Why I use Linux and why you should consider it too

I’ll start by saying I’m one of the least likely candidates for Linux. Haha, but it’s true.

I’m a .net developer who earns a “Microsoft” lunch. I’ve exclusively used Windows professionally speaking. The few times I did take Linux for a spin around the block, the conclusion was “It’s not ready yet”.

Was Linux just a fanboy OS? The apps I had come to love and trust were primarily Windows apps. Finally I’m also a gamer. So as I paint this picture you can see it is doubtful that someone like me has decided to make Linux my primary operating system of choice.

My first taste of Linux was Redhat, around the time when desktop environments were cutting their teeth. DE’s were ridiculously new, when trying to load up Redhat I discovered my graphics card had no supporting drivers. I asked a friend what to do? “Well you’ll need to write your own graphics driver!”. Linux went back in the box and it wasn’t for many years that I revisited it again.

Then came a few more tries over the years, now with early versions of Ubuntu and Mint. And yet each time I found some or other annoyance that prevented me from really enjoying the experience. Back to Windows.

Windows 8 has changed all that, I’ve been following Win 8 closely, initially out of interest, but lately more out of concern. Microsoft, in the past have released some pretty terrible operating systems such as Millenium and Vista, but they’ve too also released quality such as Windows 95, Windows 98,  Windows 2000 Professional, XP and Windows 7. All these previous operating systems had 1 thing in common, they were targeted specifically for the device they ran on i.e: netbooks, laptops and desktops.

Windows 8 might not be a pure tablet operating system, but it is by no means a fully fledged dedicated desktop operating system either. It would be safe to classify it as a hybrid OS with strong bias towards tablet computing.

This presents a dilemma.  Not being on an actual tablet device with a touch screen. And exactly how much “suck ass” I am willing to tolerate.

Now I know a fair amount of people who would just stick with Windows 7 and call it a day. I’m not one of those people.

I know the workarounds too:

  1. Windows 7 shell on Windows 8
  2. Classic “shell”, Classic Menu
  3. Start 8
  4. All the rest.

I tried them all, still elements of the tablet OS remained. Being expected to emulate finger movements with my mouse, while on a desktop is cheap.

Windows 8.1 is on the scene now, soon to be released as the “great fix” to the general public. But sadly it’s another compromise.

After doing more research on Windows 8.1 – The light bulb came on, and I really questioned my reasons for using Windows. I recall the exact moment while waiting for my computer to complete yet another action and all those background services pushing my HDD IO to the max, after uninstalling some malware I managed to pick up from a reputable site, and while looking at my somewhat amatuer desktop look and feel, even though I had Window Blinds and given skinning my best effort, While skype crashed and getting an access denied message while trying to kill the task off in task manager. While the task manager too was about to crash. I guess it just hit me – It’s time to check if Linux is there yet….

Linux is there already

Let me tell you, after using Linux Mint 15 Olivia over the past few days you would need an extremely compelling reason to be using Windows.

Sorry if I get pedantic here, but I am going to get into the specific things I’ve noticed.

It’s gorgeous

Linux is gorgeous. I don’t think this is a Mint only thing either. I recall Ubuntu looking equally as good, but the best analogy I can think of is. Interacting with Linux is akin to watching a sexy woman stip off expensive lingerie while you sip on velvet beer. Using Windows 8, once everything is loaded up. Feels like going to the circus and watching monkeys banging on tambourines loudly, with flashing and annoying christmas lights everywhere.

Linux is an OS by users for users. Because of this small things make a huge difference. Icons for example – unified. I have a start menu again, a real one – and it’s more targeted than my Windows one because it has items grouped by function.

 It’s stable

Lately this is a bit like comparing Apples to Apples because Windows too is stable. My point is Linux is when considering a move to a new OS stability is a massive deciding factor. You can safely give Linux a big fat green tick next to stability.

It’s better at BlueTooth

Recently bought a set of BlueTooth headphones and they’ve always given problems with Windows. Linux is way better than Windows at handling your BT devices. Firstly out of the box better, but also with a bit of tweaking you have much more control over the devices in Linux, making automation easier such as automatically enabling BT sound when connected.

Applications are ready too

There might be a few applications you think you can’t live without that only run on Windows, but then again there is Wine. If you really need to use Photoshop for example and don’t mind an older version then Wine and CS4 should suffice. But Linux is getting more native apps. Take for example Google Music – I was amazed that there is a native Linux client for the offering. Applications like Skype for Linux have also gotten love over the years. Generally speaking there seems to be an alternative Linux app for what you need.

Games are up and coming

I was surprised to see such variety. Not only that but when I downloaded Steam for Linux, some of my already purchased games apparently run on Linux, such as Half Life 2. I couldn’t help but notice some awesome up and coming games. The Indie scene have also shown dues to Linux, so I noticed that a lot of games you get on Linux aren’t your typical Windows games, a lot get right down to the business of gaming, games designed for playability, not graphics, cut scenes and profit.

I’m blown away by the software manager

I love the freedom on Windows to download software from any site and install just what I please -freedom is good. Or wait, is it really?

At first glance the benefits of having a centrally managed repository of applications might not be so obvious, but it is a much better idea than expecting your users to download everything rouge style, why?

  • Central repository means you can explore virtually everything in 1 place. So you’re much more likely to be made aware of decent applications as a newbie.
  • 1 download, official, no bundled malware or toolbars. Even the most reputable sites such as download.com (CNet) bundle in stuff like toolbars and search engine malware.
  • A user rating system.

Fonts on Linux look better out of the box

Now this might seem minor, trust me it’s not a minor issue to me. The fonts used for rendering web pages appear better. Any Gurus reading this what are your thoughts?

Linux a no bullshit OS that is what it says it is

The version of Mint I am running has been designed with one thing in mind, the device I use it on. My tablet (Nexus 10) also runs Linux (technically speaking Android is just another distribution). This is important if you want the best possible experience.

 Conclusion

Linux is “ready”. I know if you’ve been using Linux for a while and have the skills to tweak it the way you want it, you might be infuriated by this late in the day statement. But remember I’m not a Linux guru, I’m still learning the basics such as “What is a tarball?”, and Linux is proving to be a better overall experience than Windows.

And don’t forget – On Linux you don’t run Anti virus, so your system isn’t constantly churning away in the background, hogging up HDD I/O.

21 thoughts on “Why I use Linux and why you should consider it too

  1. In regards to font rendering, most linux distros actually have horrific font rendering out of the box. Ubuntu (and ubuntu based distros) are generally the only ones that have really nice font rendering out of the box. On other distros (such as arch and fedora) you can achieve this good font rendering by installing the ‘infinality’ freetype and fontconfig packages.

  2. You forgot to mention in the software repository the section that updating the OS also updates any applications also installed via the repository.

    It makes keeping software updated a breeze as you don’t have to go off to the vendors site and download the update/full package then install it, the package manager handles it.

  3. “And don’t forget – On Linux you don’t run Anti virus, so your system isn’t constantly churning away in the background, hogging up HDD I/O.”

    Please run an antivirus package! especially if your a new user as this [X dosnt get malware/trojans/viruses] is exactly wht so many mac users have them and sometimes for years.

    all operating systems can and do get viruses (it just so happens its easier to write the for windows, and more profitable due to the bigger ‘market’) but if the market changes so will the virus authors targets (they may have a harder time and have to make them technically ‘better’ but many examples already exist so it isnt at all impossible.

    and you and other non-familiar users are their target, so please for all our sakes run an antivirus on any machine with a browser and and end-user at the keyboard, especially if that user can install software (then the user can be tricked into installing malware too)

    the many av offerings for linux should be your hint

    • While it’s not necessarily a bad idea to run an av app on your Linux box, it’s probably not going to matter a great deal if someone doesn’t. Most of the “viruses” that Linux based av apps scan for actually attack Windows. Linux is a good neighbor and helps protect the more vulnerable OSs out there, but there are Linux viruses, or more accurately there have been Linux viruses. Historically speaking of course.

      Many believe that Linux rarely gets attacked because it’s got low market share, but in actuality, Linux only has low market share in the desktop market. Many other places it dominates, and this year Android (a version of Linux) will outsell all Apple and Microsoft operating systems combined. Besides Android, Linux runs a large portion of the Internet and over 90% of the worlds super computers. There IS actually motivation to hack/attack Linux systems. The trouble is that Linux systems are inherently more secure than Apple’s and Microsoft’s OSs. Even if Linux were to supplant Windows as the dominant desktop OS, the number of viruses attacking Linux wouldn’t come close to the numbers attacking Windows.

    • Except when I looked for existing linux-virusses, and the complete list is about as big as the weekly new virus list for Windows, most being proof of concept and the rest not being an issue as the security problem they abused is fixed…

  4. Good points. I do have to say that there are many flavors of linux, and everyone will eventually find the one for them. I personally use ArchLinux, a distro that is notorious for being insufferable and a general pain in the neck. It’s a VERY beautiful system, once you get it running, and gives you perfect control over every little aspect. It’s not “good” for beginners, but if you’re ambitious as myself, you’ll give it a chance.

    Again, I used to be a M$ fanboy, but I now have a dedicated HDD in my box for Arch. Welcome to the club.

  5. The only reason I still have a windows 7 on my laptop is that World of Warcraft is running faster than playing on WINE. And I need Bumble Bee to enable my video card GTX660m because there is no official support for this.

  6. all this is BS, I use Windows 8 at home, but I don’t use ModernUI at all. I don’t feel discomfort by knowing that all those touch oriented application are just a click away.

    “Being expected to emulate finger movements with my mouse”
    That is nonsense, Windows 8 gives you what you already had, what you already knew, plus many smartphone like apps in the windows store. You may use it, you dont have to.

    Now, most of the time I am using Linux at work and it sucks. It’s good that I have console and google-chrome otherwise it would be totally useless. It crushes at least 5 times a month, the reason of crush: exiting screen saver. Once in a while system stops refreshing part of the screen, than I have to force it by running xrefresh; sleep 1 in a loop or reboot the system. I cannot lock the system with UI, I have to use console. I cannot run any UI applet as a root. I have to find the name of the applet and run it as a root from console, but how to do that if the ps command crushes? Yeah and last time when I run apt-get upgrade the system didn’t even boot the kernel. Not mentioning the biggest problem I have: need to type my password hundreds times a day.

    “Linux (technically speaking Android is just another distribution)”
    You dont know what are you talking about, dont you? What is called linux distributions are in fact GNU distributions and that includes debian running with freeBDS or with Hurd as a kernel.

  7. I’m pretty OS agnostic, but I think the lack of silverlight and .net support have always been the showstoppers for me with Linux. Even using ChromeOS I hate having to compromise on what sites I can go to or apps I can run. iTunes, Spotify, Pogo.com, games, its all possible in Windows. Having used Windows 8 on both a touch and non-touch device I must admit after a couple of uses I got really used to the interface. Learning to use keyboard shortcuts are key on a non-touch device, but also I found that once I am in an app life is good.

    Think about it. You log in and launch an app. besides having shortcuts on the desktop, how much do I really do there? ModernUI is the next phase of Windows like 3.1 and 95 before it.

  8. All good but you didn’t say how you are getting your lunch now as there are no good pouring of the Microsoft ide for .net available as far as I know.

    • Very true. The idea is segregation of work / play + hobby development. So my plan is to continue with C# and .net development in general for work.

      At home though no more Windows. I originally had an idea to use Mono for hobby development, but after having a look at Qt, I think that is where the action is. Qt using QML or HTML5 webkit rendered front end and then coupled with C++ for business logic and data access.

  9. The facts that the whole system updates from time to time almost with “one click”, the bigger safety (it’s a fact!), the smaller request for RAM and, perhaps, processing power, makes GNU/Linux an amazing option.
    Besides that, things are relative. You might think this or that one is better looking, has more applications, opens proprietary media files easily, etc. Options is what you have by the dozen and they are all good.
    Besides, did I mentioned is open source and free!!??

  10. To Alan, you do have a valid point about Linux/Unix viruses. However I’ve been running Linux for over 12 years and have yet to get one. My concern is for the Debian based Linux OS, i.e. Ubuntu, mint, etc is the fact of its vast popularity. I remember reading an article concerning to evolution of Linux and the concerns in the Linux communities about having things in the repositories from unsure places like when the Chrome browser (Not picking on Chrome just siting and example) first came out, who was going to provide the updates, who was going to check the code, who was going to make sure that some slime ball wasn’t writing bad code etc. I think that day is upon us. As nice and efficient the Debian disto’s are, I’ve removed myself from the frenzie and went back to an old-timer (Slackware not for beginners). This brings me back to the virus question, as big as Debian based versions are getting who do you think who be the target of some sinister programmer. The secondary reason I went back to slackware is because I simply don’t like gnome 3, but this is just a personal preference thing.

  11. About better fonts… Windows sometimes uses antialiasing on fonts, sometimes not. Why? It’s a mystery to me, but it really pisses me off.

    Also, there are A LOT of little differences that matter. If you try Linux, you don’t notice them. Then you go back to Windows and everything suddenly is so clumsy.

    You can actually use files in trash – preview images, etc.
    Every removable media has trash support too, so you can undelete files.
    There is no “configuring updates” when you want to work.
    You can preview animated gifs in image viewer (duh), while on Win7/Win8 you have to do it in an Internet browser.
    Better keyboard layout – for example Alt+Shift+0 is ° (like in °C – Celsius grades).
    Second clipboard (copy to select, mmb to paste).
    Multiple desktops. (I thought I don’t need it. Some day I started using Gnome Shell as my DE and their approach to multiple desktops is great. Now I really miss it on Windows.)
    Consistence. (Just look at all those driver apps in your Windows tray. They don’t look like Windows apps and they are all fugly.)
    Tight integration. (for example on Windows 7zip is a whole app on its own. On Linux p7zip package just adds new capabilities to your existing archive app like File Roller.)
    Etc, etc.

  12. My first OS was Unix, so I jumped on Linux a long time ago. Even when using Windows, I typically ran some kind of Unix emulation.

    After not using Windows for 10+ years, last month I bought a new ThinkPad W530 for the express purpose of helping a friend with a Windows-only project. The machine has a 1920×1080 142-dpi screen.

    Font rendering in Win8 or Win7 is broken on this machine. Not just different, or too pixlated, or too sharp. It’s all that, but fonts are simply rendered incorrectly. One example: Large bolded headline fonts, which should be black with sharp edges, display in IE in two tones of black with smearing along edges.

    I asked for help on several Windows sites. Aside from the people who told me I wasn’t seeing what I was seeing, the standard answer was to adjust Cleartype, something I’d done with very marginal improvement.

    What struck me is this: Windows has several ways to render fonts and users have no sure way of knowing which is in use. Windows users have almost no ability to affect font rendering beyond the ineffective Cleartype and a single smoothing setting.

    So, yes, a number of Linux distributions for ideological and legal (patent) reasons do not look as good as Ubuntu or Mint. But, those and others look very good indeed, and the rendering options available to users far exceed those in Windows. (Infinality offers almost complete customization, if you are inclined.)

    Re: AV on Linux…. Use it if you exchange email with Windows users, lest you pass along Windows virii, etc. Otherwise, not yet really required.

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