Originally Published: Wednesday, 23 August 2000 Author: A.Sleep
Published to: learn_articles_firststep/General Page: 1/1 - [Std View]

Replacing Windows: Part 2

In Part 1 of Replacing Windows, we talked about the possibility of replacing the applications we use daily in Windows with GNU/Linux applications. In this part, we'll discuss why and IF we should switch to GNU/Linux.

In Part 1 of Replacing Windows, we talked about the possibility of replacing the applications we use daily in Windows with GNU/Linux applications. In this part, we'll discuss why and IF we should switch to GNU/Linux.

Now that you have created your "application list" (from the last installment), we can examine the possibility of moving to GNU/Linux. If your list is filled with proprietary 'Windows Only' software, then your chances may be slim. If your list was mixed, or similar to the example I gave in the previous article, then your chances are high. Let's talk about reasons to replace Windows with GNU/Linux.

  1. Free Software.
  2. This doesn't mean what you may think. There are two types of free software. The first is the "free-as-in-beer" type. This means you can download and/or use the software for free. Netscape is a good example of this type of software.

    The other type is "free-as-in-speech". This type of software is the definition of Free Software that I'm referring to. This type of software is free to obtain, use, change, distribute, etc. The "source code" (the code written by programmers that tells the computer what to do) is made freely available, and can be customized to your heart's content (if you are so inclined). Any GNU software is a good example of this. For more information on Free Software check here.

  3. Stability.
  4. GNU/Linux is notorious for its long uptime (time between reboots) and ability to recover from minor catastrophies. With GNU/Linux, if your user interface crashes, you can simply restart the "windowing" part of the system by exiting X (the X Window System for GNU/Linux) and starting it back up again. Likewise, when a single application crashes, the rest of the system will remain running (unlike an operating system such as Windows 98).

    Some GNU/Linux systems have been known to stay fully operational without any reboots for over a year at a time.

  5. Standards Based System.
  6. This will only be meaningful to the programmers in our group.

    If you program in Python, C, C++, PERL, PHP, etc, you will be happy to know that GNU/Linux is based on the international standards for these languages. With only slight differences between a Borland C compiler and the GNU C compiler, you will be up and 'geeking' in no time.

  7. Communication Between System and User.
  8. Many people don't think of this reason, but after years in the Windows community listening to users say "It's just sitting there, I don't know what it's doing", I've come to realize just how important this reason is.

    With GNU/Linux you can get 100% of the system information 100% of the time. Tools like top (lists the memory/CPU/etc. used by programs that are running), logs like /var/log/messages (keeps track of important things happening on the system), and built-in administration tools such as telnet, ssh, and ftp give you complete control of your computer at all times.

  9. Education.
  10. Commercial Unix's/Unixii/Unices all have one thing in common - they are expensive!. GNU/Linux is a great way to learn how networks, the Internet, the World Wide Web, and UNIX work. Within an hour, a user can have a whole GNU/Linux network up and running with a web server installed, and more.

    Many schools are beginning to realize the benefits of GNU/Linux for use as a free, high-quality operating system. They are installing GNU/Linux for use in their technical departments and education centers.

  11. Non-Proprietary Software.
  12. With GNU/Linux's lack of closed software, we have fewer issues like the recent rash of virii written for Outlook Express. Proprietary software is any software not based on an open standard (like HTML, XML, ISO standards, etc.), or based on a system that you cannot add to or change if needed. This may seem like the same as the Free Software topic, but for many that do not need to see the source code of a program, or do not need to redistribute it, this is more of an issue. Using software based on open standards allows for quicker resolution bugs and security issues.

  13. Security.
  14. GNU/Linux systems are practically famous for their security when set up properly. One could say a GNU/Linux system can be renderd un-crackable, with the proper amount of effort. Most web servers on the internet are GNU/Linux based, according to recent statistics. This may not seem like a nissue to many desktop users, but think about the desktop PCs that are constantly online with the advent of the cable modem and cheap DSL connections. These PCs are being targeted by crackers and other unscruplulous characters.

  15. Freedom of Choice.
  16. With GNU/Linux, if you don't like the user interface (or GUI) you simply change it. In some systems is a easy as right-click, click, switch... With window managers like Window Maker, enligntenment, KDE and sawfish, your choices are almost endless.

Now, if you need more reasons to switch to GNU/Linux, contact me. There are many more - this is just an overview. Everyones' perspective is slightly different, and this point is well illustrated with GNU/Linux. There are many different ways to do the same thing in GNU/Linux. For instance, there are many ICQ clients, so each user can have the interface they choose. The same applies for word processors, AOL Instant Messanger clients, programming tools, shells, etc.

If you haven't already removed your other operating system and installed GNU/Linux, then you should stick around for the next installment of Replacing Windows, where we'll will talk about choosing a GNU/Linux distribution. With more GNU/Linux distributions then I can easily count, this should be interesting. Until then, have fun...