January 4, 2003

Commentary: Linux myths that never die

- by John Fitzgibbon -
As a long-time Microsoft Windows user who recently switched almost exclusively
to Linux, I'd like to share a few observations on the transition.Rather than writing an exhaustive feature comparison, I'm going to look at a
few common (and incredibly persistent) myths about Linux, comparing the myth
with my own experience. I emphasize that this is not a technical analysis of
Windows/Linux pros and cons - it's a purely subjective study based on my
personal experiences with hardware and software I use every day.

For the Linux faithful my observations will probably read like old news, but
these myths are so ingrained in the Windows culture that I think this news
bears repeating.

So, in no particular order...

Myth: Linux support for power management is second-rate.

Fact: For me, the most important aspect of power management is the
"suspend" function on my laptop. I've found the Linux suspend function works
flawlessly, and suspend/resume operations are much faster than under Windows
2K. For easy access, I added a "suspend" button to the taskbar beside the
"lock"/"log-out" buttons.

Myth: Only techno-geeks can keep Linux software up to date.

Fact: Red Hat's Update Agent updates all my Red Hat software with the
click of a few buttons. I get emailed notifications when updates are
available. I decide when and what I want to upgrade, which suits me just
fine.

Myth: A switch to Linux means all my Windows "stuff" will be lost.

Fact: I installed Linux on a separate hard disk partition. The Linux
boot manager, (GRUB), allows me to boot either Windows or Linux. When I boot
Linux, all my old Windows drives are mounted and fully accessible, (I mount
them as /win/C, /win/D, etc. so things are easy to find). I installed my
Windows fonts on Linux using the graphical font manager, so documents look
pretty much as they did under Windows. I haven't had any problems opening my
Microsoft Office documents using OpenOffice, (though I confess that I don't
use many advanced MS Office features - your mileage may vary if you're a true
Microsoft-techy). I use samba to mount remote Windows drives, so I haven't
needed to switch O/S on my file servers.

Myth: Linux does not support a wide range of devices.

Fact: I use DVD, CD, wireless networking, wireless keyboard and mouse,
Rio MP3 player and various other USB devices on my laptop. On my desktop I
use scanners, printers, cameras and a TV card. I've had no problems getting
any device to work. In some cases the drivers are not available on the
installation CDs, so a little "googling" has been required to find what I
need. I suspect this has more to do with Microsoft's monopoly and dubious
licensing practices than any failure on the part of the Linux community. I
have occasionally had to do "make; make install" operations from the command
line, but, frankly, this is not as scary or technically demanding as certain
people might have you believe.

The bottom line is that most things I need to do on a day-to-day basis I can
do as well, or better, with Linux. And, needless to say, the TCO myth isn't
even worth talking about.

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