For a while, I wanted to write a little bit of advice for those of you wanting to move from Microsoft Windows over to a Linux based desktop computer. Today, I’ll run down a few of the points that are incentives to switch and some that might be incentives to stick with windows.
Open Source. First and foremost in my mind is open source versus closed source. Linux is, of course, open source, which means that anyone can see the source code and can freely modify it. Any good computer programmer can contribute to the project. This might sound like an uncertain idea at first, but in general, the collaboration goes much deeper than closed source projects due to the diversity of the programmers, and bugs are resolved pretty quick, as anyone, including high level users, can fix the bug. Open source projects are volunteer based, but that doesnt mean that no one is supporting the project. All of the tools at the heart of open source projects are actively and passionately supported by dedicated programming teams. Closed source, like Microsoft Windows, on the other hand, has its code typically held in secrecy. End users cannot see the internals of the programs, which leaves bug fixing up the mercy of the software company. Furthermore, algorithms cannot be improved by savvy end users, as the internals of the program are hidden. To most people though, what matters is if their programs work well. Open source and closed source both have good programs, but it is my experience that open source typically work better and fix bugs quicker.
Licensing. With linux, you are granted a license to the code. You own it in the sense that you own your television or your sofa. Windows is licensed to you, it is rented to you with fixed terms and conditions. Essentially Linux is like owning your house, whereas with Windows you are renting your house from a landlord.
Price. What matters to most people more is price. Cold hard cash. Open source projects are licensed under free licenses, and are available for free. Closed source programs are sold for money. Many people will claim “I didn’t pay for Windows, it just came on my computer!”. This is untrue, the cost of windows is integrated into the price tag, for various amounts, but it is still a significant chunk of the final price tag. I could write a whole column about the money debate, but it basically boils down to open source is free and closed source costs money.
Stability. Stability is another big issue in computers. LINUX IS NOT A NEW THING! It has its foundations deep in UNIX computing traditions developed on the first computers back in the 1950’s. Personally, I find it weird that a startup operating system like Windows edged the more traditional UNIX based computers out for market share. Being based in such deep computing experience, linux is very stable. It is not uncommon to have your computer up and running for many, many weeks without any problems whatsoever. This is the reason that linux and UNIX based systems are the foundations many Internet servers, which must always run without fault. Whenever I run windows, I find that reboots must be more frequent than I would like.
Ease of use is something most people also care about in using their computers. They just want it to work. Plug it in, turn it on, and work. Unfortunately, in our current world, and with the complexity of the modern computer, some configuration and computer know how is typically required from any user. Linux is extremely configurable, which means that there are many ways to configure Linux in such a way that isn’t palatable. Windows is less configurable in general, but for many people, this makes their life easier. Linux these days is so much incredibly better at working out of the box than it used to be, and most the time it will work out of the box. The biggest issue though, is simply adapting to Linux configuration from Windows configuration, which I will discuss later.
Adaptation period. There will be a definite adaptation period from leaving Windows and moving to Linux. You’ll have to say goodbye to your C:/ drive and say hello to a / partition. The concept isn’t harder, its just a little different. Subsequent articles of mine will go into this deeper, but the adaptation can definitely be done.
These were just a quick rundown of why you might want to make the switch. Linux is freedom of use in your computer. I would highly recommend the migration, but many people are comfortable with Windows and prefer to stay as such. If you are comfortable with Window’s system, you may want to stick with it. If you appreciate high quality, free software, and have an open mind Linux is the place to be. At any rate, you should give Linux a try and see what its all about.
Here are links to Live CD’s. These CD’s do not touch your hard drive at all, but boot up a linux system for you to try. Download them, burn to a CD and reboot your computer. When it starts, you’ll be in a linux system. Turn it off again, remove the CD, and your computer will be just the way it used to be.
These are different varieties of linux for you to try out, any one of them will give a feel for what Linux is