Everyone says Linux is harder to use than Windows. I’m not disputing that, Windows and Mac are most certainly simpler operating systems and easier to get used to for the computer illiterate, but just read on for ten important reasons why Linux is easier…
10) Easier to Get: It’s Free!
If you have a cable or DSL modem (and a subscription..) you’re all set! No need to stop by Best Buy and pay a visit to the “Geek” Squad or work extra hours to save up for Macintosh and its required hardware.. Even if you are still on dial-up there is hope for you: most popular distros have year-long or special occasion releases of free CDs.. and I really do mean free CD, free shipping and handling, free support, its all there!
9) Regular “Full” Releases
Not all of us know how to 7) download the latest kernel and compile, or how to update to that new shiny version of KDE (the one with the blue bars.. come on!) or how to upgrade OOo.. If you use a good distro, chances are a new version will be out with all these and more from 6 to 12 months after the last release!
8) More Hardware Compatible
You can laugh, but believe it or not, Linux is more compatible with the popular hardware that came with your machine… well, obviously if you have a Mac your forced to use the hardware that came with it, but though Linux doesn’t have the huge online driver database and company supported drivers that Windows and Mac have, it more than makes up with it with the underlying API.
On Windows I am forced to use 4 different programs to scan from my 3 HPs and one Lexmark, but on Linux the manufacturers obey the rules and make their drivers use the central API for whatever it is that it does, meaning that once you have that driver working, it will be a breeze to use!
Gnome fans don’t get me wrong here, I use Gnome 80% of the time, but many users going to Apple for its over-simplified and cartoon-oriented interface will feel just as comfortable with the default KDE interface… plus they’ll learn something along the way. In my opinion the Windows GUI is the best mix of ease-of-use and power/performance, followed by Gnome, KDE, Macintosh, and then IceMaker; and KDE makes an excellent starting point for any Linux user, no matter how (in)experienced.
6) Unified Installation Database
While Windows is backing the excellent MSI based setup process, many have not made that transition yet. Most (95%+) companies (accidentally?) configure their software to leave residues and waste space that bogs down the PC after uninstallation. On Linux its as simple as running a “rpm -e PACKAGE” command on RPM enabled systems, and *poof* its as if that software was never there! The same goes to Debian installers too (.deb)..
5) True Out-of-Box Experience
When I see the words “out-of-box experience” stamped all over the setup splash screens and the back of the product packaging on Windows and Macintosh boxes, I am not sure whether to laugh or cry. A web browser, 2 games, and notepad do not add up to a “out-of-box experience!”
On out-of-box experience is what you get with many Linux distros, such as the Fedora Core 5 DVD. These distros come with games, complete productivity suites, photo manipulation and graphics creation applications, various media players, several browsers, instant messaging programs, and the utilities to match.
One could theoretically do a complete install of an FC5 DVD, and never install another app until the next FC release! However, there is one rather large self-imposed limitation that all users and users-to-be should be aware of: most distros do not ship with any non-GPL’d software installed, so that means that you’ll need to find (read: download) the keys to unlock the treasure chests within: codecs for the media players, API keys for the scripts, and video drivers for the games. Don’t worry, they are all free, it is just that they are not distributed under the GPL license..
4) Easier to Customize
This is one is a bit harder to understand, so bear with me for a paragraph ;). When you download a GPL-licensed distro off the web, the GPL license requires that the source code for the bundled programs be provided along with them. What this means is, if you are having issues with a feature of a program or want to change something to suite your taste, it is as simple as making the change to the source code and compiling.
Now though this may seem like it is not a feature to be added on this list, in reality it is a godsend. If you wanted to make A pop-up window or a toolbar feature disappear on Windows or Macintosh, and the developers did not add a function to let you remove it, you are going to have to disassemble the program to assembly, and make changes to that low-level machine-readable code: not fun, and definitely not easy.
3) Huge Support Community
Instead of taking your computer to your “friendly” neighborhood geek squad for a repair job, or going to the closest authorized Mac dealer and money drain to you, all you have to do is open your internet browser, go to goggle, and search. You’ll find many general Linux support forums, and even distro specific forums where you can ask your question and maybe one of the authors of the distro you use will help you out! How cool is that??
2) Installing Apps
Though this may fall a bit under number 6, it is far more important. If you are looking for a specific program, forget googling it, downloading it, installing it, then configuring it without losing your mind. Just turn on Yumex, Klik, Synaptic, or one of the tens of other installers, enter the program’s name, and watch it find, install, configure, and update that program for you, all in one click!
If you don’t know the name of the program you are looking for, just type in a keyword and watch it show you the possibilities! And if you have a program that needs updating, it will automatically inform you and offer to upgrade it while you surf the net or watch a movie! The time saved alone is unbelievable.
1) There is a Distro for Everything
In truth this point deserves a post of its own. One of the most wonderful “features” of an open source OS like Linux is, whenever any two people want something they can’t get in a prepackaged distro, they make it and share! Are you looking for an OS that comes with everything you’ll ever need in a pretty interface too? Fedora Core, SUSE, Debian, RHEL, and more are match the bill. Are you looking for a distro for use as a telephone switch box? Asterisk is the way to go..
Maybe you want a distro that fits on a 32 MB flash card that you can use wherever you go? Download DSL and your set! The possibilities are as endless as the number of distros out there. But be careful, most people make these out of the kindness of their hearts and their good-will, they make little or no money and receive no compensation but the satisfaction they bring to their users… so some of the smaller distros may not be updated as often, and many are “dead,” but the good news is, there is nothing easier than updating an ancient distro and getting it production ready. All of them are good, many are better than others, and most could do with your donations or contributions.
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Well, there you have it. Ten reasons why Linux is easier to use than Mac or Win.. and it can be much more rewarding to use as well.
Just a disclaimer: I am not implying that any of these is a better OS, all have their advantages and shortcomings, and I have used them all, some more than others, but all regularly nevertheless. If you have any questions about Linux, it may not be a bad idea to ask in the forums, or feel free to post any questions or comments about this article below.