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Why Do We Love Linux?

Why Do We Love Linux?

"If we're going to successfully advocate for linux, it has to be by talking about the advantages, not 'it's just as good,'" said Slashdot blogger Barbara Hudson. "'Just as good' isn't a compelling argument to switch, whether it's an operating system or your favorite restaurant."

By Katherine Noyes
09/07/10 5:00 AM PT

When you're a fan of Linux, any blog post entitled "27 Good Reasons to Love Linux" is going to be impossible to resist.

No wonder, then, that a recent post with just that title has created endless fodder for conversation in the Linux blogosphere of late.

Among the reasons listed in said post, which appeared in three parts (beginning here) over the past few days, were the usual arguments in favor of Linux's attractive price and superior security, of course. In addition, however, the list refers to the ease of installing new software, the compatibility with older hardware, and Linux's environmental friendliness, among other virtues.

It's an impressive list, without question, and bloggers on LXer and elsewhere took to it enthusiastically. Linux Girl, however, couldn't help but wonder: Why stop at 27? She took to the streets of the Linux blogosphere to gather more insight.

'I Agree Strongly'

"This is an excellent article," blogger Robert Pogson opined. "Apart from the grammar, I agree strongly with most of the points."

In fact, "GNU/Linux also has features that make it trivial to manage hundreds of PCs," Pogson pointed out. "With that other OS you need to pay for Lose 2003/8 and inActive Directory, WSUS, etc., and one or more servers to dodge the limitations in the EULA.txt, and after paying thousands of dollars the system will still be jerky and some walking around will be needed."

By contrast, "I can tell all or any PC running GNU/Linux in my building to install an update and it happens immediately with no re-re-reboots and I do not need to leave my chair," Pogson explained. "I do use a server to cache updates, but it is not necessary for function or licensing, only efficiency."

'Extremely Useful in Servers'

Pogson, in fact, suggested three more points he felt should be added to the original list.

"No. 28: With GNU/Linux and most distros you get a complete toolkit for managing one PC or a thousand at no extra cost," he suggested. "You can run or manage a single PC or a cluster of them just as easily. This makes GNU/Linux extremely useful in servers, clusters of servers, and huge deployments of PCs. This saves manpower, walking around and time.

"That other OS," on the other hand, "was designed for a single non-networked PC and requires a lot of extras to be made workable in large deployments," he added. "Even a family with a second PC can use these features of GNU/Linux to advantage."

'This X Window System'

No. 29 on Pogson's expanded list? "The display on most GNU/Linux distros is networked even on a single PC," he noted. "This X window system allows an old PC to interact with an application running on a faster/newer/resourceful PC over the network."

That's something that can also be done "with that other OS, but it is a kludge and not transparent to the user," he asserted. "A family adding one new PC can keep the old PC as a terminal and two or more users can benefit from a new acquisition. This cuts the cost of computing down by half or more in capital cost of equipment."

Further, "as the power of PCs doubles every few years, even 50 PCs can see increased performance by buying just one new machine," he said.

'You Do Not Need to Buy a Server'

Finally, Pogson's 30th point is that "most GNU/Linux distros include client and server software on the CDs or in the repositories, thus you do not need to buy a server to use server software. For example, a desktop PC can run a web server and databases, so web applications can be used without buying a server."

Windows, on the other hand, "does allow some web services, but the EULA limits connections to 10 machines," he explained.

"I can install Apache, MySQL and PHP on my client PC and supply myself and my friends on the LAN with bulletin boards, media databases, search engines or whatever, accessible through a single application: the browser," Pogson said.

'Linux Distros Are Ahead of Windows'

Montreal consultant and Slashdot blogger Gerhard Mack was drawn to the mention of Linux's ability to update multiple pieces of software with a single click.

"I'm actually shocked Microsoft still hasn't done anything about the huge distance most Linux distros are ahead of Windows on this point," Mack opined.

"Having each program update itself is a huge waste of RAM/CPU time as well as a software development annoyance," he explained. "I don't know why Microsoft has never extended Windows update to allow for applications to add their own update server."

'Windows Costs $400? On What Planet?'

Slashdot blogger hairyfeet took exception with several of the points on the list.

"Windows costs $400? On what planet?" he began. "Ultimate is nothing but a showoff for those that want to impress. A good 75% will be just fine on Home Premium, which costs a whole $89, and if you need AD support that's a whole $139, and those prices have been the same for a decade.

"Show me ANY Linux where I can get a decade of support, NO worries about 'update foo broke my hardware' and be able to work with any hardware without jumping through hoops, all for $89," hairyfeet added.

'Linux Developers Are Great at CLI'

"And comparing gimp to Photoshop? BWA HA HA HA HA! That's funny!" hairyfeet asserted. "Same as asking any Excel user what they think of OpenOffice -- they'll tell you it doesn't even qualify as a replacement for Office 97.

"Linux developers are great at CLI, but end user software? Not so much," he said.

In short, "if you wanted to point out good things about Linux, these ain't it," hairyfeet concluded. "Lack of server CALs, ability to run on ARM, ability to completely remove anything unneeded -- these would be better points."

'We Should Stop Acting Like Fools'

Indeed, "it's unfortunate that everyone puts price first any time that linux advocacy comes up," charged Barbara Hudson, a blogger on Slashdot who goes by "Tom" on the site.

After all, "'The fool knows the price of everything and the value of nothing,'" she pointed out. "We should stop acting like fools."

People who already have Windows or OS X "aren't going to switch because of price, and people who switch only because of price are also part of the 'fools who know the price but not the value' crowd," Hudson told Linux Girl.

'It Lets Me Work My Way'

Why does Hudson prefer Linux?

"It lets me work my way; doesn't get in the way; never slows to a crawl because of an anti-virus scanner kicking in; my laptop runs quieter, longer and cooler under linux; and I'm free to use whatever version I want," she explained. "Those are things that anyone can relate to."

Regarding multiple-language support, however, "the end user usually doesn't care -- they got Windows or OSX in the language of their choice, and all OS can use multi-language keyboards," Hudson pointed out. "Free games? Anyone with a network connection is already playing free games online, so that's not a selling point."

Rather, "if we're going to successfully advocate for linux, it has to be by talking about the advantages, not 'it's just as good,'" Hudson concluded. "'Just as good' isn't a compelling argument to switch, whether it's an operating system or your favorite restaurant."

'How Many People Can You Set Free?'

Perhaps the most eloquent articulation of the Linuxy love came from Pogson.

"GNU/Linux is only limited by users' imaginations, not the EULA of M$ to charge people for the use of their PCs and networks," he opined.

"With so many advantages, it is hard to understand why so many still use that other OS," Pogson added. "It must be like the frog cooked slowly in water being heated -- they never see the need to jump out if their prison grows around them gradually until it is too late."

Bottom line: "We need people like the author to wake them up," he concluded. "Better yet, we should do that ourselves. How many people can you set free this year?"


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