Why the Linux desktop is the best desktop
Anyone who tells you Linux is hard to use wasn't paying attention – and here's why
Column I've used pretty much every desktop out there, and the Linux desktop is still the best of the best.
I've been working with desktop computers since CP/M-80 was the operating system of the day. Since then, I've used MS-DOS, Windows, OS/2, AmigaOS, System 7, macOS, Xenix, SCO OpenDesktop, and more versions of Linux than you can shake a stick at. Even today, I have Windows 10 and 11 and macOS running on test boxes. But what I run on my production PCs and laptops is Linux. Here's why.
First, long before there were PCs, I was running Unix on minicomputers. My first "desktop" was the Bourne shell on a VT-102 terminal. I cut my teeth on shell commands. So, naturally, early Linux came easily to me. Linux turned 30 last year and it was about this time 30 years ago that I started using it on a desktop.
But, enough of techie nostalgia. True I'm still comfortable running a Bash-based terminal for my desktop, but I don't have to. Despite the eternal garbage about how hard Linux is to use, anyone – anyone – can use it today. Heck a decade ago, I taught my then 82-year-old mother-in-law how to run Linux and we didn't even share a common language! She's a native Spanish speaker, I grew up with English, and neither of us has a lick of talent in learning other languages.
In the 30 years I've been running desktop Linux I have never – never – even encountered malware or a virus
So, the bottom line is, no matter how much someone tells you that "Linux is hard!" They're wrong. Oh sure, I'd never have a newbie try say Arch Linux, Knoppix, or Slackware, but it's 2022. You don't have to do Linux the hard way.
Personally, I recommend Linux Mint both for newcomers and for seasoned old pros, like, well … me. Why? Because its default Cinnamon interface is easy to use. If you can run Windows, you can run Mint. If anything, Mint is much easier.
True, unless you buy a PC with Linux already installed, you must install it yourself. But, hello, you can buy PCs with Linux already on them today.
Just go to Amazon and you'll see Linux laptops from HP and Lenovo. Alternatively, you can order one directly from Dell. I particularly favor the Dell XPS 13 models. Or, you can order one from a company such as System76. They make great boxes and have their own easy-to-use Linux distro, Pop!_OS.
If you elect to install Linux, you need to know a little bit about your computer. But, honestly, it all boils down to knowing how to burn an ISO image to a USB stick, rebooting your computer from it, playing with it to make sure it works, and then pressing the install button. That really is pretty much all there is to it.
Another perpetual complaint is "It's so hard to install programs on Linux!" Oh please! Sure you can still install software with apt-get etc., etc., but why bother? You just use the GNOME software installer, the Mint Software Manager, or a similar search for a program and press a button installer. There's nothing to it.
Why bother at all? There are so many reasons.
First, Linux is far more secure than Windows – or macOS for that matter. I mean Windows has its own day of the month – Patch Tuesday – just for fixes.
True, "more secure" is not the same thing as perfectly secure, but security is a process, not a product. Anyone who tells you otherwise is trying to sell you something. But, in the 30 years I've been running desktop Linux I have never – never – even encountered malware or a virus. My Linux servers on the net are attacked dozens of times a day and to date, the score is Steven 100 - Hackers nil.
Linux software is almost always free. LibreOffice, for example, is every bit as good as Microsoft Office and won't cost you a penny. Sure, there are some programs, Adobe Photoshop, that can't easily be replaced on Linux thanks to its third-party software ecosystem. But, if all you need is basic image manipulation, Gimp will serve you well and it's also free.
- Where are the (serious) Russian cyberattacks?
- Open source isn't the security problem – misusing it is
- Open-source software starts with developers, but there are other important contributors, too. Who exactly? Good question
- Keep calm and learn Rust: We'll be seeing a lot more of the language in Linux very soon
Say you must – must! – have Microsoft Office. Fine, then run the free Microsoft Office Online web apps off your favorite Web browser instead. There are other ways to run the full versions of Office, and other Windows-only applications, on Linux with programs such as Wine, CrossOver, or just run Windows on Linux with a virtual machine software such as VirtualBox. But, mea culpa, all these methods are complex.
Finally, unlike Microsoft and Apple, Linux distributors are not looking over my shoulder. Microsoft has made it perfectly clear that they see the future of Windows is on the cloud. Apple, of course, controls everything on its Macs. Me? I like having control of my systems. I'm old school that way. If you're not concerned with your privacy or who ultimately owns your PC, that's fine – but that's not the way I roll.
Looking ahead I don't see myself ever not running Linux on my desktop. Give it a try, you just might find it's exactly what you need as well. ®