Saturday, April 13, 2013

Why I chose Linux over Windows

I don't use Windows at home anymore. I use Linux now. Though there are many reasons why I use Linux, I would like to share some of my experience in the hopes that others may benefit from it, even if they never make the switch to Linux.

I use Linux to exercise my freedom of choice in operating systems. Although I purchased my computer with Windows installed, I felt compelled to image my new computer so that I could restore the original condition later. You know, just in case I ever wanted to sell it to someone else later. They just might want to use Windows.

Free software is not just free as in beer. It's free as in freedom. Free software can make a perfect, compressed image of my hard disk and store it as a set of files. Once the image has been made, I'm free to blow away Windows and install Linux. To image my hard disk, I used Clonezilla and stored my hard disk image on a high capacity USB drive.

My first choice is Ubuntu Linux. I've been using Ubuntu instead of Windows since 2007 and never looked back. I've tried a fair number of distributions and after finding the others wanting, I settled on Ubuntu. Even Ubuntu Server is my preferred server, but I digress. I've tried KDE, Gnome 2.x and Gnome Shell to name a few desktops. They all have their merits, but my choice is Gnome Shell (3.0) for its minimalist simplicity.

Gnome allows me to press the Windows key (ha ha) and type one or two characters to run the program of choice. It has very easy desktop management and for those who know something about javascript, it's very customizable, even if you don't know javascript. I don't really need to hop up my desktop and make it do all sorts of fancy stuff. There is enough eye candy in Gnome Shell in stock configuration to keep it appealing.

I need to get some work done, so I use Chrome as my browser of choice. Google holds periodic contests to see if anyone can crack it. They even release their latest updates a few days before the contest just to clean up and see if anyone can find something that has been overlooked. It's the best browser I've ever used and I have no plans to change.

I also have a fair number of tools I can run within Chrome and they're all in the cloud. From word processing to blogging, to spreadsheets - I can get to my documents wherever I happen to be. I do all my email in the cloud, too.

Sure, it's easy to worry about privacy, but Google has been quite circumspect about my privacy and has even raised serious challenges to the the notorious National Security Letters that are so loved by Homeland Security. I'm very comfortable with the trade of privacy for applications that just run and run well, with Google. Their ads are inconspicuous, their applications work great and their search is beyond compare.

When I want to work on files that exist on my hard drive, then there is LibreOffice. I use it for journaling, writing occasional snail mail correspondence, spreadsheets and some flowcharts.

For personal finance, there is GNUCash. Free software, free to use, compatible with most banks for downloading transactions and perfectly capable of managing the finances of multi-million dollar companies. For me, it's just right for what I need to do.

Sometimes I do a little image processing with the GNU Image Manipulation Program (the GIMP). For example, I made a vision board with the Gimp and used it as a desktop background for my machine. Very cool.

I have a choice of music player for fun. Rhythmbox and Amarok are the most popular and Banshee has a significant following, too. They all can play from the hard disk or stream music. They are also compatible with iPods and the like as well as Android. BTW, I'm not much of a gamer, so I'm probably not the best person to ask. There is a Steam client for Ubuntu, so if you're a gamer, you might want to check that out.

On the command line, there are thousands of tools to use for managing your files. The Linux bash shell contains the basic tools for managing a file system: ls, cp, mkdir, and rm, to name a few. But what really makes life fun with Linux are tools like rsync, to synchronize directories; grep for finding text in files, and; ssh for connecting to remote systems that are running Linux or UNIX.

I can even write simple programs for getting stuff done using bash scripting. I write my scripts with a deceptively simple text editor called vim. In fact, I use a script to keep track of all my favorite programs in the event that I have to re-install my operating system for an upgrade. Every time I find a program I like, I add it to this script as "apt-get install -y ". Then when I need to put all my favorite programs on a new install, I run this script and the programs are all installed automatically. 

For server builds, I like to run the history command and redirect output to a file. Then I can edit the resulting file in vim to create a new script that will configure the machine the way I want for the next build. BTW, vim is great for improving typing accuracy.

Anyway, I could go on, but that is enough for now. If you find that a term is unfamiliar and you want to learn more, use that term in a search on your search engine of choice. Feel free to contact me if you would like to learn more, too.
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