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Why We Switched To Linux

Why We Switched To Linux

Why even bother thinking about changing your OS?

Here at Seaford Web Design, we are more than power users. We are designers and developers with highly complex needs and make great demands of our operating systems and software platforms. We have literally years of development work and documentation laid down on our systems and endless custom configurations that apply to almost everything we do.

Why then, given that everything was working okay on Windows 10, would we even want to consider taking on the extra workload and risks involved in switching our entire operation to another operating system? Are we insane? Are we gluttons for punishment? Maybe just a little of both, but that's beside the point.

This wasn't an overnight decision yet happened a lot faster than we'd intended. However, over a period of time, trying out different multi-operating system software, such as the Thunderbird email client and LibreOffice suite and, finding them to be exceptionally good, we thought why not go the whole hog and start also looking at trying out a new operating system.

Reasons to go Linux

There are many reasons to go the route of Linux and if you trial the operating system they soon become apparent, but it's not for everybody. That isn't to say that Linux will not accommodate the majority of users across the board. Some people find it more difficult to cope with change than others, and that should be a consideration. If Linux can accommodate your needs then it's definitely worth a look as Linux is a free, open source, operating system. If you happen to like it then you'll never pay another penny to upgrade.

There are numerous free software packages for Linux, the main two being Thunderbird email client and the LibreOffice suite. These are both free and easy to use and there are literally thousands of others. LibreOffice, in particular, can handle Microsoft Office documents and spreadsheets and many of its users are of the opinion that it's far easier to use than MS Office. You can open the more common Microsoft Office file types with LibreOffice and also save them in Office format. Moreover, Linux is less demanding of your computer's resources which means it can run on modest hardware and runs faster than Windows on comparable hardware.

Linux comes in literally hundreds of different forms, or distributions popularly referred to as "distros". The two main Linux distros installed by people coming from Windows is Ubuntu Linux or Linux Mint. Linux Mint is considered by many to be the easiest option as it nicely laid out and in many ways resemble the general feel of the Windows operating system.

Still interested? Then read on below about the big switch...

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The Big Switch to Linux

Switching operating system to Linux from Windows or Mac OS is not so difficult, and there are two approaches you can take. In both cases double check to ensure that that Linux can fulfil your operating and software needs. You do not need to commit immediately. You can try out Linux on a USB stick, you can dual boot or you can install it on a second machine to try it out. Dual boot means installing Linux alongside an existing Windows installation.

There is a heap of information online on all the above methods for trying out Linux but if you are going to dual boot then be sure you are confident with what you are doing. It's easy to unintentionally erase your Windows installation and you do not want to do that until you are sure that Linux is for you. You might even end up running Linux and Windows together on the same PC, at least for some period of time while you are making the transition from one to the other.

The Pros & Cons

So, is Linux for you? How can you know for sure if switching to Linux is going to be to your advantage? There are many deciding factors and hopefully, the list below will help you make up your mind if it is worth giving it a try:-

 

The Pros

  • Linux is a free, open-source, desktop operating system and there are literally millions of people using it all over the world.
  • You can download it anytime for free and you'll never pay another penny to upgrade.
  • Privacy. Linux does not encourage you to register any kind of account and is not intrusive in the same way that Windows is when it comes to collecting data about you.
  • Linux is far less disruptive when it comes to upgrades and you will not find yourself waiting for what feels like ages for updates to complete when switching on or turning off a Windows PC.
  • Apple hardware can be very expensive these days. Not so with Linux which will run happily on older hardware upon which Windows and Apple Mac OS would be positively struggling.
  • Linux distributes its software through known, secure repositories so there is no need for an expensive anti-virus package.
  • Linux has an enormous network of users and developers who support it through websites and forums and there is plenty of support and information available online.
  • Linux has literally thousands of free software packages, of all varieties, which can easily be installed.
  • You can use LibreOffice in place of MS Office and Thunderbird in place of MS Outlook, and both are completely free.
  • There are numerous different variations of Linux, Ubuntu and Mint being the most popular.
  • Linux requires minimal hardware resources and consequentially runs a lot faster than Microsoft Windows.
  • Linux can run very nicely on older hardware where Windows might struggle, meaning you can take longer to upgrade your PC and save yourself a considerable amount of money.
  • Linux will run on most hardware, which will be evident when you try it out for the first time and installation is very straightforward.
  • Linux can run Chrome Browser which instantly makes for a great feeling of familiarity when browsing the web.
  • Linux runs a system called Wine, which allows you to run many Windows programs actually on Linux if you still need them around for a while.
  • There are some very large companies and government departments now using Linux desktop around the world.
  • You can never know what the charging model will be in the future for Windows or Mac so Linux allows for better financial planning.
  • You will feel like you've done something bold and special by striking out and trying out a new operating system.
  • You will vastly increase your experience of computing and have a yardstick by which to compare Windows and other operating systems.
  • And, finally, who wouldn't want a cuddly penguin as a mascot for their OS? That's pretty a pretty cool thing in its own right.

 

The Cons

  • You will spend time installing and learning how to use Linux, it's a lot of fun but you need to allocate the time for it.
  • At first, everything will feel a little different but if you install Linux Mint, most things you need will be close at hand right from the start.
  • You will need to check that Linux will work with your printer and other hardware such as external USB audio interfaces.
  • A large number of computer hardware items will work with Linux but you will need to check this before making future purchases.
  • Linux does not support Digital Rights Management, or DRM, without some unofficial shortcuts but most do not find this to be a problem.
  • Many businesses are already using Linux but many don't so some might want to have Windows available for themselves and their children to ensure that both bases are covered, from a professional and educational point of view.
  • Most of the basic software that most people will want to use is already installed or close at hand in the Software Center. However, advanced users might need to use the Terminal application for some of the less common installation tasks.
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In Conclusion

So which is the better operating system? Is Linux about kill Windows off? Well, as with so many things in life, it's way more complicated than that. It's more about what you are looking for out of an operating system than which is the better one. If you're happy with Windows or Mac and don't mind staying on the path of an operating system that demands a lot from your hardware then stick with it, but it will cost you more money in the long run, a lot more.

Cost

Cost is always going to be a factor for many people. It has to be said that Linux will often run quite happily on older hardware but then, by the same logic, it runs very nicely indeed on a newer PC. You can reach out anytime and download a copy of Linux and install it on your machine for free, and on as many machines as you like. Once you have mastered Linux and feel comfortable with it, the cost element can be a very liberating factor and you'll be glad that you made the little effort involved in learning about it. If money gets tight at any time in the future, you'll always have powerful, free computing capability at your fingertips for you and all of your family that will run well on cheap hardware. We never know when that might come in very useful indeed.

I would say most strongly that Linux Mint is the most friendly and efficient Linux Distribution to try first time round for users of Windows. It is easy to download and install and will feel very familiar from the minute you log in to use it. It is also very well supported online. You can always try Ubuntu and other variants at a later time and it might even be worth getting hold of an old PC simply to try out various flavours of Linux, that way no harm can be done to existing hardware.

Give it a try

I'm not going to lecture highly experienced computer and software experts about what is best for them personally. They should already have enough of an idea about that. This article is really aimed at casual and power PC users who might be trying to make up their minds about which way to go in relation to Linux. A good start, if you are a Windows user, is to download Mozilla Thunderbird and LibreOffice, which run on Windows and Linux and give them a try first on Windows. If these packages work for you and fulfil your needs on Windows then they will similarly fulfil your needs on Linux.

By far the best approach is to start off installing Linux alongside your Windows installation. It's a fairly straightforward thing to do but if you are not sure about how to go about it then get some help. One safe way to do it is to install a new hard drive on your computer and reserve it solely for Linux. This is not strictly necessary though and you can easily setup dual boot on one disk if you have the space to do so. You can then easily boot in one operating system or the other and make a gentle transition from Windows to Linux over a period of weeks, or months if preferable. You can even keep both of them permanently if that suits you best. Time will tell and soon enough, if you eventually want to abandon one in favour of the other, then it will be an easy task to do so.

My own experience

My experience of changing operating systems was an interesting one. I was determined to switch to Linux as I already knew it had the power and versatility to satisfy both my domestic and professional needs. Linux is a very powerful operating system indeed and is used extensively by Internet Service Providers to host many millions of websites around the world. Previously, when I built websites, I was doing so on Windows then publishing them to Linux servers, which seemed a bit daft. Now that I have transferred everything 100% to Linux I have found that it easily handles everything I ever used to do using Microsft Office. In fact, I have found that side of it to be a complete no-brainer and will never again have to worry about purchasing an expensive licence for an office software package.

I am a bit of an amateur music enthusiast and have a private recording studio. I found that some of my hardware did not work with Linux. This equipment could have been patched if I'd wanted but I decided instead to sell it and buy alternative, compatible USB audio equipment, which has worked out fine. Desktop Linux, despite a massive burst of development and growth in recent years, still falls a little short in a couple of highly specialised areas, such as Audio and Video production, but that situation is rapidly improving all the time. I was actually able to install an additional, free Linux distribution that caters purely to the audio industry and is packed with goodies specifically for that purpose. Such is how vast the Linux technosphere is when it comes to catering to so many specialised needs.

Is Linux for you?

If you, or a friend or relative, are looking for a cost effective and efficient operating system that enables you to type up a letter, do email and browse the web, then Linux is for you and them. If you don't want to spend a fortune on new hardware but find that later versions of Windows are proving too much for your ageing PC or laptop, then Linux is for you. If you're a power user or professional developer looking for a solid computing platform that ticks all the boxes, then Linux is for you.

By and large, the advantages of switching to Linux have been way too huge for us to turn back at any point and my determination to see it through, despite having to entirely remodel my business systems, is already paying significant dividends on a number of fronts. Maybe you'll have a similar experience and enjoy the same level of success with switching to Linux. The chances are that you will.

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Neil Smith
I am Head of Technical Services at Seaford Web Design and spent many years in the IT Industry working as a consultant web developer for many large banks and other financial organisations in the City of London. I personally have over 25 years of experience in website development and can help you find the right website solution for your business.