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This Is Your Brain on Linux Desktop

By Elbert Hannah
Aug 6, 2010 5:00 AM PT

This is your brain. This is your brain on Linux Desktop. It is a good thing.

This Is Your Brain on Linux Desktop

To borrow and twist the old "brain on drugs" PSA, your brain on Linux Desktop could be one of the best things that could happen to you for your computer fix.

Linux Desktop continues its ascent into users' collective consciousness with great graphics, powerful applications, and seamless interfaces. Linux Desktop frees your brain to think about the work (or the fun) at hand. Imagine -- transparent computing, and it's free!

Linux Desktop Is Here NOW.

Linux Desktop is more mature than ever. Every new day sees fewer reasons to ignore it. There's hardly a Windows application for which there isn't a suitable drop-in replacement for Linux. Most are work-alike (OpenOffice) -- some require a bit of learning (Gimp). A Linux Desktop as a replacement for Windows is only the starting point. It's a platform -- and a Lego kit.

Imagine the freedom of computing on your terms! Want a different backdrop to the login screen? No problem. Want a different color or gradient? Easy. You can even pick and choose the login widget.

Tired of losing the first 30 minutes at your computer to updates or balky network connections (happened to me tonight as I sat to type this column)? It is rare enough in Linux -- you'd be pressed to remember the last time.

It's easy on paper to reflect and compare Linux Desktop to Windows. Windows is more popular and familiar, but it comes with its own legacy and baggage. Linux is less known but carries less baggage, since it never succumbed to the trappings of legacy compatibility requirements for commercial software.

Your Brain on Windows

Keeping it Running:

Do you lose productive time when your Desktop slows to a crawl and lose even more time rebooting to correct the slowdown? Does it fix your problem? On Windows, my experience has been: "yes," "yes" and "no."

Do you have to reboot every time you install software? Weird.

Have you noticed degraded performance on your computer while "updates" are in progress? Yes, even while downloading an update, your computer slows while its virus checker scans the download for malware. Never seen it on Linux.

Have you ever seen your disk I/O light on solid while a virus scan is in progress? Annoying. Infuriating. Never seen it on Linux.

How many days does your computer stay up without a reboot? In Linux Desktop the question is more appropriately, "How many months does your computer stay up without a reboot?"

Your Brain on Linux Desktop

What do you want in your Desktop Window Manager? Lean and streamlined? Or sexy and wiggly? There's a window manager for that. What? You like character consoles? OK. (Consoles can be desktops too, since most today run in a framebuffer anyway. Try doing that with Windows.)

Whatever your preference, there's a GUI for you. (You get ONE in Windows. Well, maybe you get two... but if your processor isn't powerful enough, the coolest features of the Windows Desktop are disabled or attenuated.)

Do you need high-powered word processing? Spreadsheets? There's a Suite for that. Actually, there are a few Suites for that. Database? Yup. Photo and video management and editing? Sure. Best text editor in the world? Comes standard! (We have both! vim AND emacs!)

Out of the box, Linux Desktop comes with any combination of any and all of the above. It's a virtual playground of applications for fun and for work. And it just works.

Cloud computing and online services add to the argument for switching to Linux Desktop. Applications we used to run locally on our computers are available today as Internet apps that run in the browser. Linux does this as well as anyone.

From tax returns to word processing to games, Linux Desktop has the same access to Internet services as the other platforms. Of course, the services may run a little faster on your Linux Desktop -- you'll just have to adapt.

Economy: Wallet light enough yet? Funny.

Try It!

Take Linux Desktop for a spin. Find an old computer around your house. Don't have an old computer? Bet you have friends who do. Wipe the Windows clean. Install Ubuntu, or Mandriva, or any of a gazillion more distros.

I did just that the other day when an old (relatively -- six years) laptop could not externally drive my monitor (1920x1200). When I updated the XP video drivers, it was worse -- almost unusable. I didn't really need XP, so I downloaded and installed the newest Mandriva. It was an amazing transformation.

First, it took only 30 minutes for the complete install and network updates. Second, it detected and drove my monitor flawlessly and effortlessly! Instantly, my machine morphed from drudge to delight. In less than one hour, I went from the brink of recycling (read "throw away") my laptop to enjoying a new workhorse ready to do useful work for me -- I think I may set it up as a music server for the network.

It's worth a try. Put Linux Desktop on your computer. Put your brain on Linux Desktop. It will thank you for clearing the clutter. It will thank you for making your computer better.

It will thank you for making you a better person.

Elbert Hannah lives in the Chicago area and does production and scheduling support for a large financial firm. He wrote the most recent edition of O'Reilly's Learning the vi and Vim Editors. He has used Linux and worked actively in the open source community for over 10 years. In and around the house, he has more than 10 instances of Linux and as many versions and distros. He doesn't like technical religious wars and prefers things to be sorted out by merit. He loves the Beatles and thinks the greatest album recorded is Abbey Road.

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