Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Linux versus Windows

As the debate rages on and both sides continue to assert their reasons why you should choose their operating system, one thing remains evident to me: no spyware, malware or adware with Linux. I have been a member of the open-source community for the past 5 and a half years and have been a longtime supporter of Linux for many years. Having recently spent countless hours cleaning up my father's computer with it's spyware, malware and adware infections, I am once again reminded as to why I only use Linux. Here's my list of top ten reasons why I use Linux:

1. Linux is not currently being exploited by makers of spyware, malware and adware.
2. I need a reliable and secure operating system to host my own web pages and email.
3. I agree that the open-source community develops better software because it is not in the hands of a few programmers tucked away in an isolated environment. More input, better software.
4. I do not trust software that I am not allowed to decompile. I want to know exactly what my software is doing at all times. My computer is not allowed to keep secrets from me.
5. Some of the greatest minds on the planet are developing the Linux kernel and they are doing an excellent job.
6. If I have a problem with the code in my operating system I need to fix it now and not wait months for a service pack to be released and open-source software allows me to fix it myself.
7. Linux is efficient and needs less hardware resources than Windows because the kernel is efficient and well designed.
8. Linux developers do a much better job of debugging their code than Microsoft programmers do before they release it.
9. Diversity of operating systems helps keep the Internet up and running. Vulnerabilities exposed in one operating system generally do not effect a different operating system. (although it can)
10. I cannot afford the prices charged by Microsoft and others to obtain their operating systems and learn how to use them. Did I mention Linux is free?

While this is by no means an authoritative list of reasons why Linux is better than Windows, it does indicate why I choose Linux. Your mileage may vary. In the end, there's no reason why both operating systems can't coexist and work together. As computer users we should demand choices and avoid monopolizing by any software developer. Personally, I do need to use Windows on occasion because I need to use a program that is solely developed for the Windows operating system. However, each day developers are working to create similar programs that provide the same functionality and utility in Linux as these Windows applications. A collaborative approach is often the best solution for everyone. Recently, Microsoft finally admitted it has learned a few things from the open-source community and that is very promising.
Microsoft reached it's command of the market, not because it's well-written and reliable, but because it had a great marketing program and it was easy to use. Suddenly, individuals who never thought they could learn to use a computer were handed an opportunity to join the rest of the culture of geeks and nerds. While this helped to promote computing and computer hardware and software development, it was not always a good thing. Putting computers into the hands of people who don't understand the power of computers and the Internet creates several problems:

1. A large portion of the computer viruses that exist today and cause problems could be significantly reduced in their ability to disable computer systems and networks if end users would keep up with the updates and security fixes that Microsoft issues from their update site.
2. Not knowing what you risk by connecting to the Internet can lead you to problems of identity theft and expensive software repair if your computer is infected with a virus or clogged with spyware, malware or adware.
3. Learning only one operating system creates a paradigm of thinking that will limit your capabilities and the options available to you. People who only learn Windows are less inclined to learn another operating system because of the work involved. This leads to fears that Linux is too difficult to learn and they are stuck with their anti-virus programs and spyware removal applications. Often they become discouraged with using computers because their experience has been so distressing.

For the many Windows users out there who are looking for an alternative to Windows, I strongly encourage you to try other operating systems including Linux and MAC (whose OSX operating system is a form of Unix). The install programs for Linux have come a long way in the past 5 years and it's pretty easy to get up and running. And if you don't want to buy another machine to install Linux on while saving your Windows files, Linux can even partition your hard drive and configure your computer as a dual-boot system which will allow you to have both operating systems installed on your machine and will allow you to start your computer with either Linux or Windows. Although there are many excellent distributions out there, I am personally fond of Fedora Project which I use everyday. It has proved to be reliable and secure for me and I hope you'll give it a try.


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