Linux in lieu of Windows 10

I dub thee “data siphon”.

So Windows 10 has arrived with all the expected ballyhoo of a major Microsoft release. In many ways Windows 10 is honestly the best operating system that Microsoft has released in a dog’s age. It’s slick, performs well, is vastly more intuitive than Windows 8 and also includes a digital personal assistant.

If you read my prior preview deep dives, you may recall my unease about how much information Microsoft requires in order for Cortana to function. The further I looked into the amount of data collection going on, the less I liked what I found.

There are guides out there on how to disable all the snooping features, but it turns out that may not make much of a difference in several instances. It turns out much of that communication isn’t even done over secure channels.

There are a slew of DNS entries you can block at your router which will prevent the phone-home:

vortex.data.microsoft.com
vortex-win.data.microsoft.com
telecommand.telemetry.microsoft.com
telecommand.telemetry.microsoft.com.nsatc.net
oca.telemetry.microsoft.com
oca.telemetry.microsoft.com.nsatc.net
sqm.telemetry.microsoft.com
sqm.telemetry.microsoft.com.nsatc.net
watson.telemetry.microsoft.com
watson.telemetry.microsoft.com.nsatc.net
redir.metaservices.microsoft.com
choice.microsoft.com
choice.microsoft.com.nsatc.net
df.telemetry.microsoft.com
reports.wes.df.telemetry.microsoft.com
wes.df.telemetry.microsoft.com
services.wes.df.telemetry.microsoft.com
sqm.df.telemetry.microsoft.com
telemetry.microsoft.com
watson.ppe.telemetry.microsoft.com
telemetry.appex.bing.net
telemetry.urs.microsoft.com
telemetry.appex.bing.net:443
settings-sandbox.data.microsoft.com
vortex-sandbox.data.microsoft.com
survey.watson.microsoft.com
watson.live.com
watson.microsoft.com
statsfe2.ws.microsoft.com
corpext.msitadfs.glbdns2.microsoft.com
compatexchange.cloudapp.net
cs1.wpc.v0cdn.net
a-0001.a-msedge.net
statsfe2.update.microsoft.com.akadns.net
sls.update.microsoft.com.akadns.net
fe2.update.microsoft.com.akadns.net
diagnostics.support.microsoft.com
corp.sts.microsoft.com
statsfe1.ws.microsoft.com
pre.footprintpredict.com
i1.services.social.microsoft.com
i1.services.social.microsoft.com.nsatc.net
feedback.windows.com
feedback.microsoft-hohm.com
feedback.search.microsoft.com
rad.msn.com
preview.msn.com
ad.doubleclick.net
ads.msn.com
ads1.msads.net
ads1.msn.com
a.ads1.msn.com
a.ads2.msn.com
adnexus.net
adnxs.com
aidps.atdmt.com
apps.skype.com
az361816.vo.msecnd.net
az512334.vo.msecnd.net
a.rad.msn.com
a.ads2.msads.net
ac3.msn.com
aka-cdn-ns.adtech.de
b.rad.msn.com
b.ads2.msads.net
b.ads1.msn.com
bs.serving-sys.com
c.msn.com
cdn.atdmt.com
cds26.ams9.msecn.net
c.atdmt.com
db3aqu.atdmt.com
ec.atdmt.com
flex.msn.com
g.msn.com
h2.msn.com
h1.msn.com
live.rads.msn.com
msntest.serving-sys.com
m.adnxs.com
m.hotmail.com
preview.msn.com
pricelist.skype.com
rad.msn.com
rad.live.com
secure.flashtalking.com
static.2mdn.net
s.gateway.messenger.live.com
secure.adnxs.com
sO.2mdn.net
ui.skype.com
www.msftncsi.com
msftncsi.com
view.atdmt.com

… but should you need to disable traffic to destinations in order to use your OS without being subject to snooping of this magnitude? I’ve landed firmly in the “no” column on this one.

I’ve always been a Linux dabbler – I have generally had at least one system running some distro or another at any given time; I was quite a “distro-hopper”. I’ve just completed my first week of dedicated Linux-only for my primary desktop system. So, how has it been going? Let’s take a look.

Which Linux Distro?

I’ll be honest, as a Linux distro-hopper I was torn on what distribution to use, but I’m a sucker for a good Debian-based distro. So I first decided to use Linux Mint 17.2, but ultimately landed on Ubuntu MATE 15.04. I went with MATE because I prefer it to the Unity desktop experience and apart from some issues with my AMD video card (blank screen on boot, resolved relatively easily, thankfully), it’s been a pretty smooth transition.

I installed some basic applications, WINE to enable me to use a few Windows only applications, and Steam to allow me to play a few of the games that I enjoy. Honestly the bulk of my Steam library is not available on Linux, but about 25% of them are available on Linux, including Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor, which is my current addiction.

Apart from all that, although I’m relatively comfortable with Linux as a whole, the transition has been markedly… unremarkable.

Am I going to stay with Ubuntu MATE? I haven’t found anything that hasn’t worked the way I want, so I’m pretty happy for the time being. I’ll continue to ride the Ubuntu train for a while and make some further reassessments along the way.

At the very least I don’t have to worry about a deluge of information leaving my computer in a surreptitious manner, though I’m still watching my network traffic to be sure. After all, just because you’re paranoid…

 

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