Updated: September 19, 2009
Just as using your car's trunk as storage space is plain wrong, there are circumstances when using Linux, no matter how benevolent the effort may be or the users seemingly pleased with their evangelistic experiences, is misguided.
In this article, I would like to address the few common reasons that lead Windows users to ditch their operating system and switch to Linux. This may sound quite surprising coming from a Linux crusader like myself, as you would expect someone like me to gloat every successful conversion into the Borg, but the truth is far from it. My goal is to see computer users happy. That's all. And if and when they're ready, they will make a switch - or not at all. Now, commence reading.
Windows is riddled with spyware - I'm moving to Linux
Wrong. First of all, Windows is not riddled with spyware. It is riddled with bad users who bring upon themselves the woes of horrible computing. Most Windows users work with the default admin account, they rarely if ever update their software, they download and execute binaries with wild abandon, and have little idea what they're doing in general. Users like these are the vast majority of Windows customers.
If these users were let do the same thing on Linux, the results would be pretty much the same. The big difference is, Linux is built somewhat differently, including anti-noob counter-measures that make self-inflicted damage a lot harder to render. These include non-root user, software repositories that negate the need for manual downloads, the executable bit for binaries, and in general, users with a whole lot more experience.
Back to Windows. There is really no reason whatsoever to contract viruses or whatnot on Windows. Just like there is no reason to contract VD in real life. It's the same thing. Just exercise a tiny bit of caution and all will be well. Windows is not special. It's just a means to an end. There will always be people trying to exploit other people's lack of knowledge, greed, innocence, and whatnot, but they have existed since the dawn of humanity. It just happens that they use computers nowadays.
Switching to Linux because you got hit by malware on Windows is tantamount to changing your sexual preferences after finding your partner to have cheated on you. Wrong. Changes in life should never be made under pressure, in anger or when faced with a failure. Changes must come from positive decisions. It's the only way to do things the right way.
Thus, people who run away from Windows and are now seemingly or genuinely happy with Linux have really done one thing - escaped from facing a problem and dealing with it. They have first and foremost distanced themselves as the focus of damage, but the bad habits remain, they just do not come to any great effect on Linux.
Mastering an operating system - ANY operating system - is the key to control and happiness. Once you have the right tools to handle this or that product, you are free. This freedom then should be translated into the most suitable operating system that answers the user's needs at the moment, be it Linux, Windows, BSD, or maybe DOS.
I truly believe that having a pristine Windows installation is not only possible, it's quite simple to achieve, without any great magic or tons of unnecessary anti-X software slowing down the experience. Just run in a limited user account or use a product like SuRun. And even if you're running as an administrator, there's no reason to panic. Don't click on bad files and they won't execute. As simple as that. If you want more information, perchance you'll like this article.
I hate Microsoft - I'm moving to Linux!
Wrong. Why would you hate a company that is trying to make money? After all, all companies try to make money. Otherwise, they are called non-profit organizations. Besides, hating companies implies a personal relationship. It's nothing like that.
Each and every one of us is a nameless customer, just another person using this or that software. Individually, we mean nothing to Microsoft - or any other company. Microsoft is not the devil. It's a big company, in the spotlight, with rather bad PR oftentimes, an ideal target for the underdog. But if you're into idealistic wars, then you should probably stop breathing, because there's not one good soul other there.
By moving to Linux, you're not hurting Microsoft. You're hurting yourself. If the operating system does what you need, then that's it, game over. But if you give up functionality for the sake of Don Quixotic wars, you're hurting your own productivity.
Of course, if you don't like Microsoft products and find them inadequate for your needs, then sure, by all means, switch over to whichever product does offer the right service. But if you're perfectly happy, in purely non-emotional terms, with what your operating system does and the only thing that really bothers you is Steve Ballmer's face on that Windows 1.0 commercial from 1985 or whatnot, then you're fighting the wrong war.
Unfortunately, ideological zeal has a double negative effect, a sort of backlash. People who hate Microsoft usually have a need to spread a rather passionate word about how they feel. When ordinary people are faced with doomsday/conspiracy-theory speeches by evangelized Linux users, they do not see 25 years of bad practices by a software giant, they see a Linux loony foaming at the mouth. This negatively effects the very thing these users are trying to defend. It hurts the entire community.
Forget about Microsoft hating you - or any other user. We're just specks of dust on the Revenue chart. No one cares about us. Instead of taking it hard, focus on being productive with your software. Imagine making money by using products of your most hated software company. Now there's the revenge!
Once again, I must emphasize, if you have privacy, security or productivity concerns with using Microsoft software, then definitely, explore other options. You're welcome and even encouraged to do that. Be selfish. Think about yourself - and maximize your profits. Don't let emotions spoil your moment.
My Windows is slow - I'm moving to Linux
Wrong. Before you make the move, you should make sure you understand why your Windows is slow. Otherwise, there's a chance your Linux will be slow too. What then? Bad performance is an issue that many Windows users face. Many times, this is a combination of many factors, including really bad anti-virus software that increases the base memory consumption of all running processes twofold and slowing everything to a crawl, slow hard disk, inadequate hardware profile, and bad practices on behalf of the user.
I must give a personal example to balance what I just wrote. I have a Windows machine, installed in 2005 on a 2GB Athlon machine. It's been running since without any blue screens and without any reinstalls. Boot time is about 15 seconds, applications open in fractions of a second. All this without any special tweaks. Of course, there is no useless anti-X software running, wasting the system resources. It's the matter of how you setup your machine and how you use it.
With 100+ processes running, too little RAM and lots of badly coded programs as favorite choice, it is no small wonder that the average Windows will suffer from under-performing operating system, without any of it really being the issue with the operating system itself.
My warmest suggestion to people mulling the switch to Linux because their Windows machine is slow: make sure you understand the reasons for the slowness. If you have a very slow hard disk or too little RAM and you choose to install Sabayon, for example, you won't really gain from such a move.
True, on average, Linux is much more suited for weaker machines, as it is generally faster and consumes fewer resources than comparable Windows. Overall, the initiative to move to Linux because of performance problem is a wise one. Usually, users will experience a significant, noticeable positive boost in results. But please, make sure you know what makes Windows crawl before you sprint open-source.
A friend told me to - I'm moving to Linux
Wrong. If I may use the corniest parents' quote: if all your friends jumped off the roof of a building, would you, too? Well, the answer is: I don't have any friends, so the question is not applicable (N/A). Seriously, if your friends are using Linux and they are liking it a lot, it's a good start. But this is not enough for you to make the move.
If you're happy with what you have, software or anything else in life, then stick to it. Of course, if you have a curious nature, then you should definitely explore the world of software, trying different products, testing which one suits you best.
If you're not really sure whether you like your current operating system, most likely Windows, after many years of use, the chances of nailing it with Linux are not that high, despite what your friends may say.
I can give a personal example here. Many of my imaginary friends are well aware that I use Linux with great success. Seemingly, moving to Linux should lead them to similar results. However, they are simply not ready to make the change. Their control of Windows is not stellar and it would slip even further if they landed on a brand new system with its own alien rules. Moving to Linux would be a mistake. Because they are not Dedoimedo. Their expectation of what software is and does is not the same as mine. Their knowledge of system internals is less then mine. Which is fine. Exactly the reason for not experimenting with software.
If and when people are ready, they will know it and will make the change on their own. Forcing a switch over to Linux will leave them with a confused first experience that may scar them forever.
Although we're discussing the wrong reasons, I should mention the few reasons that I think are the right way to explore the world of the Linux operating system.
Availability of software
Contrary to popular belief, obtaining high-quality software on Linux is much easier than on Windows, thanks to highly informative and rich software repositories. If you're keen on exploring the world of software and having multiple tools for the tasks you wish to perform, Linux offers a much more flexible and scalable environment than Windows.
Your ability to find the programs you need, master them and put them to full use, increasing your productivity, is much higher with Linux than Windows.
And more specifically, pay attention to the left bottom corner. You get almost 27,000 packages available from the official repository. And even only 1% of those interests you, it's still almost 300 packages you can install without ever once going to the Web.
Price & licensing
This is something that may appear trivial, but it is not. Most Linux distributions and software made for Linux is available free of charge, usually with rather permissive licenses that do not limit the home user.
If you do not have money needed to pay for Windows software, starting with the operating system and possibly other programs you require, Linux is much better suited for your demands. The vast majority of Linux distributions is free and can also be installed without limitations multiple times. Even if you have a single computer, the cost of buying Windows software can be quite a few hundreds of dollars. If you have several computers, the costs can rise significantly.
Windows operating system usually comes preinstalled. Even when you install on your own, you do not have the chance of testing the operating system, because Windows does not have a live session mode. On the other hand, most Linux distributions ship as bootable live CD/DVDs, which allows users to thoroughly explore the distributions before deciding whether to commit and install them.
The portability allows Linux users to carry their operating system without dependency on specific hardware, as you can have Linux on CD/DVDs or even installed to external USB devices. This means you can have your Linux up and running practically on any machine.
The wide variety of distributions and desktop environment introduces its own layer of flexibility. Not only can you have Linux running anywhere, you can mix ingredients as you see fit. Ubuntu, SUSE, Slackware, Gnome desktop, KDE desktop, Openbox desktop, you can have them all, any which way. Windows, partly due to licensing, partly due to the way it's designed, is slaved to the hardware it's installed on. Linux is a free bird.
Free access to a staggering range of development tools, compilers and frameworks makes Linux an ideal target for software development. In most cases, compilations executed on Linux will be faster than when run on Windows, saving time and cost. This is something home users might not really care about, but it is an important ingredient in the life of any programmer.
It's slowly changing with the birth of Windows 7, but Windows is still, largely, a 32-bit platform. Most Windows installations, XP and Vista combined, are 32-bit, whereas most CPUs have been 64-bit for quite a long time. Not only does the use of 32-bit operating systems underutilizes the power of CPUs, the available RAM size is limited to just 4GBs.
If you wish to have a powerful machine with loads of RAM and running 64-bit software natively, then you should consider Linux. Most Linux distributions have had a 64-bit version for a very long time, offering great performance and stability. In fact, 64-bit Linux has been available since 2001 or so. It's a proven workhorse.
Windows 64-bit computing experience is still in its infancy. Most software developed for Windows is still only 32-bit. It's a shame, especially if you have an i7core processor and a whooping 12GB RAM at home, just waiting to be used.
It is estimated Linux is used on approx. 1% of home computers. This means that one in a hundred people runs Linux - or has at the very least heard of Linux. This automatically means you're in a league of your own, a special 1% of hardcore users.
If you've ever phoned your ISP support or walked into a computer store and told them you're running Linux, you'll know what I'm talking about: the breath/look of instant awe and total respect in the voice/on the face of the person on the other side of the phone line/in front of you.
Running Linux has its additional merits in the business sector. Most Linux users are also familiar with Windows. But Windows users are usually not familiar with Linux. The dual knowledge grants you a definite advantage over your Windows-only peers. If you're looking for advancing your career sometime in the future, Linux is a sound, free investment.
Impressing girls (men only)
Few people know it, but being a geek in the early 21st century is no longer a bad thing. In fact, it's a good thing. What more, being a Linux geek grants you instant bonus points with the females of the opposite sex.
While geeks were hunted and oppressed in the decadent age of late 20th century, the Internet revolution has turned the code monkey into a sort of a savior. What would we all do without all those smart people coding stuff all day long?
Linux geeks are indistinguishable from the average Web pioneer. For the average person out there, Linux geeks are a sort of a mysterious cult that makes things magically work. For men, this gives them enormous advantage in their pursuits of love, saving hours of flirtation and foreplay. It is estimated that Linux saved 14 billions hours of foreplay in 2008.
On this happy note, it's time to wrap this article. Don't take me too seriously, after all, this rant was meant to be fun. Still, as the popular saying goes, behind every joke is a grain of joke, I think my article does have merits.
Linux is a tool, a lovely, friendly tool. To use it properly, you have to possess a certain skill set. Otherwise, the experience won't be pleasant. My hope is that future Linux converts will take to their hearts the advice given here and carefully consider the implications of making such a drastic move. Moving to Linux is just a beginning. Staying around is the journey. And being satisfied with the choice made is the end. Hopefully, we can all have a happy ending.