Why Linux is Better

Why is Linux the coolest erector set in the world, that you should be willing to pay for? In part because Linux lacks the kind of freaky design oddities that arise when the makers of the software must go to meetings with a marketing department and a bunch of liability conscious lawyers, alternatively. In part because the fundamental design of the system is such that it is powerful yet lean at the same time. In part because basic security is so much easier to manage in Linux that it is not necessary for the processor to spend a sizable amount of time (using big chunks of memory) fighting viruses and other threats.

You know how spam works: It does not matter if one in one thousand people are annoyed by spam, as long as one in a thousand responds in the way the spammer wants. If you send out a million spamoids, that will yield one thousand positive results. Not bad.

If a committee of managers and marketers sits down and makes decisions about how the software everyone will be using works, how it looks, how it operates, they will sometimes (often, perhaps) make decisions that actually cause harm. They will opt for features that will annoy many users, if they know they can get away with it and that it will produce some positive effect that may have nothing to do with what the end user is looking for. A relatively innane example, but one that illustrates this principal well, is the feature of Window’s Help that provides, as an answer to almost any question (sometimes as the only answer) “Would you like to tell if the software you are using is pirated?” WTF?

In contrast, OpenSource software is designed, built, and deployed in an entirely different manner. Yes, there are committees, or small groups that actually are making most of the decisions, but these groups are generally open in their communication and anyone can get involved. The decision making process is fundamentally different for OpenSource than it is for Commercial software.

(Note: OpenSource does not equal Linux. Linux IS an OpenSource operating system, and Ubuntu Linux and a couple of other versions are especially well designed for people just cutting their teeth on the penguin, but OpenSource software is also available to run on Windows and Macs.)

If you want to see how this works, and get a feel for how open this process is, pick up a copy of Linux Journal (the one meatland computer mag I read regularly) and read the column they have every month on what is going on with the Linux Kernel. If you are like me, you’ll understand a very small percentage of the technical detail, but you will see things being discussed of the type that are not discussed openly in commercial context. If you came apon a document discussing this sort of detail for Windows, you would either be a very very deep insider or you would be followed by guys in a black helicopter until they hunted you down and killed you. Like in that movie.

That is a pretty remarkable difference. And it is one of the main reasons that Linux is better.

Comments

  1. #1 Jason Thibeault
    March 21, 2009

    I switched to Linux going on five years ago, at my last job, where there was a definite open-source culture amongst the higher echelons of the company. At my current place of employ, I am one of two people who know anything about it, and I’m the only one to proselytize to the masses. Wherever I can get away with it, I prove open-source’s worth by not giving people a choice but to use it. Linux running on two servers, and OpenOffice, Firefox and Thunderbird on all the computers is a good start. There’s still a disconcerting push to adopt more Microsoft products and shell out thousands of dollars where hundreds might be more warranted, but hey. I do what I can where I can.

  2. #2 D. C. Sessions
    March 21, 2009

    Example of openness:

    Some years back, my daughter’s boyfriend was having some minor hassles figuring out a userland issue in Linux (I franky forget what.) I suggested he post to one of the Linux newsgroups, so he did. He got this really great, helpful reply that not only answered his question but was truly enlightening on the context so that the answer also made sense. He brought the reply to me and told me, “this guy really knows Linux inside and out, and besides that he can explain it!” He was mightily impressed.

    I pointed him to the headers on the message and suggested that he shouldn’t be terribly surprised to get a well-informed answer from a dude named Linus Torvalds.

  3. #3 moron
    March 21, 2009

    when i can’t install my games, change refresh rate, install drivers, i go back to windows.

  4. #4 Jadehawk
    March 21, 2009

    I love my linux, and I love my OpenSource programs. I use Inkscape for most of my work, but it makes me mad to no end that a lot of the companies/sites where I sell my files only accept Adobe Illustrator files, despite the fact that the SVG files that Inkscape makes are usable in AI and other proprietary programs without a problem.

    the world would be a much better place if companies stopped being so against OpenSource *sigh*

  5. #5 Larry Ayers
    March 21, 2009

    I’ve been using Linux since ’95 and I’ve about given up on converting other people. It rarely works out, in my experience. By now you either run Linux or the commercial OS’s are perhaps more appropriate. Linux has come a long way but I think it takes a certain geeky sort of personality to persevere with it.

    Great anecdote, D.C. Sessions!

  6. #6 Lassi Hippeläinen
    March 21, 2009

    Companies with dominating market share oppose open source for business reasons. In business talk you will see expressions like enhancing customer loyalty. We engineers talk about building walled gardens.

    Walled gardens are not limited to applications. They can be built around any other market share issue, like file formats. A good example is Microsoft’s opposition to Open Data Format as an ISO standard. The usual tools of statemanship were in use – threats, blackmail, and bribing. If your company starts using open source…

  7. #7 xavier
    March 21, 2009

    By now you either run Linux or the commercial OS’s are perhaps more appropriate.

    How is this logical?

  8. #8 Alvaro
    March 21, 2009

    Ubuntu has come a long way. I find that it’s an excellent OS for the computer illiterate, technology students and the middle to upper crust of the computer literate.

    The middle ground usual have their roots set into the windows OS for one reason or another and it’s impossible to make them change. Or just simply impractical.

    My 74 year old father loves Ubuntu. He has no trouble switching between OSX and Ubuntu 8.10. He really does not know the difference. Office works, email works, the web browser works.

    Linux is a blessing to tech students. I wish I were in school right now. I’d take advantage of all the free software available at the click of the package manager. open source matlab clone, stats software clones all sorts of stuff! Simply amazing!

    Two areas that its cannot compete with are:

    1 – Proprietary windows software that cannot run with WINE. like solidworks, Pro E etc…

    2 – iMovie and to an extent iphoto.

    If you don’t need to run stuff in 1 or don’t want to edit movies, then I highly recommend you try Ubuntu.