Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Why I Choose Linux

The list below is a few reasons why I choose Linux

Virus Free

Not like W*****s thay has many viruses, Linux hardly has any viruses. Of course, a Linux virus is not impossible to get. However, Linux makes it very hard for this to happen, for several reasons:

Most people use M*******t W*****s, and pirates want to do as much damage (or control) as possible: therefore, they target W*****s. But that's not the only reason; the Apache web server (a web server is a program located on a remote computer that sends web pages to your browser when you ask for them), which is open source software, has the biggest market share (against M******t's IIS server), but it still suffers from much fewer attacks/flaws than the M******t one.

Linux uses smart authorization management. In W*****s you (and any program you install) usually have the right to do pretty much anything to the system. If you feel like punishing your PC because it just let your precious work disappear, you can go inside the system folder and delete whatever you want: W*****s won't complain. Of course, the next time you reboot, trouble begins. But imagine that if you can delete this system stuff, other programs can, too, or just mess it up. Linux doesn't allow that. Every time you request to do something that has to do with the system, an administrator password is required (and if you're not an administrator on this system, you simply can't do it). Viruses can't just go around and delete or modify what they want in the system; they don't have the authorization for that.

More eyes make fewer security flaws. Linux is Open source software, which means that any programmer in the world can have a look at the code (the "recipe" of any program), and help out, or just tell other developers "Hey, what if blah blah, isn't this a security flaw?".

Stable System

Have you ever lost your precious work because W*****s crashed? Do you always shut down your computer the proper way, or do you sometimes just switch it off because W*****s has gone crazy and doesn't let you do anything anymore? Have you ever gotten the "blue screen of death" or error messages telling you that the computer needs to be shut down for obscure reasons?

The latest versions of W*****s, especially the "Professional" ones are becoming more stable than before. Nevertheless this kind of problem still happens fairly often.

Of course, no operating system is perfect, and people who tell you that theirs can never ever crash are lying. However, some operating systems can be so stable that most users never see their systems crash, even after several years. This is true for Linux. Here's a good way to see this. When a system crashes, it needs to be shut down or restarted. Therefore, if your computer can stay up and running for a long time, no matter how much you use it, then you can say the system is stable. Well, Linux can run for years without needing to be restarted (most internet servers run Linux, and they usually never restart). Of course, with heavy updates, it still needs to be restarted (the proper way). But if you install Linux, and then use your system as much as you want, leaving your computer on all the time, you can go on like that for years without having any trouble.

Linux protects your computer

Viruses, trojans, adware, spyware... W*****s lets all these enter your computer pretty easily. The average period of time before a W*****s PC (connected to the Internet and with a default "Service Pack 2" installation) gets infected is 40 minutes (and it sometimes takes as little time as 30 seconds).

So you can either 1) install a firewall, 2) install an antivrus program, 3) install an anti-adware program, 4) get rid of Internet Explorer and Outlook (replacing them with Firefox and Thunderbird), and 5) pray that pirates aren't smart enough to overcome these protections and that, if a security flaw is discovered, M******t will take less than a month to make an update available (and this doesn't happen very often). Or you can install Linux and sleep soundly from now on.

As we have already said in the "virus" section, Open Source software (e.g. Linux) means more eyes to check the code. Every programmer on Planet Earth can download the code, have a look, and see whether it might have security flaws. On the other hand, the only people allowed to look at the W*****s source code (its "recipe") are people working for M******t. That's hundreds of thousands of people (maybe millions) versus a few thousand. That makes a big difference.

Don't pay $300 for your operating system
(And don't copy them illegally)


You're probably saying to yourself : "Oh, I didn't pay for W*****s". Are you absolutely sure ? If your computer came with a copy of W*****s, then you paid for it, even if the store didn't tell you about that. The price for a W*****s license amounts to an average of one fourth of each new computer's price. So unless you obtained W*****s illegally, you probably paid for it. Where do you think M******t gets its money from?

On the other hand, you can get Linux completely free of charge. That's right, all these guys all around the world worked very hard to make a neat, secure, efficient, good-looking system, and they are giving their work away for everybody to use freely (if you wonder why these guys do such things, drop me an email and I'll try to explain the best I can :) ). Of course, some companies are making good business by selling support, documentation, hotline, etc., for their own version of Linux, and this is certainly a good thing. But most of the time, you won't need to pay a cent.


Freedom!

Linux and "Open Source" software are "free". This means their license is a "free license", and the most common is the GPL (General Public License). This license states that anyone is allowed to copy the software, see the source code (the "recipe"), modify it, and redistribute it as long as it remains licensed with the GPL.

So what do you care about freedom? Imagine that M******t disappears tomorrow (okay, that's not very likely, but what about in 5 years, 10 years?). Or imagine it suddenly triples the price for a W*****s or Office license. If you're tied to W*****s, there's nothing you can do. You (or your business) relies on this one company, on its software, and you can't possibly make things work without it (what good is a computer without an operating system?). Isn't that a serious problem? You're depending on one single company and trusting it wholeheartedly to let something so important nowadays as your computers work the way they should. If M******t decides to charge $1000 for the next version of W*****s, there's nothing you can do about it (except switch to Linux, of course). If W*****s has a bug that bothers you very much and M******t won't fix it, there's nothing you can do (and submitting bugs to M******t isn't that easy, see the "Report bugs" section).

With Open Source, if a particular project or support company dies, all the code remains open to the community and people can keep improving it. If this project is especially useful to you, you can even do this yourself. If a particular bug annoys you, you can submit it, talk with the developers, but even better, you can fix it yourself (or hire someone to do so), and send the changes back to the upstream developers so that everyone gets the improvement as well. You're free to do (nearly) whatever you want with the software.


No Need to install stuff after the system installed

Installing W*****s is just the beginning. Imagine you just installed your brand new copy of W*****s XP and prepare to unleash your computer skills. A friend sends you an email with an attached PDF file : damn, you don't have a program to read it. You need to go online, search for a website that will let you download Adobe Reader (or another PDF viewer), download it, install it, maybe even reboot. Whew, all right, now you're all set. Attached to your friend's email you find a text document, file.doc. Your W*****s can't read that either, right now: great. Either you go buy your copy of M******t Office, or you just download OpenOffice, but still, you need to find it, download it (let's hope you have a broadband connection), install it, etc. Your friend also sent you an image, but it has a bad contrast, bad luminosity, and needs a good crop. So you can now go and buy Photoshop (how many hundred bucks is that again?), or download the GIMP (this is the name of the free program that can do nearly as much as Photoshop) : search, download, install, etc. That's enough : you get the idea, W*****s is far from complete, and installing it is just the beginning of trouble.

When you get Linux (such as Ubuntu, Mandriva, Fedora, etc., these are different "flavors" of Linux), you also get, without installing anything more :
Everything you need to write texts, edit spreadsheets, make neat presentations, draw, edit equations.
A web browser (eg Firefox) and an email program (eg Thunderbird, or Evolution).
An image editor (GIMP) nearly as powerful as Photoshop.
An instant messenger.
A movie player.
A music player and organizer.
A PDF reader.
Everything you need to uncompress archives (ZIP, etc.).
etc.

You can just start working right away.


Forget about drivers

New pieces of hardware, even the simplest kind, usually come with a CD. On the CD, a very small piece of software called a "driver". If you read the instructions manual, you'll know that the hardware won't work on a W*****s computer until you install the driver. If you're like most people and do not read the manual, then you'll probably figure it out yourself when you see your new high-tech gizmo doesn't work out of the box.

Insert CD, click on installation wizard, wait, eject CD, reboot computer.

If you bought the hardware a while ago and are re-using it on another computer, you'll probably want to forget about the CD and fetch the latest version of the driver from the manufacturer's website. Which can take quite a bit of time, given how, huh, let's say strangely organized some manufacturers' web sites are.

Okay, now that's only one piece of hardware. Now imagine you want to install W*****s on a whole new, untouched, computer. For each little piece of hardware you'll have to find the latest driver (or use a CD), install it, and reboot from time to time. Video card, sound card, keyboard, mouse, motherboard chipset, etc. (better do the video card driver first or you're stuck with your high-end screen showing a very low resolution mode). And that comes after an already rather long installation of W*****s itself.

Linux doesn't need separate drivers. All the drivers are already included in the Linux kernel, the core of the system, and that comes with every single Linux installation. This means:
A very fast and standalone installation process. Once you're done, you have everything you need to start working (including the software you'll be using, see "When the system has installed..." item on this website).
Out-of-the-box ready peripherals.
Less harm for the planet because all these CDs don't need to come with hardware any more (well, at least once W*****s don't need them either...).


Update all your software with a single click.

W*****s has a pretty convenient tool called "W*****s update", which allows you to update your system with the latest updates available.

But what about all your non-M******t software? Adobe applications? ZIP compresser? Burning program? Non-M******t web browsers and email clients, etc.? You need to update all of them, one by one. And that takes time, since each one of them has its own (auto-)updating system.

Linux has a central place called the "Package manager", which takes care of everything installed on your system, but also every single piece of software your computer has. So if you want to keep everything up-to-date, the only thing you need to do is press the "Install Updates" button down there :


Why copy software illegally if you can get it for free?

So, you're perfectly clean, you have *cough* purchased a license for all the software you've ever used *cough*, and nobody can bother you about this? Well, if that's the case, congratulations :)

However, for most people, let's be honest, illegally copied software is very common. Copying Adobe Photoshop instead of buying it probably doesn't let you have nightmares. But are you really confident that you won't ever have trouble for that? Not so sure, huh... Software makers are progressing and finding more and more ways to track down illegal owners, and since more and more people tend to have broadband (permanent) connections, they might add an online functionality on the software that will control and verify your copy each time you launch it.

If you run Linux and install free software, you won't have to worry about this ever again! Most of free (as in free speech) software is free (as in free beer). You can find a free replacement for most of the commercial software out there. They might lack some of the advanced functionality, but they'll be more than enough for most people.


Need new software? Don't bother searching the web, Linux gets it for you.

If you want to check out a new piece of software in W*****s, you'll need to:
Search the web to find which piece of software suits your needs.
Find a web site that allows you to download it.
Maybe pay for it.
Actually download the software.
Install it.
Sometimes reboot your computer.

Whew, that's a lot of work to just try out something new!

With Linux, everything is much simpler. Linux has what is called a "package manager": each piece of software is contained in its own "package". If you need some new software, just open the package manager, type a few keywords, choose which software you want to install and press "Apply" or "OK". Or you can just browse existing software (that's a lot of choice!) in categories.

Here I just typed "mine game" to search for a mine sweeper (actually, I already had one coming with my Linux, but anyway). If I want to install a new program, I'll just tick the checkbox on the left, and click "Apply" ("Appliquer" in French - which is greyed out for now, since there is nothing to be installed yet):


Jump into the next generation of desktops.

You have been impressed by the 3D and transparency possibilities first introduced in W*****s Vista, and decided that these unique capabilities were worth a few hundred dollars? You even bought a new computer so that you could meet Vista's (very high) requirements? Fooled you: Linux can do better, for free, and with much less demanding hardware requirements.


No Fragment on Your Disk

If you already know what fragmentation is, and are already used to defragmenting your disk every month or so, here is the short version : Linux doesn't need defragmenting.

Now imagine your hard disk is a huge file cabinet, with millions of drawers (thanks to Roberto Di Cosmo for this comparison). Each drawer can only contain a fixed amount of data. Therefore, files that are larger than what such a drawer can contain need to be split up. Some files are so large that they need thousands of drawers. And of course, accessing these files is much easier when the drawers they occupy are close to one another in the file cabinet.

Now imagine you're the owner of this file cabinet, but you don't have time to take care of it, and you want to hire someone to take care of it for you. Two people come for the job, a woman and a man.
The man has the following strategy : he just empties the drawers when a file is removed, splits up any new file into smaller pieces the size of a drawer, and randomly stuffs each piece into the first available empty drawer. When you mention that this makes it rather difficult to find all the pieces of a particular file, the response is that a dozen boys must be hired every weekend to put the chest back in order.
The woman has a different technique : she keeps track, on a piece of paper, of contiguous empty drawers. When a new file arrives, she searches this list for a sufficiently long row of empty drawers, and this is where the file is placed. In this way, provided there is enough activity, the file cabinet is always tidy.

Without a doubt, you should hire the woman (you should have known it, women are much better organized :) ). Well, W*****s uses the first method ; Linux uses the second one. The more you use W*****s, the slower it is to access files ; the more you use Linux, the faster it is. The choice is up to you!


No backdoors in your software.


The difference between "closed source" (proprietary) and "open source" software is (how did you guess?) that their "source" is open. Huh, okay, why do I care? Well, the "source", or "source code", is like the secret recipe of every software, like the recipe of a cake. When you buy a cake, there's no way you can figure out the exact recipe (although you can guess bits and pieces, "there's some coconut in here"). If a bakery gave out the recipe for its super-sucessful cheesecake, it would soon go out of business because people would bake it for themselves, at home, and stop buying it. Likewise, M******t does not give out the recipe, or "source code", of their software, like W*****s, and rightly so because that's what they make their money from.

The problem is they can put whatever they want in their recipe, without us knowing. If they want to add a bit of code saying "every 12th of the month, if the computer is online, create a list of all the files that have been downloaded in this computer since last month, and send it back to M******t through the network". M******t probably doesn't do that, but how would you know, since everything is closed, invisible, secret?

A little while ago (October 2008) a lot of Chinese W*****s users (most of them buy pirated copies of W*****s) saw something strange happen with their computer: every hour, their screen would go black for a few seconds. Nothing to really prevent you from working, but it can easily make you go nuts. M******t had added a bit of code (an ingredient to the recipe) saying "if this is detected as a pirated copy of W*****s, make the screen black for a few seconds, every hour". Now the point is not that the software was pirated: pirating software is bad, period. The point is that these users got an automatic update for W*****s (updates usually fix bugs and add new features) without knowing how it would affect their system. No one knew.

Changing the source code of open source software is a much more open process. By definition, all the recipes are public. It doesn't matter to you since you won't be able to understand the code anyway, but people who understand it can read it, and speak out. And they often do. Every time someone wants to change the source code, all other developers are able to see the change ("hey man, why did you add this code spying on the user's keyboard input, are you out of your mind?"). And even if the whole team of maintainers for a piece of software go crazy and start adding puppy-killing features all over their source code, someone outside the team can very well take the code, remove all the bad bits, create a whole new version of it, and let the world know what the difference is. It's open.

That's why you can be sure open source software doesn't do bad things behind your back: the community keeps a close eye on all the recipes.


Enjoy free and unlimited support

One of the great assets of the Open Source community (and Linux in particular), is that it's a real community. Users and developers really are out there, on web forums, on mailing lists, on IRC channels, helping out new users. They're all happy to see more and more people switch to Linux, and they're happy to help them get a grip on their new system.

So if there's something you don't understand, a program that doesn't behave the way you would expect, or a feature that you can't seem to find, don't hesitate to go and ask for help. If there's somebody near you (family? co-workers?) who is using Linux, he or she will probably be happy to help you out. Otherwise, just go online and you'll find literally thousands of places where nice people will answer you and walk you out of your problem most of the time: geeks actually are very nice people, if you ask your question politely. Just type "linux help" (or replace "linux" with whatever distribution you chose -- see the install section) in Google and you'll undoubtedly find everything you need.


Let your old computer have a second life

W*****s requires more and more hardware power as its version number increases (95, 98, 2000, Me, XP, etc.). So if you want to keep running W*****s, you need to constantly buy new hardware. But I can't see any good reason for so fast an evolution. Of course, many people need a lot of computer power and new hardware and technologies are really helping them. But for most users, who surf the web, read and write emails, write text files and slides, what's the point of buying a new computer every 2, 3 or 4 years, apart from letting computer vendors earn more money? What is exactly the profound reason why your computer can't do any more of what it did perfectly well 5 years ago?

Linux runs perfectly well on older hardware, on which W*****s XP would probably even refuse to install, or leave you waiting for 20 seconds after each click. Of course, Linux won't make a race-winner out of your 12-year old computer, but it will run very well on it and allow you to perform usual tasks (surfing the web, writing documents, etc.) just fine. The very computer that delivers this page to you is not very young and runs Linux: if you can read this, then it is up and running (and if the website loads slowly, blame my Internet connection only)


Play hundreds of games for free

Hundreds of games are released under a free (as in "free beer" and as in "free speech") license: 2D, 3D, puzzles, war games, online multiplayer games, you name it! Here are a few examples (the full list would be endless) :


Help other countries, and your own

With Free Software (eg Linux), the economy (and IT professionals' knowledge) of your country could improve, since there could be a lot of small/medium companies customizing solutions, providing support, consulting, etc.

People who know how to do things and retain money in your country will benefit from it, rather than people who just sell boxes with a predefined sales pitch, sending your money offshore, leaving IT professionals without real knowledge about how things work.


Use MSN, AIM, ICQ, Jabber, with a single program

You may have accounts for several instant messaging services, such as MSN, Yahoo, ICQ, Jabber, AIM, etc. While running W*****s or Mac OS X, you probably need one program to connect to each one of those : MSN Messenger for MSN, ICQ for ICQ, etc.

With Pidgin, the instant messenger for Linux (it exists for W*****s as well, and for Mac OS X with the name "Adium"), you can connect to all these services at once, with this one program, and see all your buddies at the same time.

Source : www.whylinuxisbetter.net/

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