Why I Use Linux

I was a bit inspired by a post in the Linux G+ community I saw this morning and thought I’d make a quick post here to discuss my own reasons why I use Linux.

One thing I’ve learned in my years of being a part of the Linux and Open Source community is that everybody comes to it in their own way, for their own reasons, and they stick with it for their own reasons. As a longtime Linux and Open Source user, I am no exception to this.

A brief background of my journey

I started using command line Unix type environments in the mid-1990s for work purposes. I also used MS-DOS around the same time, and while I could appreciate MS-DOS for a lot of its qualities, it didn’t hold a candle to how robust and powerful the much better designed and much more mature Unix architectures were.

I used Windows 3, Windows 95, Windows 98, and Windows 2000, both professionally and on personal computers. Through that experience I had a growing frustration with how unreliable, unsecure, and haphazard the then-dominant personal computing platform continued to be.

By 2001 I had reached my threshold of pain and started experimenting with Linux. By 2003 Linux was the only operating system I used on my personal machines. I continued to use Windows professionally, and as the two platforms developed, it became clear to me that Linux was definitely the right choice for me.

Here are some reasons why.

It’s stable

I mentioned my frustration with the unreliability of Windows back in the 90s and early 2000s. That hasn’t changed. I work in a Windows shop. We support Windows servers, from legacy systems (like Server 2003, though we are trying to get clients off of that now unsupported platform) to the latest-and-greatest. We support Windows workstations — Windows Vista through Windows 10. And yes, we still have clients on XP, but that probably won’t last too much longer.

At home these days on my laptops and desktop machine I run Linux Mint Debian Edition, but for one of my servers I am running Debian Stable. The contrast between these Linux platforms and literally all of the Windows I see and experience is very harsh.

My personal machines can and do have uptimes of hundreds of days and even years. They don’t even require rebooting for updates or kernel patches anymore. And what happens when you have that kind of uptime on a Linux workstation? Nothing. Everything keeps working the way it’s supposed to.

Try having hundreds of days of uptime on a Windows workstation. I dare you. Firstly, you’ll be going without updates, because Windows can’t patch without rebooting. Secondly, sometimes you can’t even install simple applications without getting nagged to restart. Thirdly, in my experience, the longer you use a Windows PC without rebooting it, the flakier and just plain “weirder” it behaves. There’s a reason the characters in the popular UK comedy series The IT Crowd answer their tech support phone line with the phrase, “IT, have you tried turning it off and back on again?”.

In short, I really love the stability and reliability of the Linux operating systems I have used in the past and currently use.

I also realize that I am comparing Linux to Windows, and not Apple’s Mac OS operating systems, which are also quite stable. But there are other reasons I don’t use Apple’s platform, which I’ll mention below.

It’s free

Windows is expensive. If I actually kept using Windows instead of moving on all those years ago, I can’t even imagine how much money I’d have been spending on licensing in that time. Thousands and thousands of dollars, I imagine.

The Linux operating systems I’ve used in that time have all been free as in beer, and free as in freedom.

I don’t pay a penny to download my operating systems. And nobody is going to be showing up at my door with a warrant or serving me with lawsuit paperwork. While I tend to throw a donation every year toward my Linux distribution of choice, that’s a voluntary decision on my part, because I do like to support the fine work they’re doing, and it’s more than worth $60 a year or so for me given the use and enjoyment I get out of using that product. But nobody’s going to come after me if I stop doing that.

And not only is it legal to share the installer for this operating system with others, it is strongly encouraged to do so. And I do. I have converted a pretty fair number of Windows users to Linux over the decades, and I will continue to do so, even if it means giving away bootable thumb drives if it makes it easier.

Contrast this with how the proprietary software world enforces licenses. Ugh. No thanks. I’ll stick with freedom.

The flexibility and possibilities are fun

One thing I discovered early on in my first experiments with Linux was how much, well, fun it was to play with and use. Windows bugged the crap out of me and frustrated me at every turn with its bizarre, contrary behavior, while most Linux OSes I used did what they were told… all the time.

I could get it to do anything I wanted it to do, and rather than fight me like Windows always did, everything was just there, laid bare, for me to change, configure, and tweak to my heart’s content.

These days I don’t do anywhere near as much customization and tweaking, but I still find Linux’s flexibility and potential to be a lot of fun. I get a lot of enjoyment out of it. When I’m using it day-to-day, it stays out of my way and lets me do what I want to do. I don’t have to think about it. And when I’m configuring it to do something specific, it tends to just do it.

This is, by the way, one of the reasons I don’t use Mac OS. It’s kind of the opposite of Linux in how locked down, closed off, and unconfigurable/inflexible it is. And it fights every step of the way in my experience when you try to get it to do something other than its “one size fits all” approach to UI and functionality.

It runs on practically everything

I have installed, configured, and used Linux on a crazy variety of hardware, and only in a couple of very specific situations could I not get it to fully work (one was an ancient Sun server that just didn’t work with literally any boot loader I tried).

Windows sometimes doesn’t work right even on hardware for which it was specifically designed. And forget Mac OS, that’s a non-starter. Apple intends their operating system to work only on their hardware, and screw you if you want it on anything else. Yes, it’s possible. But it can be quite difficult, unreliable, and let’s not forget that you’re likely violating their EULA if you do so.

I’m not violating anything by installing Linux on any hardware. And it tends to work pretty well anywhere I’ve tried it.

It’s secure

Well, relatively speaking. As I discussed in another post here a couple of years ago, marketshare alone doesn’t make Linux more secure than Windows. The fact that its source code is freely available for analysis by security experts, and its very architecture make it a more secure option out of the box than literally any version of Windows.

I won’t take Windows or Mac OS seriously from a security standpoint until they address a number of really major things, chief among them being the lack of access to the source code of those platforms.

Does that make Linux Fort Knox? No, of course not. Security is a process, not a product. But it starts that race off with a huge head start compared to those other two platforms, so in my view that’s a no-brainer.

What are your reasons?

Thanks for reading this today. Keep in mind these are my opinions, so you’re welcome to disagree with them. That said, I figure most of you reading this are probably using Linux in some fashion as well, so I can’t imagine getting too much dissent on the points I wrote.

And since most of you reading this are Linux users yourselves, I’d love to hear your reasons! Slap them in the comments, I welcome the insight!

— Trent


15 thoughts on “Why I Use Linux

  1. Pretty Simple
    Personal: I use Linux because i have the choice and freedom to and i have the choice and freedom to do what i please with it
    Work: I use windows because I have no choice. Its what is required to cater to the sheep. But that doesn’t mean that that i can’t hide in the back of the flock with my Backtrack Machine at my desk !

    • That freedom is pretty huge for me. If I had to pick one reason above the others I wrote about today, I think that would be the one.

      Thanks for the comment!

  2. My discovery of Linux is more or less quite recent. I have a netbook (one of the first ones in the market), working on XP. I had worked in a Windows environment for a long time, and certainly, I struggled many times with stability, the endless rebooting, the devices not recognized, or even the awful Windows media asking for thousands of codecs, etc. When Windows announced XP wouldn’t be supported anymore, I did some research as I didn’t want to invest a lot on upgrading my little netbook. I didn’t have the budget then, and I’m living in a country with an inflation rate of about 200%, so that was a big NO for me. I found an article about different options with Linux distro. My first one was Linux Mint. HUGE SURPRISE! Out of the box things were working even faster than with Windows XP, no problem recognizing devices, codecs were not needed anymore, rebooting… What for? No need. Not only the freedom I got, but also the trust on the OS. It WORKS! No matter what, it works. It does what it is supposed to do without installing extra tons of fixing stuff (Have you ever heard of that idiot thing called Microsoft Fix It? For heaven’s sake… it’s USELESS! And perhaps one of the things I appreciate the most about Linux: I’m a better computer user now. More aware of resources; of what I need and what I don’t need; what applications worked better for me, and without being a tech expert, I still enjoy the endless possibilities of being “THE OWNER” of my netbook, my OS and what my netbook is supposed to do. It took me less than a month to fall in love with the flexibility, stability, functionality and appearance of Linux. Now all my computers at home are running Linux. Still at my office (I’m not the owner) is just Windows and I was assigned a very fashion Asus Laptop with all the whistles and bells. The idiot thing comes with Windows 8. It’s a NIGHTMARE! No way, you can hear me cursing every single day. Oh, I guess that’s one of the advantages of Linux: You become more productive! Not only because the computer runs faster, but also because the system is not bloated with million of useless stuff. I’m a hard Linux fan, and I keep spreading the word and supporting it. I can even talk about “miracles”. Very old computers ready to be trashed, and working now flawlessly with a lightweight Linux distro! So, no way back. And when people complain about “compatibility”, I always remark: “It’s not about compatibility, it’s about learning the whole bunch of possibilities. Just because what we get is a Windows machine doesn’t mean that’s the only thing available!!!!” Thanks for your article. I do love using Linux. And certainly, the freedom is not only a core value in my life but also, the first step in creativity and endless possibilities! Have a great day!

    • Just hit your story while searching about linux and, in particular, about some distros with non-PAE kernel for an old toshiba that I’ve received from my sister-in-law. What you described it’s exactly the same with me! I simply don’t have the budget or am interested in buying a new laptop when this is still working pretty well for what I intend – and I got it fro free 😉
      Using debian stable with fluxbox window manager and it’s faster than it ever was under XP. Only problem: I still have to regularly use windows machines at work, it’s something I can’t control and for what I don’t have a choice. Other than that, I would be in freedom land and in complete control of what to do with the devices that I own or in which I work.
      Thanks for sharing your opinion, cheers 😉

      • I missed this when you commented a couple of months ago, José.

        I LOVE Fluxbox. I use Cinnamon, LXDE, and lately Xfce, but the one GUI I keep coming back to over all these years has always been fast and simple Fluxbox. Powerful and supremely flexible interface for the win.

        Thanks for the comment, José!

  3. Glad you mentioned the insane cost of BSA software license audits. Microsoft and other old-world software companies always manage to ignore the cost of license compliance in their TCO studies. They falsely present the cost of purchasing the licenses as the entire cost of their software. Sadly that is far from the case. The overhead of maintaining and documenting license compliance and responding to audits is much much more arduous than the mere monetary cost of the licenses. Do you really want to deal with keeping track of Client Access Licenses? Or would you rather just use Linux and not worry about it?

    Oh and my workstation uptime at this moment is 1649 days.

    It’s not all roses though. Microsoft’s secure boot is the biggest threat to Linux. Many new computers on the market today don’t allow you to boot Linux, and there is no way to disable the lock.

    • Can’t always get Windows-only applications running in WINE, I’ve run into that. If you enjoy troubleshooting things like malware and viruses, you’re out of luck. I haven’t had to do that once on Linux in 15 years of using it.

      Once in a while an application or a desktop environment I use goes down the rabbit hole because of developers getting arrogant.

      The thing is though, in the open source world, that sometimes results in that product being forked if there’s enough outcry and enough people motivated to make it happen. That’s something that doesn’t happen in proprietary software.

    • For me the biggest downside is lower battery life on laptops (up to half). For example I buy a new laptop with 11 hour battery life and it ends up being like 6 hours on Linux.

      • I’ve not experienced that. Actually, the opposite on the laptops I’ve used. I get better battery life out of Linux than I do on Windows with the same hardware.

  4. I enjoyed your article, I never comment on such things but feel compelled to today. I enjoy also using nix. From 2003 for servers and fun. From 2009 I made the swap from Windows to nix permanently. Have tried many varients of BSD and Linux and settled on debian/ubuntu versions for the simplicity. I no longer want to battle with software to make it do what I want unless I choose to. I use Vinux based upon Ubuntu for the vision impaired as i am blind. Using a mixture of console and GTK desktops I have software speech in both environments. Thank you again.

  5. Pingback: Why I use Linux (1/30) | nomnom16

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