Future-proof your skills with Linux, Python, vim & git as I share with you the most timeless and love-worthy tools in tech through my two great projects that work great together.

Using Factory Reset PC Stripped Down Windows 10 for Distraction-Free Productivity

Experience the power of Linux on your existing Windows 10 PC with a Factory Reset, stripping down the OS to a distraction-free environment. Get started quickly with the Linux version of Python, Jupyter Notebook, and the text editor vim & version control system git. Learn timeless skills and maximize your productivity with this unique approach.

Discover How I Achieved Distraction-Free Productivity with a Factory Reset PC and Stripped Down Windows 10

By Michael Levin

Tuesday, August 1, 2023

My Windows 10 laptop had gloriously crashed beyond easy recovery a few months back. This had me out of commission on Windows productively, because I found I could not be productive on Windows 11. There’s a few subtle reasons that conspire to prevent it from being a distraction-free environment, and I get jolted out of the meditation-like state I need to be in to be productive.

I used to be much worse on this front, requiring almost complete isolation to be productive in this way. In my early professional years before the demise of individual offices, I even had this opportunity and I did some of the best work of my career. But since open office environments have become all the rage, I learned to make do. And now in the remote working era, it’s gone full circle.

I find myself being able to uniquely focus, and so I’m making an attempt at achieving my greatest potential. Systems, systems, yet another system. Lots of fun with frameworks and obsolescence. No sirree, not here. Not again. I’ve made a study of the tech tools, and I think I finally got it right, and I’ve made my mission to help you take a similar path if you so choose. It’s Linux, Python, vim and git.

No, it’s not Linux Desktop. That’s for chumps. Why? Because it’s all about muscle memory. Where is the most valuable long-term muscle memory going to develop in regards to your tools, and help you best and help you longest? Desktops are moving targets, and since they are, you might as well be on those that make you most valuable professionally. And that’s Windows. To a lesser degree, Mac’s. Either is fine.

So then what about Linux? What am I even talking about? Well, it starts with the Linux version of Python, which you can access through your Web browser in a nice friendly “Notebook” environment called Jupyter. It’s taken the world by storm, and even VSCode builds Jupyter’s “IPython” engine, the magic behind Jupyter, into its own editor. So when you advocate VSCode over Jupyter, you’re advocating second-source derivative tech over the real thing.

In time, using the Linux version of Python on your PC or Mac will get you familiar enough with Linux to take the next step, which is to use the Linux Terminal for the text editor known as vim and the version control system known as git. Both of those tools have a much steeper learning curve than Python in the browser, which is why simply installing the Linux-powered Jupyter on your PC or Mac gets you started right away, and puts you on the right path.

Both the Mac and Windows platforms can be thought of as Host Operating Systems for Linux, a.k.a. Host OS’s. And the Linux subsystems you install are called Guest Operating Systems. The Guest OS’s are the ones that actually do the work, and the Host OS’s are the ones that provide the environment for the Guest OS’s to run in. It’s a great way to keep what you’re familiar with and productive on, while also getting the benefits of Linux.

This is where we side-step the whole Linux Desktop thing. You don’t need it. You don’t want it. It’s a distraction. It’s a time-sink. It’s a rabbit hole. What you want is to be able to use the Linux tools, and you want to be able to use them on the same hardware you’re already using. The amazing thing is that Linux Guest OSes are lightweight and allow you to develop so much timeless muscle memory for life. You can forever get better at tools that will never go away, and will always be useful. And your skills will always be in demand.

I know this takes awhile to wrap your mind around. It’s difficult to think about the Host OS and the Guest OS, and how they interact. And it’s especially difficult to imagine why Linux is so important and NOT a Desktop replacement. 99 out of 100 people reading this will unlikely get past this point, even those sold conceptually on the idea of future-proofing their skills. It’s just too much to take in. But for the 1 out of 100 that do, it’s life-changing.

So when way discuss Linux, Python, vim & git (LPvg), we’re mostly talking about something that code runs on (Linux), a programming language (Python), a text editor (vim) and a version control system (git). With only these four tools, you can do anything. You can write code, you can write documents, you can configure systems, you can configure networks, you can do anything. This firmly includes AI and all the most modern stuff, some of which is only available on Linux. And this doesn’t preclude the use of other tools. It’s just a minimal timeless safety net.

Timeless? Yes, timeless! Specifically the “API’s”, or application programming interfaces, that these tools provide. They are the same today as they were yesterday, and they will be the same tomorrow. That’s why forever-improving muscle memory is possible. And that’s why you can get better and better at tech over time. Can you imagine? Freedom from planned obsolescence? Never having to re-learn something after a version change or a new fad? It’s pretty much the opposite of what we’ve been taught to expect from tech.

So how do you get started? Well, I recommend using whatever hardware you’re using now, and installing the Linux subsystem on it. A big part of getting productive on Linux is stripping out as much of the consumer-oriented Host OS as possible so that over time, the Guest OS can take over. One day you will be just as comfortable with Linux on the Metal or Cloud as you are with Windows or Mac. And you will be able to use the same tools on all of them.

To this end (a distraction-free Host OS), I actually recommend doing a “Factory Reset” or “PC Reset” of your Windows system, turning off as much of the consumer-oriented stuff during the re-install. Decline all the attempts to get you to accept Windows 11. You turn off all the Tracking options during the install (toggle them all off). And you turn off all the “Suggested Apps” and and select “Maybe Later” on whenever asked, except for the Edge browser. You want your Host OS to have a good browser, and Edge is better than Internet Explorer 11, the default browser that comes with Windows 10.

There’s really 2 rounds to getting your Windows 10 system to be minimal after a PC Reset. The first is cosmetic, hiding all the garbage on the desktop, taskbar, start menu and system tray. It takes a bit of poking around in the Settings program to get it right, but it’s worth it. The second is to uninstall as much as possible through Settings / Apps & features. Get rid of Microsoft OneDrive ASAP or else it will begin syncing to the cloud. Here’s the list of what I install:

There’s a number of other things I would uninstall if I could, like Cortana, Microsoft Photos and the Xbox Game Bar. But they’re not uninstallable easily. Yes, you can edit the registry and remove them, but it’s not worth the trouble. Just hide them from the taskbar and start menu.

After doing the PC Reset, it astoundingly only takes one reboot to get all the latest service packs and updates installed. At the time I wrote this, you want to make sure you’re on Windows 10 version 21H2. You can check this by going to Settings / System / About or looking at the update history. This is important because the Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL) in all its Linux-graphics supporting glory is only available on Windows 10 version 21H2.