Why Linux?

I’ve been using Linux at home (Windows is a little unavoidable at the office) for nearly a year now. I like it; I’ll probably stick with it. It’s not for everyone.

The pros:
Linux is extremely affordable. In fact, it’s free, as is the software that runs natively under this operating system. You can pay for both Linux and for software to run under it, and usually you get more libraries and support for your money. You may actually want to purchase hardware drivers for some peripheral devices (like some WiFi cards). But you probably don’t have to.
Linux is extremely cutting edge in many respects, most notably in internet browser technology and in security. Once you’ve decided on which Linux system you want to deal with (there are several popular ones like Debian, Red Hat (Fedora), Mandrake (now Mandriva), and SUSE among others), you’ll find that upgrading is almost a wonderful experience. And incremental upgrades to handle, for instance, new hardware with a non-new version of the OS, are nearly as painless. Did I mention it’s free?

The cons:
Linux depends on the good graces of hardware manufacturers to provide either drivers or specifications so that drivers can be made for Linux to run their devices. Linux depends on the community to build and share these drivers. This does not happen overnight, and the earliest version is not likely to be the highest quality. The software may be cutting edge, but you can’t expect your cutting edge hardware (graphics cards needed for games included) to perform up to spec. Worse, sometimes popular, not so new devices (most notably a ubiquitous sound card) don’t work easily or at all under this OS. It’s very frustrating to discover that you can’t use, for instance, a Zip drive or a brand of DVD burner (yet). It’s even more frustrating to discover that a device you used successfully under Linux doesn’t work after an upgrade.
Also, there is no one Linux. There are many versions, each with different strengths, weaknesses and procedures to do some pretty basic things. Once you learn your system, it’s clear. But until you do, it’s a confusing, trying ordeal. Finding your information can be an ordeal too, at least, at first. Sometimes it feels like no one is writing in English.

Think of your ‘puter like a car. Linux is the one that you tinker with in the garage. If you take the time to learn what your doing, you can have the fastest, snazziest hot-rod in town. If you don’t, it’s a jalopy that limps along. With Windows, you spent a lot for it off the dealer’s lot; maybe too much. And every day you must ask yourself “Is it the car you really want, or is it a lemon?” Is it just the right car for you, Ms. Sunday driver, if you were sold a Porche, or you, Mr. Andretti, if you bought a Chevy or Ford?

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