“If Linux is so good, how come nobody uses it?”

A question I’m asked quite often — usually after demo-ing to my friends the sheer power and user-friendliness of GNU/Linux. (Yes, please call it GNU/Linux.) So I decided to answer this curious little question in a blog post, with an explanation that should be simple enough even to the least technical person. All you need to know is what an OS means.

To answer why fewer people use GNU/Linux, I’ll first tell you why most people use Windows.

Imagine, you want to buy a new laptop and you’ve just walked into a showroom. What do you ask the salesman? Typically, “I’m looking for a laptop priced at around rupees so and so.” If you’re a bit technical, you might add a few hardware specs like processor or RAM or hard disk space. In any case, you never ask for a “Windows laptop” in particular. You never say, “Oh, not Linux, not Mac, just show me Windows.” Agreed that some people might specify the version of Windows they’d like, but they never express their preference of Windows over other OSes.

The reason they don’t, is simple. The showroom doesn’t have anything except Windows. It’s the only choice you’re given. You’re kept in the dark, so that you never come to know about other, better options. I seriously believe that if there happens to be a showroom that does put GNU/Linux computers on display alongside the Windows ones, and if their salespeople can explain to customers the basic idea of GNU/Linux, then I bet Microsoft’s stock prices would crash within a week. Anyone who has given GNU/Linux a real try, already knows what I’m talking about.

But the more pressing question is: why don’t GNU/Linux computers appear in showrooms?

That’s where Microsoft’s foul strategy comes in. The hardware manufacturers (Sony, HP, Lenovo, etc.) don’t sell GNU/Linux because somehow, Microsoft has convinced them that everything except Windows is unreliable. Moreover, the management guys at hardware companies hardly have enough software knowledge, so they easily believe in Microsoft’s lies. In many cases, Microsoft even makes them sign a deal, which says that they can sell Windows computers only if they promise not to sell anything else. Ultimately, nobody sells GNU/Linux computers, so nobody buys GNU/Linux computers.

Well, I don’t mean ‘nobody’ per se. Dell and Acer do have a range of Ubuntu laptops. But they don’t do marketing. For them, GNU/Linux is just a second fiddle. They don’t care enough. I ordered a Dell with Ubuntu inside, but there was a Windows logo on the Super key, (commonly called the Windows key – which is incorrect.)

Then of course, there are companies that sell only GNU/Linux computers (System76, ZaReason, ThinkPenguin, etc.), but apparently, they aren’t mainstream yet.

Now, some of you might think, “I’m a Windows user. What’s the best thing for me to do?”

Switch to GNU/Linux. Yes, just do it. And don’t take my word for it: try it yourself. I’m sure you’ll love it. I also encourage everyone to have a look at whylinuxisbetter.net, a great site which explains the advantages of GNU/Linux in very simple terms.

Keep in mind that GNU/Linux is, in every way, better. It’s undoubtedly faster, easier to use, more stable, more secure, doesn’t have viruses, and evolves really fast. It can do everything that Windows can, and many things that Windows cannot. (Some other day, I’ll tell you what makes it so good.)

“Well, I used this Ubuntu thing and I didn’t like it.”

Perfectly acceptable. You don’t have to like Ubuntu. Even I don’t like it. But you need to know that Ubuntu is just an instance of a GNU/Linux-based OS. We call it a ‘distribution’ or a ‘distro’ for short. There are literally hundreds of GNU/Linux distros out there. Then there are different flavours of Ubuntu. And there are other distros, like Fedora, Linux Mint, openSUSE, just to name a few popular ones. Each one of these has a bunch of ‘flavours’ like Ubuntu.

All of them look different, work differently, and are made for different purposes and different hardware. Each one is as unique as you are. You get to choose what you want, unlike Microsoft and Apple, who force you to use what they like.

“Okay, but which one should I take?”

Depends on your usage and your hardware.

  • If you like customization, if you want complete control over everything, then Kubuntu or Linux Mint KDE (or anything else with ‘KDE’ in its name) is what you’re looking for.
  • If you have an old computer, then you can magically turn it into a new one, with Xubuntu or Lubuntu.
  • If you want no-nonsense simplicity, then you want elementaryOS.
  • If you have a touchscreen, then Fedora or Ubuntu GNOME is the way to go.

If you’re still confused, just ask me. I’ll be glad to help.

Happy computing.

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10 thoughts on ““If Linux is so good, how come nobody uses it?”

  1. Early on, Microsoft wouldn’t sell a Windows license to a hardware manufacturer who wouldn’t agree to buy a Windows license for every machine he sold. Since Windows was the only OS that most end-users had ever heard of, the choices were to be a Windows-only shop, sell only to the handful of geeks who grew up on Unix, or try to support a line of Linux machines while paying the Microsoft Tax. That M$ policy didn’t last; the Federal Trade Commission eventually stomped it. But by that time, Microsoft had become the new IBM. As in “Nobody ever got fired for buying IBM.” There’s also the “Price = Value” fallacy. The hardest argument for a Linux fan to refute is “It’s free; how good can it be?”

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    1. Good point, Steve. Yes, the “Price = value” and “Free = inferior” fallacy still prevails. And that’s because the idea of software being developed in a community is still foreign to a good number of people.

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  2. “Keep in mind that GNU/Linux is, in every way, better. It’s undoubtedly faster, easier to use, more stable, more secure, doesn’t have viruses, and evolves really fast. It can do everything that Windows can, and many things that Windows cannot. (Some other day, I’ll tell you what makes it so good.”

    Just try to install something like Vsphere for managing ESXi hosts. Try to install Cisco ASDM for managing cisco firewalls. Sure you can use the webapp version of those, but they have less features than their application counterparts. The statements of the author are so bias, it’s ridiculous. I’ve been a sysadmin for over 5 years. I’ve tried to use Ubuntu and a few other distros and everytime, I run into hurdles. Some applcation doesnt install, manufcaturer doesnt offer support, or something else.

    Before switching to some distro of GNU/Linux, try it in a VM and try to do everyday tasks that you would on a windows based computer. You’ll easily run into 10 things that you can’t do or have to find a work around. Not to mention the software you’ve already bought. Photoshop for PC? Possibly some game? Most don’t work with GNU/Linux without serious hacking or WINE.

    For the average user of Windows, that just needs Facebook. Then Linux is fine, but pointless. They probably already have a Windows PC.

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    1. May be there are hurdles with the special-purpose tasks you mentioned, but here we’re talking about the normal user, the average Joe. These users don’t have to know every nook and cranny of Photoshop. All they really need is Pinta (let alone the GIMP).

      And even if they only need Facebook and nothing else, GNU/Linux still beats Windows. May be they don’t care about privacy or freedom to share, etc. but they still know about (and deserve) stability and speed. Saying that they should settle for an slow, buggy system is not really going to help.

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    2. Anyone who reveals the details of his life to the evil Facebook doesn’t care about privacy, and probably considers himself a Facebook customer. Facebook’s customers are the scammers, spammers and snoops who buy the data that Facebook victims happily deliver for free.

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  3. My god how many people will say no one uses LINUX before they realize its just them not using it. I’ve been through the ringer with Linux. As a computer tech. of about 20 years, who really got tired of the constant war with using a Windows machine, in comparison with using a well setup Linux box, can honestly say there’s no comparing the two. If your a lazy, slow minded, again lazy person, then Windows is for you and you get what your deserve….again your lazy. If you spend some effort, learn the basics, spend some time and setup a Linux distro of your choosing, the long run is trouble free, in charge, virus/malware free computing. Yes it was a b$@#h to figure out, but what in life worth while is easy?

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  4. I’d say without better hardware compatibility and more top-of-the-line apps, despite GNU/Linux’s obvious strengths, it can’t compete. My tiny example is trying to print to a wireless printer. Sure, you can get it work on some printers, buy you have to do your homework first. With Windows, you can buy whatever and it just works (despite getting the BSoD on occasion). I’m not saying I like it, but most hardware is compatible with Windows, less so on Mac, and very much less so on GNU/Linux. I don’t use Windows, but I see this as its greatest advantage.

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    1. Touché. It’s a real pain to get NVIDIA and ATI GPU’s to work. But then those companies just don’t seem to get the idea of libre/open source software, and the benefits in store for themselves. May be because they think we’re too few.

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