Thursday, June 16, 2011

Why Use Linux?

I'm going to try to use as little technobabble as possible when explaining why I use Ubuntu Linux. Before I begin let me give you a few basic terms you should know when discussing Linux:
  1. PC: Personal Computer - Most computers that run Windows are referred to as PC's.

  2. OS: Operating System - Windows XP/Vista/7, Mac OS X/Snow Leopard, Linux Ubuntu are all operating systems. An OS is the software that gives you the ability to interact with computer graphically instead of having to type commands in a computer language.

  3. Linux: An open-source operating system kernal (like a template or model) developed by private interests groups who wanted a third option instead of Windows or Mac OS.

  4. Open-source: Open-source means that the software designated as "open-source" can be taken apart and modified by anyone interested in doing so. This is useful if someone has something that they want to do with the software which it cannot already do. For example, if I want to be able run an anti-spyware program in the background without the user of the computer ever having to mess with it, then I might build an anti-spyware program into operating system's start up process and make it invisible to the user unless they were to look for it. (I don't know why you would do that, but that's the only example I could think of on the spot.)

  5. Ubuntu: A Linux operating system that's popular because it has large community for support and has a lot of things like word processing (like Microsoft Word) already built into it.

As the son of a network administrator, I've always had a fascination with computers. I have had former babysitters tell me that when I was little I used to freak out when they tried to get me to do something other than spend my time on the computer. I guess I wanted to be like how I perceived my dad at the time; always in front of a computer. Little did I know at the time that the reason my dad spent so much time in front of the computer was so that I could live the privileged life I have lived. That's another story and I digress from my main point.

Most people are quite content with their OS, which is usually a Windows variant like Vista or 7. A few more daring souls have Mac OS X or Snow Leopard which are specifically designed for Apple computers. Most people don't give a second thought about their OS because one comes with their computer and by the time people wanted to upgrade from Windows 98/2000/ME they were buying a whole new computer which came with Windows XP. However, young people born before 2000AD might be aware that Microsoft released the OS called Vista which was a very flawed piece of junk which was followed by a better version called Windows 7. This is significant because it probably one of the few instances of a large number of PC users needing to get a new OS and install it on their computer. The vast majority of PC users were either excited or apathetic about getting Windows Vista/7. For them it was just the most logical course of action and an unavoidable inevitability. Do you know how much the upgrade to Vista or 7 cost? Anywhere from $70-$200!

So what?

So what?! You paid that much for something Microsoft did wrong? You're paying Microsoft for making faulty software that is essential to run your computer? If you were at a really nice restaurant, you know the kind where there's a dress code just to walk in the place, and they made your food wrong; would you pay for it? What if you knew that if you ate the food that was not prepared correctly it would make you sick, would you still pay for it? Probably not, but that's what you're doing when you buy products like Microsoft Windows OS. Now, I realize that young people like myself probably didn't pay for it themselves; Mom and/or Dad bought it for the family computer, right? Some of you were probably old enough to have had your own laptop at the time, but most Windows OS's allow you to install it onto a desktop and a laptop. So I understand that this all may not seem like a big deal to you.

It didn't seem like a big deal to me either, that is until my computer got infected with a virus/worm that shut down every last program on my computer and my "top of the line" anti-spyware/anti-virus software couldn't get rid of it. I was faced with a decision: do I go out and buy Windows 7 or do I switch to Linux? Windows 7 was going to cost me somewhere between $170-$200, which is almost the entirety of my weekly paycheck. My dad encouraged me to at least give Linux a try and told me that I have nothing to lose except for a few days. The reason he said that is because a Linux OS like Ubuntu is free. The most anyone ever pays for Ubuntu is the cost of a disk and shipping which comes to a whopping $10-$15.

How is that possible?

The real question you should you should be asking is how can big corporations like Microsoft get away with charging nearly $200 for something that should be free or at a minimal cost. Most casual PC users think that you have to be a technical genius to use a Linux-based OS like Ubuntu, but I'm not really a technical genius and I am doing just fine. I've got an office suite (like Microsoft Office) which allows me to write and save documents as .doc (Microsoft Word 98/2000) or in .docx (Microsoft 2007 and onward) so even those who are running Windows on their computer can read documents I send to them without trouble.

Microsoft and Apple don't really like this though. Linux steals their customer base away from them, so in an effort to bully Linux users into going back to Windows or Mac OS, most of their software isn't Linux compatible. For example, I have an iPod Touch which requires iTunes to sync my music with. Apple doesn't make iTunes compatible with Linux, even though Mac OS is based on Linux. Funny enough, since I switched to Linux I have come to realize that my iPod is nothing more than a distraction from what I really should be focusing my time on.

So that is why I chose Linux. I've saved upwards of $300 by switching to Linux and I'm quite content with it.

In the words of Tron, "I fight for the users".


1 comment:

  1. I've heard of Linux for while but was never quite sure what it meant, so this was a really good, informative read.
    Nice Tron reference at the end!