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If you need commercial-quality software to work with business documents, Internet/networking, or multimedia and graphics, it's there right out of the box. Want more than that? Linux can do it; there are hundreds of free, high-quality applications you can find and install easily.
You shouldn't assume however, that Linux is a clone of Windows. To know what to expect when stepping into it, this article will help you with the basics of switching to Linux.
From Windows to Linux
This is what everyday users usually find better, mostly the same, or not as good, when switching from Windows to Linux.
What is Better in Linux
- Programs. There are a wealth of free applications available at no cost under Linux. To edit professional documents, burn music CDs, rework photos, design a website, or organise music; there's no need for $200 software with restrictive licenses.
The internal installer makes it incredibly easy to find, install and remove programs.
It's also safe: you can forget the demo/trial crippled software, or harmful freeware polluting the web.
No constant struggling. Keeping your computer in shape over time needn't be a struggle. One year on, Linux runs just as fast as the first day. And it may bring your old PC back to life.
Also, Linux lets you choose what you want and what you don't. If you had a hard time getting rid of MSN Messenger, Windows Update notifications, or Clippit the paperclip, you'll find Linux refreshing.
Security. Forget expensive and restrictive anti-virus, anti-spyware, anti-anything and anti-everything. Linux is very, very secure.
It is often difficult for Windows users to believe that there are no spyware nor viruses under LinuxâÃÃ®but it's true. Malicious programs have a hard time doing anything at all in a well-built system. Regular, easy software updates will keep everyone entirely safe.
Support. Linux benefits from a great sense of community whose friendliness will surprise you. If you try to do something complicated but can't succeed, there are a lot of people around to help you out.
The companies behind the main GNU/Linux distributions, such as Canonical, Red Hat, and Novell, also provide expert commercial support.
- It's free. Unlike Windows, Linux is free software--free as in freedom. Install it on all computers and make copies for your friends! You can even study it, transform it as you please, or build and sell your own distribution.
What is Mostly the Same in Linux
Fundamentally, everyday users will find Linux similar in use to Windows or Mac OS X.
General set-up. If you still believe Linux is controlled with code and command-line interfaces, you should update your point of view!
Just like Windows, Linux a graphical interface when you switch your computer on, where you use programs to accomplish different tasks. The taskbar and layout of applications will feel familiar to Windows or Mac OS X users.
Web browsing and common tasks. The Web looks just the same when viewed with Linux (in fact you can browse the Web with the same program if you already use Firefox). And of course, you can go through your picture and music collection all the same. Files and folders are navigated with a file manager like Windows Explorer.
What is Not as Good in Linux
"Never tell the truth to people who are not worthy of it." âÃÃ® Mark Twain;
"Tell the truth and run." âÃÃ® Yugoslavian proverb.
Driver support. Manufacturers of computer hardware don't always (yet) release drivers for Linux or publicize full specifications.
So, drivers are sometimes unavailable for the most recent high-end graphics cards âÃÃ® some are reverse-engineered from Windows drivers by volunteers. Some are also released free of charge, but under restrictive licenses.
Sadly, the same problem occurs with many low-end WiFi cards.
However, the vast majority of computers with standard hardware work out of the box with main Linux distributions. Common hardware such as USB keys or photo cameras never are a problem.
DVDs, restricted formats. Many multimedia formats in use are proprietary and not openly specified; this means, broadly speaking, that Linux programmers have to find out how to read them without any help from the format designers.
This might lead you to circumvent the restrictions in some DVDs and the DRM in some music files, even if you purchased them in full legality, to be make them work under Linux. Unfortunately, depending on where you live, such circumvention processes may be illegal even if you purchased your media entirely legally.
Gaming. Hard-core computer gamers, you might find that the Linux gaming world is less professional and out-of-the-box than under Windows: the large game developing companies are only slowly getting interested in the free software world, which means that many well-known titles do not work on Linux, or need special restrictive emulators to work.
There is a very active free software game development community though, and they have produced quite a few high-quality games, both 2D and 3D, that are free software. You can head to the Ubuntu gaming forum to find more information.
Hibernating. Because of the driver issues above, hibernating is not always reliable. The most common occurrence is the loss of WiFi connection after hibernating on laptops whose hardware drivers are not free.
Whether you are going to enjoy Linux depends mostly on what you expect from it.
- If you wish Linux to be just exactly like Windows, you will probably be disappointed. Linux is built by people who simply wish it to be different. In the free software community, members have different visions of what makes an ideal operating system. These differences lead to variety, which is what makes Linux so special and interesting.
- Your freedom matters. Thousands in communities and companies work to build software on which you may exert this freedom. Using Linux is the easiest way to do so fully.
- It's fun! Not having to worry about spyware, viruses, program registrations, demos that expire, or finding software that is really free as in freedom, makes using a computer suddenly very enjoyable.
We hope you'll switch soon. There's a large community waiting, and no one in it asking you to "sign up, purchase, and register."