So this is a conversation I hear a lot. And I’ve decided to throw my opinion into the mix.
I am going to start out by declaring my love of Linux, and given that my job means I get to spend most of my day working on servers and desktop computers, I have a great deal of experience with both operating systems (OS).
So lets break this down a little.
Windows is a system originally designed by none other than the great Bill Gates, a man who I have massive respect for. Gates started off working with Unix, the operating system that is the origin of many other systems such as Linux, MacOS, FreeBSD, IOS and Android. Along the way Bill Gates got hold of the Rights to DOS (Disk Operating System) which was re-branded to MS DOS. MS-DOS was a purely command line interface (CLI) system, often booted from floppy, where you typed in the command you wanted it to carry out.
At a time where computers were becoming more popular not just in the office environment, but also the home, Bill Gates managed to get a deal with a number of computer manufacturers, meaning MS DOS would be provided with their product. From a manufacturer point of view, this meant that users would have a single system to use across many brands, meaning they could get their equipment into offices that used MS DOS without the buyer worrying about compatibility. For users, this meant they could get the best deal on hardware without having to learn a new OS, or buy different versions of their favourite software. In the 1980s Microsoft consolidated their grip on the market with the advent of Windows. Windows was different, no longer relying on users needing to know CLI commands, the new graphical user interface (GUI) allowed users of all abilities to use a computer with confidence. Simply clicking on icons to start a program, and clicking to control menus, the Operating system had been revolutionised. Again the manufacturers were on-board with selling their hardware with Windows pre-installed, as it meant users could just fire up their new PC and get straight to work. With Windows, Microsoft retained full ownership of the code and created a number of proprietary file formats, which would only work with their OS.
Although Windows has seen many changes and upgrades over time, one thing remains the same as ever, Microsoft decide what they will improve, what they will add, what they will change, and when they will do it. For a lot of users this was not a solution they wanted, they wanted to be able to alter the OS to work how they wanted it to, adjust security options that they simply couldn’t access and this became frustrating.
In 1991 Linus Torvalds started work on a modified version of Unix called Linux. The ethos of this new OS was free open source software (FOSS) was the future, this meant that users were able to take Linux, and reprogram it on every level to meet their requirements, better still it was free. Windows by comparison was over £100 per PC you wanted it for, and often reflected in the price of buying new PCs. More than this, 1 version of Linux copy not only be used on multiple computers, but also multiple types of computers, including servers and supercomputers.
Where Microsoft had a dedicated, and ever growing team of paid staff writing code and device drivers for them, Linux had an ever growing community of enthusiasts who were writing code for fun.
Back in the early days of Linux, most people found it almost impossible to use, as you would have to find, download and compile device drivers yourself, if you could find them at all. Linux started its life as a CLI, which was perfect for servers, where remote access by SSH was less intensive on the system than Windows Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP).
Over the course of the 1990s Linux progressed and became better, with multiple different companies producing their own distribution (distros), and pushing each other to improve, all the time keeping to the ethos of being FOSS. Along the way a few companies, such as Red Hat, produced versions of Linux which were price to own, but for the most part you could download and install Linux for free, and on any computer (including Mac).
Over time Linux developers produced a number of Desktop GUIs, similar to what Mac and Microsoft had already done, however this was a little different. With Linux you get a choice of multiple different Desktop environments to suit your need. From KDE, with is slick layout, to LXDE with its lightweight minimalist appearance, to XFCE, Cinnamon, Gnome,and Unity to mention a few.
In the 2000s, the hybrid ability of Linux, which retained full CLI alongside full GUI, made it stand out from Windows for many, not just within the IT world, but home users too. While Windows was getting continually greedier on system resources, such as hard drive space, processor power and RAM, you could run PCs from the early 90s on the latest version of Linux and carry out the same tasks that would be expected of Windows, on a PC that couldn’t run the latest version Windows.
With Ubuntu being released by Canonical, it aimed to do something only Microsoft had ever done, approach manufacturers directly, and get them to sell their hardware pre-installed with their OS. Users were finding Ubuntu intuitive to use, and by far cheaper (as nearly all software was FOSS), and the system could do all that Windows could, but looked fresh, and didn’t choke up their system just running in the background.
Windows 10 Minimum Spec (taken from Microsoft)
Processor: 1 gigahertz (GHz) or faster compatible processor
RAM: 2 GB for 64-bit
Hard drive size: 32GB or larger hard disk
Graphics card: Compatible with DirectX 9 or later with WDDM 1.0 driver
Linux Recommended Spec (based of Raspbian)
700Mhz ARM processor
1 GB of disk space (can run from CD, DVD, USB or SD/MicroSD)
minimum of 640×350 screen resolution
This website is hosted on a server using 1 CPU core, and 1GB of RAM, using CentOS Linux. In fact most of the website you visit will be hosted on a Linux server.
Why do i advise people to switch from Windows to Linux? It falls to this, I can download Linux for free, no need to buy a licence. I can install it on a PC that originally cam with Windows XP and it will run perfectly. I can control ever aspect of Linux, from which ports I close off, to what software I want to have installed, there is no uninstallable bloatware included like there is with windows. I can flip between CLI and GUI based on what I am doing at the time, and may systems such as SSH and Telnet run native, and do not require a separate program to be installed.
The biggest one for me is security. Many will tell you you don’t need an anti-virus on Linux as there are no viruses for Linux, this isn’t true, what is true however is that, on most Linux distros, you will be required to enter a password to install anything. When the next version of my distro comes out, I can download and install it as part of my daily updates, not something that has been available going from any version of Windows to a new version (e.g. Windows 7 to Windows 10). More over, not only will my Linux system update its self on the daily updates, but also every other program installed.
The built in firewall allows me to decide what ports (if any) I want to have open for inbound or outbound traffic, in Windows you will need to buy a firewall to gain this level of control, and even then there are some ports Microsoft have locked open permanently.
I use Linux Mint, not only on my laptop at home, but also my work laptop and PC, I find it much quicker than Windows at any task, and hardly ever hear my fans cooling the system. Under Windows my devices sounded like they were about to take off the fans were working so hard.
I am able to play top level games on Linux, and have the ability to install not only Linux software, but also Mac and Windows software should I choose to.
Yes I work in IT, yes my job means I might know a little more than the average user, but my best friend Ali and her children use Ubuntu Linux since I recommended it, and refuse to go back to Windows, my girlfriend Claire and her children use a 10 year old laptop running the latest version of Linux Mint, and they love it.
Think of your favourite software, Chrome and FireFox browsers, Thunderbird email, VLC Media Player, GIMP Image Editor, they are all available on Linux and pre-installed on many distros. Libre Office come pre-installed on most distros, and is fully compatible with Microsoft Office no matter if you use Office 97 or 365, Libre will not only open, but also save files in the same formats. Like playing the latest games on Steam? Well Steam have their own OS (SteamOS) for gamers, which is based on Ubuntu Linux. Ubuntu Studio is a free all in Music, Video and Graphic production OS, with everything pre-installed that you could ever need to record your own music, produce great quality films, or even design the artwork for those projects.
Linux also tends to have active communities of users around each distro. In the case of Linux Mint, not only do they have a thriving community of people willing to answer your questions, but as Mint is based on Ubuntu, you can take advantage of their community too, as the systems use the same CLI commands.
Although I do use Windows at work, I will never use it at home again. My office are now in the process of looking into moving all our hardware onto Linux, as it makes it easier to manage. And here for me is the clincher… Microsoft are gradually integrating the Linux subsystems into Windows 10, each new Windows update brings in more and more Linux systems, but currently cannot run Linux software without installing Ubuntu or CentOS Bash environments, and then its only CLI capabilities for the Linux subsystem.
I enjoy being able to update everything on my laptop in one go, and not having to download an update for this software, then one for that software, and something for another software, Linux just updates it all in one action, and doesn’t force me to reboot when it is finished updating or installing something.