Linux, sometimes referred to by the press as ‘Windows NT’s worst enemy’. Wired Magazine once called it ‘The greatest story never told’. This is a perfect definition because the story behind Linux is indeed a great one, yet it is unknown to so many people.
Let’s start at the beginning.
Back when ‘Stayin’ Alive’ was still topping the charts, and Microsoft was a spec in the world of computers, AT&T produced a multi-user operating system and labeled it ‘UNIX’. Throughout the years, UNIX caught on and many different versions of it began to come out. A popular one, called ‘Minix’ (mini-UNIX) was available for use at The University of Helsinki in Finland. A student at the University named Linus Torvalds believed he could create an operating system superior to Minix. In 1991 he started his new operating system as a side project, but it soon developed into a full-time hobby until 1994 when the first official version of the operating system was released.
You’re probably now saying ‘so what’s the big deal about Linux? Isn’t it just another operating system?’ Absolutely not! First of all, Linux is released under something called ‘open source license’. Open source is really more of an idea than a thing. Linux is released with all the source code and files that it was made with. This means a few things. Anyone who is good at programming can mess with the Linux code and release his own version of it. This also means that even though if you buy Linux in a store it will cost money, you’re not paying for the actual Linux itself. Your money goes to the price of packaging, the extra software that comes with the operating system, and technical support. The second, and most important reason that Linux is a big deal is because it’s a much more stable operating system than Windows. It runs on any system; even bottom of the line 386’s from before Linux even came out. Programs running under Linux almost never crash, and in the off chance that one does because of bad programming by the program author, it will not take the operating system down with it. Another important reason Linux is good is that it is secure. It is much harder to bring down by a hacker than Windows is. This is just an extremely short list of the reasons why Linux is so great. For further reading check out.
Today Linux can stand toe-to-toe with the best that Microsoft has to offer and there are at least five reasons to make the switch. In addition to the five below, Linux runs on fewer machines and therefore ends up with fewer viruses and malware as compared to Windows.
Beginner friendly and easy to use
There’s a difference between something being hard and simply being difficult. Plenty of the tasks in Linux that users say is hard, merely use a different convention to Windows. It just feels harder because you have to unlearn some habits that are familiar.
That being said, in the past Linux really has catered more for people who love messing around in the command line and writing code than those who’d prefer to stick to clicking buttons. These days, if you use something like Ubuntu, Manjaro, Mint or MX Linux you’ll never have to touch the command line during general use (See below).
Once you’ve learned where the buttons are, all you have to do is click them! The beauty of something like distribution shown above is that you can still do all those power user things, but you don’t have to as a normal part of using your computer.
There’s also plenty of usability enhancements in modern desktop Linux. Virtual desktops are a good example, which you’ll find Windows 10 has now gleefully copied. The best part is that you can customize your preferred Linux shell if you’d like. Not so simple with a proprietary operating system.
Gamers welcome to
If all you do is creative or office work, then it’s pretty easy to switch to Linux. You’ll be able to do all the same things a Windows user can. The great exception to this has always been gaming.
PC gaming is a vibrant industry and community, but support for Linux from game developers has been thin on the ground. In the past, gamers who switched to Linux didn’t have much to play. Even worse, graphics drivers support was pretty weak from the likes of Nvidia and AMD.
That’s all in the past now. Steam is probably the best example for a number of reasons. First of all, there’s a native Linux Steam client. Games that stopped working such as GTA V are also being worked on, as proven by a recent Proton release notes (4.11-8) that has made huge improvements for the Rockstar Launcher & GTA 5 and with little tweaks top games like Fallout 4 works pretty much flawless.
The really amazing thing is that you can also play some Windows Steam games on Linux too! It’s all thanks to a special version of WINE which is built into the beta version of Steam known as Steam Play. Windows games are being added to a white list of officially tested games that work flawlessly.
Right now there are fewer than 40 games on the list, but it’s growing all the ti. You don’t have to wait however, you can try any Windows game and many of them will work perfectly. It’s just that Valve won’t make it official until they test it and work out any bugs.
These are just two examples of gaming coming into its own with more and more developers releasing Linux versions of their games thanks to APIs like Vulcan, which supports many platforms.
It’s Open Source!
Actually, this is slightly misleading. Linux can be downloaded for free from many places, but if you are an organisation that needs technical support and assistance, you are going to have to pay for this, which is the business model that the developers of many Linux distributions, such as Ubuntu, Red Hat and Suse, follow.
First of all, you don’t have to pay a cent to download and install Linux on your computer. This means you can spend money on better computer hardware or simply get your hands on a computer for less. That’s a big deal for educational computers, office machines for your business or even just the HTPC you’ve been thinking of buying.
I know, most people don’t care about this openness of Linux, but to me, this is the most important feature of using GNU/Linux.
NO….You Don’t Have to Leave Windows Apps Behind…
It turns out that WINE is good for much more than just video games. You can also use it to run other Windows applications that don’t have Linux versions. This is becoming less and less necessary though since many applications are moving into the cloud.
The whole community can scrutinize what code goes into the OS, which means it’s not possible to build anything into Linux that spies on the user or collects information on them. Windows 10 is notorious for collecting telemetry and other user data. That’s not something everyone is comfortable with. Plus, Microsoft pushes a software update when it receives a set of problems or if something major needs to be fixed. On the other hand, you would observe a software update to address a little problem.
So, with Linux, you will notice more updates to fix the problems you might be facing. You will not only encounter a larger number of software updates, but you will also observe much faster software updates.
Taking the Plunge
The good news is that you don’t have to wipe your whole computer in order to try Linux for yourself. You can use one of these popular distributions to try out the OS before installing it. You can also run it in a virtual machine on Windows to see if it’s right for you.
A Live CD or Live USB provides a way to use an OS on a computer, without installing it on the computer. We’re going to stick to the USB type since so many computers don’t have CD or DVD players anymore.
Once you’ve made the live USB, you insert it into your turned off computer. Then you start the computer and tell it to boot from the USB. The operating system and all its programs stay on the USB. They don’t install on your computer.
Even if you do install Linux on your machine, you can still dual boot it with Windows, if you really want the best of both worlds. The choice really is all up to you.