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Why I Use Linux

If you look around the Internet, you’re bound to read lots of posts justifying why you should consider changing to Linux. Personally, I don’t care which OS you use, so long as it’s an informed decision. So I thought I would write a post about why I use Linux, which may in turn help you to make an informed decision as to which OS you decide to use.

If you’re thinking about changing operating system, please don’t take this post in isolation – do research in to Linux, Mac and Windows, then make the right decision for yourself. These are just my opinions, they are not reasons why I think you should be using Linux.

Pragmatism vs idealism

I like to think of myself as a pragmatist when it comes to my use of Linux, and FOSS (Free & Open Source Software) in general. Whilst I like the fact that Linux is open and free (as in freedom and free beer), that’s not the main reason why I use it.

Personally, I will use the OS, application or tool that I feel is best for the job. If that’s a FOSS application then great, bonus! But I will happily use proprietary applications if I feel they’re the best option.

For example, a lot of Linux distributions come bundled with the open source office application, LibreOffice, and whilst it’s a good application I feel there are better alternatives out there. Personally, I use SoftMaker Office. If Microsoft Office was available for Linux, I’d use that as I feel it’s head and shoulders above any of the alternatives.

For me, the requirements I have from an application far outweigh the idealism of always running FOSS. Having said that, my privacy will generally take precedence over everything else, but more on that later.

So whilst you will see a lot of FOSS applications on my computers, you’re also bound to see some proprietary ones too; like Spotify, Steam and Minecraft. That may make me a hypocrite in some people’s eyes, but I really don’t care. As long as my machines do what I need them to, that’s good enough for me.

Privacy

I alluded to this earlier in the article; my privacy is incredibly important to me. So much so that I’ve tried to de-Google my life where possible. If you didn’t know, Windows 10 is a bit of a privacy black-hole, so that’s a big no-no for me. Basically, I don’t want to send my private data to any 3rd parties if I can help it. If I can’t help it, then I want to limit what I send where possible.

If there is a proprietary application that is better than the FOSS alternative, but I feel it’s a privacy concern, then I will go for the FOSS alternative, even if it’s more difficult for me to use. FOSS applications do tend to be better privacy citizens than their proprietary counterparts.

Linux generally has few privacy issues and even when it doesn’t get things quite right, the problems will usually get fixed.

Linux gets out of the way

I have a Windows 10 partition that I need to use occasionally – usually for printing as my printer doesn’t work in Linux, which is rare these days. Anyway, whenever I boot my Windows 10 partition I get popup after popup telling me that I need to upgrade the OS, I need to upgrade application, do I want to sign in to OneDrive, do I want a Microsoft account, do I want to install candy crush etc. etc. etc. It’s ridiculous.

Finally, when I get sick of all the popups, Windows 10 will decide its going to update my machine for me, and I’ll come back to a rebooted machine. Nice one, Microsoft.

When I boot my Linux machines, the OS starts up and it gets out of my way. If I have updates to either the OS, or any applications on my system, I get a single discrete popup that I can execute when it’s suitable for me.

Best for my work stream

Like most technical people, I have a very specific way in which I prefer to work. My work stream is a mashup of both the Mac and Windows interfaces.

I like my main panel at the top of the screen with a list of my open applications, and a dock at the bottom that acts as shortcuts to my favourite applications. On top of this, I like to have a Windows style application menu.

In Mac and Windows, I don’t have much freedom when it comes to setting up my workspace. To be fair, I can get it pretty close in Windows, but there are nuances in both Windows and Mac that I don’t really like. There are also niggles in Linux, but I can change them.

In Linux, I can change any aspect of the user interface that I like. I can even install a completely new user interface if I feel. This means that the whole experience on Linux can be extremely personal to me. Which in turns makes me more productive, as everything is just how I like it.

Linux looks good

Generally, Linux is not a black screen that’s full of text, and it doesn’t require a computing degree to use it. The fact of the matter is, Linux can be gorgeous, and super simple to use.

Having said that, Linux can also be extremely ugly and extremely difficult to use – it’s completely up to the user.

One the one hand, you can have download and install Elementary OS, which actually has a lot of the look and feel of Mac. It’s super simple to use, it’s gorgeous, and you never have to touch a terminal window if you don’t want to.

The on the flip side of the coin you have something like Gentoo that requires a hell of a lot of Linux expertise. Basically, you build Gentoo from scratch, from the kernel up. Where Elementary OS may take around 15-20 minutes to install, Gentoo can take days!

Personally, I opt for the easier end of the scale, as I just want to get on with my work without having to tweak every little piece of the operating system. I currently use Ubuntu MATE.

Conclusion

So those are some of the reason why I use Linux. After doing some research, if you feel that you prefer Windows or Mac, that’s totally fine. Being aware of the alternatives to the more popular operating systems is very important however, as it will mean you’re armed with the information you need to make an informed decision about what operating system you use, rather than simply sticking with the status quo.

Personally I love Linux, but it doesn’t mean it will work for everyone else. Do you use Linux? Please feel free to tell me why (or why not) in the comments below.

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