5 benefits of choosing Linux

One of the great things about Linux is choice, and choice inspires users to freely share ideas and solutions. How will Linux inspire you to contribute to this community?
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Why the operating system matters even more in 2017

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In 2021, there are more reasons why people love Linux than ever before. In this series, I'll share 21 different reasons to use Linux. This article discusses the benefit of choice Linux brings. 

Choice is one of the most misunderstood features of Linux. It starts with how many Linuxes there are to choose from. Distrowatch.org reports hundreds of available and active Linux distributions. Many of these distributions, of course, are hobby projects or extremely specific to some obscure requirement. Because it's open source, in fact, anyone can "re-spin" or "remix" an existing distribution of Linux, give it a new name, maybe a new default wallpaper, and call it their own. And while that may seem trivial, I see it as an indication of something very special.


Linux, it seems, inspires people, from the very moment they learn about it, to make it their own.

There are dozens of companies spending millions of dollars to generate inspiration from their product. Commercials for technology overwhelmingly try to convince you that as long as you buy some product, you'll feel more connected to the people you care about, more creative, and more alive. Shot in 4k video with soft focus and played to the beat of cheerful and uplifting music, these advertisements are attempts to convince people to not only purchase but then also to support and advertise that company's product.

Of course, Linux has essentially no marketing budget because Linux is a diverse collection of individuals, a body discorporate. Yet when people discover it, they are seemingly inspired to build their own version of it.

It's difficult to quantify amounts of inspiration, but there's obvious value to it, or else companies wouldn't spend money in an attempt to create it.


Inspiration, however difficult it is to put a price tag on it, is valuable because of what it produces. Many Linux users have been inspired to create custom solutions to odd problems. Many of the problems we each solve seem trivial to most other people. Maybe you monitor moisture levels of your tomato plant's soil with a Seeed micro-controller, or you have a script to search through an index of Python packages because you keep forgetting the names of libraries you import every day, or you've automated cleaning out your Downloads folder because dragging icons to the Trash is too much work. Whatever problem you've solved for yourself on Linux, it's a feature of the platform that you're inspired by the open technology you're running to make it work better for yourself.

Staying out of the way

Of course, neither inspiration nor innovation are exclusive properties of Linux. Other platforms do authentically produce inspiration in us, and we do innovate in small and huge ways. Computing has largely leveled most playing fields, and anything you can do on one OS, you can likely find a way to do on another.

What many users find, however, is that the Linux operating system maintains a firm policy of staying out of your way when you have the idea of trying something that possibly nobody else has thought to try yet. This doesn't and cannot happen, by design, on a proprietary operating system because there's just no way to get into certain areas of the system because they don't happen to be open source. There are arbitrary blockades. You tend not to bump up against invisible walls when you're doing exactly what the OS expects you to do, but when you have it in mind to do something that makes sense only to you, your environment may fail to adapt.

Small choices and why they matter

Not all innovations are big or important, but collectively they make a big difference. The crazy ideas that millions of users have had are evident today in every part of Linux. They're in the ways that the KDE and GNOME desktops work, they're in 31 different text editors each of them loved by someone, and countless plugins for browsers and media applications, in file systems and extended attributes, and in the millions of lines of the Linux kernel. And if just one of these features gives you an extra hour each day to spend with your family or friends or hobby, then it's by definition, to use an over-used phrase, "life-changing."

Connecting with a community

An important part of open source is the sharing of work. Sharing code is the obvious, prevalent transaction of open source software, but I think there's a lot more to the act of sharing than just making a commit to Gitlab. When people share their ideas with one another, with no ulterior motive aside from potentially getting useful code contributions in return, we all recognize it as a gift. It feels very different from when you purchase software from a company, and it's even different from when a company shares open source code they've produced. The reality of open source is that it's made by humans for humans. There's a connection created when knowledge and inspiration are given freely. It's not something that a marketing campaign can replicate, and I think that we recognize that.


Linux isn't the only platform with a lot of choices. You can find several solutions to the same problem regardless of your OS, especially when you delve into open source software. However, the level of choice evident on Linux is indicative of what drives Linux forward: The invitation to collaborate. Some things created on Linux fade quickly away, others stay on your home computer for years doing whatever small mundane task you've automated, and others are so successful that they get borrowed by other platforms and become commonplace. It doesn't matter. Whatever you create on Linux, don't hesitate to add it to the cacophony of choice. You never know who it might inspire.

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Seth Kenlon
Seth Kenlon is a UNIX geek, free culture advocate, independent multimedia artist, and D&D nerd. He has worked in the film and computing industry, often at the same time.

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