I might be wrong, but I get the impression that my Windows friends — which would be most of the people I see on a daily basis — think of Linux as this incredibly geeky system from another planet. I think most of them don’t understand why I use it and why I don’t just stay in the known world — which to them would be Windows. Paradoxically, however, they do get why some folks use Macs.
Quite simply, most of us use desktop Linux because it’s superior to all other brands, including Windows and OS X — even including Unix and the BSDs. This is a fact, not an opinion. There are reasons why Linux runs a majority of the world’s servers and powers most big enterprises, and in an example of where the trickle down theory actually works, those reasons trickle down (or up — depending on your viewpoint) to the desktop.
Of course, just sticking your nose in the air and claiming superiority isn’t enough to convince most people, so here’s my list of five reasons to use Linux:
- It’s free: Many people have trouble understanding why this tops my list. They get the part about how it costs nothing, but the finer points of software freedom seem to be incomprehensible to them. When I tell them that Linux users are free to look at and modify the code in any way they want, they shrug it off, evidently thinking that since they’re not code writing computer geeks, then this makes no difference.
Well, I’m not a coder either, and never will be. But this is still near the top of the list of the software freedoms that I cherish. Why? Because each and every day, people are modifying Linux for one reason or another, usually to meet their own needs, and sometimes those changes find their way upstream and get incorporated into mainstream Linux, improving everyone’s user experience.
To sum up the notion of software freedom in a nutshell: Free softwre such as Linux is yours to do with as you like, with no restrictions placed on you by any licensing agreement. The only thing you’re not free to do? Restrict the freedom of others.
- It’s easy to use: This statement will probably have those who’ve never tried Linux scratching their heads and going “huh?”. Not so for those who use Linux daily. These days, the use of most Linux distros and desktops is no more difficult than using Windows or OS X — even easier after you learn a few tricks to make the operating system do what you want in the way you want it done.
The days are long gone when you had to be a computer expert to sit behind the wheel and run Linux — even though computer knowledge comes in handy no matter what operating system you’re using.
- It’s stable and secure: Granted, Windows is much more stable than it once was, but stability is still an issue and Windows’ users still must occasionally reboot to correct a stability issue. And it’s true that if you work at it, you can throw Linux into a panic, but I can’t remember the last time that happened to me.
As for security, any Linux distribution, take your pick, is more secure out-of-the-box than either Windows or OS X, even without running antivirus software. It’s not completely free of security issues — no operating system is — but security holes in Linux are usually not as severe and get fixed quicker than in the name brands.
Plus, Linux users get most of their software pre-vetted through software repositories and don’t have to put their trust in some download site operated by who knows whom.
- It runs free and open source software (FOSS): Sure, these days you can install most free and open source software titles on Windows, just as some proprietary titles have been ported to Linux. But running FOSS on Windows is akin to building a castle in a neighborhood sitting close to a dump. Most days will be fine, until the sun comes out on a hot and humid summer day.
What’s so special about FOSS? Well, it’s free, easy to use, usually stable, and secure and versatile — the same things that make Linux special.
- It’s versatile: I couldn’t begin to make a list to illustrate the ways that Linux is versatile — at least not one that would be understandable to those who’re accustomed to using a system where there’s usually just one way of doing things — so I’ll stick with the most obvious: the desktop.
The Windows desktop is pretty much a one-size-fits-all proposition. Not true with Linux, where there are many desktops from which to choose. And these aren’t merely skins or themes, offering a different look but with exactly the same functionality.
Linux desktops are all completely different from one another, each offering its own user experience. Working with a old machine with a slow processor and not much memory? There’s are desktops for that. Do you have a modern computer with plenty of resources? There are desktops for that. Do you like a lot of whistles and bells and want a computer where absolutely everything can be configured to your liking? There are desktops for that as well. The list goes on.
This is just my list, and it’s nowhere near complete. Maybe you think I’ve left off something important — I probably have. What would you add to this list? Feel free to comment below.
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