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switching to linux, part three

Posted on by Wess Foreman

switching, part one
switching, part two

part three - the upside


Once you get your bearings [a substantial qualifier, admittedly, for many users] Linux is wonderful. The biggest upside, I'd say, is freedom. Most of Linux is open source, which means it's source code is open to public viewing and editing. In many cases, in fact, a person can take open source software, repackage it, maybe improve upon it, and sell it to others; it's more complicated than that, of course, and would depend on the type of license by which it's covered. [see the Creative Commons website for more info on the creative commons licenses available]

Along with this freedom, another upside is that most open source software is also free as in no cost to download and use. This is not always the case, but more often than not. So on one side you could spend thousands on software, and on the other you could pay nothing and have just about the same experience and tools [and then some] at your fingertips. Sound too good to be true? But wait there's more! Alright, I'm getting carried away now, but all this freedom just makes me happy.

Besides all this freedom and free-dom, there is also an immense, albeit subjective, amount of fun to be had using, configuring, and learning Linux. This part, like I said, is subjective: if there is no inner-geek within you, no willingness to learn a bit about the underpinnings of the operating system, you will probably have an opposite opinion about this potential of Linux. Don't get me wrong, Linux works just fine for the non-geek computer user as well. The default install of Ubuntu, for instance, provides an office suite comparable to MS Office [but free], a web browser better than Internet Explorer [wink], a Photoshop-like application [nearly as good, if a little awkward to navigate initially], an email client and personal information manager much like MS Outlook, lots of little games, and much more. All very familiar, I think, for anyone coming from Windows or Macintosh. [I'm tellin' you though, under the hood is where the fun is!]

I could go on. Especially on the subject of configuring Linux. But I'll save some of that for another day. In wrapping up this series, I'll attempt to answer a tough but potentially telling question: could/would I recommend Linux to my mom? Here's my answer: "yes......" Those trailing dots, once again, represent a few qualifiers. If my mom had hardware or software that was not made to run on Linux, we would have to first find replacements or workarounds. This would be true, I think, switching from any operating system to another. I am one hundred percent certain that there is a solution that would work, however. Case in point: my scanner was not going to work in Linux - no driver for it for Linux - so my solution was going to be to purchase another scanner [there are plenty that work fine under Linux], but a new, and more elegant, solution has shown itself. I now have Windows XP running in a virtual machine within Ubuntu screenshot.jpg[using Virtual Box]. Sounds creepy, I know, but Windows doesn't know the difference. This means, for hardware or software that needs Windows to run, I can just fire up Windows XP in a little window within Ubuntu. Very cool (and using open source software).

Admittedly, researching and setting up such workarounds, and then testing the stability of the workarounds would require a geek. So if Mom lived a little closer or if I get a chance for an extended visit, I could and would install it for her if she wanted. And ongoing tech support could be done over the phone [as I presently do from time to time for her Windows' woes].

Bottom line, Linux is a great Desktop environment. Everyone should at least give Ubuntu's live cd a try - it allows you to boot from the cd and experience Ubuntu without installing it on your hard drive. Here's the link.

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