Why experiment with Linux? | Opensource.com

Why experiment with Linux?

Posted 12 Nov 2012 by 

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In the last couple of weeks we’ve seen the announcement or release of a number of new products: the iPad Mini, an updated version of the full-size iPad, and Microsoft’s Windows 8 and Surface tablet.

A lot less attention was paid to the October 18 release of one of the most widely-used Linux distributions, Ubuntu. That’s unfortunate, because Linux in its various flavors is a solid operating system. It’s even used by such major companies as Google on both their servers and their desktops.

That said, my aim in this post is not to review the latest Ubuntu release (LifeHacker provides a first look here) or to rave about the benefits of Linux over other operating systems (since I’m primarily a Mac user). Instead, I’d like to offer a few reasons why it may be worth your while to explore and experiment with Linux, even if you don’t intend for it to become your primary OS.

It works on older hardware. If you’ve got an older, mostly discarded machine (PC or Mac, it really doesn’t matter) that you’re not quite sure what to do with, Linux can give it new life. You might, for instance, use a Linux installation to turn an older desktop machine into a media center.

It’s highly customizable. As with other operating systems, it’s possible to customize Linux to look (and, to a point, work) just the way you’d like. Don’t like the desktop environment that’s the default for your preferred distribution? No problem—just install another. There are plenty of applications for Linux, too. Though it’s true you won’t always be able to find a Linux version of software you’re used to using on Windows or OS X, odds are very good you’ll be able to find something that does the same thing.

Tinkering with it provides an opportunity to learn. When I first started playing with Linux a few years ago, even Ubuntu wasn’t as user-friendly as a lot of distributions are now. Even installing software was a challenge for someone not already familiar with the process. So I had to do some serious searching (especially in the Ubuntu forums) and experimenting to get things working the way I wanted. In the process, I learned a fair bit about (a) how to find the information I needed, (b) how the Ubuntu distribution works, and (c) how to use the command line.

There’s a variety of distributions. Fortunately, Ubuntu has become much easier for most people to install and use, as have other distributions such as Mint and Pinguy OS. Other distributions, such as Arch Linux, offer greater customizability, but definitely aren’t for Linux beginners. There’s even a distribution called Uberstudent that’s specifically designed for students. (I reviewed version 1.0 a few years ago; version 2.0 is due out very soon).

It’s free to download and to use. You can’t really argue with the cost of Linux. The more user-friendly versions are quite easy to install, too. (Users trying to install Linux on a Mac lacking an internal DVD drive may run into difficulties. In that case, it’s best to just install Linux in VirtualBox or other virtualization software.) In most instances, it’s simply a matter of downloading the distribution and putting it on a bootable DVD (or USB drive), then booting the computer from the device and following the on-screen prompts.

Have you given Linux a try? If so, which distribution(s) did you use, and what were your impressions? Let us know in the comments!

Originally posted on The Chronicle of Higher Education. Reposted with permission.

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17 Comments

Kurt

When I saw where Microsoft was headed with Windows 8, I decided to give Linux another try. I am currently using CrunchBang Linux, www.crunchbanglinux.org. I love CrunchBang's minimalism and the OpenBox window manager.

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Randy

I really like Bodhi Linux. It uses the enlightenment desktop! It's light on your resources, very quick, and yet aesthetically pleasing.
It doesn't come loaded with much software but you can add whatever you want. It is an ubuntu derivative, so you have access to the ubuntu repositories.

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Amy Cavender
Open Enthusiast

Thanks for the tips on Linux distros. Both of these are new to me.

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UAshif Ahammed .E

check on Arch linux ......
it was so super os. if you want to more experiment via CLI (command line ) just install and make fun

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pcero

If you think in distros, in Linux you have more than 300. If you need a special system, I am sure you can find it in some of the Linux distros. If not, prepare it for you; it is not so difficult in Linux

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René Gruneisen

There are so many good intended people, creating so many different nice linux systems. If all this energy could be bundled in three or four different linux systems, I think all the other systems would become obsolete in some years.

After Windows, now after more than 6 years in use, I abandoned ubuntu and Co, tired of all these updates and upgrades – causing sometimes problems. And then, even with LTS, not upgrading leaves a false impression of allways missing somewhat very important.

But the main reason is and was hardware.

Working now with a „fruity“ system, in calm surroundings, there comes no terryfying and no not-ending noise from the ventilator, the keyboard with back light, I can now work the whole day without being bored. The bottom remains cold and the battery is really lasting, even after months. And the whole software works with all keys of the keyboard, on the fly.

So, dear linux friends, make pressure on your favorite system's architects, that they decide – in cooperation with hardware productors – to create a computer on which you can really appreciate your wonderful linux.

It should be a computer, why not a tablet, too, you can buy nearby and not at the end of the world.

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pcero

I think this is not the idea of Linux Users like me. I prefer liberty in OS. I used for years Ubuntu, but I do not like Unity, so I change to openSUSE (yast is a very interesting application), but now I use Fedora in most computers, Debian sometimes and I maintain a netbook with Ubuntu 10.04 for special scripts written for Ubuntu. I do not want three or four distributions, I want a lot to use what I need in every moment. Problems with hardware? Yes, so I have 2 AMD and 2 nVidia cards to change when necessary. But I also remember Windows Vista and the four days we needed to prepare a new computer to run in that horrible system, only to crash in the first update. No, thanks, I prefer 300 Linux distributions to 3 or 4 Windows 8 (burned enough in 16 years of Windows)

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bvanevery
Open Minded

Making a distro must be a relatively easy engineering task, for there to be so many. Making a distro that's *tested* and that *lots* of other people want to use, that's harder. That's why only a few distros have risen to that level.

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Shawn H Corey

Reason #6: vast amounts of support online. ☺

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toby7

I like DSL - Damn Small Linux.

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anon

I just switched to GNU/Linux this year. Before this year I used Windows my whole life. I finally got sick of all the virus infections I've suffered on Windows, throughout the years.

Switching to GNU/Linux, I started out using Ubuntu. After a while I got the impression that Canonical would probably start spying (data mining) it's customers for increased revenue. Unity's Zeitgeist activity logging software was the first red flag I noticed. After that, Canonical started logging keystrokes and sending them to Amazon.com .

Later I found out that Ubuntu is basically based on Debian Testing. So I downloaded Debian Stable and upgraded it to Debian Testing (Wheezy). Then I installed XFCE with Compiz Window Manager and I could not be happier with the results. :)

I'm a permanent GNU/Linux user now and I guess I owe some of it to Ubuntu, because I used it as a stepping stone to get where I am now. If course the same could be said for Microsoft. I used it as a stepping stone too. I just wish I would have switched to GNU/Linux a long time ago, but I was huge into PC online gaming back then. Not so much anymore, I'm more into learning than gaming these days.

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Scott R

I first ran across Linux back in 1995. I was new to much of the internet and began playing with Linux on serveral old computers, linking them together, setting up routers and websites. I can truely say, that I learned more about the internet from LInux than anything else I ever did. Mostly a windows user now, but I'll have to get Linux running on my laptop to stay in shape.

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Bunz_of_steel

I prefer Linux Mint because it just works, right out of the box. It supports all the codecs and flash...heck Windoze 8 doesn't even play DVD's anymore! If your looking at which OS you want to use take a look at Distrowatch.com they list/rank all of them and keep up with new releases & reviews. It's a daily site for me. Windows..... only used for gaming or at work because I have to.

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purfesser
Community Member

Used many distros over the years. Like Ubuntu and clones (like Mint), and tried to like Unity. But Ubuntu failed to provide decent WiFi service on two different computers. Went back to an old standard, Fedora 10. Problem solved - and stayed solved up to Fedora 17. May check in with Ubuntu again some day ...

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mimmolinux

It would be interesting to know how many of the previously loyal Ubuntu users jumped ship after Unity was relaeased. Although, thank goodness for choice of window manager within a distribution, as without this I would have probably gone back to the dark side - which is a big call, as I never felt so liberated until the day I installed Ubuntu (pre Unity days) as the only option on a brand new notebook!

lubuntu is my specific distro of current choice - as has the Ubuntu goodness delivered with a leightweight window (LXDE) manger to boot. Allows the hardware to work at processing relevant instructions/programs, rather than wasting instructions on irrlevant eye candy!

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bvanevery
Open Minded

Lubuntu is a boon for older HW.

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mimmolinux

And netbooks :)

UNR really rocked before the insanity of Unity destroyed the goodness, lubuntu nicely fills this space. Actually amazed the remix project is still about!

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Amy is a Sister of the Holy Cross and an Associate Professor of Political Science at Saint Mary’s College, where she teaches both introductory and upper-level courses in Political Thought, as well as courses on Religion and Politics and Human Rights. Amy's current research interests are in ecumenical dialogue and the lessons it might provide for the conduct of political discourse in pluralistic societies. She is also very interested in the digital humanities and has been a regular

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