Today, I am blogging from my Linux laptop because my regular Windows XP laptop has some sort of nasty virus on it (and come Monday, I’ll be taking it to the IT department where I work). It’s pretty amazing at how fast, reliable and beautiful my Linux laptop is to use…even after 4 years (although two years ago, I did install the latest version of openSUSE; but since then, I’ve done no updates). However I will feel better when I get my Windows laptop back — and ultimately yearn for the day that I can get a Macbook (I already have a Mac as a desktop computer, but the BF is usually on that machine).
Don’t get me wrong, I’m no fan of Windows or Microsoft in general. But I’ve changed my focus and end-goals when it comes to computing. 10 years ago, I installed Linux on my home computer for the very first time. It previously had Windows ME and was becoming a nightmare to use. Although I was a newbie to Linux, I opted to do a full install (as opposed to a “dual boot” option, where you could use either Linux or Windows on one machine). I was a big learning curve, but I was done with being crippled by Windows hangups.
This was also back when I was into building my own “custom” computers and I was away at college – giving me the environment where I could earn my “techie wings” and there were quite a few “computer hackers” on campus that I could consult with for help. When I moved to Florida in 2003, I discovered the Florida Linux User Exchange (FLUX) which led to a lead to a job at the now defunct U.S. Digital Television as a software tester. I was then using Linux at both work and home. I was fully onboard the “anti-Microsoft” bandwagon; finding Linux much more competent for programming, web development and using the internet.
However as time went on, I moved on to a career in the insurance industry where Microsoft Windows (and Office) were the standard. Then I returned back to college. As much as I liked Open Office, I saw first hand that there could be compatibility issues between it and MS Office; especially with the introduction of the ‘.docx’ file extension.
In addition to this, it was getting more and more difficult to get device drivers and updated software. I remember when Yahoo! Messenger provided a Linux-compatible client; and then at some point they stopped. While many alternative, Linux-only chat clients could be used instead, I always had to deal with people on the other end who had more features than I did (this is also the case with the Yahoo! Messenger chat client for Mac). But the main issue that prevented me from using Linux exclusively starting in 2008, was the difficulty I had in finding a reliable device driver for my laptop’s wireless card.
That’s when I realized; it is one thing to want to tinker around and be a computing hobbyist…and another to be fully productive with the time that you spend on a computer. Now I am not saying that you have to be a computer whiz to use Linux…or that it’s not a viable alternative to MS Windows. But you need to know what your end-goals are. And the truth is, if you are going to be collaborating with others in your computing tasks…or if you will be dependent on using third party software (including web-based programs), then Linux can be a chore to deal with.
But I still cherish my Linux laptop (especially at times like this). It still has a place in my home. So what, in my own humble opinion is Linux good for?
1. Internet – since it is not likely to be infected by viruses, and downloading things isn’t exactly straightforward, Linux is a great option for using the internet…especially for younger users or students where you are trying to limit to purposeful web-browsing.
2. Older computers – Linux is much less demanding in terms of system requirements…so it doesn’t get obsolete as quickly as versions of MS Windows. The newest versions of Linux can run fine on computer 5 years old (or more).
3. Programming - Linux has the built in capability to handle just about any programming language in terms of compiling and development. In addition, when it comes to web programming and development, I’ve always found it much easier to edit files locally and upload them to the server (usng the bash shell) than trying to do the same on a Windows machine.
4. Poor people – I am a staunch believer that every home should have a computer. But computers are expensive, and software makes them even more so. Linux distributions can be downloaded for free…or even very inexpensively (I ordered a SUSE disk for $10.
So there it is — it’s always nice to clear the air.