Submitted by jean-paul on Tue, 06/26/2012 - 13:37

I apologize to everyone in advance. I have been negligent, and there is no excuse. As a rabid Linux advocate, I was supposed to have an article on my site explaining why everyone should use Linux. I suppose it's just laziness, or that after nearly a decade of trying to convert everyone, I no longer care what OS you use. I now know that no matter how logical and strong my arguments may be, the majority of people either don't care or don't understand, and will therefore only be susceptible to the peripheral route to persuasion. I could try to write this article with that in mind, but like I mentioned before, I no longer care. If someone doesn't realize that they're suffering, then are they really suffering at all? I don't know or care. Hey, I've found a theme! 

I named my article "10 Reasons to Switch to Linux" in the hopes that I can find 10 reasons. If I don't, you may notice that the article name has changed. Don't take a lower number as a hint that even experienced Linux users don't think you should switch. Take it as an indication of how a decade of trying to enlighten people can wear down your motivation.

How should we do this? Should we count up or down? I think it would be best to count down, so let's get started! If you don't agree with the order, or think something is missing, feel free to comment below. No trolling or flaming please.

# 10 Reason To Switch To Linux

10. It has everything you need

Most Linux distributions, if not all, distribute software in what are called "repositories". That's just the fancy name for one-stop shopping. Just about everything you could possibly want is in your distribution-of-choice's software repository. That includes the most popular packages, of course, like LibreOffice, Firefox, Thunderbird, VLC, and Eclipse. It goes on and on and on. If your chosen Linux distro (short for distribution) doesn't have a particular package, there are third-party repositories available, like Google's, where you can get software like Google Earth, Google Talk, and Chrome (although there is Chromium in some repositories if you would rather use Chrome's bleeding-edge version). For the technically inclined, and those with very specialized needs, you can also compile your own software from the source code. I won't give away all of the details, as that's one of the other great advantages of Linux. See below for information about being Open Source.

9. More problems are fixable

Anyone who has used "other" operating systems is familiar with the error codes you get when something goes wrong. For those of you who have been lucky enough to never had an error, here is a real example: "0x80070422". Sure, there is usually a bit of text to go with it, but in my experience, the text isn't usually descriptive enough to help solve the issue. Your only recourse is to look up the error code on the internet (here's to hoping that the error isn't related to a connection problem!), and go from there. I haven't had much recent experience with that particular "other" OS, but when I was a user, I actually got an error code that wasn't found on their support site. As for Linux errors, they go something like this (pulled directly from a log):

[    36.025] (EE) Failed to load module "nv" (module does not exist, 0)

Now some will ask how that's more useful, as a user not knowing about this particular error will be just as lost as one who is not familiar with the aforementioned error codes. The difference, obviously, is that I neither have to memorize anything, nor look up anything in order to fix this problem. Sure, it takes familiarity with the system, but that's not unique to either case.

The other aspect to problems being fixable is related (again) to being open source software. That may not be a great advantage to a lot of people, especially new users, but being able to modify source code, compile, and install makes fixes possible. Sure, maybe you don't know how to program, but someone out there does and will likely have the same problem as you and release a fix a lot sooner than you would get one if you had to depend on a single company for that fix.
Interesting reading related to this type of software development is The Cathedral and the Bazaar by Eric S. Raymond. I recommend the XHTML version available on his page.


8. Awesome updates

Perhaps this should be closer to #1, but Linux distros don't all do updates in the same way. In my distro of choice (Ubuntu), as well as Ubuntu's "dad" (Debian) and children (Mint, Qimo, NetRunner), package management is handled by a program called apt, which is itself a frontend to another program called dpkg. This includes the command line utilities "apt-get", and "apt-cache", and makes package management very easy. There are many graphical interfaces that make apt easy to use, such as Synaptic and KPackage. It handles dependencies automatically (explained below), and updates all software that was installed via the package manager at once. Compare this to "other" systems which will only update software that was provided by that vendor. You'll have to update your anti-virus software, web browser, games, etc. on your own.

** Dependencies - Instead of programs providing all functionality in one package, Linux packages have "dependencies", which are separate packages that provide functionality common to multiple programs. As an example, suppose you use a program that allows you share a whiteboard across the network. The program has features that allow you to draw shapes, type letters, erase, etc. Now assume that you find a different program that does something similar, but comes with a feature that you need, like saving the contents of the whiteboard to a file. With Linux, it's common to have some of the functionality like buttons, network communication, file access, and so on external to the application. That way, when you install the program with the new features, both programs can use common functionality provided by external libraries. This means that the programs will take less space on your computer, and it also means that if there is a bug in one of those common features, it will be fixed in all programs depending on that external package at once.

7. No More Reinstalling

This is a fairly contentious point, and to be honest, has improved on "other" operating systems in the last few versions. For as long as I've been using Linux, I have never experienced a need to reinstall my OS, save for hardware failures, and the desire to switch to something different. There are a number of reasons you might have to reinstall Windows. One reason is due to registry bloat. When you install a program, it puts information in to the registry, and that data isn't always removed entirely when the software is uninstalled. Over time, this can lead to lots of unnecessary data, which slows down your system. Another reason is antivirus, anti-malware, and other security software that is always running. Because there are orders of magnitude more malware that can threaten that OS, not having software to mitigate threats isn't really an option for most people. The slowdown comes from memory and CPU usage in constant use, which is no longer available to your programs or OS. Another reason for slow-downs that cause people to reinstall their OS is the way the filesystem handles itself. I don't know the particulars (let me know in the comments?), but I've read that there is something inefficient about NTFS (Windows filesystem), and the way it handles fragmentation. Fragmentation is when the computer writes files to disk, and fills empty spaces left by previous smaller files. This means that files are not always contiguous on the disk, but can instead be spread out. This generally gets worse over time, and means that your harddrive has to work a lot harder (and slower) to read your files. You can, of course, defragment your drive to fix this problem. The last problem is getting a virus. Most of us have had one, and while some are removable, some are not, requiring a full reinstall.


6. It's Safe and Reliable

Every Linux user knows that it's true. I'm not going to spend a lot of time on this point, because there are already thousands of articles, and many more discussion threads that turn in to nothing more than flame wars. There are only a few points to mention here. The first is that Linux does file system permissions better, and has been doing it longer. There are known viruses for Linux, but because they have a harder time getting access to the system, they can't spread very easily. Please don't post examples for me, I've read most of them already. They either exploit Apache (not Linux), or they require a root password to install. It's not because Linux is on so few systems. Linux is run in most datacenters, most webservers, and on a huge number of smartphones and other portable devices. There is a huge market share, but Windows...oops..."other" OS is still an easier target.

Linux is also reliable. This is more of a contentious point than it used to be, but for most Linux systems, no updates require a reboot other than a kernel replacement. Fedora is apparently trying to change this, although I can't really fathom why. Updates without rebooting has been a boon for years, and a "selling point" over other systems.

5. You are in control

With all of the source code in your hands, you can do anything you like. The system is yours, and there won't be any company coming along to get rid of your start button because they think you don't need it. 

4. It's Open Source

This is a big one. I could have, and possibly should have, put this at number one. Being open source is not only a good thing because it can be equated with freedom, but also because of the other benefits it provides. See point #9, #5, and #1. Don't get me wrong, being open sourced isn't without its drawbacks. For example, while there is a large enough community to sustain most projects, some niche software either doesn't get made due to complexity, or there are too many similar projects to drive development on them at a decent pace. Some of those markets include mind-mapping software, and audio production software. Mind-mapping is useful to students who are planning a large project, so that they can have a visual representation of the ideas that they would like to include. It's not a huge market, but there are multiple projects that do an ok job, but nothing that is truly spectacular. Audio production is the same. There are major projects like Audacity that do very well, but other bits that could use more cohesion like synthesizers and MIDI.

3. It's Fast

Linux doesn't seem to suffer from the bloat that "other" systems seem to suffer from. It is fairly easy to strip a default install down to just what is required. Even default installs are normally quicker and lighter than other systems. For example, I have personally fully upgraded 3 times on my current desktop without having to add any memory or disk space. The minimum requirements are very close to what they have been for years, and I don't have to disable any of the advanced features just to keep using it.

2. Compatibility is Key

Governments have begun to clamor for compatibility. The idea that upgrading their operating system and software could cause them to be unable to access their documents, even though the OS provider has remained the same, is a frightening one. So some places are now demanding that all of their documents be kept in an open format. By open, I mean that there is no 1 company that can change the format whenever they choose, and that any software package is allowed to use that format without fear of litigation. In my opinion, all software should have to use open formats, even if that software isn't open itself. If that happened, there would be less of a problem sharing documents between platforms because all developers would have access to the standards, and no reverse engineering would be required. If anyone has shared complicated documents between Word and OpenOffice Writer, they will know what I mean.

And the #1 reason to use Linux?


1. It's Free (as in beer and speech)

This is a double point, as "free" can be interpreted in multiple ways. Free, as in beer refers to the cost. Linux, at least if you don't want a support contract, doesn't cost much to acquire. Free is a bit of a misnomer, as there are usually some costs like bandwidth, download time, and maybe the media you put it on in order to be able to install, but there is no licence that you have to pay in order to use it. Once you've acquired a copy of your chosen distribution, you can use it to install on as many machines as you need. The other part of being free is being free as in speech. That's really related to points #4 and #5, and means that you can do whatever you want with your copy, including modifying it and offering it for sale, as long as you respect the license that the software was originally released under. This could mean that you have to release your modified source code to anyone who requests it, and that anyone who has your version of the software can also make changes and sell it themselves.