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.