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Linux the Free Windows Alternative

Linux may be free - but is it easy?
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There are many reasons that individuals and companies may consider switching from Microsoft Windows based computers to a Linux computing environment. Ease of use and software availability have not been been among those reasons.

Price, operating system stability, and a dislike of Microsoft have been the driving reasons for moving to Linux. Microsoft has changed their price and licensing structure to squeeze more cash out of their customers and lock them in even tighter to Windows without improving the security and stability of their operating systems. There has been a decided backlash from companies, governments and individuals who are fed up with Microsoft, and ready to break free from Windows.

If it were not for the questions about Linux ease of use and Linux software availability, Microsoft Windows might be well on the way to extinction. In my opinion, Microsoft felt that they could impose higher prices and more restrictive licenses because they knew that people felt Linux was too difficult to install and use and that Linux lacked the productivity software that people needed. I think Mr. Gates remembered the Linux of five years ago, and forgot to take a good look at the Linux of today.

The following are some of the old misconceptions about Linux:

  • Linux is difficult to install - Five years ago when I did my fist Linux install, this was true. You needed to do a lot of reading and manual configuration. Today, Linux distributions like Red Hat or Mandrake are as easy to install as Microsoft Windows.

  • Linux is difficult to use - Again, five years ago you needed to do everything from a command line shell, and you needed to do a lot of reading and research just to learn to install software. Today Linux has graphical desktops with as much, or more, functionality as those of Windows.

  • The software I need doesn't run on Linux - Five years ago, there were only rudimentary business applications that didn't compare to the top Windows packages. Today there are many office suites that run on Linux as well as thousands of other high quality, and often free, applications.

  • Linux doesn't network well with Windows - A free program called Samba allows Linux to share file and printer resources just like a Windows machine. A Linux box with Samba can even be the primary domain controller on a Windows network.

  • Linux doesn't support the latest hardware - Today you can find drivers for almost any hardware you want to use. If the manufacturer doesn't have Linux drivers, it is likely that a programmer from the Linux community will have written them.

Even as easy as Linux has become, if you are a complete computer novice you will probably need help. However, if you are comfortable installing Windows and getting things setup the way you want them, you won't have much trouble getting Linux up and running. There is a learning curve, even for Windows gurus, but there is enough information and help from Linux users on the Net to get you up to speed. When computers with Linux pre-installed become common, there will be little or no barrier for even the novices.

If you want to try Linux without leaving the safety of Windows, there are several ways to do it. Stay tuned for the next article to find out how.

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