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Reasons to use Linux

And a few situations where you may not want to

Our view

Many of the Linux-Ottawa members have been using computers for a long time. We like our computers to run the way WE want them too. So personal control is a big reason for choosing Linux, because it was built and continues to be supported as open source software. We can tinker and change things. Outsiders often think this is the essence of Linux – a geek tinkerer's playground. But there are many distributions set up to be easy for novices to use. And they are stable. Some of us are refugees from Windows Update Hell – the very, very slow period where you “DO NOT TURN OFF YOUR MACHINE” (even if you are in Viet Nam and the tour bus is leaving – a real case of one of our converts to Linux, and Windows was then unrecoverable on that laptop). After Windows Update, things are never the same anyway. With Linux that never (well, very, very rarely) happens.

Open source software will cost you the time and maybe transfer costs to download some files. Some folk say its FREE, but there is a cost. It's the cost of joining a community and acquiring some friends. You do have to put in a bit of effort. One elderly lady who used Linux on a loaner machine expressed concern that she got all this help when things didn't work. We pointed out that actually she had only come along to ask for help when there was actually a bug or a documentation error. We showed her how these could be reported. That is, you can be a plain, ordinary user and be an active and contributing member of the community that develops Linux software by simply making sure things that don't seem to work right get reported so they can be fixed.

That isn't always super-easy, but it is definitely NOT any more difficult than reporting bugs about Windows or Apple software, and probably a bit easier. Moreover, sometimes we actually know the people.

That gives us

  • Control
  • Cost
  • Community

as three strong reasons for Linux.

There are some more:

  • Linux runs well on old hardware on which Windows refuses to install (and Apple wants you to buy their hardware – bring gold bricks)
  • Given the choice of distributions (“distros”), you can generally find one that suits your style.
  • Linux distros usually install with a fairly complete set of software (office suite, communications, and some multimedia applications, as well as file and management tools). No “nagware” asking you to upgrade for “just xxxx $”.
  • Generally the way in which Linux works makes it less vulnerable to malware. Nothing is totally immune, but most Linux users don't bother with antivirus software unless they share files with Windows users.

When is Linux not indicated

There are some occasions where Linux does not work well (but see Work Arounds below):

  • Any application requiring DRM (Digital Restrictions/Rights Management) will give trouble. Open Source opposes such ideas. It would be like serving pork in a kosher or halal restaurant. This means you may have some trouble with
    • borrowing library books
    • reading e-books or audio books from Amazon (Kindle)
    • watching some video services, including some of the online services of TV channels
  • Tax preparation software that is run locally tends not to work. ?? list of what does and doesn't
  • Software written for other operating systems, particularly Windows
  • ?? others

Work Arounds

Linux users and developers are quite resourceful, and there are a number of ways in which they manage to deal with the obstacles the last section presents.


You can run another operating system UNDER Linux. QEMU, VirtualBox and VM Ware are three software systems to facilitate this. Of course, you have to have a working version of the OS you want to run, but quite commonly one has the license to use the version of Windows that came with one or other machine that one owns. Virtualization tools are evolving rapidly.


WINE (WINdows Emulator) will run quite a lot of Windows software more or less satisfactorily. Some applications that work well enough that they are worth mentioning are

  • Irfanview (??link), a rather nice graphics tool that is easy to use and supports the JPG Comment field so images can be captions within the file.
  • PAF (Personal Ancestral File), the Mormon's genealogy program that was discontinued some years ago but seems to continue to be used by many family history buffs.
reasons-linux.txt · Last modified: 2018/03/20 19:48 by jcnash