With great glee, I am now running Linux Ubuntu on all my computers as my operating system, forever replacing Windows. This very blog post is infused with Linux goodness. Smell it. Smell it. Yes, put your nose to the screen and sniff– smells like victory.

With this move here at Chaos Manor, there are no Microsoft products in my home. None. OK, OK, anyone who enjoys tech stuff is already tired of Linux fanboys, a species that can be just as creepy (but often not as well dressed) as Apple jihadis. Computers are a tool to get stuff done people, not an stage on which you become a tool. Deal with that. Sleeping on a sidewalk to buy something makes you a sad, lonely person. Most people who sleep on sidewalks don’t have a home, think about that. So, I do not want to be seen as some weird dude in a basement somewhere obsessing about something as pointless in the Big Scheme as a freaking computer operating system. It takes the lotion and initializes its USB ports…

But… but…

While I am sure the NSA has found a way into our Linux, they at least had to do the heavy lifting. Nobody bent over and went all Deliverance to help them defile our lives. But Microsoft appear to have:

• Microsoft collaborated closely with US intelligence services to allow users’ communications to be intercepted, including helping the National Security Agency to circumvent the company’s own encryption, according to top-secret documents obtained by the Guardian.

• Microsoft helped the NSA to circumvent its encryption to address concerns that the agency would be unable to intercept web chats on the new Outlook.com portal;

• The agency already had pre-encryption stage access to email on Outlook.com, including Hotmail;

• The company worked with the FBI this year to allow the NSA easier access via Prism to its cloud storage service SkyDrive, which now has more than 250 million users worldwide;

• Microsoft also worked with the FBI’s Data Intercept Unit to “understand” potential issues with a feature in Outlook.com that allows users to create email aliases;

• In July last year, nine months after Microsoft bought Skype, the NSA boasted that a new capability had tripled the amount of Skype video calls being collected through Prism;

After I wrote another piece about Microsoft-NSA collaboration on Firedoglake, I got an email from a “strategic communications” firm claiming to represent Microsoft. The email reminded me that “Microsoft offers an adamant and robust denial, writing that ‘There are significant inaccuracies in the interpretations of leaked government documents reported in the media last week,’ and referencing this Microsoft blog post. The communications person “Wondered if you’d consider adding Microsoft’s comments to your blog, rather than just giving one side of the story.” And so I just did.

That said, why are you still handing your money to Microsoft? Give Ubuntu a try. It is free, as is all the software you’ll need. Ubuntu has grown to the point where for most people and most hardware most times it just works. You can try it without messing up your Windows install any more than it already is. You can also buy prebuilt systems with Linux installed so you can just plug them in and compute. There are other varieties of Linux available, and no doubt many others will strongly suggest one over the other, but I have found that Ubuntu is the easiest for a beginner to install and provides the lowest learning curve from a Windows or Mac OS. If you can’t or prefer not to download the free software, you can usually find a Linux magazine at some book or computer store that includes a full installation disk for a few bucks.

Microsoft Big Brother thanks you for your support. Viva la Linux!


BONUS: But you have to believe the NSA has also hacked Linux, so what’s the point? It is indeed prudent to assume the NSA hacked Linux. However, since Linux is open source, meaning lots of people around the world way smarter than me can read the actual computer code behind it, there is some hope that at least some of the NSA hacks can be found and amended. And even if that is not possible, at least you are not paying Microsoft or Apple or whomever for the privilege of being spied upon.

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Peter Van Buren blew the whistle on State Department waste and mismanagement during Iraqi reconstruction in his first book, We Meant Well, and writes about current events at his blog. Van Buren’s next book, Ghosts of Tom Joad: A Story of the #99Percentwill be available April 2014 from Luminis Books.

Photo by Andy Melton, used under Creative Commons license