Why do some people choose to run Linux as their PC platform of choice while others opt instead for other ways of running their computing experiences?
Is it market share, perceived ease of use, slick marketing overtures, users wanting to use what they already know? This list might explain why people might choose OS X or Windows.
But what approach to computing (and life) prompts a person to use a Linux box on a daily basis? Ill share my insights based on personal experiences and other observations accumulated over years of living the Linux lifestyle full time.
Software buyer's remorse has gone M.I.A.
I haven't spent my hard-earned income on software in years. I own one single (legal) copy of Windows XP Pro that I use for work purposes (software testing) in VirtualBox.
Does this mean that I choose not to spend money on Linux then? Not at all. I do in fact, donate money to specific Linux-related projects on a regular basis.
The fact that I have managed to free myself from DRM, product keys and purchased OS installation CDs is merely a byproduct of no longer locking myself into a proprietary software hell. Not because I wanted a free ride, mind you, but rather because I grew tired of feeling like a cog in some nameless machine.
Linux software is great, but what about when I'm missing a needed application not found in the provided software repositories? Luckily for me, I have found that the Linux community has a habit of providing a solution to an issue before I ever realized there was a problem to be solved.
For example, I needed software to allow me to tether my BlackBerry 8820 to my Ubuntu powered Eee netbook. Sure, wi-fi is my preferred approach, but sometimes the social events I attend simply don't offer this luxury due to network issues.
This brought me to a handy little application called Berry4all. It's a Python app, so all you need to do is unzip and run to configure. Just follow the help page and within minutes, you're running your BlackBerry on a tethered link via USB to gain Internet access.
It works quite well with my own mobile carrier. Bundle it with AllTray and you can dock the app to gain more screen real estate as well. To this day, I can gain network access without wi-fi thanks to this Linux application and a little time spent setting it up.
You see, open source and Linux are created with the user in mind. Thats what I love about software designed for Linux. I have yet to find anything I can do on one platform that I cannot do with Linux software.
Perceived peripheral problems
Having clarified my view on the value of Linux software and how it fits into my own life, I want to address peripheral compatibility concerns.
For a Linux novice, trying to figure out what is going to work and what isn't regarding peripherals is horrifying.
Even with SANE and CUPS making their peripheral lists widely available, some devices can indeed prove to be a real crapshoot as to whether they're going to work or not. So allow me to share my approach that I have used with my own Linux lifestyle that has worked very well for me over the years.
For Printer/Scanner Combos, I trust
For desktop webcams, I tend to lean heavily toward
_And for other peripherals, I rely on my preferred search engine for the answers I am seeking.
I realize that the example above is amazingly oversimplified, but there's also some truth to it despite the oversimplification. As a Linux enthusiast, I work to stick with brands that I know are likely to provide decent Linux support. From there, I'll check the provided compatibility lists to make sure what Im about to buy is listed as working.
After looking over the provided compatibility list, I verify things by performing a Google query to see if there are any unresolved issues regarding the affected device AND my chosen distribution of Linux. That last point is key.
Remember, just because it's known to work with one distro doesn't mean that someone didn't screw it up with another. While in theory it shouldn't matter, the end result proves time and time again that each distro is very different with device support. It's a simple fact. Wireless devices provide the best examples of this problem.
Finally there are those devices in which you have to just take a wild risk on. Just roll the dice and go for it. This is what separates the adults from the kiddies in the Linux world.
The "first-timer Linux users" will move away quickly at the thought of spending $30 on a device that they might need to take back for a refund, where as the person living the Linux lifestyle will happily take this risk. Why? Because chances are often good that it will work and that is part of the fun discovery with the potential for failure.