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Why do I use Linux December 3, 2007

Posted by rm42 in Computers, Linux.
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I get asked from time to time why do I use Linux. Of course, people use Linux for many different reasons since people’s priorities vary so much. After thinking about it a little, I would say these are my personal reason for using Linux.

1.- The Open Source Trend. Of course, predicting the future is a very difficult thing to do. However, once in a while a grass roots trend appears that has the power to disrupt the status quo for the incumbents. I first heard of Linux in 1998. I was intrigued by this new fringe OS and decided to look a little into what it was all about. I was fascinated by the fact that it was being put together by volunteers from all corners of the world. All of this people had different motivations, but all had a common goal, an operating system that would be always open and free from the clutches of control of any corporation, regardless of its size. All this people want an operating system that provides a level playing field for everyone to build upon rather than give an advantage to the company that controls it. For this and many other reasons I realized that open source and Linux in particular would have such an appeal to the world of developers that it would succeed. Linux is like a snow ball that gathers momentum and energy as it advances. Linux is progressing and improving by leaps and bounds. The improvements from one version to the next of desktop distributions are nothing less than amazing. And, I don’t see anything stopping or slowing this down in the near future. I believe Linux will overtake Windows as the preferred operating system for 3rd party developers. Just think, why wouldn’t a third party applications developer like Adobe support an operating system that gives them a level playing field instead of an operating system that could soon bundle tools that compete with theirs and that have the advantage of hidden application interfaces and other hidden optimizations. So, I think that by learning Linux now, I am preparing for the future.

2.- Control. This is now a practical reason, one that affects me personally. With Linux I have complete control of my machine and my software. I know that every piece of software on my machine does what it is supposed to be doing, and only that. With closed source software I can’t tell what a piece of software is secretly doing on my machine. I don’t know if it is secretly collecting private information and sending it to someone that I do not want it to go to. Call me paranoid, but I feel safer in Linux. Also, I can share it with my friends with a clean conscience (it is lawful). And, since it is not controlled by a single company, I can switch to a different support provider if I want to.

3.- I find Linux much more robust, secure, and enjoyable than Windows. In Windows I have to have a Virus scanner, a Trojan scanner, an addware scanner, and it is still not secure enough. In Linux, I have a firewall and that is it. Linux comes with a music manager/player, Amarok, that beats hands down any music player I have seen in any operating system. Linux comes with hundreds of applications ready to go that are excellent in quality, from multimedia to word processing, from networking to games. That is right, games. I am not much of a gamer, but in Linux I have much better and interesting games than I ever did on Windows. Granted, in all these areas there are excellent third party Windows applications that are very good, and in many cases better than the ones in Linux, but not by much. And, as I said above, I think those third party applications will eventually find their way to Linux. On the other hand, Windows comes with Solitaire, Paint, …

4.- Price. Yes, I am a little tight with my money. I don’t like (can’t afford) to throw money away. Besides my recently acquired ThinkPad T61, I have a desktop machine that came loaded originally with Windows Millennium. I eventually did get a copy of XP and keep it around in a little partition just in case. But, its Linux partition has been upgraded at least 5 times, and I expect to upgrade it at least one more time to the next version of PCLinuxOS. My little machine performs amazingly well, under Linux. But, login into XP is torture, especially since invariably it requires several minutes of updates and maybe even one or two reboots before it lets me use it. There is no way I could ever run Vista on this machine. But, I don’t see why I would want to. So, the point is that Linux has enabled me to extend the useful life of this machine tremendously. And I expect it to do the same for my T61.

5.- Features. There are several great features available in Linux that are simply not available in Windows. Others are only available as add-ons with either limited functionality or after paying extra for them. For example, Linux is not restricted to one workspace*. I like to use between 4 and 6 desktops at a time, depending on if I am at work or at home. This allows me to have all the windows related to each task on their own desktop. For example, I may be processing my camera RAW images on one desktop, which means that I need one file manager and one or two image management applications running on that workspace. On another workspace, I may have a word processor open. On another one, I may be web browsing. On another, I may be typing this message. Etc. Going from one task to the other is simple, clean, and fast. In Windows, this would be a mess. There are other great features, but I will let you investigate them, such as being able to use the “fish” protocol in KDE’s file manager to securely access the files on a remote computer as if they were on my own computer. The ease of installing and removing thousands of third party applications with package managers like Synaptic. Being able to comfortably and unobtrusively use the computer with a non administrative account. The ability of using my desktop, applications, and data remotely while my wife uses her desktop, applications and data, simultaneously on the same computer is also precious. And so on.

So, I think those are my reasons. What do you think?

*Note: It was pointed out to me that there are some free utilities available for Windows that may give similar, albeit more limited and presently buggy, multi-desktop functionality as the one available for Linux. For example this one:

http://z-sys.org/vvdm.aspx

Comments»

1. Brian - December 4, 2007

For me there are a couple things. The package manager. If I ever do a fresh Linux install on a machine I need only open a package manager and select most all the programs/packages I need (as well as mark those I do not want for removal). There is little sweeter than telling your machine to install everything you want and walking away. This is such a pleasure compared to hunting down dozens of CDs and .exe files online.

Multiple desktops have also allowed me to be much more productive than I have ever been with a single workspace in Windows.

And generally the customization. If something is not the way I want it there is a way to change it, without using a hack, or some bloated program. When I sit down at one of my Linux Boxes it is just the way I want it.

2. Maciej - April 12, 2010

Thank you for the link to your website!

3. Dr.Vet.Cumpanasu Florin - April 19, 2010

We started our project on LINUX
The Romanian Group for Innovation in Veterinarian Medicine
We intend to initiate, develop and implement projects which imply:
Building a supportive environment for veterinarian students
-IT and veterinarian support for students that initiates projects
-awards and research scholarships
-employment Assistance or clinic practice assistance

Veterinarians support
-free publicity for veterinarian clinics
-bringing diversity in veterinarian field of activity

Animal Protection
-improving the balance between animal welfare and medical research (the 3Rs especially research refinement)
-media manipulation regarding Child Protection, Animal Protection and Medical Assistance

4. Terrance - May 9, 2010

A lot of your arguments are pretty much out the window with the release of Windows 7. Granted, you still need to use virus and adware scanners, but that’s only due to the fact that the vast majority of the world still uses Windows as its primary operating system. If you were to have a mass exodus over to Linux, chances are good that hackers would turn their attention to the operating system, and well, react accordingly.

Everything else, though, is debatably similar to Windows at this point. Why bother with multiple desktops (which translates to me as Alt-Tab on steroids), when you can have all those apps running on Windows and quickly and painlessly switch between them?

In the end, it comes down to user preference, and I have to admit: Windows 7 is far easier for me to use than any Linux distribution I ever used was. Though I will admit, it HAS been a few years…

rm42 - May 10, 2010

I don’t think so. Could you please specify which of my arguments you think are no longer valid? I use Windows 7 at work (along with Linux) and I still feel the same way about my personal use of Linux. While it is true that Windows 7 has improved in a lot of ways over XP, it is also true that Linux has continued to improve by leaps and bounds. I am currently running the 2010 version of PCLinuxOS and it is truly remarkable, the best OS I have ever used.

5. praveen Kumar - January 28, 2011

I have also same reasons for using linux :)
Nice post !!

6. tonybaldwin - June 8, 2011

For me, the number 1 reason I use GNU/Linux and Free Software is FREEDOM! and control (I control my computer, not Steve Jobs or Bill Gates, etc.)

(but the fact that it’s worlds more stable and secure helps, and, of course, you really can’t beat the price, either).

7. tonybaldwin - June 8, 2011

I use PCLinuxOS for about a year. It was cool. I switched to Debian, however, and it is, hand down, imho, the best. I’ve used RedHat, Fedora, Ubuntu, and a few others, but, at this point, I can’t imagine ever switching to anything other than Debian, except maybe just to play with Arch or something.

rm42 - June 8, 2011

Tony,

Thanks for stopping by. Debian is a great distro. However, for desktop users, I think PCLinuxOS offers several advantages. Foremost among them is how up to date it stays. Debian and its derivatives tend to fall behind on their packages version numbers. Also, PClinuxOS uses a BFS kernel which gives it a noticeable faster response. Finally, for newbies, it is unmatched in the “just works” area.

Now, if you are using it for a server, or if you really know what you are doing, it doesn’t really matter what distro you use. They are all Linux after all. ;)

8. mookiemu - July 14, 2011

I love Linux for the same reasons. I still maintain a Windows 7 partition because os certain pieces of software that must use for work. But unless I’m doing the work that specifically needs the Windows only software, I rarely boot into windows any more.
My biggest reason for using Linux is ‘Freedom’. I’m constantly building and tweaking my machines and I’ve already had issues when it comes to re installation. Once I had to buy a new Windows 7 license because I got a new motherboard and drive. Another time my main drive crashed on a Friday night and so I couldn’t deactivate my copy of Zbrush. I had a deadline for a project that I couldn’t work on because I needed customer service to deactivate my license. But there is no one to do this on weekends. These kinds of shenanigans that want to treat paying customers like criminals is what drives me crazy. The people who are using cracked software don’t have any of these issues! If I would hadn’t paid $700 for my copy of zbrush and had instead used a crack version of Zbrush, I wouldn’t have lost a weekend of work and I would have been able to install it on as many computers as I wanted to!

With Linux it’s a different story, I have ‘apt’ save out the list of everything that is installed on my computer and when I have to reinstall the OS or if I move to another machine, I just pipe the list into the shell and apt takes care of reinstalling the latest versions of all my packages.

I love how easy it is to do a system update of all my packages. sudo apt-get dist-upgrade and all my packages get updated. And installing from scratch in Linux takes about 15 minutes as compared to over an hour in Windows. That’s without installing drivers, dealing with activations, and hunting down serial numbers for all my software, and then, setting up my preferences.

I love that you can carry around your whole computer environment on a usb stick and I can use that to ssh to my workstation at home. This has saved me countless times.

I love that I can build a very cheap little dedicated computer for special occasions and use Linux to power it. For instance, once I built a DIY books scanner and built a little computer for practically nothing to perform the scanning. Once, I built a dedicated web mini-terminal about $100 using tiny core linux and chromium. Heck, I’m in the process of building a piece of conceptual art using a Gumstix running an ubuntu frugal install that powers a homemade led array!

Lastly, I recycled an old laptop that nobody wanted and turned it into a laptop for my 5 year old daughter using a custom built ubuntu installation. That thing now performs better than my 4-year old macbook!

Most of all, I love the power of the bash shell!

9. TuxSoft - December 8, 2011

Anyone who can’t see the benefit of multiple desktops has clearly not experienced them on Linux. Alt Tab is primitive, I still can’t believe that Microsoft has still not copied this. There are companies who provide products that make an effort to implement this, the best I have found so far is Dexpot.

As a software developer who creates applications for both Linux and Windows I find it a lot easier to work with Linux as our primary development platform. So much so that building the apps on windows is done through the CLI, deployment on the other hand is a different experience.

Commonly we get Linux users who are technically savy and simply do the install without the need for any assistance. We have also introduced Linux to users who have never used it before and have to offer OS support, we don’t mind doing this if we can help online, usually after a few months these users become mostly self supporting, but the multitude of variants complicate support of Linux.

With windows we hardly ever experience technically savvy users, but because of the limitations of windows, it actually makes it easier to support as you can point someone to a web link on how to get something done.

We also find that most of our Windows clients are happier if you can just make it work via some form of remote support, while conversely most of our Linux clients ask for information on how to do it themselves.

mookiemu - December 8, 2011

I agree with you on all points. I find myself feeling frustrated when I’m using windows because I’ve grown so accustomed to my linux multiple desktops.

As far as technically savvy users are concerned, the matter gets even worse when you deal with the typical mac user. I find that mac users know even less about their computers than windows users.

Funny, I have found the exact same thing as you when helping windows users. They are much happier when you remote into their machine to fix things. That’s the only reason I keep an installation of teamplayer on my computer. With mac users that I help, I can’t even do that. I usually have to go down and help them in person and many of them could care less about what happened. They just want me to fix it for them.

I’ve helped several friends make a switch to linux. (I find that I only there is a certain kind of person that I would even bother introducing linux too). But when I install linux for them, first thing I do is give them a quick basic CL lesson. As a result, helping them out has been a piece of cake because when they are having a problem, I just send them a couple of lines to enter into the terminal. This makes supporting them so easy. All they have to learn is how to cut and paste into the command line, some simple cli navigation, and how to redirect to a file that they can send me.

10. hobarrera - December 27, 2011

These are pretty good reasons to “not use windows”, but you give no actual reason on why you use linux instead of, for example, BSD. You basically say “windows sucks, windows is unstable, you can’t control stuff in windows, and you have to pay for windows, windows is closed source”. But you give no actual FAVOURABLE point to actually use linux instead of another FOSS OS.

I’m not trying to troll here; my point is: have you tried any other OSs?

rm42 - December 28, 2011

Frankly, I have not. But I do sympathize with the sentiments of the GPL license more than with the ideas of the BSDL, at least for the foundations parts of the OS. I feel somewhat cozy knowing that Microsoft can never take the Linux code and sell it back to me as a closed source OS. The same is not true for a BSDL OS. On the other hand, I don’t mind the BSDL, or even closed proprietary code, at higher levels of the OS. But, to each his own.

mookiemu - December 29, 2011

I sometimes play around with freebsd and pcbsd.

The centralized control of bsd makes for much cleaner code and fast rock solid performance. Freebsd is crazy fast. For certain people, BSD is a great choice.

The decentralized control of Linux, makes for more cutting edge software. There is also more freedom and variation. You can use Arch for complete customization and speed, or debian for superior stability. Tiny core for a kiosk, DSL for carrying around, and ubuntu, mint, or pclinuxos for ease of use. Bsd’d have this too, but linux has a much grander variation and choice of options.

Like rm42, I very much sympathize with the GPL license and what it means. The old lefty in me believes in the share and share alike, the copyleft, and the “I am because we are” ideas inherent in the GPL License. It irks me to no end that Apple freely builds on freebsd’s base and then locks everyone out when it can.

Imho, Linux isn’t better than Windows 7 and Windows 7 isn’t better than Linux. Same goes for BSD, and OSX. They are all modern OS’s and they all have their place. And let’s face it, Windows 7 is pretty secure these days. For me Linux is better, for some grandma out there OSX is better. For someone who needs to fit into a Windows corporate environment Windows is better and for those who need pure Unix compatibility, BSD is better.

As far as Linux vs bsd is concerned. Linux imho is very easy to get up and running. Especially Mint and PCLinoxOS. You can get those distributions up and running in no time without reading the manual with no prior linux experience. FreeBSD, though extremely well documented has a serious learning curve. If you don’t know what the wheel group is you can get into trouble and you can trash the whole file system if pull out a thumbdrive without umounting it. I know because it’s happened to me.

I just wanted to post the following article because even though it is talking about freebsd, it applies to linux as well and I strongly agree with it’s sentiment.

http://vtbsd.net/notwindows.html

TuxSoft - December 29, 2011

The reason is actually pretty simple IMO, as someone who has used HP-UX, BSD, SCO, since before Linux I can offer at least what I believe is the explanation.

Linux evolved at the same time as “mass internet” I mean sure most people outside of the US who were using Linux in the early days were sharing code via BBS’ but the point is global home email and internet access and Linux interest all came together then add Mosaic to the picture and you realise that BSD was just too early.

Linux had the advantage that you could contribute to this new baby, you may have already used or studied with Minix that might have added fuel to your desire to get involved. So what about BSD, well in essence it was already done, it was boring, well at least that was a perception.

And maybe another factor that helped Linux is that it was considered global. But I think the _real_ reason is the timing of mass global internet adoption.


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