Before I get too deep into this article, I am a big fan of Linux and the concept behind Linux. I would love to see a 3rd player come into the market and really truly challenge Microsoft and Apple for desktop dominance. Yes, Google has their OS but it’s not on the scale or level of Windows or Mac. About every 3 years or so, I blow away one of my laptops and load Linux Mint or whatever distro has the most promising desktop and make a concerted effort to permanently move away from Windows. I tried this again 3 months ago and made it about 2 ½ months before I gave up and reloaded Windows in defeat.
Don’t get me wrong, Linux has made some impressive strides in terms of hardware compatibility, printing, networking and overall general compatibility. This last time I loaded Linux Mint, it found and detected all my hardware perfectly. I decided to load it both on a Dell XPS and Acer Spin 5 to get a sense of how far Linux hardware support has come. In this area, I am impressed! Linux has really done an amazing job in the past few years of making sure your WIFI adapter works and you can print to your local and network printers. So what’s still wrong with Linux? Before I get into the bad, let’s take a look at 10 reasons you may want to consider Linux.
10 Reasons to Consider Linux For Your Desktop
- Hardware Support
- As I stated earlier, Linux has made amazing strides in terms of hardware support. Most all hardware works and core/third party drivers work amazingly well now. Gone are the days of spending days going through documentation trying to figure out how to get your WIFI card to work. With Linux, there are no drivers to load – it just works. Simple and effective.
- Easy Installation
- Linux is now easier than ever to install. The hardest part I often encounter is getting the USB key loaded with the distribution I want to load. Once that’s done, installation is quick and painless. Most distros build in all the core applications so once installation is complete, you have most of the programs you need including Thunderbird, Libre Office, and more.
- Mature GUI
- The GUI is getting better and novice users can do more through the GUI than resorting to the command line all the time. With that said, there is still quite a bit of complexity that has to be accomplished outside the GUI.
- Increasing Application Options
- Developers are now starting to make a Windows, Mac and Linux version of their applications. Some larger vendors including Bitwig Studios now develop and support Ubuntu versions. Linux used to be limited to the standard open source developed applications but is now increasingly being supported by more mainstream development companies.
- It’s Flexible
- Not only can you install Linux on your laptop or desktop, you can make a USB key to take with you that contains the entire Linux desktops with all your custom programs and data. All you need to do is plug in the USB key and boot on any system you want and you have access to your entire desktop all from one key. Let’s see Windows or Mac do that!
- It’s pretty common knowledge that Linux is much more stable than Windows and even more stable than Mac OS. It’s a workhorse and can take anything you can throw at it. It’s very rare you need to reboot your machine due to an OS or application crash.
- Updates Are Easy
- Unlike Windows updates that can take hours, Linux updates install right in the OS while you work. Rarely, if ever, do you need to reboot to apply updates. Linux update process is the gold standard all OS’s should write their update process from. Linux updates are fast and easy.
- Linux is a great OS to use if you are concerned about your privacy. Unlike Google, Microsoft and Apple who all want to collect your private data to sell to advertisers, there is little motivation for Linux distros to collect and sell your personal information. Security is extremely tight on most Linux distros and there is no software built in to track everything you do and what you buy.
- Generally, Linux is faster and requires less resources to run compared to Windows and Mac. With that said, I often discourage people from using their 5-year-old machine to run Linux and expecting a great result. Linux should be given as much priority as Windows or Mac in terms of hardware if you expect a decent result. With that said, the Linux OS consumes much less memory and requires less processing power due to the efficiencies of the OS.
- It’s Free
- No need to shell out $120 or more for an operating system license. On top of that, Libre Office is completely free when a Microsoft Office license starts at $120 and can go up to $600 per machine. You can install Linux on as many machines as you like and you never have to pay for licensing or the applications that come with the distribution.
So you might be ready to download and install Linux over your Windows OS now right? Well, let me give you the bad side of Linux. Again, I have tried for years to completely replace Windows with Linux and haven’t been able to do it yet. This last time I tried, I was able to go about 2 ½ months before I threw in the towel. So, you ask, why did I give up?
10 Reasons Linux is NOT Ready for The Desktop
- The Office Suites Can’t Compete
- As great as Libre Office is, it’s still missing some key features that make it almost impossible to use in a corporate office. I often work with spreadsheets that are 10 megs or larger and Libre Office simply can’t handle them. Although you can load a large spreadsheet, good luck using the search function to try and search for data. You will be sitting there for at least 3 minutes waiting. Excel can tear through the same spreadsheets and search with lightning speed.
- High quality templates simply don’t exist and Microsoft Office has some really nice high-quality templates to quickly get a letter, proposal or any other type of document done quickly and professionally. There are a slew of features Microsoft Office has (specifically Excel) that Libre Office simply doesn’t have or can’t compete. When you have a job to get done, you simply can’t sacrifice quality while your coworkers blow by you in terms of efficiency.
- Other office suites exist for Linux and believe me when I tell you I have tried them all. None of them have the features and ease of Microsoft Office.
- Critical Software Doesn’t Exist Yet
- Need to edit a Photoshop file, good luck! Produce music and need to run a leading-edge program like Ableton Live with VSTS, not going to happen. Yes, GIMP has the ability to load Photoshop files but most of the times I have tried, it hasn’t worked. Linux has lower end music production software but it’s missing support from some of the leading vendors in the space. Until most of the leading software is ported to Linux or moves online, it’s going to be difficult to move away from Windows or Mac. The reality is that there are often alternative solutions but you sacrifice too much quality and/or speed as a tradeoff. I find myself asking why I am torturing myself with lower quality software when I can go back to Windows and be done with the pain.
- Yes, there are options such as virtual machines and WINE derivatives but they are usually slower or kick back errors and problems you don’t have to put up with running Windows or Mac. Until the Linux community realizes people aren’t going to put up unnecessary pain and convince the big guys to write Linux versions, people aren’t going to move.
- Installing Software Can Be a Nightmare
- There are so many different ways to install software on Linux, it gets confusing and overwhelming. From snap packages to DEB files, the average user doesn’t care how the program gets installed. Linux makes it too confusing and difficult to install software. I wanted to try a new browser called Brave on Linux Mint. Instead of just downloading and clicking on the EXE, I had to read through 2 pages of different installation options and what happens if I pick one over the other. Give me a break! People aren’t going to sit there and read a complex technical document just to figure out how to install one program.
- It’s Free
- While free is great, Linux has no central owner which means everyone wants to do things their way. Linux has dozens of distros, installers, audio systems, GUIs, etc. It all makes for a confusing mess. Not only does the end user get confused, it creates a ton of duplicate effort to build the same thing over and over again. When Microsoft builds Windows, the company is focused on building the OS the most cost-effective way possible and making the experience for the end user as easy as possible. Linux is lacking any central authority which makes it a mess of companies and methods trying to accomplish the same thing.
- No OEM or Driver Support
- Want to hook your iPhone into Linux and sync your information, good luck! Want to run the $200 graphics card you just bought, it might or might not work. Most companies don’t spend time making drivers or software to connect hardware to Linux so you lose out.
- The Corporate World is Ignored
- If you are like me and use your laptop both at home and at work, Linux is nearly impossible to use at work. Most companies run Microsoft Exchange for email and Linux still doesn’t have an Outlook equivalent with native MS Exchange support. Yes, Thunderbird has some Exchange support but it’s horrible compared to Outlook. Most all corporate programs like document management systems and industry specific software is all written for Windows. Good luck running your companies’ accounting software on Linux or running an email client that allows you to keep up with your colleagues. All those Outlook plug ins your company runs, forget about it.
- Many Functions Are Still Too Complicated
- There are still many functions that are way too complex. I needed to install Displaylink drivers on Linux Mint and had to jump through a bunch of command line commands to get the driver package loaded. The average user is going to think “Why is the hell am I doing this to save $120?”. At the end of the day a Windows license is $120 – $150 and that’s a small price to pay for saving time which in my opinion is priceless. Every time I run Linux, I am constantly thinking about how much time I am wasting just to save a couple hundred dollars.
- Simple Things Just Don’t Work
- Although Linux technically supports and does many things Windows or Mac can do, it doesn’t do them well. After I loaded Linux Mint on my Dell XPS laptop and finally got the Displaylink drivers loaded, I plugged in my two external monitors to the Displaylink box. One monitor worked and the other didn’t. After messing with the box and cables for 10 minutes, I finally got both working. However, when I went into the display settings to rearrange the monitor order, everything crashed again. Something that would take 2 minutes on Windows took over 15 minutes and still didn’t work. Until Linux is as easy as Windows and Mac, it’s never going to make inroads into the desktop market.
- Interoperability Sucks
- When you run Linux, you are going to have to share documents at some point. When I brought my Linux Mint laptop into work, I tried opening some PowerPoint files up in Libre Office Impress to edit. Well guess what? The PowerPoint files didn’t load right and I had to find a Windows box with PowerPoint to edit. After I finally got Thunderbird running on the Exchange Server, people were complaining to me that the appointments I was sending weren’t automatically adding reminders to the appointments. End result? People would miss my meetings. And there was no way to cancel meetings either!
- In another meeting, I had to open a spreadsheet with Libre Office and find an address. Well since it was a 6MB spreadsheet, it took over 3 minutes to find the address. There’s nothing better than being in a training room of people waiting for Libre Office to perform a simple search for over 3 minutes while people are getting upset.
- It’s a Huge Waist of Time
- Everything you do in Linux can be done faster and better in Windows or Mac. Installing software, hooking up monitors, searching through spreadsheets, and most other tasks take longer and are more complex in Linux than they are in Windows or Mac. Until it changes, people aren’t going to consider using it. People are generally lazy and they will rather pay the licensing costs than waste their time in complex solutions and time-consuming fixes. The only overall benefit I found in using Linux was the fact it was more stable and crashed less than Windows. And quite honestly, Windows 10 rarely crashes anymore so this isn’t even much of an advantage anymore.
What Do You Really Think of Linux?
As I said before, Linux has really made some amazing progress in the past few years. But the reality is that it’s not enough to dislodge Windows or Mac from the desktop yet. Until the Linux community fixes basic things like the ability to search through a larger spreadsheet or an email client with native Exchange support, end users are going to stay with what they know. Back when Microsoft was competing with Novell and IBM, Microsoft won that battle because they listened to what end users needed and gave them all the features and functions that made their lives easier.
Instead of the Linux community spending years of time trying to come up with 20 different ways to install software on the OS, time needs to be spent developing applications and features that people can use at home and at work. Until a graphics designer can use Photoshop, they aren’t going use it. Until the producer can run all their audio software, they aren’t going to use Linux. Yes, Linux has alternatives but they are lower quality and more time consuming and until they are better and faster, the desktop market share for Linux will continue to stagnate.
I love the Linux OS and the idea behind it and I hope one day I am able to delete Windows forever and run Linux on my machines for the foreseeable future. But that day isn’t here yet and is still a long way off truth be told.