Linux is growing in popularity for many reasons, and as an operating system it is many things to many people. While we all have our own reasons for liking Linux and open source, here are my top five (and a half!) reasons why, as a power user, I prefer to use Linux. You’ll notice that these reasons are quite a bit different from why I think Ubuntu makes a great operating system for Mom, which just goes to show how versatile Linux can be.
- It puts you in charge
- Software repositories
- It’s got the apps
- It’s rock-solid
- It’s what I know best
Between my day job at a software company and my work on TechThrob, I spend a lot of time on the computer, doing technical things. Nothing compares to the power of Linux when it comes to managing technology, whether it be administering severs, writing code, or interfacing with computers in some other way.
Windows intentionally puts a barrier between the user and the underlying machine, whereas Linux completely exposes every aspect of the system: all you have to do is open up a terminal. As someone who works with technology on a daily basis, this is invaluable to me.
I don’t have time to manually search the Internet for the right tool to do a job. When I need to download a new application and I don’t know which program is appropriate, it’s usually because I’ve hit some stumbling block that’s preventing me from moving on with my work. The last thing I want to do is to start googling for reviews of shareware programs that may or may not work, and might even be harmful to my computer.
Having a centralized software repository completely solves this problem. Instead of spending time searching the web for the appropriate application, I just execute a single “yum search” or “apt-cache search” command, and find precisely what I need in seconds. It’s hard to appreciate just how priceless that can be until you are in a situation where you need to solve a problem immediately and you don’t have a software repository available.
A secondary advantage of centralized software repositories is that they are safe. Even as someone who understands the dangerous parts of computing (trojans, worms, malware, etc..), I know that even the most well-educated, best-protected Windows user is still vulnerable due to the sheer number of exploits available. When you’re using an operating system that’s under constant attack by virus writers and bot-net operators, you’re eventually going to get stung, no matter how well you protect yourself.
Using Linux alleviates most of this concern. It’s important not to develop a feeling of invulnerability, because you still need to be careful (for example, don’t run scripts or programs from untrusted sources, or you’re just asking to get bitten) but there isn’t the ever-present danger that exists when you are using a Windows machine.
I have to admit that what I consider a “killer app” isn’t necessarily the same as what a graphics artist or a sound engineer would consider a “killer app.” But as a power user, Linux gives me what I need to make my life easier and more productive. From utilities that track down IP address conflicts to programs that securely wipe my hard drive, the toolset that you get when you run Linux is simply unrivaled by a standard Windows installation.
Admittedly, Windows may very well have similar programs available for it, but that simply goes back to my second point about software repositories– on Windows, I’d have to hunt these applications down one by one, but on Linux, everything is a single command away.
I don’t have the time to be rebooting my computer because it’s grown inexplicably slow. I can’t be bothered trying to figure out why some application won’t close, and I certainly don’t feel like dealing with the frustration of having a single program lock up my entire machine. I need my computer to work for me, not against me, and this is where Linux truly excels.
Windows tries to hold your hand when you use the computer; consequently, when it trips and falls, you wind up face-first in the mud along with it. Linux doesn’t do this — if a process misbehaves, it rarely affects anything else on the system. If it’s eating up too much CPU or memory, I can just kill it; on Windows, a run-away program might lock-up the machine to the point of requiring a reboot.
I’m only counting this as half a reason, but it’s important to point out that while a lot of the above applies to Linux because of the way it’s written and the way it works, I am also able to take advantage of Linux because I’ve had years of experience with it.
I know a handful of Windows power-users who are able to do some pretty impressive things with that OS because they’ve learned the best way to use and manipulate it. But for me, it’s much easier, faster, and better to use Linux — precisely because I don’t need to manipulate it into doing what I need.
Do you consider yourself a power user? If so, what are some tools that are indispensable to you, and could you be as productive if you weren’t running Linux? Share your favorite things about Linux in the comments below!