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Pros and cons of Linux from a layman’s perspective

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About 7 years ago, I was forced to experiment with operating systems, as my Windows wouldn’t work without crashing every now and then. It still does, I probably restore factory settings more often than most people. Considering I was in Bangalore, the Silicon Valley of India, I didn’t have trouble finding geeky friends to teach me a thing or two about Linux. This is where my journey with Linux began. You should know upfront, I am no expert in computers although I do have a bachelors degree in Computer Science and work experience in the IT industry yet I can be considered pretty much a non or semi technical person for all intents and purposes. In this post I am going to tell you about my experience with Linux.

I experimented with Linux distributions, a lot of them. Initially I started off with Debian, on hindsight, might not be the best option for a beginner. Progressively I experimented with Mandriva, Fedora, OpenSuse and Ubuntu for personal use and CentOS for professional use. My favorite distro is Ubuntu till now. Mainly because Ubuntu is extremely user friendly and it is easy to find solutions for technical issues for Ubuntu more than the others as it is more commercial than the other distros.

Things I absolutely love about Linux –

  • It is supremely simple to understand the OS structure
  • You have all the freedom to play around with it. If you are good enough, you can manipulate the scripts and files, fix issues by yourself, make things work your way. This brings us to the next point.
  •  Transparency. It is open source, hence you can find every bit of information online and get enormous help from the Linux community. It is a brotherhood which is committed to make things better for this world. Such is the resolve of this community.
  • The concept of ‘copyleft’. GNU believes in free information. That, access to information for free is everybody’s right. Copyleft is the opposite of copyright. According to GNU’s website – “To copyleft a program, we first state that it is copyrighted; then we add distribution terms, which are a legal instrument that gives everyone the rights to use, modify, and redistribute the program’s code, or any program derived from it, but only if the distribution terms are unchanged. Thus, the code and the freedoms become legally inseparable.”
  • Linux file system can read the Windows file system but unfortunately not the other way round. I find this very fascinating. It means, you can run both Windows and  Linux on one device and you can access your Windows files through Linux system. You can either partition your hard disk or run Linux as a virtual OS on Windows.
  • The values of open source community is built on non monitory incentives. They work because they are interested and some are even passionate about it. It’s an anarchic decentralized community that values every idea. Owing to this huge community of developers worldwide, improvements, patches and bug fixes are rather robust and done fast. Updates are released rather frequently. Some fix problems and some create new ones which will be discussed in the next section.
  • Windows applications can be installed on Linux using Wine software. I’m sure there are several other software which can do this. Also, there are plenty of alternatives for every Windows application.
  • Linux terminal is fun with a lot of pop culture references, funny command outputs and snide comments.

So why am I using Windows now? Is Linux for everyone? Before you take the plunge, you must know a few things.

Initially when I first started using Linux, I used to constantly run into small issues that generally are not encountered on Windows at all.  To begin with, if you are installing Linux yourself, it can get tricky and lead to certain unwanted situations where you lose all your data especially when you want to install it with your Windows system. You could sometimes miss installing the boot loader and end up in a pretty bad situation. But with the latest distros and user friendly distribution like Ubuntu, things are generally simpler. Generally drivers and other essentials for most hardware devices come with the package but sometimes you have to install it. It can take a little bit of time to get used to running executable files and installing software on your device. Solutions to very simple problems, such as unable to run a video file, might seem too technical and frustrating initially. Alternatives to applications like Microsoft Suite is not really comparable with their open source counterparts. But with SAAS – software as a service trending these days, eg: Office 365, you won’t need as many alternatives. As discussed above, updates sometimes along with fixing certain problems, creates others that you need to troubleshoot.

My advice is this –  Linux can offer you a lot more than you can expect and imagine. It will empower you with freedom of choice. You just have to be patient, slowly get yourself into it and remember there is always a solution to every problem and your help is just a shout away.

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