So what does Linux actually offer me then?
So, you now know that Linux is a Unix-like operating system, and you know what all that means now. However, that doesn’t really tell you why you would prefer to use Linux, instead of Windows or Mac OS on your computer. In this chapter, we will discuss just a few of the benefits of Linux. Not that it really needs selling! It’s free and it’ll make your computing life a whole lot better!
Linux is far more than a Unix-like operating system and is pretty unique because of it’s licensing system. Enter ‘Open Source’:
Linux is an Open Source Operating System (oh, and it’s free too!):
- The open source GNU General Public License that Linux uses means that you can obtain the software free of charge, and you can obtain the source code to the software and make changes to it if you want. You can then re-distribute it if you like, provided you supply the source code with your changes too.
- Open standards provoke less buggy software because it is worked on by a global team of developers from many far reaching backgrounds.
- Open standards also mean that compatibility across any other open platform. For example, you can be sure that an open source OGG audio file will play on any OGG player in exactly the same way, because the open standard applies throughout.
- Open Source software means no vendor lock-in.
- Trustworthy computing, as the source code for all software is distributed for free, often with the applications you obtain.
- No chance of Linux as a whole going out of business, as it is not owned by any one company.
- Did we mention that Open Source software is generally FREE in cost?
This means that software can be of high quality for everyone, and money can be made out of support, distribution, training or working with OSS.
It’s a new and revolutionary way to do business, but already, huge names like IBM, HP, Novell, Sun, Intel and even non IT firms such as Boeing, Glaxo Smithkline and thousands more are all using it and putting work back into it.
It’s a reliable platform for any sort of mission-critical work:
- Compared to other platforms, Linux deals very well with rogue software and as a result, you are very unlikely to have the whole system crash on you.
- There at present no mainstream viruses for Linux. Viruses would need to change in their nature drastically for them to be plausible in the Linux world.
- Say goodbye to Malware, Spyware, Adware etc.
- Security is built-in by default, not an add on.
Give your old hardware a new lease of life
Linux is fast and works on computers that are pretty old. You’ll be amazed at just what sort of old machines you can get to work on Linux. Even a 20 year old PC could be put to use as a router or basic firewall, for example. If you have an old PC or laptop kicking around your house and you think it’s slow old junk, you’ll be amazed at how much it can do, just by wiping off Windows and starting fresh with Linux!
Remember that Android is a Linux variant, and because it runs on mobile phones, it needs to run in a small memory and CPU footprint. Linux is very good at running on the smallest of hardware, that has low power requirements, so that’s one of the main reasons Linux was a simple choice for Google when they made Android.
Some of the greatest software comes from Linux and Open Source
Linux is home to some of the best new software, and best of all, most of it is free. Installation is a snap these days just by clicking on an icon in the ‘Software Center’ and installing it from a banquets worth of great apps. Have a look at just a few of these great titles:
A fully featured Office suite including a Word Processor, Spreadsheet, Drawing Package, Database and Presentation suite. Compatible with Microsoft Office.
Mozilla Firefox (and Google Chrome)
The browser that reloaded the web – all thanks to Open Source!
The GIMP (GNU Image Manipulation Project)
An excellent open source image editor, similar to Photoshop by Adobe. Used to edit the images on this website!
A great media player, play your DVDs/VCDs/DiVX’s on any computer, even stream them to annother computer connected to a network! VLC is one of the most popular media players available today, and it’s also available for Mac OS X and Windows users, too!
Evolution is a full-featured Groupware client which includes E-Mail, Calendar, Tasks, Address Books and the ability to connect to a Microsoft Exchange mail server.
…and thousands more titles, have a look at these links for more great examples:
- InfoWorld’s BOSSie Awards: http://www.infoworld.com/article/3122000/open-source-tools/bossie-awards-2016-the-best-open-source-applications.html
- Datamations’s Open Source Ultimate Software List: http://www.datamation.com/open-source/open-source-software-list-ultimate-list-1.html
Games on Linux? Really!?!
Yep, you read it right! Pacman isn’t just the only game Linux does any more! Steam and SteamOS are de facto Linux platforms now, literally thousands of the games available for Windows/Mac are available on Steam for Linux and whats more, they are usually released around the same date as their Windows counterparts.
Drivers by Default
I’m not going to say that there is plug and play availability for absolutely every device out there, but in general, most of the devices you can get today, be they wireless adapters, graphics cards, printers and scanners, they are very often plug and play. Downloading drivers from the Internet when you buy a new printer on your Windows PC just seems so painful. Forget that. Linux did!
How can this make any sense, does anyone make any money?
You might think that as Linux and the associated open source titles that go with it are free in cost and also free ‘as in speech’ that this means that there is no money to be had from Linux. Indeed, many companies originally thought that Linux was nothing more than a hobby or a geeks plaything, but this perception has diminished over the years, and with Linux going strong since 1991, it’s here to stay. Here are a few reasons why Linux helps businesses and can generate profit over the traditional software business model:
- Linux is one of the most popular and reliable platforms on earth today, it is this basis that has let many companies such as Google and Amazon build from that foundation and leverage it to make solid profit. Every Android mobile phone or tablet uses Linux, all of Amazon’s websites use Linux, every Google search is powered by Linux and every Tweet uses Linux at the operating system level.
- Many businesses choose to purchase support contracts to obtain help with their Linux systems, just as they would with a commercial based platform.
- Companies like Intel, who invest heavily into Linux can see the return on their investment rapidly because Linux has the flexibility to allow their newest technologies such as new processors to work straight away via the Open Code/Source model. Typically, Intel would have to wait many months or years to see support fully phased into releases of Windows or MacOS for their latest products.
- In countries like China, up to 70% of all the computers that ship now ship with Linux on them. The vast majority of these computers retain their installation of Linux because the Linux installation allows the user to do what they want to do with their computer, it means no levy for the manufacturers to pay to companies like Microsoft for copies of Windows and therefore cost savings to the customer. This in return has shown a rise in computer purchases and sales at a better margin of profit.
- Many companies are switching to Linux for server hosting because it will out-perform it’s Windows counterparts and will do it at a near zero-cost. This provides a hefty return on investment to the company, and also in turn to their customers. This can be stacked up with other cost-saving methods such as virtualisation, which means that you can have multiple Linux servers all running on one physical server. This reduces costs in the server room on cooling, power and hardware. For many companies across the globe, Linux is therefore a no-brainer.
- Finally, Over time, many companies, universities and hobbyists find themselves naturally giving back some things to the Linux community because it helped them with a certain task. This continued cycle of improvement and collaboration spurs this on. You only have to look at open source projects like Wikipedia to see that this cycle works very well. Nobody gets paid to make Wikipedia the best source of information anywhere in the world, but yet people add to it none the less. Linux works in the same way.
Now, visit Chapter Three to decide on which flavour of Linux you want!
Or, if you need more convincing, why not take a sneaky peek at Chapter 8, where we detail how Linux helps out with your life on the desktop every day.