Jan Kaluza LOGO camera linux

Linux

[Linux Tux] Linux is that operating system you maybe heard about, but the store sells computers with Windows pre-installed, maybe some Chromebooks (Google) or even Macs. Interestingly MacOS is based on BSD Unix with a continuation of the nextt desktop developed by Steve Jobs. About 80% of the internet, massive companies, much scientific research and serious computing, all run on Linux (servers). Almost all the supercomputers today run some variant of Linux.

So why would you run Linux, at home, as a desktop OS? Because as with anything, you owe it to yourself to understand some of this modern technology, especially today. And also to make good, informed choices about privacy and security.

If you are wanting a new TV, you would find out about what is new in the market, what different screen and sizes are best. If you were buying a new car, you would collect information on reliability, fuel efficiency, reliability and so on. Even maybe avoid a brand because it now includes too much intrusive technology, or has abysmal crash test results.

So why not apply the same process to buying and operating a computer? Oh, it comes with -Win10- pre-installed, and the salesman said…

Nothing against sales people, but they are not Computer Science grads. They are there to move product and know only some things from the briefing and the brochure. But a computer is not a waffle iron or kettle. Most of the popular computer tech is proprietary, meaning you cannot get to see the source code or what it actually does. You only get the end product as a magical black box.

Linux is open source, meaning you can (if so inclined) get the original actual lines of code making it up, and inspect them. So if someone plants in some nastiness, which has been tried on numerous occasions, ten thousand voices ring out in protest. Bad code gets rejected, but when say Canonical (makers of Ubuntu Linux) put in shopping and search ties back to Amazon, users simply left for other distros. After a while, Ubuntu dropped the nonsense to try and lure users back. You can do that with Linux - move to another variant. With Apple, Google and Microsoft, you have only one choice - theirs, and its a magical black box.

Also, most of the thousands of Linux distributions (distros) are entirely free. A few try to openly monetise, but most rely on donations. And the grateful users do readily donate as they can. Much of the big Linux development is driven by industry funding - remember all those servers running everything? So desktop Linux is the free candy falling off the big commercial truck as it comes by.

»DistroWatch keep tabs on close to 1,000 of the galactic cloud of various Linux distros out there. Their top-hits scores can in some cases be taken with a large bag of salt. It is still a great resource to start from, loaded with information, reviews and download links.

Mint If you want to really get into Linux, let me save you from tearing out your hair and filling buckets with tears. Start with »Mint and the Cinnamon desktop. The MATE desktop is also good. Both Cinnamon and MATE were started as a reaction in 2011 to the changes that Gnome3 introduced. »Cinnamon is created by the Mint team, and »MATE was started by an Arch user and grew from there.

Manjaro Once you have a few years Linux experience under your belt, maybe move to »Manjaro, which is in the Arch family of distros. That means the packages are more on the bleeding edge of 'the latest' than the Debian family. So it is a quite different, but by that point you can handle those differences. And I would stick to Cinnamon as the desktop manager (found in the community editions).

As for all those other distros… a few are good, some more Ok, and the rest vary in quality. One-man shows to enterprise-grade distros, niche applications or just plain disasters - they're all in the mix.

There are over twenty desktop managers. Gnome, MATE, KDE, Cinnamon, Budgie, Xfce, LxQt, i3, Openbox,… you get the idea. It can be very daunting. Just go with Linux Mint and preferably, Cinnamon.

Allow for some learning and new experiences. This will open up your computer knowledge in new ways. Explore and enjoy. It is best to have an old or spare machine to try on first. Read up, especially the first time, on the install process, or get a friend with some Linux experience to help you.

May 2020:
In a moment of synchronicity, Linus Torvalds moved from Intel to AMD Ryzen for his »new machine, and so did I for my new machine. We know that he does not use »Debian or Ubuntu, but most likely Fedora. Well, he does work for Red Hat / IBM after all.