Saturday, April 25, 2009

Top Five reasons to switch to Linux

One of the most oft-asked questions I get is “Why should I switch to Linux?” It comes to me either via inbox or sound waves attacking my aural system every day. This has been going on for over ten years now I’ve heard the question from different locations on the globe, in different languages, from all ages, and in some odd locales. What is interesting about this question is that the answers, over the years, haven’t really changed that much. The order of importance has altered somewhat, but the answers have all pretty much remained the same.

So I thought I would bring these answer to the outstanding readers here at gHacks to inspire conversation on the topic. Without further adieu, let’s answer that age-old question. I am going to apply the order to today’s landscape, which of course includes the state of the world’s economy (That’d be a hint at number 1).


1. Cost. This is one of the most hotly debated issues surrounding the debate between Windows and Linux. Which is cheaper? One of the reasons this particular point is so hotly debated is because a simple acronym: TCO (Total Cost of Ownership). Why this gets in the way is because it makes developing actual, real numbers rather fuzzy. This fuzziness occurs because of the assumption that all involved in the migration would have to be paid to be educated. In my opinion this is an issue fettered to past releases of the operating system that didn’t enjoy nearly the user-friendliness that today’s Linux enjoys. This issue could also easily apply to migrations from, say Windows XP to Windows Vista or Windows 7. Both are technologies unfamiliar to the users. But the metaphors are the same. The user will still recognize the task bar, start menu, right and left mouse click, notification area, drop down menus, keyboard shortcuts…the basic things an end user needs to know to work. Making a comparison between modern Windows and modern Linux and you see these fundamental issues are pretty much the same.

So now you can look at the issue of cost on more equal footing. Now the $0.00 price tag on every Linux installation you have in your enterprise starts to look really good. Top that off with the $0.00 price tag of OpenOffice and nearly every Linux app you will need to get by and you can see how the savings will quickly pile up. And in today’s economy that type of savings means a ton.

2. Reliability. This ties in perfectly with the number one. The reliability of an operating system is directly proportional to the over all cost of said operating system. How? The more reliable your system, the less work will be spent keeping it running. The more reliable your system the more productive your users will be. And Linux has been proven, time and again, to be one of the most reliable operating systems available. A study was done by IBM to test the reliabilty of the Linux operating system in an enterprise envrionment. The results were very telling. Read the full results on the IBM Linux Reliability test page.

3. Security. I have said this so many times before. I have been using Linux for over ten years now and not once have I experienced a virus, a worm, a root kit, a piece of malware, or a hacker. Not once. I have also deployed countless Apache servers, mail servers, file servers, etc. and have yet to have issue. I have, on the other hand, had to deal with many, many Windows users who have suffered from malware, viruses, trojans, worms, etc. I have reformatted, re-installed, and trouble shooted (shot?) so many instances of an infected or hacked Windows machines I have lost count.

4. Freedom. From the beginning Linux has been about freedom. This freedom is all about the user and the freedom from software that offers no opportunity for the user to change the way the software behaves. Recently the Linux Foundation held a contest for a “We’re Linux” video. The winning entry elegantly explains what software freedom is all about. See the video here. Freedom is one of the main reasons why I use Linux. When a piece of software doesn’t behave in exactly the manner I want it to behave I change it. Open source allows me to do that. Try altering the behavior of a piece of Windows software (outside of the preferences window). The old Microsoft question “Where do you want to go today?” With Linux that question would be “Where do you want to go, how do you want to get there, do you want the scenic route, do you want a specific map for your trip (or do you want to wing it), and do you prefer first class or coach?”

5. Choice. Let’s face it, with Linux you have more choice than you do with any other operating system. You can choose your kernel, your distribution, your desktop, your window manager, your package manager…the list goes on and on. You can mix and match and even run Windows applications if you want. The way I always explain the difference between the metaphor of Linux vs. Windows is that with Windows you are given a floor and a ceiling to keep you from going too high or? too low. With Linux you are given four walls (all of which can be moved or removed), no floor, and no ceiling so you can go as high or as low as you want.

And there you have it. The five top reasons you should considering switching to the Linux operating system. Do you have reasons, other that the above, for switching to Linux? Do you have reasons for not switching to Linux? Let us know.

7 comments:

Marcus Hamaker - The Sleepy Geek said...

Good article. I work in IT and am forced to support Microsoft. Right now we are running XP and it is the most stable that MS has given us. Linux would be cool but I don't see it going there. As for home, I use OSX and Windows. Wish I had the time to really invest in changing over to Linux but I have a lot of integrated solutions (ie. Media Center).

canthus13 said...

Media Center is probably the worst reason to stay with windows. Check into various linux solutions like Linux MCE or MythTV. Comparing windows MC to the linux offerings is like comparing MS paint to Photoshop or Paintshop Pro. Try a dual-boot solution first, and play around with Ubuntu, Mint, or Suse. It's easier than you think.

smarts53 said...

You would be surprised how easy it is to switch over to Linux even after running windows for so many years. Media Center is actually replaced by MythTV in Linux. I would be willing to bet that there are comparable programs in Linux for 80% of the programs on a Windows machine.

Anonymous said...

I would have to disagree with you on reliability. Ex: My friend has been trying to get dual screen to work for his setup since ubuntu 7.10 (whatever the edition was) and constantly had problems. Whereas windows, it's a few mouse clicks to setup.

And there's also lack of good support for an average computer user. They're probably not to comfortable browsing forums, much less know how to access them.

Everything else I agree with, as I am a Linux user myself =)

The Austin Videographer said...

I have Ubuntu on my notebook, as well as a thumbdrive version. Linux has come a long way since I first experienced a very early distro of much beloved Slackware.

Unfortunately, I can't fully part ways with Windows just yet. I need Outlook on my desktop, as well as a couple of video editing apps. At least until I can find viable alternatives.

canthus13 said...

I can't say much about outlook, as I hate it, but I agree with the video editing software... but it's getting better.

Paul said...

Outlook? Schmoutlook! You need Evolution Austin Videographer. End Of Story...