For the last 10 years or so, there hasn’t been a single computer that I owned that didn’t have GNU/Linux installed as the main Operating System. I have been testing out different distributions (or distros), different desktop environments, and window managers.
I have learned a lot from all my time with Linux, and even though I am a biology major, I get to do some bragging to my friends in software engineering too!
So, I want to share all my findings with you in this article. I will go over all the good, all the bad, and everything in between.
Strap in, grab a snack and let’s dive in.
What is GNU/Linux?
As you might’ve noticed, I keep calling it both Linux and GNU/Linux. You’d wonder if they are the same thing, and you’d be almost right about it.
“Linux” itself is just a kernel, the core of an operating system.
Other software such as the GNU-C compiler used to compile the kernel, the Bash command-line shell, the GNU shell utility (all the basic commands used in the command line), the X.org graphic server, and the graphical desktop such as Plasma. Graphical such as Firefox and all software that run on the desktop are created by different groups of developers.
So, on its own Linux is just a kernel. But when teamed up with GNU software, it becomes a complete Operating System, hence GNU/Linux.
However, for the sake of keeping it less complicated, we refer to GNU/Linux as just Linux.
Getting into Linux
The first computer I owned was from 2007. It had a Pentium processor and 2GB RAM with a 100GB Hard Disk. As you’d expect, it was terribly slow.
When I installed Windows 8 on it, I realized how awful that experience would be. I was looking for alternatives, and all I found were ‘Go back to Windows 7’ guides everywhere.
What caught my eyes was one guide detailing how to install Linux on an old computer. I thought, “Hey, let’s give it a shot. Maybe it’ll not be as bad as how this computer is acting right now.”
So, I clicked on it, followed the steps, and had my very own first installation of Ubuntu 12.04 with Unity Desktop.
I never saw that computer boot this fast and run as smoothly as it did after installing it. There were no tiles, no bloated start screen. Just a regular desktop experience that runs smooth and stable.
Until that PC died (RIP), it had Ubuntu. It skimmed through updates without slowing down or affecting my work at the time.
When I got a new laptop, I knew I had to install Linux again and see how it’d perform on a new high-end computer. I grabbed the ISO of the latest Ubuntu release at the time (18.04) and installed it the day I got my laptop. As expected, it was just as good.
But now I wanted to climb deeper into the rabbit hole of Linux. I was following some communities and there, people used to talk about different distributions and desktop environments.
I wanted to know what the fuss was all about. I downloaded a few ISOs (Linux Mint, Fedora, Kubuntu) and tried them in a VM. They were completely different from what I had gotten used to before.
The UX was different, and the way I had to install applications changed. My curiosity peaked, and I started reading about it more and more.
The Arch Wiki was the most helpful to understand everything. I learned what each component did, I understood the different terms in Linux space.
I was starting to get the hang of distributions. So, I replaced Ubuntu with Fedora. I read about Arch Linux and at first, it did seem intimidating.
It took me quite a few tries to get Arch Linux installed and set up bug-free.
But when I did, I never looked back. I was in love with the flexibility it offered me. I loved how fast updates were, and how clean the Operating System was. I had a total of 745 packages on Arch, compared to 2000+ from Ubuntu.
As I kept reading and trying new things, I learned about snap, flatpak, X-Org, Wayland and everything Linux offered.
There’s still so much to learn and using Linux, you will realize the importance of software freedom.
So, what’s good about Linux? Let’s talk about that!
All The Good About Linux
I have already talked about the reasons you should consider Linux over WIndows or any other OS.
However, the following are all based on my own personal experience over the last 10 years or so.
Linux Is Free
Linux is free. In every way imaginable, this powerful software comes at no cost, no hidden charges or anything.
Sometimes, when software is free, it often is for a reason. The reason is your data. Your data is the most valuable resource they can take from you.
Windows, for example, is a paid software. You need to purchase a license before you get to use all of its features. It still works if you don’t pay but you can’t even change your wallpaper!
Now, even tho it’s perfectly usable even when free, it regularly tracks your behavior and sends the data to Microsoft. Windows pushes its services and apps (most notably, Microsoft Edge) and somewhat forces them on you. You get ads for these services throughout the OS.
Unless you know your way around, you’re sending all your usage data to Microsoft. Hence, paying with your data.
On the other hand, Linux or even any application that follows the FOSS model (Free and Open-Source Software) is truly free-to-use.
They don’t track your usage and don’t send your data to servers. They don’t show ads. So, in every sense, Linux is FREE.
You don’t pay with money, you don’t pay with data.
The developers that build FOSS applications for these operating systems do it for the community. They want to stop the monopoly and control a lot of big corporations like Adobe, Microsoft, and Apple have on YOUR computer. And they do it for free.
Often, FOSS software is more secure, stable, and runs better. The reason being people (aka other developers) can look at the source code and check for bugs or vulnerabilities which can then be patched.
You don’t need to pay hundreds of dollars a year to make a document, spreadsheet, or edit photos and videos. On Linux, everything is free.
Linus is Fast
If you’ve used Windows on an old computer, you know how annoying it is when it randomly freezes, stutters and becomes unusable.
Windows is truly unusable on a device with only mechanical hard drives. It takes 5 minutes to boot, the disk usage is always 100%. Installing updates was a mess in itself.
On Linux, no matter how bad your hardware is, you will find it working smoother. The updates don’t even require you to reboot often. There are distros targeting old computers.
While Windows 11 requires you to have at least 8GB of RAM, distros like Peppermint OS and Puppy Linux run in 512MB of RAM with the latest updates available to you.
Learning To Use Linux is Easy
Starting with Linux is quite easy. You grab the ISO, install and it works just like a regular computer. But when you truly start exploring, you’ll see there’s so much to learn about it.
You have access to free documentation for every component. The community, while being a bit elitist, is very supportive of new users.
Arch Wiki is an archive of everything about Linux in one place.
Anyone can start using Linux and in due time, they’ll know and understand their computer better than they did before.
Is Linux Perfect?
No. Linux, like everything isn’t perfect. There are problems in there as well. I had to face them at the beginning of my journey but there are workarounds too, and we’ll talk about those now.
Linux, despite being better than Windows, still computes only 2% market share (for desktop users). As a result, it doesn’t appeal to big companies like Adobe, Microsoft, and others.
So, we don’t get apps like Photoshop, Premiere Pro, or Microsoft Office natively on Linux. There are alternatives (often better) to these applications but for someone whose workflow is built around this software, it’s often difficult, and really a dealbreaker.
You can still use these software using compatibility layers like WINE or use a Windows 10 VM for these apps, but having native support would still be a dream come true.
Anti-Cheat Software in Games
If you’re a gamer and play multiplayer games like Fortnite, Rainbow Six Seige, and Valorant, these games might not work on Linux. The reason is the anti-cheat software they use. Because not many gamers are on Linux, these corporations don’t have a reason to port the software to Linux yet.
The good news though, with the launch of Valve’s SteamDeck, the compatibility of games with Linux might see a drastic improvement. Apex Legends already is working on porting their anti-cheat to Linux. We hope the rest will follow as well. For now, you can still play all of your single-player games, like Elden Ring, and multiplayer, like CS:GO, GTA Online and Minecraft.
Availability of ‘Too Many’ Distros
Linux offers a lot of choices. From light-weight distros to full-fledged heavy ones. You have all the options.
This could be overwhelming to users who have started exploring. Often people keep switching from one distro to another, popularly termed ‘Distro Hopping’.
They have to install everything and start over every time they do so. A lot of users just switch back to monotonous Windows life as a result.
The only solution to that is, to stay on the distro you are on and customize it yourself to the way you like.
Should You Switch To Linux?
This was all my experience with Linux thus far. I tried keeping it short but detailed. Now, the question is, if you, the reader, should try Linux?
To that, my answer is YES! Try it. Install it in a VM, or dual boot without erasing Windows. See if you are comfortable and if everything you need is available or not. The switch might be well worth it.
Look up Arch Wiki for possible issues. And feel free to post your queries and problems in the comments. We’d be glad to help you move seamlessly.