Dispelling common Linux myths

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A lot of people who are either trying out Linux for the first time, or are thinking about using Linux but haven’t yet taken the leap often hear some pretty crazy misconceptions about Linux. Some of these myths are old truths of years gone by (in most cases, more than 10 years) or are completely made up. Whatever the reason for the distortion, I think it’s time we dispelled with some of the hearsay and shoot some hard facts so you can make up your own mind on whether you want to choose Linux or not. Here goes!

1. My hardware (eg Wireless card) doesn’t work with Linux!

In most cases, most Linux distributions support the vast majority of hardware without requiring any type of setup at all. You just plug it in and it works – In windows you have to download the drivers and install them first before the hardware works. A quick google search will generally confirm or deny whether a hardware device works with Linux.

Sometimes, it is true however that some hardware just doesn’t work in Linux. Why is this? The answer is simple – the manufacturers have not made a Linux driver, and they are unwilling to provide any guidance to the Linux community on how to make a driver. You can say the same for a Mac, for example if you took a card which was made for Windows and plugged it into a Mac. If the drivers hadn’t been made by the manufacturer for the Mac, it wouldn’t work. Indeed, Apple make some hardware that isn’t compatible with Windows in the same way, so Linux is truly no different to Windows, Mac or any other operating system.

2. Linux is difficult to install on to your computer.

Perhaps 10, maybe even 5 years ago in some cases, Linux was a little harder to install than Windows. Have a look at our video tutorial demonstrating how to install Linux, you’ll see that you can install Linux in around 20 minutes, it’s all graphically driven and most of the parts of the installation can be answered by a five year old (Eg: What’s your name, what country do you live in, what does your keyboard look like?). The hardest part of installing Linux is if you want to share your hard disk with Windows or Mac OS, and even that’s a breeze these days because most installers guide you through the process for you and resize your disk automatically so you can have both Windows/Mac OS and Linux on your computers’ disk together.

3. Linux is difficult to use. You have to type commands and things.

If you are a person that falls into the vast majority of home desktop computer users that use their computer to do a few main things like surf the web, do emails and touch up the occasional photo then there is nothing difficult about Linux whatsoever. I know that statement is subjective, but if you feel competent enough to do these tasks within a Windows or Mac environment, then you can definitely do it in Linux.

Linux, just like Windows and Mac OS has a command line interpreter hidden away somewhere. If you are an advanced computer user such as a programmer or system administrator, you may find that typing commands is quicker and easier for you than pointing and clicking, but in the more polished desktop distributions of Linux available today such as Ubuntu, there is no requirement to use the command line/shell/terminal to do normal desktop style tasks. If you don’t want to use the command line, you don’t have to!

4. Linux doesn’t have all the software that Windows/Mac does. I can’t do what I need to do.

Whilst Linux may not have the same software as your Windows or Mac computer has in some cases (although more and more these days the three platforms do have the same software becoming available), you will find that Linux has some very worthy alternatives. Take for example, the lack of Adobe Photoshop from Windows or Mac OS on the Linux platform (without running a Windows compatability program). Almost every Linux distribution ships with the GIMP Image Manipulation software which although free of charge, gives Adobe Photoshop a real run for the money you pay for Photoshop! Another example would be the lack of Microsoft Office (Word/Excel/Powerpoint etc) in Linux. OpenOffice.org is a fully featured office suite which is compatible with Microsoft Office. Almost forgot; that’s free too!

You’ll find that most Linux alternative software out there is compatible with the Windows / Mac equivalent, especially if the software you use is a major title. Moreso, you will find that there are many titles out there that you just can’t find for Windows or Mac that get to Linux first because many programmers prefer to write software for Linux.

 

5. You can’t play movies, listen to mp3s or play other ‘copyrighted’ media with Linux.

This is a common myth which is completely untrue. Linux is generally free, right? Because Linux is free, it would mean that it would infringe certain copyright, patent or other licensing matter to just bundle the software with the distribution. This is why the distributions you don’t pay for such as Ubuntu, Fedora Core and Debian don’t come with MP3 support out of the box. Simply by installing MP3 ‘codecs’ (similar to when you need to download codecs/updates in Windows Media player), you can get the MP3 support you want. I’m using MP3 as an example – DVDs and other media formats such as MP4, Microsoft Windows Video format (WMV) or Apple Audio Codec (AAC) all need similar codec support ‘packages’ installed. These are all free and can be installed trivially although you should check if it is legal to install those codecs in your country first.

6. You have to tweak loads of things to make it work right. Linux breaks easily.

Unless you have a computer with loads of odd or unsupported hardware in it, you should find that Linux ‘just works’. You don’t have to tweak anything during the installation process, and perhaps you might want to change your desktop background image, but you really shouldn’t need to set up much or tweak things, just like you don’t have much to tweak with Mac OS or Windows.

7. It’s not secure and you can get lots of viruses because there aren’t any proper anti-virus programs for Linux.

Linux is still one of the most secure Operating Systems available. Have a look at the amount of viruses and malware that most Windows users get plagued with. Compare that to Linux and you’ll find that (apart from a few notable exceptions) there aren’t any viruses for Linux. The system it’s self was always built in with security at the heart of it’s design. There are however, free anti virus programs available for Linux such as ClamAV, although their main purpose is to scan for Windows viruses so that you aren’t passing any on to your Windows using friends!

No computer system is infallible to security threats however, so you should follow the standard advice – make sure you have a good firewall and you keep your PC up to date with all the available security updates.

8. When you ask a question about Linux you don’t get any help / There isn’t good information about Linux available.

A quick scan of google to find the answer you are looking for, or a short chat in a chat room or forum will dispel that myth very quickly! For example, head over to the Ultimate Linux Newbie Guide Forums and ask your question there – you’ll find that there is usually someone on hand and happy to help you. Remember that Linux started on the Internet (a newsgroup forum to be precise) and the Linux community is very deep-rooted in the Internet. If you look hard enough, the information you need is always avalable on the net.

If you prefer to read books, online stores such as Amazon offer hundreds of Linux titles at preferable prices.

9. Linux users are all geeks and weirdos with beards and sandals.

I’m a Linux user. I don’t wear sandals and I even have a social life! I’m sure that Linux has it’s fair share of geeks. Windows & Apple users do too. A lot of programmers got into Linux because of it’s open source and code-sharing perks. It was also very popular initially in educational establishments which may have given it a slightly nerdy user base when Linux started out back in 1991. A lot has changed!

10. Linux won’t work alongside my existing Windows or Mac system.

As covered in the above point 2, you can easily install Linux alongside Windows and dual boot it with GRUB or BootCamp. Historically, this was a little bit tricky, but the Linux community have made a concerted effort to make this very simple in the last five or so years. It’s still a bit tough though with EFI based laptops, especially Macintosh computers.

2 Comments on "Dispelling common Linux myths"

  1. I am new to Linux, if an executable file in Windows is (name.exe) to make it run what is the equivalent file extension in Linus called (name.?)

    • Hi David,

      What you want to look at is the tutorial on the Linux file system: Here.

      To answer your question quickly though, linux exe files don’t need to have anything like .exe in their name, an exe vs a text file is no different in name, rather by their file attributes. You’ll see in the tutorial link above that when a file has an ‘x’ in it’s attributes (seen by using ls -l at the command line), it means it is ‘eXecutable’ and therefore runnable. To execute a runnable program simply type ./ before it’s name, for example ./myprogram

      Hope this helps.

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