Why do you use Linux and open source software?

LinuxQuestions.org readers share reasons they use Linux and open source technologies. How will Opensource.com readers respond?
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As I mentioned when The Queue launched, although typically I will answer questions from readers, sometimes I'll switch that around and ask readers a question. I haven't done so since that initial column, so it's overdue. I recently asked two related questions at LinuxQuestions.org and the response was overwhelming. Let's see how the Opensource.com community answers both questions, and how those responses compare and contrast to those on LQ.

Why do you use Linux?

The first question I asked the LinuxQuestions.org community is: What are the reasons you use Linux?

Answer highlights

oldwierdal: I use Linux because it is fast, safe, and reliable. With contributors from all over the world, it has become, perhaps, the most advanced and innovative software available. And, here is the icing on the red-velvet cake; It is free!

Timothy Miller: I started using it because it was free as in beer and I was poor so couldn't afford to keep buying new Windows licenses.

ondoho: Because it's a global community effort, self-governed grassroot operating system. Because it's free in every sense. Because there's good reason to trust in it.

joham34: Stable, free, safe, runs in low specs PCs, nice support community, little to no danger for viruses.

Ook: I use Linux because it just works, something Windows never did well for me. I don't have to waste time and money getting it going and keeping it going.

rhamel: I am very concerned about the loss of privacy as a whole on the internet. I recognize that compromises have to be made between privacy and convenience. I may be fooling myself but I think Linux gives me at least the possibility of some measure of privacy.

educateme: I use Linux because of the open-minded, learning-hungry, passionately helpful community. And, it's free.

colinetsegers: Why I use Linux? There's not only one reason. In short I would say:

  1. The philosophy of free shared knowledge.
  2. Feeling safe while surfing the web.
  3. Lots of free and useful software.

bamunds: Because I love freedom.

cecilskinner1989: I use linux for two reasons: stability and privacy.

Why do you use open source software?

The second questions is, more broadly: What are the reasons you use open source software? You'll notice that, although there is a fair amount of overlap here, the general tone is different, with some sentiments receiving more emphasis, and others less.

Answer highlights

robert leleu: Warm and cooperative atmosphere is the main reason of my addiction to open source.

cjturner: Open Source is an answer to the Pareto Principle as applied to Applications; OOTB, a software package ends up meeting 80% of your requirements, and you have to get the other 20% done. Open Source gives you a mechanism and a community to share this burden, putting your own effort (if you have the skills) or money into your high-priority requirements.

Timothy Miller: I like the knowledge that I can examine the source code to verify that the software is secure if I so choose.

teckk: There are no burdensome licensing requirements or DRM and it's available to everyone.

rokytnji: Beer money. Motorcycle parts. Grandkids birthday presents.

timl: Privacy is impossible without free software

hazel: I like the philosophy of free software, but I wouldn't use it just for philosophical reasons if Linux was a bad OS. I use Linux because I love Linux, and because you can get it for free as in free beer. The fact that it's also free as in free speech is a bonus, because it makes me feel good about using it. But if I find that a piece of hardware on my machine needs proprietary firmware, I'll use proprietary firmware.

lm8: I use open source software because I don't have to worry about it going obsolete when a company goes out of business or decides to stop supporting it. I can continue to update and maintain the software myself. I can also customize it if the software does almost everything I want, but it would be nice to have a few more features. I also like open source because I can share my favorite programs with friend and coworkers.

donguitar: Because it empowers me and enables me to empower others.

Your turn

So, what are the reasons you use Linux? What are the reasons you use open source software? Let us know in the comments.

Fill The Queue

Lastly, what questions would you like to see answered in a future article? From questions on building and maintaining communities, to what you'd like to know about contributing to an open source project, to questions more technical in nature—submit your Linux and open source questions.

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Jeremy Garcia is the founder of LinuxQuestions.org  and an ardent but realistic open source advocate. Follow Jeremy on Twitter: @linuxquestions


I came to the home PC world late - 2002. I had been working on Unix systems for 15 years and Linux was the obvious choice.

I use open source software on the Windows PC I am supplied with at work, to make up for limitations in the Windows o/s. It never fails to amaze me just how primitive W10 is. We still don't have multiple desktops, and you can't logon multiple sessions concurrently. I haven't fixed that but I use open source software to give me a find that works (the default Windows one is very unreliable), a text editor that knows about code formatting, a graphics package that doesn't involve taking out a mortgage (also, I find CS6 completely unintuitive) and web browsers that don't think they can do everything (I hate the way Edge thinks it is a better pdf reader than Acrobat). Daily at work I use Cygwin (for grep), Notepad++, Gimp, Firefox, Chrome and other bits and bobs. Open source makes me more efficient and as a bonus, saves the college money, which is important with government education funding cuts.

Actually Win10 does have multiple desktops. It's just not very good at it. WIN+CTRL+D creates new desktops. WIN+CTRL+LEFT/RIGHT moves left or right between them.
I personally don't use it because it's too clunky.

In reply to by MartyMonroe

I'm using Linux, mostly in its Xubuntu flavor, since 2012. I'm using it because of its small footprint, speed, and because of lack of anything even remotely resembling Windows rot. Yes, I also like Linux because of, shall we say, ideological reasons, but those reasons wouldn't be enough if there was not stability in Linux OS and availability of wide range of productivity software, both FOSS and proprietary. And stable and productive Linux really is!

Because of business reasons I'm also using Windows, XP and 7, but exclusively as virtual machines on Linux host.

I upgraded recently my Xubuntu 14.04 LTS to 16.04 LTS, and boot time went DOWN from 26-27 second to 18-19. Can you imagine that after upgrading from one Win to another? No? Didn't think so. :-)

I'll admit the first reason I adopted Linux in the mid 90's (and open source software generally) was due initially to cost. I wanted to redirect money spent on software to buy better hardware. However today, ironically, I've found I actually don't need the latest/greatest super-machine as Linux and open source applications run so well on mid-range computers and even older laptops/desktops. This highlights a key value for me with open source software: it breaks the hardware upgrade cycle, where a new OS requires more powerful hardware, which opens up headroom for more resource intensive software, which...

As an end user, I've come to realize open source software is simply better software: it's more reliable, stable, and safe. The community-driven development model, ensures not only that bugs/issues are addressed, but that the features and functionality developed are in line with what users actually need and use--no need for bloatware, that only muddles the user experience, when you don't need to justify a version upgrade (and payment). Open source software can focus on delivering innovation rather than pushing upgrades.

Forced upgrades is another reason I appreciate open source software--there are none. I can choose to update or even migrate on my schedule and for my reasons, not when the company tells me to.

As a developer/contributor, I like the community of collaborators open source creates. Sure there are many communities supporting and working with proprietary software: what a bunch of chumps. The time and energy I put forward in a project is returned directly back to me in multiples, and for all the right reasons. These returns aren't not just in software functionality/features, but in: knowledge (I've learned more through open source software and communities than any other medium throughout my career--technology, project management, community development, etc.), community (my very best friends are and those I respect most as technologists, engineers, developers, designers, etc. are from the open source projects I've worked with).

These are only a few reasons why I prefer open source software, a few years back I created the "The 'Ultimate' Benefits of Open Source List": https://pmasson.wordpress.com/2012/04/25/the-ultimate-benefits-of-open-… which includes all of the reasons I like Linux and open source software.

My initial attraction to Linux was technical (this was before I even knew what open source was)
I noticed that most of the default apps in Windows were essentially crap and replacing them with 3rd party software usually resulted in better functionality (IE with Firefox, Notepad with Notepad++, etc). So I got curious about what would happen if I replaced the whole OS and Linux seemed like a good candidate at the time. I think this was around 2010-2011. Yeah, I was a bit late to the open source world.

My answer is: Why wouldn't I use Linux and open source software? There are excellent open source solutions for pretty much everything I want/need to do, and Linux is a solid OS. Years ago I installed Linux on a friend's old Windows computer, which was full of malware. I used Knoppix to rescue her files, then when I installed Ubuntu on her system, she turned it on and said, "It feels like an expensive computer now." All it cost her was a cup of coffee and her company while I worked the magic (i.e., inserted a DVD and clicked a few buttons).

Why Linux?

1) Because it's better - more efficient, more stable.
2) Because it's more logically structured.
3) Because you can get under the hood. I'm a tinkerer at heart.
4) Because there's no vendor lock-in.

Using Linux is like having a workshop with a magic toolbox. No matter what tool you need, you can open the toolbox and the tool is there.

To stick it to the Man, of course.

I use open source because it keeps me in charge of my own computing environment and my data, and discourages mindless consumerism. I use Linux because it's exactly the right mix of traditional Unix and progressive mayhem.

I use Linux so that I can control my own computers and not be spied upon, unlike a certain propitiatory OS. It also just works on my computers. No tracking down drivers to install on the net, no hassles. Its free and has high quality software to do whatever I want or need to do.

I left Windows because it basically only has 1 desktop UI. Linux distros give you a choice of desktop environments. Some better than others. As well as a mix n match possibility.

Linux has all of the applications that I use at home. The drivers of older hardware are more stable. I was able to customize an Ubuntu install so from power-on, my Mom's​ waits a few seconds and wallah it's on Chromium with first page of apps to get into her inbox, news and login to her bank, or medical sites. She can view videos with vlc by just double clicking​ on just about any video format sent to her. And then simply reaches for the power button and click when done. From that simple setup to more highly secure, encrypted files with passwords and openvpn connections, use gimp to create memorable collages of pics. All at easier and faster upgrade paths from Ubuntu 12.04 to 16.04 for a span of over 10 yrs. Same T60 secondhand PC's that were destined for recycle and reused instead.

My friends who still use Windows are fairly close to this kind of reliability now with Win7 & 10 but with much more powerful hardware. And of course at much more money. They've had to put up with much more pain. Ubuntu has had its Unity issues but I don't think they were as severe as Windows missteps in its gui redesign.

Because I can.

For 2 connected reasons.
The first was the idea of "taking back my computer". You used to own everything about the computer, but then the first scheme was to sell some needed add-ons (meaning that what you were sold wasn't complete), or every time there was an upgrade, more $$. The next scheme was to only license the use of the software, it wasn't yours anymore, you were just allowed to use it.
The second reason was to be able to fix and customize things on my own, and even make things of my own.
What you find along the way is a rich and helpful community that wants to share what it knows without expecting you to pay for it.

because its heavily customizable, i dont have to reboot everytime i update my system.
And GOD i love when everyone has a hard using my computer.

I have been using Linux for personal use from 2006, for all the usual reasons listed so well in the comments so far. However, the big change for me is that 2017 has become the inversion year - when Linux became my work platform of choice professionally.

I'm not a developer and for years my professional use was mandated by office policy and/or proprietary applications that required Windows. In the 2016 holiday season I finally got so fed up with Windows that I was determined to make the switch on my office laptop to Linux and obtained permission to do so. Fortunately, all of the truly mission-critical applications we use are now web-accessed SaaS solutions, removing the last barrier. Over the holidays, I made the switch and transitioned my office workflow to Linux. I did this with no small amount of trepidation, knowing full well the problems and limitations I had faced with Linux over the years.

What truly surprised me (in the most wonderful way) was that I quickly came to realize that I no longer had to make compromises in my workflow or user experience in order to use Linux - I find my interface, workflow, and general computing experience to be more enjoyable and efficient using Linux - at the office where I can't compromise! Everyone's needs and workflow are different, so I'm not making a sweeping generalization here (your mileage may vary). However, for me, this was the first time that I not only could use Linux at work without having serious limitations, but in fact found my workflow more pleasant and efficient using Linux. This realization really hit home when I had to boot into Windows a few times after weeks of being in Linux full time - it was a jarring experience.

So, for me, 2017 has been a banner year in that I can now say, fully and truly, that Linux is my preferred OS for professional as well as personal use.

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