Networking | Programming | Security | Linux | Computer Science | About

Why Linux is the right operating system for you

There are many reasons why people are finding that Linux is the right operating system for them. It might have to do with cost, performance, flexibility, size, or features. Or it might have something to do with that intangible thrill that you get from running your own system, rather than simply installing a bunch of software that comes out of a box. Windows and Mac OS X are good operating systems, but they are focused on the needs of home users. As such, they have some limitations and are a lot less flexible than Linux.

Here are a few reasons why people are switching to Linux:

It’s free. That is, Linux is a freely redistributable clone of the Unix operating system. You can get Linux free from the World Wide Web in one of many different Linux distributions. Linux is also “free as in speech” (not just “free as in beer”): anyone can modify and distribute modifications and improvements to the system.

It’s popular. It runs on a wide range of hardware platforms, from old 386/486 machines to mobile phones. In fact, because of the dominance of Android on mobile phones, Linux has the largest installed base of all general-purpose operating systems. Linux supports a broad range of hardware, including video cards, sound cards, CD-ROMs, disk drives, printers, scanners, and many other devices. Linux has an enormous user community presence on the Internet, with many web sites devoted to providing information and discussion about the system. A growing number of commercial software vendors are developing applications for Linux too, in addition to Windows and Apple.

It’s powerful. Linux is efficient and fast, and makes excellent use of hardware. Many users switching to Linux from Windows are surprised at how fast and responsive the syste is, even with many processes running and with multiple windows open. A Linux machine with a reasonably fast processor and a sufficient amount of memory can perform as well, or better, than Unix workstations costing tens of thousands of dollars. Linux is a multiuser, multitasking operating system that can run many applications (and even have many users logged into the same system) at once. Linux also supports multiprocessor systems, and Linux is commonly used in high-end server environments where this kind of hardware is the norm. Linux is used for building large “clusters” consisting of hundreds of machines connected with a fast network, used for massive scientific calculations or for driving large web sites. In fact, since 2017 it also powers all of the world’s fastest 500 supercomputers.

It’s under your control. Whereas most GUI-heavy proprietary systems embody a policy of keeping the user as ignorant of system processes as possible, Linux is very open and makes it easy for you to know what is happening under the hood. At the same time, if you like, you can relinquish some control and rely on easy-to-use tools like Debian and Ubuntu’s apt.

It’s robust. Linux is being developed in the open by thousands of programmers, as well as numerous companies and universities, all contributing new features, performance enhancements, and bug fixes. It incorporates the work of these many developers in the form of advanced compilers, editors, and utilities. As a result, Linux is extremely robust; many users have Linux systems that stay up for years at a time. Linux has an enormous base of freely available applications, ranging from desktop publishing and office suites to scientific tools to multimedia applications to games.

It’s full-featured. Linux supports of the features of modern Unix-based operating systems, including virtual memory, threads, multiprocessors, and advanced networking (including IPv6, DHCP, firewalling, network address translation, and more). Linux supports a vast array of software packages, programming languages, and hardware devices. Linux uses the X Window System graphical user interface (GUI) and supports several advanced desktop environments, including KDE and GNOME.

It’s highly compatible with Windows. Linux will happily coexist on the same machine as any flavor of Windows or other operating systems such as OS X and FreeBSD. Linux can directly access Windows files, either across the network, or on the Windows portions of your hard drive on the same system. Using the popular Samba tool, Linux can also act as a Windows file and print server. Note that Linux does not run under Windows; it is completely independent of it, but features have been added to allow the separate systems to work together.

It’s small. The core operating system can run on just 8 MB of system memory, including a desktop GUI and several applications. A basic Linux system can fit into 20 MB or so of disk storage: you can also run a basic Linux “rescue system” from a single 1.44 MB floppy disk! Linux has even been tuned to run on low-memory embedded systems (such as those used in network routers or robots).

It’s big. Some of the larger distributions can fill several gigabytes of disk space with applications, source code, and datafiles. The number of powerful utilities and applications ported to Linux grows constantly. Most Linux users can run a complete system in 300 MB or so of disk space. This includes all the basics, as well as nice extras such as programming libraries, compilers, text-processing tools, and more. But if you’re a real power user, much more is available.

It’s supported. The most important line of support is the many web sites devoted to Linux, as well as the many newsgroups and mailing lists online. You can also contract for support from an independent company or buy a supported version of Linux from one of its distributors.

It’s well-documented. The Linux development community established the Linux Documentation Project (LDP) early on, which maintains a large amount of online documentation about the system. The many books, FAQ lists, and “how-to” documents from the LDP can guide you through almost any task that needs to be done under Linux. Once you get over a few installation humps, Linux is more or less like any other Unix system, so the many general books about Unix use and administration will give you all the help you need. Finally, there is the popular press, which has written hundreds of books on Linux — both introductory and advanced — which have been translated into most major languages around the world.

Linux has an attitude, a philosophy, and a joie de vivre that you’re not going to find in any other operating system. I hope this post makes your decision of switching to Linux easier. Its time to ditch that proprietary operating system and embrace the freedom that is Linux.

Published on Fri 04 January 2008 by Dave Wilson in Linux with tag(s): linux os