How Linux Helped Me Become an Empowered Computer User

If you were to ask any of my friends, they could readily attest to my profound passion for Linux. That said, it might surprise you to know that hardly two years ago, I barely knew what Linux was, let alone had any earnest interest in switching to it from Windows.

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Although a shift as dramatic as this may seem astonishing when considered in hindsight, analyzing my path from one push or influence to the next paints a more telling picture. It is with this approach that I want to share my story of how I came to not only use, but indeed champion, the Linux desktop.

My Security Awakening

Before embarking on my journey two years ago, I was just an ordinary Windows user. While I was basically competent and tried to keep abreast of mainstream tech news, I had an unremarkable knowledge of computers.

My attitude quickly began to change in light of the reporting on the intelligence programs of the National Security Agency in the summer of 2013. The breadth of the online monitoring Edward Snowden revealed was unsettling, but it also underscored just how little most of us do — or even know how to do — to safeguard our own privacy.

Whereas before I previously gave no particular consideration to computers or their role in my personal affairs, I came to realize the critical importance of taking control of one’s digital life, and of the devices that power it.

The logical next step was to determine exactly how to go about it. Though my goal seemed logical, achieving it would not be simple. Over the next few months I devoted my free time to scouring the Internet for guides on deploying privacy protections, encryption, and any other techniques that could protect me.

Experts will tell you that if you’re trying to evade intelligence agencies, you should give up. Yet those same experts will tell you that your only recourse for resisting even a fraction of state surveillance — and a decent proportion of monitoring by lesser agencies more likely to target ordinary people — is to use open source software. Linux, I soon found, was chief among those software options.

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