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Flipping the Linux switch: Myths about Linux

Linux on a toaster
There are a lot of funny, preconceived notions about Linux (and Linux users). Some ideas fall in to the realm of FUD (Fear, Uncertainty, Doubt). Some ideas have an inkling of truth to them, and have grown and mutated into full fledged myths. Sort of like how Vlad the Impaler became Dracula, but with a lot less violence and a lot more compiling.

Some of the myths may even be stopping you from trying Linux. You want to try it, sure... but it's too hard or can't do what you need or you're not a hacker.

Let's lay some myths to rest today. Pitchforks, torches and garlic are optional.

Myth: Linux is hard.

This is a myth with some truth to it. Everything unfamiliar is hard at first. The first time you rode a bike, it was hard. It got easier in time. The first time you used a computer, whether it was a Commodore 64, a classic Macintosh, Windows 3.1 or Windows 98, it was hard.

The problem with this myth is that it got blown out of proportion. The "Linux is hard" camp seems to have Linux circa 1997 stuck in their collective memories. Linux doesn't require any programming experience. It doesn't require constant use of the terminal (though if that floats your boat, feel free to spend all the time there you want). It doesn't usually require more than the ability to point, click, and press keys on the keyboard.

There is a graphical user interface and desktops that behave much the way OS X or Windows behaves. Will there be a learning curve? Of course there will. But there was a learning curve going from XP to Vista, too.

Myth: If it's free (in cost), there must be something wrong with it.

You can pay for Linux. We have. Does that make you feel better? No? Does it make you wonder why we paid for something they're giving away? We paid for something they're giving away because it was that good.

Maybe the above seems like circular logic. But it makes more sense than the myth itself. Have you ever spent $30 on a program and it wasn't all it was cracked up to be? Maybe you spent $700 on a single program and it had so many features you didn't need, you could have gotten away with a $30 version? Just because you have paid for something in advance, does that mean it's any good?

An application, in order to be useful, must do what you need (and expect) it to do. It doesn't matter whether it's free or $800.

Myth: Linux users are anti-Microsoft.

Okay, we'll admit, there are people who use Linux who really don't like Microsoft, for whatever reason. There are Mac users who don't have warm fuzzy feelings towards Microsoft. There are some people who use Windows who aren't totally in love with Microsoft, either. It's fun to bash on the market leader. Sometimes it is deserved, and sometimes it isn't.

Most people, thankfully, are quite rational (even around here). Linux has strong points that Windows doesn't have. Windows, yes, has strong points that Linux doesn't have. Sometimes we prefer to use our Windows box for things we either can't do well on our Linux machines (gaming is the big one that comes to mind) or because we like a certain Windows application better than the Linux alternative.

Though some of us find ourselves using Linux much more than Windows, that doesn't mean we despise everything associated with Microsoft. It doesn't mean we don't, on occasion, use Microsoft products. It isn't all or nothing. Things can co-exist.

Myth: Linux can't handle multimedia files.

While there are some files (with DRM) Linux can't play, the belief that Linux is incapable of handling multimedia files isn't correct. A few times a week Netflix mails us DVDs. We play them on our homebrew personal video recorder running Linux-based MythTV.

We're also able to play unencrypted .wma, .wmv, and of course .mp3 and .mpeg files without issue. Before viewing or listening, you may be required to download and install the necessary codecs for these files. They may be available through your distro's repositories, or through a third party source.

Myth: Linux means re-installing my whole system. If I hate it... Then what?

In the olden days? Maybe. Now? Nah. If you're itching to try Linux, but just don't want to wipe out the Windows (or OS X) install you've got buzzing along quite happily on your computer, download a LiveCD. Or use a Linux distro that fits on a flash drive. It gives the opportunity to try Linux without ever touching anything on your hard drive. There are even versions of Linux that can run inside Windows.

So, brave new users, lay down your fiery torches and put away your silver bullets. Instead, pick up a blank CD or flash drive. Take Linux for a whirl, and stomp out a few myths on your own.

Tags: free, Linux, linux-switch, Microsoft, myths, open, open source, OpenSource, truth

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