If the intention of this series is to learn Linux, you may be wondering why I inserted this session close to the beginning. I think this is a valid question for anyone. With the choice of Windows and MacOS as being the two most widely used and popular operating systems, why would anyone use Linux. I can name a few reasons that are well known and a few other reasons as personal opinions that back up those well known reasons.
- It’s free
Think about that for a moment. The Linux operating system is completely free. There aren’t many things these days that you can get for free, much less an operating system. In the world of Microsoft you have no choice but to buy a license to use Windows while dishing out a large sum of money. When you mention Apple and the MacOS operating system it is so closed that the only way you can use it is by buying their expensive hardware. But if you choose to use the Linux operating system there is no license that you are required to purchase, no specialized computing hardware needed to install and use it.
However, I will state that there are some entities that distribute their version of Linux that do require a monetary contribution. Red Hat Enterprise Linux is one of those entities in which, in order to use it, you must pay for a subscription and in that purchase agreement you receive updates and a level of support. But you can sign up for Red Hat Developer Subscription that entitles you to a certain number of machines you can install and freely use.
- It’s open source and free to change
As mentioned in my previous discussion from session 1, the Linux kernel is completely open. With the distribution of the many version of Linux, if you wanted to branch off, you can easily create and customize your own version of the Linux operating system. Some of those examples are: Linux Mint, Kubuntu, and Manjaro.
- You have so many choices of Linux distributions
If you decide the Windows route in operating systems, you are limited to just one version in the desktop. Sure, there may be the Home version and the Professional version but all this does is cause confusion and also limits what you can and can’t do in each version of the Home versus Professional choices. With Linux, if you choose one specific distribution amongst the many everything the Linux kernel has to offer is all available to you, no limitations.
- It’s an extremely powerful operating system
I’ve used Windows since 3.1 and supported since Windows NT. I can truly state, in my experience, that Linux is a much more powerful operating system than Windows. I honestly believe this not to be a personal opinion but a fact. Having the ability to change and configure Linux makes it more powerful than the other choices alone. Also, everything that you can do at command line alone makes it a very power operating system.
- You can game on Linux
There is a common misconception that you can’t play video games on Linux. This is completely untrue. I, personally, have been playing video games on Linux via Steam for a few years. There are a large number of games on Steam that were developed just for Linux and the library is growing. Those that were not developed for Linux that are specific to Windows can, most of the time, be played on Steam using ProtonDB. In fact, the new handheld gaming device by Steam called the Steam Deck actually runs Arch with the KDE desktop environment. At the time of this post, if you are lucky enough to have received this product, or are expecting it soon, you will be using Linux while you play the games available for that device. Another project geared toward gaming on Linux that is worthy of mentioning is Lutris. However, I will admit, as I have previously, there are some games that you cannot play on Linux due to anti-cheat portion of the game not being compatible with Linux at this time. One example that I have personal experience with is Insurgency: Sandstorm that I am forced to play on the Windows portion of my dual-boot configuration.
- Application availability
Another misconception of Linux is that it does not have the applications needed for use. In some cases, this will be true, especially for the locked down proprietary applications, like Adobe Photoshop or Microsoft Office Suite. However, there is active work on a lot of application alternatives that can be a good replacement in a lot of cases. For example, LibreOffice and ONLYOFFICE are actively developed projects (at the time of this post) that are wonderful replacements for the MS Office Suite. I have used LibreOffice and ONLYOFFICE and I can say from personal experience that they can do the job. I recently started using ONLYOFFICE as a better replacement and can say that the experience is fantastic. If you absolutely need to run a Windows application, or game, on Linux the Wine project (“Wine Is Not an Emulator”) has been around for almost 30 years with the intention of providing installation support of a large library of Windows supported titles.
- Used for Development
In recent years, Linux has become the “go to” operating system for a lot of developers. The applications and tools in Linux that are available for developers is broad and supported.
Out of the box, Linux is an extremely secure operating system. And, the ability to lock it down and secure it more is almost limitless. However, I want to be clear: even though Windows seems to be the larger target for malware it doesn’t mean that Linux can’t get infected. Linux is still a vulnerable operating system. No operating system is invulnerable. However, there is a lot less time in fighting malware on a Linux machine than a Windows machine. It is still recommended to install and run anti-malware/virus software on a Linux distribution of your choice.
- Stability and reliability
In all the years that I have used Windows (25+ years), Windows has never been known to be stable and reliable. However, it has improved over the past several years. But, I can tell you that the stability of Linux is outstanding. Using it on my desktop on a daily basis I have never run into a crash of the operating system and it become unusable. However, it still has it bugs, especially with Desktop Environments and occasionally in the software you install. Also, the download and install of OS updates and security patches in Linux is extremely quick and non-intrusive. For example: If I install a fresh version of Fedora on my desktop or virtual machine, the time it takes to install it, configure it, complete OS updates and be ready to use takes less than an hour. With a Windows fresh install, I can expect it to take hours, mostly because of the OS updates that are required post-installation.
The Linux community is phenomenal and filled with intelligent and helpful people. One thing I can be sure of, especially in this day of the vastness of the internet, if I run into an issue I have no problem with finding the answer online and/or communicating with someone from the community who can assist me with solving the problem. The Linux community is amazing. On top of that, I have heard scenarios of users running into a bug with the distro or application they are using, communicating the issue with developers and it being resolved in less than 24 hours. Something unheard of when using Windows or MacOS.
These reasons are just a drop in the bucket. I am sure that if you asked this question of another Linux user they may add other reasons that were not at the top of my brain at the time I was writing this post.