Giving Linux a Chance: Why use a free operating system
Recently I was at a friend house, and I had brought my laptop over to do a few things on it. This quickly turned from a my doing a bit of computing into a full blown Linux demonstration.
I've been using Ubuntu Linux for a little over a year now for my everyday computing tasks, and I'm still amazed at how many people don't know what Linux is. So, for all of you out there who have yet to run into this lesser know operating system, I'll give you a bit of a run down.
What is Linux? Linux is an open sourced operating system. What this means is that whoever uses linux can give it away free, and even modify the operating system, as long as they make the source code of their modified version available to the public. This means that anybody can get Linux, and the small amount of people who do use it (about 1-2% of computer users) are often very happy to help you set it up on your computer.
The people who support the Ubuntu, (which I'm using right now) will even goes as far send you a CD of their operating system free of charge. All you have to do is go to their website (www.ubuntu.com) and give them your information and they'll ship it to you.
People also like to use Linux to rescue older computers. Technically Linux is only the kernel to run commands on (like a text based operating system such as MS-DOS) but most versions of Linux have a graphical interface similar to that of Windows PC's and Mac's, but since it's free many types of interfaces have been made. This allows the user to chose a specific type of graphical interface that doesn't use much computing power, and therefore allow an older computer to still be able to run basic programs that will let you access the internet or do word processing.
So What are the advantages to using Linux? The biggest advantage is that it's free. For you the user at least. Many people who use Linux enjoy it so much they give back by writing programs and working on Linux to make it better. That's how a free program can be nearly as good as something you pay for.
By using Linux, you're joining a community of people who would love to help you run their operating system, even if you don't even know what computer code looks like. Most versions of Linux also come with free programs, and online repositories that you can use to download free alternatives to windows or mac programs that cost money. Some of these programs, like Firefox, you may already use on windows. You don't have to pay for Microsoft Word, the full featured Open Office is included with many versions of Linux. Programs to write e-mails, burn CDs, edit pictures, or any other daily computing task are free for you to download and use.
Linux, both because of the way it's built, and the fact that it's not widely used, have never had a virus written for it. Typically, Linux is the most secure operating system available, which is why most web sites, which can't afford to crash, run their sites on Linux.
Best of all, Linux is highly customizable. As I mentioned before about Linux running well on older PC's, the fact that it's a free and community based program means that many versions and variations are available for people to try out and customize.
So Why isn't everyone using Linux? With all these good things, why doesn't everybody use Linux? Well, sometimes the good things also become the problems at times. Linux is highly customizable, but it's also highly user intensive. There isn't a big company to call and get support from if you have a problem. You either have to figure it out yourself, or go find help from other users. While they're probably willing to help, they can't always solve all problems, and this is often times why people shy away from using a free operating system.
Also, it's hard to switch from something you're used to. While Linux does provide alternative programs for about 90% of typical computing tasks, it's hard to get used to new programs. You have to relearn how to do everything on your computer, and while there probably are a ton of new features, certain things that your other computer might have done may not yet be available on the free alternative. Plus, there are some specialized programs that will only run on certain operating systems, which would cause you to be completely unable to switch. Linux people have been constantly working hard on free programs, such as wine (www.winehq.org), that will let you install windows programs on Linux, which would help you switch over, and let you use some windows only programs, but they doesn't universally support every program, and there are often bugs running programs through an emulator.
So, who should use Linux? Linux can be run on just about any computer, and can even be run alongside another operating system on a computer. It does take more work to use then windows, and even though in the past few year Linux has gotten a ton more user friendly, most people won't switch because of work required. However, if you're tired of windows, or just want a new challenge, Linux is an exciting, and surprisingly fun operating system to use, and might just be worth trying out.
How do I learn more? Ubuntu Linux is currently the most common type of consumer Linux, so take a look at their website (www.ubuntu.com) as well as site that support the Linux community, like Sourceforge (www.sourceforge.com) and from their you'll find a world of documents to get you started on a Linux adventure.