“The operating system is no longer the most important layer for us,” was the message from Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella yesterday.

“The ‘death’ of Windows 7: Microsoft to end support early next year”

Linux Penguin and Popular Linux Distros

For most computer users, Windows has been the default OS installed in their computers. Even if the computer doesn’t ship with any OS, the de-facto OS would be windows in most cases. This was my story too.

Starting with Windows, I had a lot of issues with drivers and the updates which often used to be a headache. Resource usage, mainly disk and memory were always high for no apparent reasons. For this reason, programs used to crash frequently and there was not much of an option to ‘tweak’ the operating system. Using Linux on was not an option because of the the lack of productivity and creativity suite for the OS was an issue (I had tried a few Linux distributions like Ubuntu, Linux Mint and Manjaro). Hence, I used to use windows with no other option to go for.

Lately, I planned to explore the field of Data Science. I was missing the Linux terminal a lot. Powershell ain’t bad but as a CS undergrad, I was very much used to the Linux terminal and its command structure. A wave of news like the ones mentioned at the beginning of the article, a series of broken updates and unfriendliness of technology suites like Docker towards Windows made me think of giving one last shot to Linux. Hence, I installed Ubuntu Linux(v19.10) and now, I am never turning back. Here are some of the why you should consider switching to Linux, if you have been discouraged to do so:

  1. Productivity and Creativity:

Productivity and creativity are the main concerns for a potential Linux user. But Linux has been catching up on these fronts. LibreOffice with a few tweaks is as powerful as Microsoft office. If it might not be perfect for you, Google Docs is much more convenient when it comes to usability as it has the features of cloud storage and sharing, editing and commenting on documents (And the fact that most people have a google account). But I encourage one to use FOSS application rather which is privacy-focused.

Alternatives to Adobe creative suite are plentiful. A few of them are GIMP and Inkscape which are FOSS applications. Also, there are a lot of cloud alternatives like Figma but it is again recommended to use FOSS applications.

Read More: What is FOSS? Why is it important?

2. Stability and Reliability:

Linux is rock solid when it comes to stability and reliability. Most of the internet users knowingly or unknowingly depend on Linux. Most Web Servers, Smartphones and other machines use Linux. Linux can be run on a wide range of devices ranging from IoT devices to all the way to Supercomputers. The reasons for deployments of Linux in such a broad scope are attributed to the stability and reliability of Linux. The Open-Source nature of Linux is the main contributor to the stability and reliability of Linux systems.

3. Gaming:

Gaming on Linux has been slowly and steadily improving for the past few years. WINE is a program which runs Windows applications on Linux. But it has its own fair share of issues. The availability of Steam on Linux has been a big boost for gaming on the platform, especially with the recent addition of the Steam Play compatibility layer for running Windows-only games. Hence one can play most of the games available for desktops on Linux machines.

The advent of cloud gaming services like Google Stadia has been a bonus for improved gaming experience on Windows. With sufficient hardware and high internet speed, gaming on Linux.

4. Modularity and Performance:
These two are sort of inter-related to each other in the world of Linux. After switching to Linux, resource usage has been quite low and applications do not crash often anymore. Linux can also be fine tuned to one’s taste thanks to the modularity that it offers. This has an impact on the performance on the Linux system. Users have the option of choosing lightweight components to build their OS.

5. Security:

The FOSS nature of Linux allows developers to contribute to the code, add new features and fix any bugs and security issues at a faster pace when compared to a closed source software. The security in a Linux machine is very well handled in a Linux system. The annoying and memory hogging antivirus software is not a concern at the land of Linux.

6. Standard:

This is for the CS folks. It is recommended to learn about the features, layers, and functionality of an open-source OS like Linux instead of studying about proprietary Operating Systems. In general, this practice prevents the potential exploitation of computer users by Tech Companies who own and license the proprietary and closed source Operating Systems.

The "Standard" that I have mentioned also incorporates certain domains like Cybersecurity, Data Science, Blockchain, Distributed Systems etc. Productivity in these domains is better with Linux. For Instance, as mentioned earlier, certain tools like Docker run far more better on Linux than windows. Another instance is that the well known Kali Linux OS is a standard tool for which is preferred by Cybersecurity enthusiasts and professionals alike. Hence the ecosystem of Linux is a lot inhabitable for technology enthusiasts.

Verdict

With a bit of a learning curve, any generic desktop user can use Linux. The old days of Linux being difficult to use is long gone. The recommended Linux distro for beginners is Ubuntu. It has a very well written documentation and an outstanding community which has answers to a wide range of queries put forth by users. Forums like AskUbuntu has a plethora of Q&A which will have most issues of beginners covered.

Besides Ubuntu, users can also choose among Linux Mint, Fedora, Manjaro, elementary OS, MX Linux to start with. Lately, Intel has been working on a Linux distro(slang for distributions i.e. ‘flavors’ of Linux) named ‘Clear Linux’ has been setting benchmarks in terms of performance. This is the distro to watch out from now onwards and for the coming days. But for most users including beginners, it is recommended to use Ubuntu rather than anything else.

After a fair bit of experience, users also get to explore different distros, desktop environments, shells and kernels which keeps the world of Linux very engaging especially for people who like to be creative and people who prefer personalization with no expense of privacy breaches.

From a ‘Not for everyone’ OS, Linux has come a long way to be an operating system that can be used by anyone for everyday use. Growing privacy concerns is a major reason for not only using Linux OS but also for using FOSS software. Expensive apple products, Windows not considered to be important for Microsoft and, ‘end of life’ of Windows 7 (which most users found to be better than Windows 10) are a few reasons apart from the above-mentioned characteristics which make 2019 the best year for switching to Linux.

Software Engineer

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