Why do I use Linux December 3, 2007Posted by rm42 in Computers, Linux.
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: