Welcome back to the final part of The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly where today I will go over Linux. Please check out my previous articles where I covered Windows and macOS, if you haven’t already. So, what is this thing called Linux? It has been around since 1991 and is a free and open-source operating system. Meaning that anyone is able to change it, copy it, or pretty much do whatever they wish to with it. This is just one of the many benefits Linux has to offer. Today, Linux can be found on millions of servers, smartphones, desktops, and even supercomputers. Just like the other operating systems, Linux has its disadvantages. So sit back, relax, and keep an open mind. Who knows? You may end up wanting to get your hands on one of the many faces that it offers.
The advantages of Linux:
Free: Probably the biggest eye-catcher as to why you would want to get your hands on Linux is because it is absolutely free. Monetarily, it can’t get any better than that. Linux is openly available on the World-Wide Web. Just download it, burn it to DVD (or create a bootable flash stick) and pop it in the computer.
Customization: Bored of the same old desktop? Wish to be an individual? Maybe you want a dedicated OS for specific hardware and want it to be a certain way without all the odds and ends a normal distribution has. Well, with Linux you are able to “tweak” your operating system any way you want to through the use of many different tools. There are many reasons why you would customize Linux. What’s your reason?
Control: As I mentioned earlier, Linux is free and open-source software (FOSS). ‘Free’ is pretty easy to understand, but what is open-source software? This means that the code that was used to write Linux is openly shared to everyone. Why? Because Linux encourages its users to voluntarily improve the design of the software. You can’t say the same with Windows. On the other hand, as of April 2016, Apple announced that it will open-source OS X.
Lack of malware/viruses: Is there currently any malware to affect Linux? You don’t hear much about it. Just like macOS, it is quite rare to come across malicious software. Don’t get me wrong, malicious software is likely being coded by someone right now, and a lot of users think that their Linux OS (as well as macOS) is completely immune to this malicious software. But that is a myth. Malicious software and viruses are just not as common as it is with Windows. And you may rarely come across seeing anything malicious when you use Linux, if at all. Check out Linux and UNIX Security Features to read more about Linux security.
Alternative Software: When I started using Linux I felt a little lost at first. I have been a Windows user for a long time and I’m accustomed to the Windows software and environment. So when I started using Linux, I had no idea what program to use for what I wanted to do. Fortunately, Linux has alternatives for practically every Windows program. Need an alternative to Microsoft Word? Try AbiWord! Need an alternative to Outlook? Try Thunderbird! How about an alternative to GuitarPro? Yeah, Linux has that, too. Try TuxGuitar! Check out Linux Questions for a list of Linux alternatives.
Stability: When comparing stability on different operating systems, you would ask yourself what makes them so unstable. Compatibility, maybe? – With other hardware, or software? Most likely. Mac’s have a smaller hardware compatibility list so it is relatively easy to handle. That’s why macOS is known to be quite stable. Windows has an enormous hardware list (with many more manufacturers), and the challenge to have a driver play nice with all other drivers is much more difficult. That’s partly why Windows is much more unstable than macOS because it has a lot more to deal with. With Linux, the hardware list is growing, and overall the stability is great. Much like macOS I would say. Hardware developers are giving Linux more of a chance these days to make their products more compatible with Linux, but still lean more towards Windows (possibly because of a better market?). Basically, if you install Linux on simple hardware it will run perfectly forever. On the other hand, if you install Linux on a more modern system with high-tech gizmos and gadgets (high-end GPU’s, fingerprint scanner, etc.), you might run in to some stability issues. Overall, Linux is a very stable operating system so I see this as an advantage.
No License Restrictions: Do I really need to explain the advantage of this in detail? This could go hand in hand with the operating system being free, but with a couple additions. There are no restrictions here. You are free to do what you want. The operating system will not tell you what you can or can’t do – only you. There is no registering any copy with a product key or worrying if your copy is genuine so you can continue to receive security updates. No scare tactics, no warnings, no restrictions. Amen.
Can Run On Older Systems: Have an older system in the closet or basement that you don’t use anymore? Linux doesn’t need a lot to run smoothly. In fact, the system requirements for the newly released Ubuntu 16.04 are only 700MHz for a processor and 512MB memory. Installing Linux on an older system is a great way to learn.
So, if Linux is so great, why doesn’t everyone have it!? Just like the other operating system, it has its disadvantages:
Lacks in Gaming: Just like the macOS, Linux loses out to the powerful gaming market that Windows offers. This will likely not change for a long time to come, and it may never change. So if you are in to gaming, Linux is also not your best choice.
Bigger Learning Curve: If you are a long time Windows user, like me, Linux may give you a hard time at first. The graphical user interface is completely different than Windows and leans more towards a look that macOS offers, but still not the same. And if the look was not enough to throw you off, then the Terminal will definitely give you a little headache. The Terminal is like the Command Prompt in Windows. You will need to study the many commands and switches needed to use it to get the most out of Linux. The Terminal can be used as a faster way of updating the operating system, or downloading and installing software and repositories, to many other things! So it is a very important tool in Linux. And if you choose to not use the Terminal and just get by with the GUI, then you are really hurting yourself because it is very powerful and really helpful! Luckily, there are many books and video tutorials on the internet that can help you out with the basics of Linux.
Lack of Hardware Support: Lately, my wife bought me an Epson printer for the office, and I was shocked to find out that Epson did not support Linux. It doesn’t end at Epson though, but a lot of popular printers such as Lexmark and Canon are also not supported. This didn’t set me back since I mainly use Windows, but it would have been nice to use the printer for both operating systems. Unfortunately, this doesn’t only cover printers. Also many scanners, web-cameras, touch screens, Wi-Fi cards, etc. are also not supported or just have partial support with Linux. Be sure to do a thorough hardware crosscheck with compatibility if you wish to start using Linux.
So – Good, Bad, or downright Ugly: I have been using the Gnome distro for a while now, and I really like it. Even though I’m a Windows user, I like the feel of Linux. I have yet to come across any form of error (except user error since I’m new), and it runs very smooth! I like that it comes in many different distros, layouts, and tweaks also! It would be hard to get bored with it. There is always something new. Once I get tired of Gnome, I may try Linux Mint as a second OS since I hear many good things about it. I love how Linux is free. It’s open and I can do whatever I want without any restrictions. I don’t like how Linux lacks in hardware though. But I suppose checking hardware compatibility will help here. It also lacks in games, but maybe someday the developers will give the OS more of a chance. Probably not any time soon, but if I do ever feel like converting, I think Linux may be my next operating system.
That said, when it comes to the Good, Bad, or downright Ugly – Linux is a pretty badass.