior Member
Yeah, I agree this is where things are going.   People are more than willing to give up security and performance for the ease of use of having someone else manage it.   Computers take a lot of work to maintain.   Most people are not capable of fixing their own issues, avoid the scams and viruses and malware.   And the low end support business models have never really taken off, giving people no good place to get computer issues fixed.   This has already occurred in business and no matter how many times an Amazon, Google, or Azure data center fails they seem to only push forward to the cloud.
 
I have been warming to the idea of trying to move people over to Apple for better stability/security but if MS offered Windows as a service I would serious consider it for all of my friends/relatives I have to support.   The Windows computing world is Microsoft's mess, they can keep it and support it, I am sick of wasting my time.
 
But for me, personally yeah I would avoid it at all costs.   I am ready to leave the MS ecosystem, turn in my Xbox for a PS4, Windows for Apple or Linux.  I already have a house where, when the internet goes down (thanks Charter), I can't watch a bluray or play games on my XBox, I can't play WoT or WoWS because it is in the cloud.  Alexa can't hear me.  And my TV and Phones don't work.   Thank God I keep a full beer fridge... :)
 

Waynedb

Active Member
 I hate cloud based crap, I live in a rural area with just barely good enough internet service. I don't lose my internet service often but it did go out for a few days recently, I also can't stand the direction Windows is going. I have no problems using Linux and I am typing this on a Linux computer right now.
 
  Linux has turned into a really nice OS since I first started playing around with SUSE around 2000 or so, I like that you can even make it look and feel like Windows or a Mac if you want. I like Mint but there are lots of distributions that are just as good.
 

pete_c

Guru
One of the items that I enjoy about Linux is that it never breaks and just keeps ticking. 
 
That is probably why it is chosen as the defacto OS for routers, firewalls, switches, et al. 
 
Much like BSD today (NAS and PFSense).
 
A few years back (well over 10 years ago) played (for work) on a Sun Solaris box.  It ran so long folks had forgotten about it and where it was.  It never broke.  Issue was that everything around it changed and it was time to connect it to a switch rather than a hub.  What an education it was to make the network function in pieces.
 
The Linux desktop GUI has evolved much over the years. 
 
As Waynedb mentions above you can create or install an almost duplicate windows or mac gui on your Linux desktop if that is what you are used to seeing.
 
I am waiting still here for that smart phone that runs in a pure Linux OS / GUI. 
 

BobS0327

Active Member
pete_c said:
One of the items that I enjoy about Linux is that it never breaks and just keeps ticking. 
 
That is probably why it is chosen as the defacto OS for routers, firewalls, switches, et al. 
 
Much like BSD today (NAS and PFSense).
 
A few years back (well over 10 years ago) played (for work) on a Sun Solaris box.  It ran so long folks had forgotten about it and where it was.  It never broke.  Issue was that everything around it changed and it was time to connect it to a switch rather than a hub.  What an education it was to make the network function in pieces.
 
The Linux desktop GUI has evolved much over the years. 
 
As Waynedb mentions above you can create or install an almost duplicate windows or mac gui on your Linux desktop if that is what you are used to seeing.
 
I am waiting still here for that smart phone that runs in a pure Linux OS / GUI. 
A few years back, I was a dedicated Windows user but I at least decided to try Linux since it was a free OS.  I was pleasantly surprised with the reliability of the OS both the desktop and back end server.  As Pete says, "It never breaks and keeps on ticking".  I have two desktops, two back end servers and five RPI3's all running a flavor of Linux without any issues. 
 
MS is now charging $7.00 per month per user for the Windows 10 sold to smaller businesses. The subscription option is primarily for MS Cloud Solutions Partners to manage and resell licensing for smaller businesses.  Note that the cost is now per user not per device.  This could be an expensive proposition for a business that has multiple users accessing the same device.  IMHO, this subscription RMR will eventually trickle down to the little guy like me.  If/when it does, well, MS can put it's RMR where the sun don't shine since I now have an reliable alternative to Windows 10. 
 

LarrylLix

Senior Member
I had a lot of problems on my RPi using NOOBS as an installer.
The Linux offshoots remind of me of back in the 80's days with the primitive OSes like MSDos v1,2,3 etc. and Windows 3.1
Linux still isn't u to snuff with what Windows had back in the eighties with universal drivers.
 
One of the main purpose for an OS is hardware independence and that seems to be lost in the confusion. Now we have a MS Surface with such high resolution that people can't read the fonts, anymore. Has MS looked after the prime directive of hardware independence? NO! They left it t every individual app to compensate with  their own fonts sizing.
 
After downloading new and fresh copies of NOOBS I have discovered they are not all created equally. The new Pixel? desktop operates just like Windows did with Win 7 and I am slowly getting converted to a Raspbian desktop.
 
Windows 10 has really convinced me to get away from the greedy MS on a more serious effort. After installing Win 10 on three computers and having it automatically upgrade drivers to the point of not functioning, I now have two of the three machine back on Win 7. It was either that or replace the MoBo or buy a new video card for video hardware that was about 5 years old and not supported anymore on Win 10. Luckily I had most of my important files backed up as the machines were totally not controllable with blank screens. IIRC
 
Then there is the security BS that Windows is trying to get users familiar with. It pretty bad when you have to email files to yourself on another computer on your same LAN inside your own house. Funny how Win XP can network with almost any OS but Win 10 and Win 7 can only find their own kind. OS segregation?, the new racism?
 
I really do hate the primitive feel of some Raspbian parts though. I had to write all my own drivers for OSes back in the 80s and I don't ever intend to learn 80XXX mish-mosh CPU assembler. YUK. Linux does take hardware drivers in the OS, doesn't it, or have they joined the apple, android and other crowds and that's too hard for an OS to handle?
 

Waynedb

Active Member
LarrylLix said:
 
Then there is the security BS that Windows is trying to get users familiar with. It pretty bad when you have to email files to yourself on another computer on your same LAN inside your own house. Funny how Win XP can network with almost any OS but Win 10 and Win 7 can only find their own kind. OS segregation?, the new racism?
Why would you have to email files on your own lan? I don't and won't use Windows 10 but with windows 7 I have no problems with networking with other computers or my NAS. I used to send files between XP and 7 when I still had computers running XP on my network. The only XP computer I still use runs my CNC machine and it is isolated from the others out in my workshop.
 
Must be something wrong with the setup.....I work with Server 2008,2012 and 2016 and W7 thru W10 with no issues migrating files, same with a bunch of SUSE linux or older boxes.
 

LarrylLix

Senior Member
Waynedb said:
Why would you have to email files on your own lan? I don't and won't use Windows 10 but with windows 7 I have no problems with networking with other computers or my NAS. I used to send files between XP and 7 when I still had computers running XP on my network. The only XP computer I still use runs my CNC machine and it is isolated from the others out in my workshop.
Sure, my point was I have no problems with Win XP, or Win 2K either. Win 7 presented some new security crap that takes certain setups to work-around. Win 10 just won't do it.

Win 10 does not allow connections from other computers that don't use a password. I am not going to log into every computer in my house a dozen times per day. It won't matter soon, anyway. Win 10 is slowly destroying the use on my last Win 10 PC and will likely be going back to win 7 or linux. Win 10 cannot be trusted to still work each time I use it.

Win 10 is getting too expensive to replace all my Office packages and other software that they ensured will not run.
 
So you're talking about RDP? That should be able to be modified in GP, otherwise the anniversary update seemed to have fixed this.
 
Other ways to skin the cat here, including client software (Teamviewer is a common one)
 

wuench

Senior Member
I have had issues too.  It won't work with older OS's/devices if you are using a Microsoft online login, the kind it forces you to use with cortana etc.  The older OS's won't understand those credentials, they only understand local login.  
 
I don't need MS to know when and who I am when I login to my own PC's anyway.  Ditto for the new Microsoft Authenticator app in the news today...  They just want to tie your login on your PC to who you are across all devices so they can track you and deliver ads (or worse).
 

LarrylLix

Senior Member
The best part, even earlier versions too, is the protected system files. Only viruses can get access to some system folders but the user can't get access to maintain the infected files.
 
Even better is the "are you sure you want to do X?". I am sure viruses would never be smart enough to simulate a keyboard response. Geesh. how stupid are these people writing this anti-malware crap?
 
...Are you sure you want to type that letter?, How about the next letter?
 

pete_c

Guru
Here tried to disable Cortana in last W10 build with my touchscreen test set up.   Here want the MS eye candy for my touchscreens.
 
The disabled Cortana worked for a bit then it re enabled itself but that said the build upgrade related to the use of Cortana (very Amazon Alexa like) for all of your Windows needs.
 
Remoted to a fellow automators Windows 10 PC yesterday and noticed that Chrome had been hijacked and this happened with AV / Anti-malware running.  It was the same sort of stuff (malware) except now your sharing stuff goes to the MS drive. 
 
Last desktop for wife use made it compact, created a share on the NAS for files and it works fine with good WAF these days.  It is just an image snapshot which can be replaced in some 10 minutes these days.
 
Relating to the sharing of files here started with an embedded Windows server 4 drive NAS box which worked OK then went over to using embedded Linux on NAS and today using BSD on last 8 drive NAS box (#3 on line).  I did shut off the Wintel embedded NAS a few years back and am a happy camper using embedded Linux / FreeNAS (on last box - NAS).  Works with everything right out of the box.  They really do not need eye candy to work.  The Linux / BSD NAS boxes are pure meat, no overhead and only serve for the purpose of sharing files and storage of media.  (Only a command line is visible if you connect a monitor to them).
 
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