Linux and why you use it

I was wondering if someone could educate me on why someone would use Linux instead of Windows for non-server (ie personal) computing. I’m not trying to be argumentative here: I’m genuinely interested, but have been unable to find a satisfactory answer through my own research. Most articles I’ve seen along the lines of “ten reasons to switch to Linux” seem to in reality be articles listing why the ten reasons you had for not switching to Linux aren’t actually valid anymore.

To me the one reason to switch to LINUX would be control. Control over security and privacy. :slight_smile:

In what meaningful way do I not have control on Windows?
I have antivirus, a firewall and one of those ‘second chance’ sweep cleaner programs.
I can set up individual user accounts very easily, and manage access to administrative services etc.

What can I do on Linux in this regard that I can’t on Windows?
(Again, I’m not trying to be argumentative, but to actually understand the OS a bit better. I know very little about Linux but people who do understand it seem to be very for it).

Yes, you can do all that; from what I hear, microsoft has made it extremely hard to control what sort of information W8 is reporting home - all program installations are reported to microsoft for instance.
What sort of backdoors and direct channels to your data have been implemented into microsoft (and apple) to monitor your activities? We don’t know for sure, but I think that at this point, we are beyond doubting these pathways exist and are used.
From what I hear too, W8 has some sort of “self defense mechanism” that makes it hard to delete it, and allows it to self regenerate itself.

Linux code is public and reviewed by people attached to privacy values, making it hard to implement stealth surveillance.

Perhaps my naivety, but that sounds a little ‘conspiracy theory’ to me, although it certainly raises interesting questions about the validity of individual country data protection regulation in an age of global information.

The thing with corporations? Their motives are simple. I don’t see the incentive for malicious or undesirable behaviour here. Unlike, for example, the makers of anti-virus software.

Any other advantages of switching to Linux?

A couple of reasons that I use linux:
Performance - on my (now rather rusty) atom netbook, linux is substantially faster and more responsive than windows or osx
CLI - I am a rather old-school hacker and I manipulate more or less everything through the cli.
Control - I have the interface set up just so. You simply can’t set windows or osx up like the way I want my machine.

I do however realise that my reasons are probably not entirely normal (I’m a professional programmer working on linux devices) however, ignoring that other reasons you might want linux:

Hardware support - linux runs on just about everything; more to the point new versions still run on just about anything
Cost - free is free.
Education -Tinkering around with one of the more interesting (for want of a better word) distros is one of hte best ways to learn about how your pc really works.
security - there is very little malware / viruses targetting linux. Why? Partially because of market share, but also because it is based on unix which has a sensible permissions model designed into the architecture. Windows simply doesn’t. (osx is bsd based and thus also good).
Application support - no, really. For some areas (scientific work mostly), there are quite a few things which simply work better under linux.

there are multiple aspects to “control”

  • as noted earlier you can SEE, actually look at, any part of the OS code. you want to see how the TCP stack does DNS? Go look at the source.
  • If you don’t want to run it, don’t. You don’t need to run the HID daemon that handles user input devices. You can actually build it directly into the kernel. Think “disabling USB device auto detection”.
  • You have many options for UI presentation layer. KDE, Dash, GNome, TWM. All look, act, operate differently. All have different resource foot prints (this is critical for low end systems like the P1 150MHz that I’m typing this on (raspberry pi are actually more powerful than my desktop!)).
  • Direct access to all aspects of system security and operations. This is complicated and very geek focused, but assume you want to log all the network data, Write the module, put it in the stack and there you go. Any person can to this on linux. windows made it darn near impossible. This applies to all system services.
  • User space security is really enforced by default in linux. When you create a user in linux there is no “administrator” type. All users are equal. Equally limited to being unable to blow up a system. To make a global change you have to enter a password and be on privileged list. While this seems similar to windows the implementation is much different on Linux. My kids have 0 ability to damage my os. They can install what they want, but their crap will never run when they are not logged in.

These are simplified a great deal. From a typical user view these would be the points I would bring up using different context and wording. If you want a real technical discussion about stack optimization, file system options, cross platform code compilation, or any of the myriad reasons Linux is a good “power user platform” we might want to move it to a different forum.

On the other hand, you don’t need to know any of this to know that “free” is a lot cheaper than any MS or Apple OS upgrade.

hehehe, maybe… can you afford to be wrong? :smiling_imp:

My interest in Linux is recent,
Born from use of a Chromebook for research/writing.
Years ago I worked in MS-DOS and Windows and quit them
Because I thought the Mac experience was better.
Cleaner, simpler, easier to use and to teach others.
When I got into the Chrome browser, I found that
It serves about 80% of my computing needs.
My main attachment to Mac now is Scrivener
So I’m getting curious about the Linux version of Scriv
And am drawn to Ubuntu because it’s Mac-like
Whereas Vine seems more for a Windows person.
So I’m thinking to get a laptop with Ubuntu installed
And think one of the better sources may be System 76
And why? Cuz I like to mess around with
New ways to do old things: read, write, think
And finally, because the software is free
And the laptops are cheap. Apple is way too costly & proprietary
And a lot of its stuff doesn’t work. Take iCloud, for example.

Ubuntu and derivatives have a “live cd” option. Basically you can boot from CD/DVD/USB without touching the machines real OS. I’ve used it a bit for … coopting … work machines that are technically not available to me.

I know, Bad Jaysen, Bad. but sometimes you need to make things happen.

A lot of people think I’m a Mac-fanboy … I’m not. For me, I want a system that stays out of my way and lets me just get on with what I’m doing, and, for historical reasons if you like, that is OS-X. I started computing using a BBC Micro at the college I was connected with. Within about 3 weeks, I became frustrated with the text limitations of that, so moved on to using the BBC as a terminal on the Unix network and used Nroff for sending text to printer. Then I was put onto TeX and for a while was learning to set up my documents in TeX on the Unix network using Emacs. Soon after that, one of the computer support people told me that using LaTeX on the VAX, using Vi would meet my needs even better, so for about 3 years, I used that, walking two miles round-trip to pick up my printouts. I got on with it so well, that when Claire, the Sysop, held a LaTeX course for staff she invited me to join … I did, but about 15 minutes in, when she saw what I was doing, embedding images with numbered captions in my text, she asked me to help one of the other participants who was not getting embedding to work and said I was clearly better at that than her. So when I’d sorted that person out she just asked me to take over tutoring the back half of the room.

But then I bought my first computer … one of the first Atari ST520s (external floppy disk, the “Jackintosh”) and at the same time to get round its limitations, I had Emacs set up and a LaTeX to .PS system. The college had just got a Mac SEII with an Apple Laser Printer (£6000!) so I took my stuff to college in .PS format and printed from the Apple … heaven! I was virtually the only person to use that SEII.

At the same time, I was one of the handful of staff-members who had a PC in my office, running DOS and WordPerfect, then Windows 1 , Windows 2 , Windows 3 <hmmm!>, Windows 3.1 almost usable … by this time, I’d bought my first Mac, the short-lived and quickly forgotten IIvi … though I used that for about 5 years, God was it slow! But otherwise computing in the college was DOS and WordPerfect or Word. That was a problem for Chinese, so when I was put in charge of computing, I persuaded the management to let me set up a lab of 24 Mac LCIIs for Chinese, Russian, Arabic, etc. using Nisus. It was very successful, except for 2 things: the LCIIs were not really robust enough for the level of usage they got, so they did require attention … no more than the PCs, though; and when students in other colleges got wind of our Mac lab, they came over and hogged it for all their word-processing needs.

So, I’ve used the BBC operating system, though I can’t remember what it was called, Unix, VAX, DOS, Windows 1, 2, 3, 3.1, 95, 6, and XP, the Atari system on the ST520, Apple systems 6, 7, 8, 9 and now 10. So I have my geeky side, and often think I would like to move over to Linux. In spite of extensive use of Windows, I have never found it comfortable to use, but I have no problem with other people preferring some version of Windows to OS-X … in many ways, it seems to me they are much of a muchness and it comes down to a matter of preference. I think OS-X does have some advantages for the user, particularly over producing PDFs from any application, but I’m sure Windows users could come up with advantages they find.

I do know a fair amount about trouble-shooting on my Mac … not all Mac users are dunderheads that way, and in my experience an equal proportion of Windows users, now that computers are becoming more consumer oriented, similarly have no real understanding of how their system works.

But as OS-X moves closer to iOS, the urge to move to Linux gets stronger. However, when I think about it, I just think, “Do I want to use what time I have sorting out which Linux distro to use, which desktop metaphor, learning all the jargon, wondering whether I have the right libraries installed … just as a way of getting rid of the idiocies like Launchpad, Facebook and Twitter integration etc.?” Answer, “No!” “Is ‘it’s all free’ important to me?” Answer “No!” I have always been willing to pay for software that does what I want, in the way I’m comfortable with. Like many, I’ve bought things that I’ve regretted … my biggest regret is not being able to afford to keep my InDesign and Photoshop licences updated; I’ve never regretting buying them in the first place … for many things I do wish I still had InDesign, but a new licence cannot be justified economically.

And leaving Scrivener and Scapple aside — though, for me, using a non-Mac version would be a bit like scraping one’s fingernails on the blackboard while writing in chalk :wink: — I would have to give up my three favourite applications: Nisus Writer Pro … the only word processor which I would happily give it up for is the long defunct Microsoft Word 5.1a for Mac; OmniGraffle (Pro) … I don’t know of any similar software apart from Visio, and most of the comments I’ve read of that are not encouraging, but then they were written by people who use both that and OGP; and Keynote … though my need for that has diminished since I’ve now retired. But, I am not comfortable with current versions of Word or its OpenOffice equivalents, nor am I comfortable with PowerPoint or its OpenOffice equivalent … I find the interface of those latter so ugly and unintuitive compared to Keynote that it puts me off entirely.

So, I’ve paid for those applications … should I give them up in order to be able to use free apps which I don’t feel comfortable with … again, no! Not until if and when Apple really screws up OS-X to the point that it takes away all my ability to do things the way I want, have I any incentive to move over to Linux, apart from underlying geeky inclinations … which I could satisfy on my Macs, by using terminal, command lines, Emacs and LaTeX … I could do that here without changing OS.

Mr X

PS Apologies for the long post … all that’s been churning around in my mind for some time now, and I’m at leisure today, so I thought I’d get it off my chest! Thanks for reading … if you did. :wink:

Technically the question was ‘why would I switch’ not ‘why wouldn’t I switch’ (/pedant).

However that aside you do raise a valid point regarding apps - I think that the biggest point macs still have in their favour is the applications availiable only for it (or with what are frankly inferior ports[^1]) - taskpaper, nv[^2], tinderbox,scapple,scrivener etc.

I was reading the other day about a wine equivilent for running cocoa apps on linux finally getting some traction (although getting that to a usable state will take years).

[^1]: Although I hold the windows/linux name generator in Scrivener is superior to the OSX version.
[^2]: I liked it so much I ported it to linux, but that is not so applicable for most people or most applications.

No prob there Bro, :smiley: ain’t that wot leisure’s all about, staying active… init? Anyway, mate, 'snot as long as some of the crap I’ve posted, here and there.

The mousehound, Fluff, is having a hard time at the mo, with ema Wintel, the Misuses’ Win7 emachine. It’s taking three weeks to boot up and nearly as long to shut down. There’s no end of MS updates for this that and the friggin other. It’s a wonder she ever puts paw to keyboard (actually… I think she’s using my iMac when I’m not looking), so I was playing with the idea of wiping Win 7 of the H-drive (no partitioning rubbish), and installing The best Linux OS or is it distro :confused: ? But… and it’s a big [size=150]BUT[/size], whenever I visit Linux/Scriv forum, reading the posts there, is like trying to translate from Outer Mongolian/Klingon to English, and I wouldn’t say English is my forte. :frowning: So, don’t know wot t’ do for the best, really :confused:

Keep in mind Linux is no the only alternate to OSX/Windows.

FreeBSD is a BSD derivative. It is free. The interesting thing about BSD derivatives is that there are several commercial versions. Commercial in the sense that you can not obtain them with purchase. The most widely known commercial derivative is is called “darwin”. Darwin is the core of OSX.

What’s the big deal?

Cocoa is a valid development for FreeBSD. As in you can write cocoa on freebsd, build the executable, move the binary to OSX, and as long as you have all the GNU libs installed, run the executable on OSX. The process doesn’t work the other way due to the proprietary Apple libraries on used by Darwin and not available to FreeBSD.

BSD uses the same window managers as Linux (kde, gnome, twm, ice, etc) but the underlying OS is more mac like than linux.


  1. Don’t run scriv on linux. Yet.
  2. If you really want to run scriv on linux, Ask Lee, garpu, and make Ioa-ffer to send you the preferred distro and a package script (they should know what that is).
  3. Don’t listen to me or anyone else if we tell you to use something other than what Lee, garpu or Ioa-ffer tell you to use.
  4. When you have problem, just do what those three tell you. Ignore the rest of us.

There you go.

One piece of advice I would give it

So, if I’m understanding the answers right, the three primary reasons for switching to Linux are:

  1. To allow an old and failing computer to have a longer useful life (much like putting an aging parent into an old people’s home)
  2. To mitigate fears of malicious intent of authority.
  3. To satisfy one’s inner geek.

I don’t count cost as a reason (all OSes are effectively free for me since I would have no idea where to buy a computer without one).

I think one major part of my blank when it comes to Linux is that I don’t see the OS as software really. I think of computers as simply boxes for running applications, and the OS is therefore something that should be as transparent as possible. I guess through working in the same OS (essentially) for 15 years or so, the way Windows works has become so familiar that I don’t see it anymore.

I hear ya, coz…I have the same problem. The long-time Linuxers speak a kind of Esperanto that is very difficult for noobs to parse, let alone comprehend. I’m attracted to Ubuntu because it seems a little more accessible, and the user forums are helpful and friendly.

About your far, far better half :mrgreen: and her need for upgrading: what about an earlier iPad, like edition 2 or 3, with a wireless keyboard? Apple sells refurbished ones, and they’re also available on eBay or the like.

Or (my current hobby horse) a new Samsung Chromebook, in which the Google Apps read Wintel files and store them for free on Google Drive? Plus she can surf away to all her favorite sites and bet on the horses before you do. :bulb:

Fundamental flaw

MS and Apple both you OS compatibility as drivers to force changes to new hardware. No 32bit support after 10.6. Ridiculous HW req for 7/8 and the cost of a non-bundled upgrade.

OS cost is a major factor. Especially when you add the ability to use older hardware and further reduce costs.

For the record I’m being asked to do more “home user” Linux installs these day. I generally don’t as I’m not a end user support type. But the fact people who have no real need to ever use a computer are asking for it… Cost and security really are a factor for folks.

Thanks, Mark. My first exposure to computers was in college in 1968 using Fortran IV on IBM 360. Although I am old enough to retire, I won’t for at least 10-15 more years. But I have been using Macs since 1990 (System 6 and Word 5.1). My son and family use all my older computers (eMac and now MBP 2008). While I became proficient in Windows in the corporate environment(1999-2008), I would never consider getting one for my own use. Macs do exactly what I want and how I want. I too had Adobe Design Premier but could not justify the change in cloud charges. So, I transferred ownership with the MBP to my son and family (they won’t sign up for the cloud either).

While there might be intellectual interest in something else, for work and my use, Mac is the only option for me.

I have a similar approach to Marta (in other thread): I buy a new computer, load it up with whatever peripherals and software I need, and then change nothing until I buy a new computer (10 years later is my average). I don’t upgrade versions of software for the simple reason they will have been designed to use the extra computing power of more recent laptops to do things that make my older machine seem slower than it is. The exception here has been Scrivener, but that has been primarily because I need to upgrade in order to update the translations for other people. If version 2.0 is slower on my machine when that comes out I’ll probably use the trial version to update the translation (if it still exists) and then revert to v1 for personal use. I expect v2 will actually be faster though. That’s what’s happened with all the Scriv updates so far.

As such, I don’t really experience software driven obsolescence of my hardware. The closest I get to this is when websites update to meet faster download / processing times, but that doesn’t really impact me as I only visit a very small handful of simple websites. The computer I use at the moment is reasonably newish (and belongs to Mrs Pigfender), but before that our home machine was so old it had USB 1.0, RAM measured in MBs and came with a floppy disk drive. But, since I’d never upgraded MS Office or iTunes, it worked just fine… right up until the hardware finally gave up from wear and tear.

This is why my only phone is an iphone 3G with iOS4 on it. The only reason it has iOS4 instead of the one it came with is because it is an insurance replacement and the OS was pre-loaded (much to my annoyance). Of course, I have no SIM card in it and can’t download new or upgraded apps, but why should I care? It still has the apps I need that were designed to match the phone when I bought it.

The whole idea of upgrading the OS on your machine simply because there is a new version out strikes me as alien. Hence my initial presumption that there must be some strong underlying attractor in Linux that I was unaware of to tempt people to switch. What do they call it when you think everyone thinks a certain way because you do yourself?