I Use Linux Because ...
That's right. One of the reasons I use open source Linux is because there
are free versions of it.
Of course I realize that if Linux was a really poor operating system, then
being free wouldn't suddenly make it a good operating system.
But -- Linux is a good operating system. It just happens to be also
available in free versions. It's part of the open source concept.
It Uses Less Resource
Less resources than what? Well, less than the other popular operating system
out there, Windows. I'm running a 3/4 megabyte, 1 GHZ computer with a recent
Linux operating system (Puppy Linux it's called), and I couldn't even consider
running the latest Windows with that old architecture. Not and get decent
I 'm also running Puppy Linux an old 166 MHz laptop. That laptop was made in
the Windows 95 days, and in no way was going to run a modern Windows
But with all of the configuration choices available in Linux, I was able
to run the old laptop with good performance on a modern Linux system.
On my bigger, dual processor system I simply scale up and run a Debian
operating system. The range of sizes of Linux operating systems is easily as large
as the range of PC computers out there.
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Linux is a Multi-tasking, Multi-user System
Be aware that Linux isn't a simplistic operating system, like a bigger
version of DOS.
Linux is a full multi-tasking system, with preemptive scheduling. Linux
allows different priorities to be assigned to tasks, and it handles large task
The modern kernels also support the new 64 bit processors, and
multi-processor computer systems.
In addition, Linux is a multi-user system. Multiple users can log on via
terminals plugged into serial ports or via a lan port. A computer running Linux
is essentially a mainframe.
Linux Is Very Robust
I mean Linux is really robust. There are some Linux systems managing
networks that have literally been running continuously -- for years.
Linux uses a disk system that has some safeguards built in. I've use OS/2,
Windows, and Linux. I've had to completely re-install OS/2 after a disk
crash. More than once.
I've had the same experience with Windows. Where I was last employed, the
standard fix for a sick Windows system was a re-install.
I've never had to re-install Linux to recover from a disk crash. It is
Linux Uses The X-Windows Standard
Linux uses the MIT designed X-Windows system for windowing and GUI handling.
From my perspective, X-Windows is vastly superior to the Microsoft Windows
system. Why? I'll endeavor to make a few points.
For one, the multi-tasking, task swapping, multi-user smarts of Linux
doesn't lie in the windowing part. Even if one configures their system for a
small resource requirement and completely leaves out the windowing capability,
they will still have full multi-tasking capability and multi-user capability.
Even my little 166 MHZ 83 MB laptop is a multi-tasking, multi-user
For another, there are many window managers that handle the X-windows system
in Linux. This gives the user enormous control over the kind of functionality
that is involved in the windowing system (and the amount of resource used by the
How many window managers? Over 50, and each of those has considerable
tuning available to the user. The range in size from around 2 megabytes to over
80 megabytes. Talk about a selection to choose from.
The X-windows system uses a client/server arrangement. Each task
created to run with windowing support has these two components.
What that means is that with the X-windows system, you can run a process on
one computer in a network, and have the display show up on your local system.
It doesn't matter what operating the remote system is running as long as it
I've networked with DEC computers and been able to run the DEC software
so that the display and interaction occurred on my Linux system.
Linux Is Loaded with Software
I used to use an older version of Debian named Woody. Woody came on 7 CD's,
and was said to have over 11,000 packages. It satisfied both my personal
and work related requirements for over 3 years.
Many of those packages were libraries and system tools, but thousands were
user programs, programming languages, etc.
The Etch version that I use now comes on 11 CD's full of software. I'll
never use even a significant fraction of all those utilities, languages, and
programming tools. Can you imagine all that for free? An embarrassing cache of
I particularly use many of the languages, being a computer scientist by
trade. Listing only a few, Debian includes C, C++, Java, FORTRAN, forth, basic,
smalltalk, Ruby, Python, perl, Awk, Gawk, Tk, Tcl, Yorick, Tela, R, PDL, and the
list goes on.
There are compilers, scripting languages, text manipulation languages, math
languages, and GUI oriented languages. Enough to keep me entertained (and
educated) for years.
There are office suites, editors, graphics packages, graphics programs, document mark up languages, and Internet utilities.
A former associate of mine used to be a dedicated Windows user, and when I
introduced him to Linux, he tore in with abandon. Once he got the hang of it,
he became an advocate, and also had little need to purchase software
As for me, I haven't had to buy software for a few years, and yet I have
more software available than I can likely ever experience.
Installing Linux Software is Easy
I particularly use Debian for a number of reasons. Since about anything
under the GNU license is contained in Debian, it is likely the distribution
with the largest inventory of software.
As it happens, Debian also has one of the best software management and
installation tools. It uses a product called dpkg (for Debian package), and
numerous front-ends are available to make interfacing with dpkg easy.
When you run across a utility that seems to be just what you want through
one of the interfaces, just select install. Whatever supporting software and
libraries are needed are automatically installed, and the product is also
And here's pleasant news for you Windows users: rarely is a reboot needed
after installing a software package. Just install it, and use it.
Remarkably, this is even true of drivers. You can set up scripts that load a
seldom used driver, run the software that needs it, and remove the driver when
the software is finished running. Is that neat or what?
Removing software is just as easy, with no complex registry maneuvers
necessary to get rid of an unused package.
Derivatives of Debian Offer Many Choices
Because Debian is so complete and has such a nifty installer, many
derivative distributions of Debian are available. The Derivatives are
usually targeted so that the targeted users have an easy and complete
Many of the derivatives are available on runnable CD distributions. So
you can boot and run the distro from a CD and see if you like it before
you decide to install it.
Some of the more popular derivatives are:
Knoppix - An office oriented CD distro from Germany|
DamnSmall - A very small distro derived from Knoppix
Ubuntu - A neatly packaged Office oriented distro
MEPIS - Another CD distro oriented to office and multi-media
Progeny - A next generation version of Debian
Linspire - Designed to be an easy transition for the Windows User
Puppy Linux - Not Based On Debian, But Able To Use Ubuntu Packages
A good place to check out distros is Distrowatch.com.