Have you ever wanted to try Linux?
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
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?
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:
- Your Windows system has crashed and you can’t get to your files, pictures, and email.
- 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.
- 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
Straightening Out The Learning Curve
Just 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.
GNOME Desktop Environment under Mandriva Linux 2010
Uploaded by mandriva. – Discover more science and tech videos.
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.
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).