The Music in Noise

Linux Just Works - 2021-09-07

Recently, after having setup my MACCHIATObin as a desktop computer, I've decided to move most of my computing to that, and therefore my x86 laptop is going to be mostly unused. As such I decided to install something more low-maintenance on it since I don't want to have to fix or update it with any special frequency. As such ArchLinux (my favorite distribution) was out of the question, and I had to consider alternatives.

At this point I started considering what OS I would install on the machine, and for a brief moment I started to consider installing Windows on it. The idea is, naturally, that Windows provides good software support and it's famed for being the more "stable" option... but I quickly realized just how ridiculous this was. The fact of the matter is, unlike Windows, Linux just works.

For a long time, Linux has gotten a bad rep for being very unstable, requiring lots of manual configuration, and generally just being an OS for techies (or GNU/Linux, don't copypasta me), and if we look at distributions like ArchLinux or Gentoo in particular, that would definitely seem to be true. However, this is far from being the case for all Linux distributions. In particular, what I have decided to install on my laptop is LinuxMint.

The main points I would look at as to why Linux is better as a stable OS, even for non-techies, are the following: stability, security, and control. Obviously, these don't apply to every distribution out there, but they definitely do seem to apply to LinuxMint, and probably other similar distributions.

Regarding stability, I think this part is obvious. Many stable distributions put a great deal of effort into testing software before putting it into production, making sure that it can be installed and work just as expected. Although this means that the software may not be as bleeding-edge, you can be sure that when you install it, it'll work as expected, and updates will not break any currently configured behaviour. The same cannot be said for Windows, where updates are the most dreaded experience of just about any Windows user. Every update presents a possibility of the system breaking, of having to endure seemingly eternal shutdown and boot processes, and of seemingly unrelated software running into glitches and bugs because an update has been installed in the background without the user's knowing. Comparatively, Linux provides much more tranquility regarding updates and long-term usage.

With security Windows in notorious for being akin to the whore of Babylon. Basically every bit of malware under the sun is made for Windows. And although this isn't the fault of Microsoft - after all, this is something that would likely happen with any OS that became sufficiently popular for PCs - it is true that this does give a layer of extra security to your average user. Add to this that the manner in which you install software on Linux is much more secure to begin with: package managers. Microsoft has started to implement something similar with their software store, but this is something that Linux has had since the very beginning. Pretty much any program you wish to install can be found in the software repositories, and when you install them, the downloads are verified normally via checksum and signature verification. Although there are probably still ways someone could sneak some malware into the repositories of a Linux distribution, it's very unlikely, especially if you're running a well-known stable distribution, as then someone will likely find the malware in testing before it even reaches production.

Linux also provides more control. I've alluded to this before with stability, but Linux won't do anything unless you tell it to. That is, it respects you as a user to decide what you want to do with your computer. Whereas on Windows there are always programs you are forbidden to uninstall, updates which are forced, and loads of unalterable configurations, Linux let's you decide all these things yourself. For although there may be some settings and software out of the box, you're always free to change any of it to your liking, and therefore you are able to personalize your environment to what is most suited to your computing.

In terms of "user-friendliness", I also find that Linux is much more intuitive and understandable, especially if you're using a distribution like LinuxMint. We all think that Windows is super-intuitive because we're used to it, and it has dominated personal computing; but if you spend a few years without using it, you'll start to notice that it's actually quite a confusing interface to use, and a lot of the ways in which things work is actually counter-intuitive.

All-in-all, I think it's fair to say that, contrary to popular belief, Linux just works, and is actually a really "user-friendly" OS to use. It is simply unfortunate that it has the reputation for begin extremely technical, which may, to an extent, be the fault of Linux users who unnecessarily complicate a beginner's experience with advanced material that they're not ready for or even interested in.

Basically, techies, if you want normal people to use Linux, stop scaring them by telling them to install ArchLinux or alike.

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