I have used computers since the 80’s and my interest has been as a hobby rather than a profession. I have seen a variety of systems and always like to see how they work. I started with Uncle Clive’s systems, a ZX81 and then a Spectrum with beep, beep sound and colour. In the late 80’s I had a Amiga 500 followed by a 1200 when Commodore went bust. I chose to get another Amiga as they were so good. In 2003 I got my first linux box which was put together for me and had Suse 8.2 installed. I have a variety of hardware now, all of which runs linux which is my personal choice.
I first saw a Microsoft computer in 1983. It had very impressive hardware and was excessively expensive. The monitor was amber text on a black background. It was running a spreadsheet, revolutionary for business at that time, and that is why Microsoft took off. Bear in mind my Spectrum had sound and colour, and had a reasonable spreadsheet thrown in. It still needed a cassette tape to load programmes.
Into the 90’s I had an Amiga which had full multitasking in a 256k kernel, an excellent GUI desktop, oodles of programmes, and and abundance of shareware and freeware. Also there was a good and thriving community. It was not until the mid 90’s that Microsoft had anything approaching a system as good. I saw Gem before Windows 95. The Amiga had a few viruses and issues, nothing compared to you-know-what. No competition, I stuck with my Amiga.
In 2003 I sourced a machine with Suse linux 8.2, an ok machine which taught me a lot and had an pleasant KDE desktop. Since then I have bought more machines which I like to buy with no operating system (why pay the MS tax which adds a lot to a purchase price?). They usually run flawlessly and constantly get updated.
I have played with Apple machines from time to time. Under the bonnet they are yet another variation on Unix (well FreeBSD more accurately) so as with linux they are robust and resilient. With the Apple pixie dust on top they are easy to use. However, they are expensive. Also Apples approach is very commercial.
So why do I choose to use linux?
It has been an evolutionary journey. I like systems which are easy to use with no unpleasant side. I like to explore and try different things, and I do not like others to ram their ideals down my throat. I want my systems to be very reliable. I prefer to have pleasant people to help me if a glitch arises.
To be accurate linux is in reality just a kernel put together by Linus Torvalds “as a hobby” which he started back in 1991 at Helsinki University. It is very grown up now. Most people do not dabble in the innards of this kernel. In common parlance linux is a distribution put together by people which at its core has a linux kernel, some kind of pretty front end, some management tools, and oodles of software. There are an abundance of linux “flavours” so you have a choice as to what you want to run. Choice is good. Linux runs on most top end supercomputers (see the top500 site), small embedded machines, and runs around Mars. It is mostly invisible, minimal branding.
A powerful aspect to the success of linux is the GPL (Gnu General Public License). Linus Torvalds continues to apply this to his code. The GPL is a very powerful concept being reverse copyright, otherwise known as copyleft. Not many lawyers are familiar with it. In receiving GPL code you are granted rights and also obligations. You have:
The freedom to use the software for any purpose,
The freedom to change the software to suit your needs,
The freedom to share the software with your friends and neighbours,
The freedom to share the changes you make.
BUT when you redistribute the software, including your changes, the recipient must have the same rights as you received.
Two concepts apply, “free as in freedom” and “free as in beer”.
Free as in freedom means you can do as you like with the code.
Free as in beer means that although you receive a typical linux distribution at no cost keep in mind that as with a free drop of your favourite tipple along the way there have been expenses incurred. Linux has cost multi millions to develop, and will continue to cost a fortune to develop which is done by companies and others, as it is in there interest to do so. Consider making a donation to whoever puts together your distribution.
Another reason I use linux is choice. I do not have to run a particular programme or run just one desktop. There is an abundance of choice all the way through the linux family. Perhaps an excursion to Eric Raymond’s “The Cathedral and the Bazaar” is worth noting. Proprietary systems are developed in a Cathedral environment by a selected number of paid for developers. In linux land anyone who is clever enough can contribute, so linux software is like shopping at a bazaar, some good quality stuff and some junk. You have the choice, and if you are clever you can improve on what you see.
Another factor is that as linux is a Unix like operating system so it is tough and robust. Anything untoward is not tolerated and is dealt with promptly. No need to run anti virus or anti malware. There will always be issues and as they are found they are crushed. I like that.
Community participation is normally good. Each linux distribution usually has a community attached and if you have an issue you can usually have a prompt and courteous reply to whatever needs attending to. In many areas the are groups who meet up and mostly just chat. To me this is important, more so when this is all for free.
So that is why I choose to run linux; freedom, choice, security, and community.
Tux is the mascot of linux, as Linus Torvalds likes penguins, especially the Little Blue ones at Taronga Zoo.