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The 4 Invaluable Benefits of Switching to Linux

 1 year ago
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The 4 Invaluable Benefits of Switching to Linux

By Bertel King

Published 1 day ago

Linux continues to provide a new experience to its users. But are there any advantages of choosing Linux over other operating systems?

Linux is an operating system used in everything from phones to cars and complex supercomputers, yet you can also use it to power your personal computer. The desktop may not be the space where you’re most likely to encounter Linux, but it’s more than worth your consideration.

Far from being merely another tool for the job, there are several big benefits that come from taking the time to try out, learn, and maybe even stick with using the Linux desktop. Here are four advantages of switching to Linux:

1. A Free Course in Digital Ethics

The free and open-source community views software differently from what you encounter on commercial operating systems. On Windows, macOS, Android, and iOS, most apps come exclusively as binaries whose code you don’t have access to. This binary, though sometimes available for free, is generally a product that you pay for.

The Linux world doesn’t focus on the binary but on the code itself. This code is a language, and the only way to know what it’s doing is to read it. If you (or other Linux users) can’t read the code, you have no way to know what it’s actually doing. You can only have the developer’s word.

Free software is based on the four freedoms. Here they are, as defined by the Free Software Foundation:

  • The freedom to run the program as you wish, for any purpose.
  • The freedom to study how the program works, and change it so it does your computing as you wish. Access to the source code is a precondition for this.
  • The freedom to redistribute copies so you can help others.
  • The freedom to distribute copies of your modified versions to others. By doing this you can give the whole community a chance to benefit from your changes. Access to the source code is a precondition for this.

These freedoms offer built-in protection against many of the ills currently plaguing the commercial software world. It’s much harder for a program to spy on your behavior and send that data off to a distant company when everyone has the freedom to see and remove this unwanted behavior from the app.

But it’s not just about avoiding exploitation. You also see in these freedoms an emphasis on both self-benefit and helping others. For these reasons and more, many people have come to refer to free and open-source software as ethical software.

Learning how to use Linux can teach you that when it comes to the software on your computer, you don’t have to take it or leave it. You can take ownership over what runs on your machine and do your computing with a greater degree of trust.

2. The Chance to Try New Things

GNOME 40 Application Launcher in Fedora 34

When you adopt Linux for the first time, every aspect of the system can feel new. You’re embarking on a new adventure, one where you’re free, often for the first time, to change virtually any aspect of how your computer works.

For many Linux newcomers, this often leads to a steady period of trying out new things. There are not only thousands of free programs to discover, but there are entire new desktop environments and interfaces.

If you want something familiar, you can use your computer in a way that feels like Windows or macOS. But if you want something different, those experiences are also available, and you’re given the building blocks to make your own.

There’s a distinction between discovering new things on Linux versus on the operating systems from Apple, Google, and Microsoft. On those platforms, there are thousands of apps to try, but it can be hard to know which software to trust.

It’s not uncommon to stick to a handful of programs you know and avoid the rest for fear of infecting your machine. This situation is particularly well known on Windows, and it’s a big problem on Android, but Apple’s platforms are not immune either.

Theming and customization options also tend to be much more limited on these commercial platforms. Third-party tools exist, but there’s only so far you can go before you run the risk of breaking the OS.

On Linux, once you understand the four freedoms and acclimate yourself to the reality that free software programs aren’t free for the sake of sneaking in adware or spyware, then you’re free to try out new things on your computer to an extent that many have never felt comfortable doing before. This is an advantage of Linux that comes not from any technical superiority, but due to the community's values.

3. Experience Building Your Own Operating System

kde_desktop_overview

In the process of installing Linux and trying out new things, you can learn a great deal about the way your operating system works. You learn about various components such as the kernel, display server, sound server, and desktop environment.

These are components that all operating systems have, but on other operating systems this knowledge is obfuscated and unnecessary. You can’t change the desktop environment in macOS. There’s just "the one."

You may see some Linux distributions recommended precisely because of the value of the learning experience. Arch Linux, for example, has a relatively long and involved installation process, but by the time you’re done, you’ve learned a great deal about how Linux works. You can learn even more by attempting to use an even more demanding distro such as Gentoo or Linux From Scratch.

Is it a waste of time to use the more difficult Linux distros? It can be, if your priority is building a system that you need for work or school. In that case, go for one of the many easy-to-use distros, such as Ubuntu, Fedora, or elementaryOS.

There are even easier-to-use versions of Arch Linux, such as Manjaro. But if it’s the knowledge that you’re after, going the harder route is hardly a waste. Quite the contrary. Some consider the experience to be invaluable.

4. An Introduction to Collaborative Development

gitlab-webpageImage Credit: Pankaj Patel/Unsplash

In the Linux world, software is developed out in the open. You can find the source code for a free software program online, leave comments, submit feature requests, file bug reports, or even submit your own patches. You can join mailing lists or forums and often communicate with an app's developer directly.

Whatever role you play, as long as it's constructive, you take part in the development of that piece of software.

This contrasts with software development in the proprietary world, where usually only the employees of a company have access to code. Or maybe the program is the passion project of a single developer or a passionate team.

In either case, your biggest involvement is the decision of whether or not to purchase what they create. You may be able to place feature requests or file bugs, but you have limited insight into what the developers are actually doing.

Collaborative software development does take time, but working in the open comes with the added perks of helping you develop social skills and providing you with a clear resume if you decide to apply for a job doing similar work.

Learning Linux Could Change Your Life

That’s not mere hyperbole. More than a few Linux users find themselves trying to utilize free and open-source software wherever possible, no longer satisfied with or trusting of most alternatives.

Or you may simply make friends in the community or land a dream job. If nothing else, maybe you will be the person who breathes new life into your friends' old PCs.

About The Author

Bertel King (330 Articles Published)

Bertel is a digital minimalist who writes from a laptop with physical privacy switches and an OS endorsed by the Free Software Foundation. He values ethics over features and helps others take control over their digital lives.

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