How and Why to Switch to Linux

I switched to Linux a few years ago. Four, I think. It wasn’t my first time— I remember driving with my friend Phil to pick up a Slackware Linux CD in 1997, being very excited about how different it was, and then switching back to Windows a couple weeks later when I wanted my computer to be usable again.

That’s not a knock against Linux, but it was a complicated process to get it running properly and I didn’t persevere through the process.

This cycle repeated every year or two. Each time I was heartened by how far Linux had come, but would regress back to Windows after some period of time.

This time it stuck, though. I was surprised when I was still using it two, then six months later. I was surprised when after a year Windows felt foreign to me.

One quick disclaimer: if you require Adobe products, Linux isn’t for you yet. There are not yet adequate replacements for Lightroom, Photoshop, After Effects, and probably other Adobe software.

There are a few reasons why now is the time for many people to switch to Linux, which I’ll outline below.

#1 — It’s extremely good now. Everything just works right out of the box in a much easier fashion than with Windows. I believe a good Linux desktop looks better than either Mac or Windows. That’s subjective, but it’s certainly in the ballpark from the get-go. It’s far more easily customizable than its competitors, so you can pretty easily make it look much better by your own standards. I think Mac and Windows look old fashioned compared to my current setup.

#2 — It has no baggage. Both Windows and Apple have tremendous baggage that they carry through the years. Windows has to be easy and usable for millions of corporate customers around the world. That means that large changes are dangerous and they often end up getting pulled in too many directions at once. A large portion Windows users would agree that every other version of Windows or so is a step down.

With Macs you are at the whims of the mainstream market. With a limited product line, the hardware must primarily serve average consumers. So you get into ridiculous situations where you have only one port on the computer or your laptop doesn’t get updated for years.

Linux has no such baggage. The core underlying code must remain compatible for all of the servers that run it, but it’s generally agreed that this is excellent code that is better than both Mac and Windows. That’s why servers generally run Linux and Mac is based on BSD, it’s near cousin.

On top of this best-in-class operating system is your window manager, which is the part of the computer you interact with all or most of the time. You have a ton of choices, so if one goes in a direction you don’t like or becomes too bogged down by history, you can switch to another one in seconds.

#3 — Linux is getting better faster than the other operating systems. Taking everything into account, including software, the underlying operating system, and the GUI, Linux is on a much more generous trajectory. Windows takes two steps forward and then one back, Mac seems to have mostly plateaued, but Linux is consistently getting better. The choices available in Linux mean that it’s impossible for it to really ever get worse.

This means that you can invest in Linux. I’ve customized things and written a bunch of scripts, and I know they will always work. Mac is based on BSD and Windows is starting to integrate some Linux components, so it seems obvious to me that five or ten years from now it will be the predominant operating system.

#4 — It’s infinitely customizable, but has good defaults. If you just install Ubuntu, you’ll immediately have a working system that looks good and performs well. But if you want to get under the hood and change anything, it’s pretty easy to do. That level of customization may require some technical know-how, but since Linux is getting better and is the future, it’s worth investing in that knowledge.

#5 — Linux is not scary like you may think it is. Guess how I install Firefox in Linux? I could search in the built in (mostly free) app store and click install. It would download the files and install it automatically. Or I could type “apt get install firefox” and it would do the same. Most of the software you use now, or excellent free equivalents, are available for free on Linux. I think the LibreOffice suite of office software is better than the Microsoft equivalents now.

#6 — Linux is more secure than other operating systems and respects your privacy. Linux isn’t phoning home, installing updates without your permission, or putting your data in the cloud. Microsoft and Apple have strong incentives to “own” your data and to gather more personal information. Linux does not.

These are just some of the many benefits of Linux. It’s also stable, free, amazing for developers, able to run well on old computers, etc.

If you want to switch, download three different distributions and try them all. You can actually install them onto a USB stick in Windows and boot directly into them from the USB stick before installing. Try Ubuntu, Ubuntu Gnome, and Mint. Ubuntu is similar in look and feel to Mac, Mint is like Windows, and Ubuntu Gnome is my personal favorite. I think it’s a more innovative and intuitive interface.

Once you mess around with those three distributions, decide which one you like best. Install it on your computer as a dual-boot option so that you can revert back if you choose, but resolve to use it for a month. There will, of course, be an adjustment period, so you need to force yourself to get through it to experience the benefits of Linux rather than the confusion of change.

It won’t be for everyone, but it’s certainly the best choice for far more people than are using it today. I’m a full blown convert now and cannot imagine any scenario under which I’d switch to Windows or Mac. Both now feel so limited and archaic. I dual boot Windows, but can’t remember the last time I’ve used it.


Photo is some cool buildings from somewhere in the Baltics. I don’t really remember now.

As I mentioned in the gear post, I’m selling my RV. Email me if you’re interested.

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