Linux after one year

As I discovered entirely by accident, today marks the end of my first year using Linux.
When I began, I wrote a number of updates for my blog with titles like ‘Linux: the first nine days’ or ‘Day Eleven: The experiment continues’. I think I was amazed that it could go on like that, day after day.
There were probably two reasons for my own surprise at how well it has gone.
First, I’d had a bad experience using Linux in 2002. And second, I hardly knew anyone who used Linux on their desktops. (I still don’t know of a single trade union anywhere that has moved over to open source — unfortunately.)
After one year using Linux, I can say with confidence that I’m never going back to Windows.
Keep reading …

My use of Linux has actually grown over the year. The computer it was installed on — an old HP laptop — was stolen from me, and I purchased a lovely Toshiba laptop and immediately installed Ubuntu Linux on that. (There’s Windows XP somewhere on that laptop, in another partition, I think — but I’ve never needed it, not once.)
I purchased a very inexpensive Dell laptop with Ubunu pre-installed for a family member and the replacement for my broken Palm handheld is the new Asus eee ultraportable — running Xandros Linux. So we’re now a three-Linux household.
The only computer around here not running Linux belongs to my son — and he uses his entirely for gaming. (Yes, I know that he can play ‘World of Warcraft’ under Linux by running Wine, but …)
One of the great things about the move from Windows to Linux these days is that for many of us, it’s completely pain free, with no learning curve to speak of.
For example, the applications I use day in and day out — my web browser, my email client, my calendar, my task list, my spreadsheet, my processor and my Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) client are all cross-platform. They are the same ones I’d be running on Windows.
I’ve often felt that if you could get Windows users to do what I had already done and move over to Mozilla Firefox, Thunderbird and Lightning for their web, email, calendar and task lists, to Open Office for spreadsheets and word processing, and Skype for Internet telephony, you were nearly there. You could then sneak into their offices when they weren’t looking and install Ubuntu instead of Windows — and they’d never know the difference.
Of course the argument would go — if Linux is no different from Windows, why bother to make the change?
So I’ll repeat some of the thoughts I had back in May 2007 which are still valid today — and some new ones.
Linux saves me money. I don’t pay for a great email client or an office applications suite or anti-virus program. And it didn’t cost me anything to get Ubuntu Linux at all. I haven’t spent a penny on software all year.
Linux keeps my computer secure. I don’t have to worry about viruses, trojans and so on. It’s not just that Linux has so small a market share that virus-writers don’t bother. Linux is also inherently more secure; it has a more secure architecture.
Linux keeps my computer up to date. Every morning, Ubuntu automatically updates my computer with the very latest software. If there’s a security problem in, say, my email program, it’s taken care of the same day. In Windows, there’s nothing remotely like this. If you use Windows and there’s a security problem with, say, Adobe Acrobat Reader or Apple iTunes, you have to get your updates from those companies individually — it’s not built into Windows. Nearly every Windows PC I’ve seen runs old, outdated, insecure software. But every version of every program I use is the very latest one — the most secure, fastest and feature-rich versions available.
Linux erases the boundary between my home PC and my websites. The directory structure, the code I’m writing, everything on my home PC is now very much like the Linux-based websites I’ve been building for more than 10 years. It’s even allowed me to write little Perl scripts on my own PC and run them through my web browser. I feel at home on my own PC just as I do when writing code for the web.
Linux gives me the opportunity to participate in a great human project — the writing of open source software. As you learn more about the software you use, you visit the project pages, the blogs and wikis, and learn about the plans to improve all the code you use every day, you cannot help but want to be part of it all, to make your contribution. I think I’ll learn XUL this afternoon — a way of writing Mozilla Firefox and Thunderbird extensions. It sounds like fun.
I have some friends who now run Linux on their desktops and have purchased Asus eees. But I look forward to the day when institutions I work with — especially trade unions — take the decision to move away from expensive, insecure, buggy software marketed by the Microsoft monopoly. I’m sure those unions will discover as I have that once you’ve made the switch, you won’t ever look back.

1 Comment on "Linux after one year"

  1. I much prefer using the term “free software” or at least “free and open source software” (FOSS).
    The term “open source” was coined in 1998 to take the politics out of free software.
    When Richard Stallman founded the Free Software Foundation back in the 1980’s and later wrote the GNU General Public License (which makes free software possible), it was done as a political act. He had the same committment to social justice that those of us in the labour movement have.
    The free software movement and the labour movement have alot in common…we need to get together…one computer at a time 🙂

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