Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Switching to Linux (For the Right Reasons)

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Why are you using Linux on your desktop?

Before answering this question, consider the advantages and disadvantages and then come back full circle to your own motivation for using Linux. Nearly every week, I find my news feeds filled with the usual generic articles describing rather vanilla reasons for using Linux on the desktop.

Why do I have a problem with this? Perhaps because the reasons often being shared are just echoes of other opinions that clearly aren’t that of the author. Instead, we are reading the thoughts and ideas of many articles since past.

Great platform for the wrong reason

Take, for example, promoting Linux as the malware-proof OS. Sorry to break this to you, but this doesn’t exist. Or my personal favorite, Linux means you never need to upgrade your hardware.

Again, despite claims to the contrary, you get what you put into it from a hardware point of view if the tasks needed are CPU intensive. While there are distributions available that make running old hardware smooth as butter, this doesn’t mean that all desktop environments are going to make that old Pentium II machine hum like a new PC.

The biggest issue I have with many “switch to Linux” articles is the ongoing pitch that the Linux desktop is a way to escape paying for software titles. This bothers me and here’s why. First, many open source software applications used on the Linux desktop are available on Windows as well. So that argument quickly goes right out the window. Second, I think there’s more to switching to the Linux desktop than merely saving a buck. What about the control and freedom from vendor lock-in? Isn’t this of value?

Enough with the free stuff mentality. Let’s consider the bigger picture as outlined below.

Free ride or freedom?

So what is my concern about making the switch to Linux in order to save money? These are trying economic times — wouldn’t using a platform without licensing costs make a lot of sense?

Yes, I am a fan of the cost savings of using open source solutions, but only when coupled with other Linux advantages. Switching merely based on cost savings is almost always going to lead to a massive switch back to the previous platform. Why? Because any hurdles along the way will be seen as a big deal, thus sending those migrating running back to the familiar.

Instead I think there needs to be more focus on “control” over how things are running. This means no surprise updates despite disabling this feature, and no concern over lost software copies since the software is readily available from the software online repositories. It also means the benefit of a generally consistent experience regardless of the system the software is installed on.

You’re your own IT dept

In a proprietary world, chances are reasonable that even with an in-house IT team working in your corner, some software titles will translate into making that dreaded call to outside support. What’s worse is when that title is no longer supported or the company is actually out of business. Unfortunately this happens all the time in the proprietary software world.

With open source software running on Linux, you’re in the driver’s seat. Regardless of what the problem may be, you have the advantage of being able to hire someone to address the issue head-on with your own solution instead of relying on a fix handed down by some faceless software company.

For enterprise users needing things working right now, keeping this kind of control in-house is priceless.

Trust in software

The value of privacy. Think that “Big Brother Software” won’t spy on your company? Think again. Windows Genuine Advantage reportedly has a notification tool that will “call home” to Microsoft periodically while a PC is turned on. I can’t speak for most companies out there, but the fact that this is installed out of the box should be enough to have you looking for an alternative OS immediately.

The Russian government, for instance, is making the move away from Windows completely. I mean, if I was from another country, I wouldn’t want foreign software running my critical systems! With passing time, I doubt that other non-NAFTA countries will continue shelling out license fees to Microsoft indefinitely. Foreign businesses and other countries are considering alternatives.

Extra revenue in a box

Earn as you learn. Assuming your company is among the first in your locale to overcome the usual speed bumps that take place during a large-scale OS migration, there is opportunity to sell the shortcut concepts discovered along the way.

This information could be as good as gold and could be sold in how-to scripts and documents. So this creates not only an extra revenue stream for the company involved, but also allows the company an opportunity for free local press by going against the norm. Trust me, the media eats this stuff up, especially at the local level.

No surprises

Know thy future. Using Linux on the desktop allows you to hedge your bets so that you won’t find any software compatibility issues in the future.

There is nothing worse than legacy software suddenly becoming incompatible with the latest version of an operating system. It happens too often in the proprietary world, whereas it’s much less likely when using Linux on the desktop.

There is also something to be said about the predictable means of creating backups and disk images without wondering if there is a rogue piece of software that might create a problem. This is not so much an issue for disk images per se, but it can be an issue with some backup software on other non-Linux operating systems. Well, at least based on my own personal experiences. Your mileage may vary.

Sending the wrong message

Some basic fundamentals bear repeating. Linux is free software as in freedom, not a free ride. All too often I see the stigma of its no-cost availability being a mixed blessing. It’s fantastic as it ensures free access to the OS for all who care to install it.

Yet on the flip-side, the issue of balking at the idea of spending money to get the OS working both at home and in the enterprise realm seems to continue. So when I hear people screaming about the cost of support, I cannot help but wonder what planet they’re living on. It’s about freedom folks, not just free stuff.

What freedom, you ask? Freedom to choose the tech support you prefer, not one that is software dictated. Freedom to make tweaks and changes so that the installations of the operating system run as needed. Freedom to know that if a company supporting Linux does something not compatible with your business’s vision, you can look elsewhere for assistance.

Why use Linux on the desktop in an enterprise setting? Freedom, control and the stewardship of your own company’s destiny. Perhaps if this were the message sent forth by more individuals, we’d have less enterprise IT departments looking to merely shave off a few bucks from their budget. Sure, the cost savings are the frosting on the cake — but it’s the freedom to make use of this OS that makes up the cake itself.

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