Jay Little - Software Obsessionist
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How Not To Start a Linux Jihad
1/15/2018 12:57:30 PM

Over the years I have had a handful of people ask me, "Should I switch to Linux?" My typical answer to that question is rarely simple and varies quite widely depending on the person asking the question. Lately I've run into a new phenomena which admittedly rubs me the wrong way. Some people just assume that I want them to switch to Linux. In reality, nothing could be further from the truth.

"That doesn't make any sense!"

For a brief moment please ignore the fact that I described myself as a "a strong advocate for Free and Open Source Software" in last weeks post. I am but that doesn't mean I think everybody should switch to Linux. In fact the only thing I really care about is that users are free to work as they prefer. Some people prefer proprietary tools with the specific work flows that they have grown accustomed to over the course of many years. As an advocate for freedom in general, I am perfectly fine with that. The essence of this position is that rather than take over the world, my belief is that end users should feel empowered by their tools. If your existing tools are doing that for you, then I am very happy for you. That is after all what the FOSS revolution is all about.

"Bah you are just an elitist!"

On some level you aren't wrong. I am a software elitist. I am always looking for a better way when it comes to software. Most people find something they can live with and stop thinking about it. I never stop thinking about it. Every time I launch a tool, regardless of whether its FOSS or not, I wonder: "Is there a better tool out there?" This skeptical approach to everything is arguably why I ended up using Linux full time to begin with. It was only via the FOSS ecosystem that I could access a wider variety of tools which offered the widest variety of possible approaches to address any particular problem.

"If I keep using Windows or iOS, you are okay with that?"

Only if you are. I personally consider both of those options to be bad choices. But if they work for you, then that is perfectly fine. But again I am the type of guy who wants the freedom to update his system on the schedule he prefers and to be able to install an actual third party browser which isn't just a wrapper around the broken one shipped with the operating system. Browser choice is especially important in this day and age in which all of our information is being harvested by unscrupulous software developers. Bottom line: I can't make the compromises that those operating systems require me to make. If you can, more power to you.

This combination of factors is one reason why I don't recommend new users buy a machine solely for Linux. The reality is that until you spend some real time with it, you really have no idea whether or not it can meet your needs. So as much as I love System 76 and Purism, my preference would be that you hedge your bets. Buy a Windows machine that has a proven track record of compatibility with Linux. Set it up to dual boot between operating systems. Directly compare and contrast your experiences with the two, or three or four OSes you install. Figure out what works for you and what doesn't. You could also use virtual machines to accomplish this but I would recommend against that. Running an OS on bare metal is different than running it in a VM. So avoid that if possible.

Just remember: At the end of the day you got to do whatever works for you. What works for me isn't particularly relevant when it comes to you. But I do think you owe it to yourself to be skeptical of your current tools, whatever they are, and to always be thinking about a better approach.

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