I want to answer a question I hear from time to time. In this era of the smooth and polished Apple operating systems, and remarkably stable and secure choices in the Windows world, who the hell wants to run Linux and why?
To this question, I have two responses. The first is this: “Holy crap don’t say that out loud! The Linux geeks might hear!” Seriously, we’ve talked about this before. Unless you want a rude, self-confidence shattering dissertation, be careful who you ask that to.
My second response is this: “Oh, there are several reasons.”
Reason #1: Linux is Free!
Okay, not all Linux distributions are free, and you still need hardware to run it. But most distributions are no cost and you still need the hardware to run Windows or OS X. Making Linux, for our intents and purposes, FREE!
In addition to Linux itself, there are a lot of software options for Linux that are free. Zero cost is a big deal in the Linux community.
Reason #2: Security
Microsoft Windows is regularly panned for poor security and resistance to malware. Even OS X has had some big vulnerabilities.
At least some of this is due to popularity. Windows has around 90% of the desktop and laptop market share, and OS X around 8%. If you’re one of the sick bastards who creates malware, why target only 2% of the market?
However, by virtue of its design, Linux is a more secure operating system. While it’s not without fault, Linux is much harder to crack.
Reason #3: Freedom
Have you ever actually read the terms of service on Microsoft Windows (available here) or OS X (available here)? You sign away a lot of rights and abilities when you fire up one of those. For the most part, Linux is completely free for you to do with as you please.
Reason #4: Choice
If you are willing to put in the effort, you can make Linux do anything you want. Competing operating systems are locked down. Don’t want that button on the left? Too bad! Want to run a modified version of OS X on your phone? Forget it!
Linux offers you a lot of choices out of the box, and, with some effort, the sky is the limit. Just check out these awesome desktop configurations.
And look at the Android operating system for phones and tablets. At its core, Android is Linux.
Reason #5: Hardware Compatibility
Linux has distributions that will run on just about any hardware, no matter how new or old, fast or slow. Try loading Windows 8 on a computer from the year 2000. It isn’t going to happen. But you can do it with Linux!
Reason #6: Education
Windows and OS X cover up all the ugly operations and gritty details that go into making a computer work. The amount of knowledge required to do tasks is remarkably small. These operating systems just kind of work and do all the hard stuff for you.
Linux doesn’t shelter you from anything. It encourages, if not requires, you to understand how the computer works, how the operating system works, and how to best carry out a task. Mastering Linux teaches you a lot and makes you a better, smarter computer user.
Linux isn’t for everyone. And even if you like Linux, you may not adopt it as your primary operating system. In fact, let me tell you a secret. Despite my fascination with Linux, I do most of my work in Windows. *GASP!* I know right! Don’t tell anyone.
But Linux has several benefits over the alternatives. So go on, install a distribution in a virtual machine and play around. It’s worth it! Once you’ve played around with it, be sure to share some of your reasons for using, or not using, Linux in the comments below.