Sep 072010
 
This entry is part 1 of 1 in the series Linux For Your Small Business

Have you ever wanted to try Linux?



Richard Stallman - Founder, Free Software Foundation / Linux Guru at Vatican Rome

Linux is a free-to-use and free-to-modify computer operating system (also known as "open source").

Linux can be a replacement for Windows on desktop computers or you can use it in addition to Windows on your desktop, laptop or netbook. With a Live CD, you can try-before-you-keep, and it’s as attractive as any Windows(TM) eye-candy.

There are lots of friendly help, tutorials, and communities of happy users to get you past the learning curve.


Who Is Using Linux?

According to the Linux Movies Group, more than 95% of the servers and desktops at large animation and visual effects companies use Linux.  Most desktop computers run either Mac OS X or Microsoft Windows, with Linux having only 1-2% of the desktop market. However, desktop use of Linux has become increasingly popular in recent years, partly owing to the popular Ubuntu distribution (ubuntu.org) and the emergence of netbooks and smartbooks.1

Two popular contentions are that Linux is not mature enough and the learning curve is too steep.

With respect to maturity, Linux has been considered "mature" since its original founder, Linus Torvalds, put his stamp of approval on it in the mid-90s.  Big organizations, such as those behind Ubuntu Linux and Suse, have done much to advance ease of use for regular users. Then there are the dedicated groups of Linux enthusiasts who have done their share to bring both a pleasant experience to using Linux and ensure quality reigns in the applications we need to get our work done.

The Graphical User Interface (GUI) Puts A Pretty Face Over The Underlying Nuts and Bolts

Mandriva Linux - For Business - Alternative To Windows - Gnome How many people do you know who knows enough about Windows XP, Vista or Windows 7 to go crawling around under the hood?  Windows no longer has the advantage of being the only PC operating system with a "graphical user interface" (GUI).  That was the claim it could make when it put a pretty face on DOS and software vendors put a pretty face on the programs we used everyday.  But Linux began putting an attractive GUI on top of its DOS-looking (or rather, Unix-looking) operating system eons ago! (I began using Linux regularly in 2004; the graphical user interface had already been in use for over 10 years.)

If there is no expectation that the average user will shuck the GUI in Windows and go mucking around in DOS (which is still what Windows are built upon), then it is quite unfair to expect those same users would have a daily need to do any such thing with Linux.  And if we have dispelled the notion that anybody wants to dig around under the pretty face, what’s left to keep mainstream computer users — PC users — from considering Linux as an acceptable alternative for their desktop computers?

Not much.

Safely Go Where No Mainstream Windows User Has Gone Before

I agree with the folk over at Linux.org, trying Linux just to "stick it to Bill Gates," is not a good reason to give Linux a try. In addition to looking for alternatives to the Windows system, here are 3 excellent reasons to try Linux:

  1. Your Windows system has crashed and you can’t get to your files, pictures, and email.
  2. You run a small business and it’s taxing your budget to keep buying Windows upgrades AND upgrades to the Windows programs that change every time Windows changes.
  3. You create websites and you want a local staging area similar to your online environment.

Start Easy. Use a Live CD

I’ve never seen a "Live CD" for any version of Windows.  A "Live CD" is a CD or DVD with the entire operating system on it in a try-before-you-keep format.  Not only does it have the complete operating system on it, it has a plethora of productivity applications that can be used from the same CD or DVD — without installing anything!

Troubleshooting Characteristics of Live CDs

A Live CD is a great troubleshooting or data recovery tool.  With a Live CD, Linux can also be part of your technical support toolbox.  The Live CD boots up very quickly.  You’ll immediately have access to troubleshooting tools you can use to recover from computer failures or Windows blue screen anomalies.

Popular Linux Distros Offering Live CDs/DVDs

  • Simply Mepis Linux
  • ZenWalk Linux
  • Knoppix Linux
  • Linux Mint
  • OpenSuse

Straightening Out The Learning Curve

Mandriva Linux - For Business - Alternative To Windows - OpenOffice SuiteJust about everything new has a learning curve. Every Linux user was once a "newbie," so there is no shame in asking what you do not know. 

You will find lots of friendly help, tutorials, and communities of happy users to get you past installing, configuring, and using Linux.  You can feel free to ask questions, and share your opinions. 

Two of my favorite places to go for help are LinuxQuestions and Linux Newbie Guide.  There are lots more available.

In some cases, depending on the software you elect to use, you might not have much of a learning curve with respect to using Linux. Why? Because if you use software you are already familiar with, there won’t be much difference in how it behaves on Linux. For example, I use OpenOffice on Windows. When I’m using Linux, I just use the OpenOffice version created for Linux. The files can be read, edited, saved the same under both operating systems, and they still work in MS Office, if you happen to use that.

What’s To Buy? What About Upgrades?

The upgrade process is automated just like in your Windows system. You can do it manually, but the automated process works well.  And it doesn’t cost you anything, except a little time.

You can support open source software by ordering your Linux distribution directly from the developers who created it. Linux itself is free; you’ll just be paying a nominal administrative fee. This is a good idea if you don’t have high speed internet, or you don’t want to wait for a download, or you don’t have a CD/DVD burner.  Your $10 bucks (or whatever) will help defray the expenses associated with distributing free software.

Is Linux Perfect?

I’ve never seen true perfection in anything; Linux is no exception. But Windows isn’t perfect either.  Anything that can have "new and improved," "latest upgrade," "enhanced," or other superlatives tacked on to its name, probably won’t ever reach a state of nirvana. 

In the words of the Linux.org writer2, "If you’ve bought a new car, you don’t have to be "weaned" off that. You just trade in the old one and start driving the new one."

Now, go out and test drive Linux for yourself.

Photo Credit: St. IGNUcius (aka Richard Stallman) at the Vatican blessing a bystander’s computer. – Copyright (c) 2009-2010 Richard Stallman. License:
Verbatim copying and redistribution of any of the photos in the photos subdirectory is permitted under the Creative Commons Node license version 3.0 or later.

 

See Linux in Action – View Video!

Below is a video of Mandriva Linux in action. Mandriva is a popular flavor of the Linux operating system. I’ve installed it on one of my desktops — not only is it beautifully designed, it just works! Take a look at the video for a sneak peak of how it can be used for either personal enjoyment or serious business.

 

For more information about using Linux as a desktop PC replacement, visit my Linux Squidoo Lens that gives you a jumping off point for learning more about Linux and offers reviews of some of the coolest Live CDs.

 

You can also view the Linux Guide, which was written for the novice user and will help you get started. Created by LinuxEZ.


Other Credits

Linux is a registered trademark of Linus Torvalds. Windows XP™, Vista™, Microsoft™ Word™, and Excel™ are registered trademarks of Microsoft™ Corporation.
Mandriva screenshots are © 2009 Mandriva, available under Creative Commons By 2.0 license. Demo videos are © 2009 Mandriva, available under Creative Commons By 2.0 license for “boot sequence” and Free Art license for the others. Music in video Joie, Gregk (Creative Commons By 2.0 license) — Blues et Creuvaison, AlbanLepsy (Free Art license).




Footnotes

  1. Some Linux facts from Wikipedia  [↩ go back]
  2. Quote from Beginner Lessons on Linux.org  [↩ go back]

About Vernessa Taylor

Hi, I'm Vernessa Taylor. I write most of the articles, tutorials and reviews around here. Join in the discussions, share your thoughts, ask questions and lend a hand when you can. Need something? Ask! Check out my About page to learn more about me and my work as a technology consultant and internet coach. Don't forget to connect with me on Google+ and Twitter @CoachNotesBlog.

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  8 Responses to “Why Linux Operating System Is An Acceptable Open Source Alternative for Desktop Computers”

Comments (8)
  1. I keep hearing great things about Linux, but currently have Windows. If I were to switch, would I be able to upload files that I have on MS Office, or am I completely screwed if I do?

  2. Hi Elle, welcome and great question!

    You definitely are NOT screwed. Linux comes with numerous Word processing programs you can choose from, that can read and write MS Word documents. Some are stand-alone (just a word processor, like AbiWord), some are part of a suite (like OpenOffice Writer).

    The best way to get a feel for the potential of Linux is to try a Live CD, which can be booted up and used, without messing with your current Windows installation. For a pleasant experience, I’d recommend Linux Mint, PCLinuxOS, or Ubuntu.

    I’ve written two Squidoo lenses that will give you some more context, answer lots of questions, and give you a jumping off point: Try-Linux and Time4Linux.

    Let me know how you make out, and don’t hesitate to ask any questions you might have. :)

  3. This summer I switched from Windows to Ubuntu. I was extremely satisfied with the way things work in Linux. So many stuff is simpler and more logical. But i couldn’t solve two issues:
    1. My screen would freeze occasionally, so I had to force shut down by pressing power button. Sometimes it would happen several times per day and sometimes it would be good for 3-4 days.
    2. Sometimes I would loose wireless connection and the only way to connect again was to restart computer.
    I was seeking for solution two weeks, uninstalled many programs, changed graphic drivers, posted problem on Ubuntu forums… In the end I removed Ubuntu completely and installed Windows 7. I guess my hardware simply isn’t compatible with Ubuntu. Someone more Linux-savvy, would probably find the solution, but for me, it was too much.

    • Welcome, Roko Nastic! Thanks for sharing your recent experience with Linux. Truly sorry to hear you had troubles with freeze-ups and wireless on Ubuntu! I suspect the freezing was related to the wireless. You didn’t mention which wireless card you use; I’d be interested to know.

      One phrase I hate to hear is:

      In the end I removed [DistroNameHere] completely and installed Windows [AnyVersion].

      Yikes! Because you were determined enough to give Linux a go, I think I can convince you to have another go, maybe with a different distro. (A little Linux poetry for you! :) )

      Was Ubuntu the only flavor you’ve ever worked with? There are numerous others that “just work.” I’m partial to both Linux Mint and PCLinuxOS for this very reason (which use the Gnome desktop like Ubuntu does). If you’d like to see a bit more about them, my personal notes are in Time4Linux on Squidoo, a new Time4Linux Blog, and a newbie lens called Try Linux.

      Let me if I can answer any questions for you!

  4. Yes, Ubuntu was the only one I tried. I would try some else, but I work from that computer and was too scared that I will again spend time solving problems instead of working, so I went the safe route.
    My wireless is Intel WiFi Link 4965AGN. One day I’ll install Linux again, but not now. Too much work is in front of me. Probably, the next laptop I’ll buy will be with some Linux distro included. Luckily, it is not hard to find new laptops with Linux as it was before.

    • I do understand. You’re right, digging around under the hood can eat up precious billable hours.

      Don’t forget, you can play around using LiveCDs without touching your Windows installation. That way, you can try-before-you-buy (that new laptop) and be familiar with a variety of Linux flavors.

      Do get in touch if I can be of any assistance. On another note, you have an excellent selection of tools on Webmaster Format. I’ll have to give those CSS generators a try!

      Talk to you soon.

  5. I really appreciate this article you have shared Vernessa, but i don’t know about this , because almost all the internet marketers don’t use the Linux for business. they prefer to use the Windows, this is the simple question i can’t answer.

    • What about for yourself? Linux is easy to try using LiveCDs. Some people like to have the option to use it and use Windows on the same computer. As for businesses, there are many reasons why switching the business systems over to the Linux platform might work for them, including cost of software licenses.

      Hope you’ll give it a whirl.

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