September 6, 2010

Windows or Apple? My Personal Journey Into Linux

As far back as I can remember, I have been a Windows user. I can clearly recall using Windows 3.0 on one of my mother's engineering computers in the early nineteen-nineties, or browsing the Internet for the first time in Internet Explorer. This pattern of Microsoft loyalty continued unabated with only minor dabbles into the world of Macintosh in secondary school into my current college career at Central Michigan University.


Microsoft Vista changed everything for me. A sub-par operating system from a hardware and software standpoint, Vista was worthy more for a laugh than a laptop. On the other hand, I frankly could not afford to purchase any of Apple's computers, nor was I pleased when reviewing the technical specifications of said computers in relation to what I would be paying for.

The choices before me were as follows; purchase broken Windows or an over-priced Apple. I made my choice, and I've never been happier using a computer.

With all of this being said, you may be wondering which operating system I use, Windows or Apple?

I use neither; I am an Ubuntu Linux user.

Before I continue, I must break down what constitutes Ubuntu Linux, as this may be the first time you have ever encountered these terms.

According to information from the Linux (pronounced “lih-nucks”) Online! website,, Linux was originally created in 1991 by a Finnish college student named Linus Torvald. The software was unveiled in the early 1990's with the arrival of the first Linux Kernel, which forms the elemental basis of how everything works within this or any other operating system. Since this new operating system was released under the GNU (pronounced “guh-new”) General Public License, every aspect of the content's source code could be altered and acquired by anyone, anywhere free of charge. This ability to freely edit and distribute content is referred to as “open-source,” with a popular example of an open-source program being Mozilla Firefox.

Based upon the aforesaid original Linux kernel is the Ubuntu (pronounced as “ew-bun-too”) operating system, which is also free and open-source. The phrase “Ubuntu” is roughly translated as “humanity towards others” from the Bantu languages of southern Africa. The word choice creates an apt description for software made by community members for global communities. As stated on the Ubuntu Linux website, (, the operating system will always be freely available for use on any type of computer. Furthermore, you can even try out a fully-functional copy of Ubuntu on a “Live” disc prior to installation.

You may be asking yourself, “Open-source sounds great, but what about content?”

The next time you see me on campus or at a convention with my laptop, I'd be more than happy to show you the eye-catching Desktop Cube I use to navigate my four separate desktops. Or, when I switch to Expo mode and navigate between my other 4 desktops with the click of a button. My computer, like other Linux machines, does not crash nor does it suffer from malware such as trojans, viruses or worms due to how the kernel handles security. This is exactly the reason why most servers which power the Internet use Linux instead of Windows, and to a lesser extent, Mac.

Much has been said by devout users of Windows and Macintosh regarding benefits of exclusive proprietary applications on either system. Mozilla Firefox web browser, VLC multimedia player (similar to Windows Media Player) and the productivity suite (the Linux equivalent to Microsoft Office, Word, Excel, etc.) are just three examples of free open-source programs found on Linux systems. Concurrently, they are also largely available for use on all computers, Windows and Mac, on campus here at Central Michigan University. Need an iTunes alternative for managing your music collection? I use Rhythmbox. Love 3D modeling and digital animation? Try Blender. Are you a gamer? I highly recommend playing Nexuiz (soon, Xonotic).

If you can not immediately find a program you wish to use, you can get in contact with other users who are just as interested in creating content as you are; others such as the members of online forums such as Ubuntu Forums or here on With a healthy mixture of programmers and imagination, before you know it, you will have a fully customizable and free program for anyone to enjoy.

Imagination, freedom and helping others; welcome to the world of Linux.



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