One way or another you’re actually using Linux every day. Linux is the dominant platform on web servers, including the one you’re on right now, and it is also the core of the Android operating system that you’re tapping away at all the time if you own an Android smartphone or tablet. Besides that it’s also running everything from top supercomputers to small specialized devices, like that ADSL router you’re probably connected through to the internet.
Yet if you’re like 90% of other PC owners you’re probably running Windows on it, and according to statistics it’s probably Windows 7. And for most of you this looks like the only viable option, and for some of you that might actually be kind of frustrating sometimes. If you’ve ever had issues with Windows that you wish you didn’t have, or wondered if there was something better or if you’ve seen Apple’s computers and realized the Windows way isn’t necessarily the only way, you might want to read on.
The truth is that while Linux isn’t for everyone there are most certainly a lot of people out there who would be a perfect fit for it if they only knew. Here are the 10 signs Linux may be a perfect fit for you. If you recognize yourself maybe it’s worth giving it a go.
1. You’re running Windows XP and don’t want to upgrade
There are various reasons why you might not want to upgrade to a newer version of Windows. Your computer might be too old and you might be afraid the newer version will run slow on it. Or you just dislike the way Windows 7 or 8 look and feel like. Or you simply don’t want to or can’t pay for a proper upgrade.
Whatever the case running Windows XP is an increasingly dangerous proposition. It is 13 years old! That makes it absolutely ancient in computer terms. If you were running something that old back in 2001 when Windows XP first came out you would be running Windows 2.0 which was released in 1987 and boasted a clock app as one of its notable features! Seriously.
Moreover Microsoft unsurprisingly no longer supports Windows XP meaning that you don’t get any security updates to an operating system that was notorious for being insecure. You may also increasingly find yourself unable to run some of the latest and greatest applications on it.
But if you don’t want to upgrade to newer Windows your only choice is to switch to something else. Besides expensive Apple computers all you’ve got left is Linux, which is always fresh, modern, and very secure. Plus you can even get a Linux variant that looks and feels similar to what you’re used to on Windows XP. See Zorin OS for example, or Lubuntu.
2. You don’t depend on any Windows-only applications
There are people whose profession or hobbies require applications that are Windows-only either because equivalents that exist on Linux aren’t quite up to the task or using an alternative just isn’t an option. For example, electronic music producers who are used to applications like FL Studio, Cubase or Ableton may find some alternatives on Linux, but they’re likely to be more difficult to work with or don’t fit their established preferences and workflow. Using emulation or virtualization to run them may be an option, but it typically comes with some compromises.
Some do have better options though, like graphics designers using Photoshop and Illustrator who may find GIMP and Inkscape as alternatives to be quite powerful.
But if you’re in no need for such applications, then you’d be pretty much all set on Linux. Everything you do on Windows you can do on Linux.
3. You don’t use exotic Windows-only hardware
There are some hardware components and peripherals that aren’t fully supported by Linux, such as some professional external audio interfaces for example. Chances are that all the hardware you have will work well, and if you do have any special hardware component you can check whether it is fully supported.
4. You’re using your computer just to get online
If all you’re using your computer for is to get online your dependence on Windows is even less significant. All of the major web browsers except Microsoft’s Internet Explorer work on Linux including Firefox, Chrome, and Opera. All of the major applications for chatting and voice calls are also available, like Skype and IM clients for various instant messaging networks. Specialized clients for Twitter are also available and are quite nice.
5. PC games you play work on Linux or you own a game console
It used to be that gaming was a big hangup for Linux, but things are improving dramatically in that regard. It’s not that there weren’t good quality games on Linux before, but they typically included free games from independent developers, and often missed the popular commercial titles that the gaming world is usually buzzing about.
But today Steam is available on Linux and an increasing number of top notch games are getting ported over. Valve, the company behind Steam and a number of those popular titles (like Half Life, Portal, Team Fortress, DOTA, and so on), in fact believes that Linux is the future of gaming.
Nevertheless it’s still quite possible that some of your most favorite games aren’t yet available, and if you’re playing on your PC that might be a concern. If you are gaming on a console like the PlayStation or Xbox, or your favorite games are already on Linux then this is a non-issue for you. Switching to Linux wont disrupt your gaming experience.
6. You’re tired of adware and spyware getting onto your system
You get most if not all software on Windows by downloading and installing a package from a web site of a software maker or a dedicated software download site like Softpedia or Download.com. It’s a well known fact that these often try to install additional software that you probably don’t want or need, but which may undesirably change some of your settings, run in the background consuming resources, and even display advertisements or send information about your usage habits (spy on you).
Sometimes they’re quite sneaky about the way they do this too. It’s not uncommon that the checkbox to install such additional programs is preselected by default and made to be easy to miss, if there is a checkbox to begin with.
This almost never happens on Linux, and we say “almost” just to cover for any rare case that we might not be aware of. This author has in fact never seen it. Most of the software you install on Linux comes from a central repository maintained by the same company that provides your Linux distribution so all software is packaged and maintained by them. You get them all through a program that resembles the Mac App Store. In Ubuntu it’s called the Ubuntu Software Center.
7. You want something different
While Windows has introduced plenty of changes in recent releases, having changed the look and feel significantly between Windows XP and Windows 7, and even more dramatically between Windows 7 and Windows 8, it is still more or less operating along the same lines. Besides, those changes have sometimes arguably been for the worse.
Windows 8 removes the start menu and replaces it with a full screen Modern UI, but everything else is pretty much standard fare. When you look at OSX you see things like Mission Control (previously Spaces), expose feature for easily navigating between open Windows, the notifications center, and so on. Linux has its own incarnations of most of these, and has had some of them for ages.
The thing is that for many these kinds of features significantly improve the ease and efficiency with which we use our computers yet they keep lacking in Windows. If you’re itching for a better way going for Linux gives you a tremendous opportunity to experience something different.
What’s more the Linux world offers a great amount of choice when it comes to the way you want your computer to look and feel like. If you like a typical Windows-like user interface you can have that. If you prefer Mac-like style, that’s available too. If you want something completely different that’s actually the default in Ubuntu, one of the most popular variants of Linux.
8. You like to customize and tinker
Speaking of choice, depending on which flavor of Linux you choose you can customize it to your heart’s content, and do so in various different ways. Different systems allow different levels of customizability.
If you wish to dig deeper the open nature of Linux systems and an active and generous community have produced a huge amount of information about everything that can be done on Linux. You can learn a lot this way, come up with something that suits you perfectly, and even acquire some potentially valuable skills for your career if you work with computer technology.
9. You like free stuff / want to save money
As you may know Linux operating systems are in the vast majority of cases completely free, and not just free in the sense that you don’t have to pay anything, but also in the sense that you’re free to legally copy it as many times as you want and share with anyone. What’s called illegal piracy in the Windows world pretty much doesn’t exist in the Linux world. That’s the nature of open source software licensing.
This can lead to money savings because you don’t have to buy Windows upgrades to run it legally, and if you’re upgrading multiple systems (family, business, etc.) this can add up.
Yet despite being free the quality is surprisingly good. Big companies like Canonical, RedHat, Novell, Google and so on are funding its development and making money on related support services they offer their business users. The model is shown to work. You may not be foreign to open source software if you’ve used popular programs like Chrome, Firefox, VLC, and many others, all of which are open source, like Linux.