Diatribes - Computer, Economic & Political

This blog is really just for me. If you find something interesting on it, leave me a comment. If you disagree with something, let me know what and why. In this blog I am just putting some of my thoughts for computers, the economy, politics, and other topics in writing.

26 July 2005

But Why Switch At All?

My first article begged the question, if Windows works, why switch at all? Why indeed.

I don’t think it is enough to list weakness of Windows as evidence. There are options other than Windows and Linux. OSX is a really good one. There are three types of BSD. I also don’t think that speculation on the future is good enough either. If Linux WILL be better, why should I switch now? Instead I would like to focus on strengths Linux has which are exclusive to Linux (or at least not universal to all other operating systems).

Free as in beer, free as in speech. Customization. Programmability. Ease of use. Security.

1. Free as in beer means most distributions are free. As in a price of zero. Download the ISO, burn it to a disc (or discs) and go. No giving personal information, credit card numbers et cetera. Plus it comes chock full of software you'd pay a fortune for on other platforms. Page layout programs, OCR, Office Suite, the list goes on.

2. Free as in speech is critical. When DRM is the rule rather than the exception (see my previous post on vista and DRM) openness is a huge bonus. This means that all source code is open. While you may not want to see it yourself, there are many people who will. These are the people who don't like DRM because it represents closedness. These are the people who don'like losing thier rights.

3. Customization. If you don't like the doc in OSX it is a non-trivial task to remove it. I still cant remove the %$?! taskbar in windows XP. I've gotten gui's to go over it, but without killing explorer.exe all together, it stays. Not so in Linux. Don't like KDE? Try gnome or windowmaker or UDE or fluxbox or any of a hundred other guis. Not only that, becase it is open, you can edit it yourself. USE flags in Gentoo rock.

4. If you choose the right distro, Linux is as easy (or almost as easy) as OSX. All of the free software is pretty easy to use. There are tons of helps too, "man [command]" in the shell, experts on the internet (i.e. linuxquestions.org), advanced help on IRC channels, et cetera. Help is out there. For free.

5. Security. Since unix was developed with many users in mind, only one of them an administrator, linux is secure. If a program got on your computer which was harmful, it probably wouldn't have the rights to do much.

6. Stability. When was the last time you had a program take down windows? Recently? In linux, lousy programs can die, but they'll rarely (never in my experience) take down everything with it.

There are many other reasons (one that I like, you don't need the latest and greatest computer to run it; check that with the Windows Vista recommended requirements). These guys have a good writeup on it. So go ahead, switch!


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