Every year around this time, people ask me about the best computer to give (or get) for the holidays. I always give the same answer: Linux. After all, if you want your recipients to be happy, why wouldn't you give them the best operating system on the planet?
Many people don't realize they have options when it comes to computer operating systems. Just recently, two friends (who didn't do their research) fell for the clever marketing and bought brand-new systems at premium prices. I'm willing to bet that within six months they'll be dissatisfied with those expensive computers.
In contrast, I recently purchased a four-year-old computer with an i5 processor, 4GB of RAM, and a 128GB SSD drive, and I love it. It's fast and has all the applications I need to be successful and happy. That's because I'm running Linux. Whether I'm using Firefox or Chrome, all my websites load quickly and the video is great. In fact, the web is faster on Linux than it is on MacOS or Windows.
So, if you're in the mood to give a computer for the holidays, here are five good reasons it should be Linux.
1. Linux is easy to use
Linux distributions like Fedora, Ubuntu, PopOS, Linux Mint, and Raspbian come with loads of documentation and access to a user community eager to help. And desktop environments such as GNOME, KDE, and LXDE mean the Linux operating system is just plain easy. If you have a problem with a Linux operating system, you won't have to wait in a long telephone queue for an answer—you can tap into the community's knowledge.
2. Free applications for practically anything you need
There are hundreds of high-quality, free software packages available for Linux. My favorites are LibreOffice and GnuCash. I cannot imagine any writing task that is beyond the scope of LibreOffice. I use it and recommend it to everyone I know. Why spend money on a name-brand productivity suite when LibreOffice, the best one out there, is free? (If you agree and you're able, you really ought to consider contributing to the project.)
Linux is secure, an important fact in an age when security tops most people's essential features list. On Linux, viruses and malware are minimal. I spend many days each year helping friends recover their Windows systems that have been hacked or infected with malware. That's rare on Linux, and if you want to be doubly sure no one gains improper access to your computer, there are plenty of open source solutions that can help prevent it. My favorites are ClamAV and Rootkit Hunter. Linux respects your privacy. It does not upload user data to Redmond or Cupertino.
Linux gives me the freedom to use my operating system however I choose, whether that is as a standalone workstation for personal productivity, a content server, a firewall for my home network, or something else. Unlike proprietary desktop operating systems, you don't have to purchase an upgrade or extension to expand your system's capabilities. There are no limitations. Best of all, I can give all of this knowledge away and encourage others to do the same. Isn't giving to others the spirit of holiday traditions?
Linux is reliable and stable. The operating system does not crash. When you get updates, they don't require you to reboot while you're in the middle of doing something else. If you're using an older version of Fedora, Ubuntu, or Linux Mint and are happy with the status quo, you don't have to upgrade. Linux also offers more support for drivers of legacy printers and other peripherals than other operating systems.
How to give Linux
Linux could be the best present your friends ever receive. Instead of buying holiday gifts from your favorite retailer, buy some 8GB or 16GB USB drives, download your favorite distribution, and make some bootable USB drives to give away. Volunteer your time (or include instructions) to help your friends to explore the "live" editions of these distributions before they install the operating system. Or, if you have an old, unused laptop or desktop, consider installing Linux and loaning it out for training purposes. Most of your friends will have no idea what a wonderful gift you are giving them—in the process, you will discover the joy of giving yourself to others.
If you really want to buy a new computer, this year I recommend you look at System 76 or Dell's XPS Developer edition. If you don't want a new model, there are plenty of great offerings on eBay, DellRefurbished.com, and other sites that sell good-quality older laptops that are great candidates for an easy Linux install.