The 'Penguin' Flavour


Sci Tech Sep 04, 2014

Why I made the switch to Linux?

Through my years of using Windows, as I obediently clicked through the different versions being released, I realized that it was taking more control from me and giving it back to Microsoft. I wanted to feel like I owned the computer and that I had control over what was on it and what it looked like. I was looking for a new hobby and felt the need for a little adventure. So I made the switch.

Tux, the mascot by Larry Ewing, Simon Budig, Garrett LeSage on GitHub/ CC0 1.0

How did it all happen?

I loaded Ubuntu (a Linux Distribution) on my machine, and took some time to fiddle around and get to know what I was doing. Five months in, I have reformatted my main computer to Linux and I’ve never looked back. I just love the fact that I have absolute control over the system and can tinker every element to my desire.

So, in this day of elegant ‘Macs’, Ultra-books running Windows and cloud-connected gadgets, why would anyone bother getting their hands dirty with Linux? It might not be for everyone but here’s why it might be perfect for you, as your workhorse or a hobby. The core activities being performed are becoming more and more abstract as services are being shifted to the cloud, so if you use your computer just for browsing, email and other basic app functions, Linux can work just as well as Windows or Mac.

You can get your old computer to run again.

Do you have an old computer with moderate specifications that you would like to get some swift operations out of? Enter Linux. Linux was designed to work light and obtain maximum efficiency with the available configuration. It also takes up lesser space and supports more hardware out-of the box when compared to the other operating systems. I brought back life in an 8 year old laptop by installing Linux. Despite running on a Pentium processor, it’s perfectly functional and I’m currently typing this article using that.

It’s OPEN! It’s FREE!

Let me just come right out and say it, not all of us appreciate paying for original software, or at least a good amount of people among us still use pirated operating systems. Maybe your system crashed or you just hit a wall while tinkering around and decided to use pirated software. From then on, you had to keep a cautious eye on rolling updates and new releases with the fear of your software being deactivated out of the blue.

Linux, whether you decide to install it on one computer or a thousand computers, is still completely free. There are plenty of Linux distros (short for distributions) for every kind of user out there. Ubuntu, Kubuntu and Linux Mint are designed for beginners whereas distros like ArchLinux, OpenSUSE are meant for more advanced users. If you are not the one who pays for software, you can just live on free software in Linux. And also there are plenty of free alternatives for all paid softwares you can name. MS Office? We have LibreOffice. Photoshop? We have GIMP. And for those irreplaceable windows software, there is WINE, an environment that can emulate Windows apps on a Linux environment. So in terms of the sheer volume of software available, Linux is not very far off from Windows or Macintosh. The official repositories that enable you to download all the software you need, are typically checked and digitally signed by the moderators. So forget about malwares and viruses, when dealing with software in Linux.

Know what happens under the hood.

Tons of things run Linux these days, from Android Phones to Televisions. If you really want to know how operating systems work, learning to use the terminal and getting your hands dirty with the commands is the best way to start. It’s a great way to understand the fundamentals of any modern operating system and most of the learning will come to use when you need to fix something. Mastering the command line interface is not a necessity in major distributions. But knowing these commands helps you shape it the way you want.

Customization

Each piece of functionality on Linux has an alternative. From the desktop manager to the login shell, anything can be modified. Need some more eye candy for your desktop? You can change the font, color, theme and appearance of every element of your graphical user interface. With Linux, there is no particular commercial vendor locking you into a fixed system. You can pick and mix the different things you want, even between Linux distributions.

Security and Privacy

Linux was designed by security-obsessed engineers, keeping security as a key developmental aspect and not as an afterthought. With a firewall built at its core and a malware-free software repository, security is not a concern. Every once in a while, there are reports about windows programs malfunctioning in a way that compromises privacy. In Linux, since almost all the software are open-source, the code is scrutinized by the Linux community and all privacy issues would easily be detected and prevented.

Community Support

Just like any other operating system, you’re bound to face problems during usage. The community support of Linux is simply unparalleled. There are plenty of active forums and IRC chat groups that offer help, 24 x 7. Of course, Linux does come with its own issues. Due to lower market share, not many games are released for Linux. There are workarounds to emulate Windows games on Linux, but they don’t work as well as they do on Windows.

In addition, Linux has a steeper learning curve when compared to the Big Two operating systems. However, with all the many advantages Linux offers, it’s not surprising that Linux is slowly gaining market share and is becoming popular among power users, programmers and hobbyists.

Ram Prakash

Ram Prakash is a budding technologist. He loves listening to music, coding and tinkering with electronics. Apart from being a DIY enthusiast, he is a self-proclaimed football geek and TV junkie.

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