How To Decide If Linux Is For You

You use a computer. I'd say that's a pretty good reason... You have heard about Linux, maybe even used it some. How can you decide if Linux is for you? Hopefully this page will give you good reasons to use or not to use Linux.

Alternatively, you could just install it and try it out.

Reasons To Use Linux: Reasons Not To Use Linux:

For those needing to run certain Windows software (e.g. QuickBooks?) but prefering the rest of their environment to be non-MS, there is Xandros.

Note that Xandros is not free. Xandros comes with WINE (WineIsNotAnEmulator?) which allows quite a lot of Windows software to run under Linux.

The WINE engine will run on several Linux distros (I've installed it on LindowsOs (now LinspireOs?) and run a dozen or so Win apps on it to verify that it works.

For those who want the ease of Windows but more stability and who don't need some specific Win app(s), then LinspireOs? is available, and ships with machines from a number of vendors. Note that Lindows/Linspire is not free.

For those who worry that Linux requires too much expertise to secure, I recently installed RedHat 9.0 on a server. Its default installation mode is "paranoid" -- nothing is open unless you turn it on. It took me hours to figure out how to turn on some of the things I wanted available.

Feel free to refactor these remarks into the discussion below.

Discussion: Contributors, lets try to keep the discussion on this page factual, clear, and helpful.

Experiences and input not easily bulleted above: The counterstatement seems to assume that Windows (9x, I guess) [XP is now current] is the only alternative. Being free is still an advantage of Linux over NT [XP], Solaris, QNX [which can now be had (personal) for free] or whatever else.

Same as point 1. Anyway, a dual boot system is not hard to setup.

I agree that setup is easy. However, maintaining multiple OS's takes time. If you install hardware, you must do so for each OS. If you are concerned about security, you must lock down each OS. Without proper attention, any system decays. You must decide if you are willing to maintain two systems.

Windows more secure than Linux?

The bullet does not say that. To lock down a windows machine to a reasonable level, one might just download and install a firewall. (Or buy a cheap one ($50) and install.) Simple and painless, though not a 100% solution. For Linux, one must read numerous HOWTO's, perhaps books, and recompile the kernel, configure ipchains, set up masquerading, etc. It is likely that Linux can be buttoned up tighter than Windows, but it would take more effort to do so than it would for the simpler solution on Windows.

This does not consider attacks coming from the inside (e-mail attachment exploits and such), which are currently practically nonexistent on Linux. Also, modern Linux distributions come with a firewall which are set up on install time and can be configured with a GUI. To protect a Windows machine you either have to connect it to Internet before it is properly protected or buy more software.

"The text above does not seem to be based on real-world experience - Windows can be much harder to secure adequately. This is due to a number of factors: Also, the text above seems to imply that you can adequately secure a system by simply downloading and installing a firewall. This, of course, is a terriby naive view of security practice. It should also be noted that nearly all the comments on this page are valid for a comparison between Windows and any of the free Unixen, including NetBsd, OpenBsd, FreeBsd, etc."

Linux, and all of the other free Unixes, i.e. OpenBSD, FreeBSD, NetBSD, etc., provide a degree of transparency that simply cannot be obtained on proprietary operating systems.

Depends what you mean by "reasonable". With a windows machine and a firewall, you are as secure as most other people, which is to say, wide open to viruses, browser exploits, trojaned downloads... If a "reasonable level" means an absolutely low probability of compromise, rather than relative to other people, Linux is probably easier

With Linux you can run Bastille to lock the machine down quite easily. Or you can run a firewall in front of it (which is better than a software firewall, anyway). Besides the commercial ones, you can run floppyfw, freesco or linux router project, all based on linux kernels and runnable on very low-grade machines.

I run CoyoteLinux? from a floppy disk on an old Compaq PC I got for $10 from Stuff.

I've helped people set up the simple hardware firewalls such as Netgear, and I find that they work pretty nicely, plus they often integrate wireless and printer serving into the same box. If I ever set this up again, I'll probably get something like the Netgrear since it's quieter and would probably pay for itself in electricity costs vs the old Compaq.

-- SteveJorgensen

I'm not sure this holds for common desktop uses. There are good Linux desktop/gui apps out there, but most of them reached maturity around 2001-2002 and need moderately recent hardware. Win95 + IE5.5 + Office97 + Pegasus [update] (or Outlook if you're suicidal) has considerably lower hardware requirements than Linux + Gnome + Mozilla + OpenOffice + Evolution. I have been able to come close by using Linux + XFCe + Phoenix + AbiWord + Sylpheed, but's that still not a lower hardware requirement than the Win95 bundle, and it took quite a bit of effort to get that far.

April 2003: I stand by the above as written. The passing time makes it slightly less relevant, but not less true. Windows desktop apps reached a level of maturity that I would recommend to non-expert users around 1996, Linux apps around 2001. For machines that were "current" in between those dates, making them usable under Linux is a tricky job, while making them usable under Windows is only a matter of obtaining the old software that they run well. Once an "older machine" is likely to be a PII-300 or better, this point will be obsolete.

For e.g. routers, mailservers, webservers etc., of course, it's a different matter altogether.

April 2004: I respectfully disagree with the above statement (and I am aware that it's a bit dated). Linux now runs faster on my Pentium One (100MHz) machine than what Win95 ever did. This is especially true if you switch from KDE or GNOME to a desktop windows manager that has a smaller resource footprint (like Enlightenment, Fluxbox, or IceWM), or you have the new Linux Kernel 2.6 which optimizes I/O scheduling. All the open source applications have come a long way, in performance, ease-of-use, and features. Linux distros like Mandrake and Lindows are especially user-friendly. Windows & MS Office, though, have both become greater and greater hogs over time (one exception was WindowsXp which was an improvement, in that respect, over its predeccessor WindowsTwoThousand). The theory is that this is deliberate so that users will upgrade their machines sooner -- every time someone buys a WinTel machine, both M$ and Intel get a cut. -- CarlosNsRodrigues

[July 2004: Hmm. I just built a couple of Red Hat Shrike servers recently in an attempt to please an online services client. The X system wouldn't even run with less than about 80MB of RAM in the machine. It was a real dissapointment for me to take an old, working, nearly flawless Win95 box and convert it into a Shrike server minus GUI. After I threw a zillion MB of RAM at it (and reinstalled everything, since I couldn't see how to get X to work) the problem was, um, "fixed." Shrike also wouldn't recognize my Creative sound card. Oh, well. Neither machine running Shrike (one PII 400 MHz with 512MB RAM, one PII MMX 200 MHz with 96 MB RAM) is flaming fast, easy to maintain, or easy to configure. I suppose you JustHaveToKnow how to do it.

As a side note: I have used Win2K for a few years in several professional environments and WinXP, both Home and Pro, in a small handful of environments. So far I still prefer Win2K even though XP's handling of devices is clearly better. "Product Activation," my foot. There are some other annoyances.]

It is important to factor in the ease of aquiring the software for the two systems. How easy is it to get a (legal) copy of Win95 now?(Dec '03) IE5.5 may be easier(I think you can distribute it legally, so you could get it from someone who has it). Office97 might be found in remainder bins or on eBay. Pegasus would be easy(just download it) -- JesseW

If you are an average computer user and want such things as your DVD-player or your scanner to work properly. Stay away from Linux, if you are not willing to spend hours, days and weeks reading and following HOWTOs, to get frustrated because you need so many trial and errors before it works. To compare, even a child can install a scanner in Windows.

On the other side, if you are more than average user and are ambitious, Linux is a fantastic opportunity to really understand what is going on. There are so many tutorials, HOWTOs and man pages freely available, many of them really good. You can have your own webserver, postserver, DNS-server DHCP-server and more.. on your own computer. Everything transparent, open for you to investigate. In my opinion all schools had better use Linux.

-- MikaelHermansson

Haven't tried a scanner; but I installed a DVD player on my Linux PC recently. When I turned my computer on, Linux detected it straight away, and it works flawlessly.

OK! Which distribution do you have? On my Fedora Core 1 distro, it detects the DVD all right, and I can use it as a CD-drive, but I cannot play DVDs. I have used a couple of hours to download Xine and install, but havent got it right yet.

Fedora has a policy of not including packaging whose licensing is not clear and/or OpenSource compatible. Unfortunately, this includes DVD player packages, and many audio and video codecs.

HowToDecideIfLinuxIsForYou QuickQuestions

Q I am looking for a dummy step by step setup of Linux router using freesco on old PC with windows98, for purposes of setting up a NAT gateway from broadband to two unconnected PCs at home. Also I am interested in a ZoneAlarm? (freeware version) like firewall that can close ports and restrict incoming/outgoing traffic. Please help with a good link, or list simple steps I must take. Thanks -- dl

A Starting with kernel version 2.0 (released 1996, before ZoneAlarm?), linux has filtering and firewalling built-in. From kernel 2.4 (released 2001) the default utility for setting up a firewall is IPFilter. Each distro has its own UI front-end to the ipfilter command."

Q If I get CygWin (from UnixCulturalAssumption) and start to use it under WindowsOperatingSystems, will that give me a fair idea of whether Linux is for me? Other reasons I am looking at CygWin A You'll get a pretty good idea of running a Linux or Unix-like system from cygwin. If you install cygwin, then put on sshd and configure sshd (the secure shell server) then you'll be well equipped to do the same on any other system. This way you can build up familiarity with a range of applications (ssh, smtp, http, and so on servers) while keeping Windows around. You can even compile the apps from source using the familiar ./configure; make; make install command sequence.

At the same time you can try and switch your workflow into using applications from cygwin (e.g. vim, emacs, LaTeX, and so on) and see if you could work without Windows apps.

What you miss out on is some of the more fundamental parts of the administration of a GNU/Linux system. E.g. kernel recompiles, boot-process, file-system administration; and the knowledge that if you mess up your unix-like world, then computing's over for a bit until you can fix the problem.

Regarding quality of packages, I've found the packages from cygwin to work very well on the whole, and though I'd prefer to work on a Debian GNU/Linux system, cygwin can make windows a little bit more comfortable.

(quote from website) What Isn't Cygwin? Cygwin is not a way to run native linux apps on Windows. You have to rebuild your application from source if you want to get it running on Windows. Cygwin is not a way to magically make native Windows apps aware of UNIX � functionality, like signals, ptys, etc. Again, you need to build your apps from source if you want to take advantage of Cygwin functionality. (/quote) So, wouldn't that be kind of a pain? -- WikiZen

Contributors: RichardBash, StephanHouben, some guy, DanBarlow, AndrewMcGuinness, JimmyCerra

See: LinuxDistribution, LinuxQuestions


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