Linux is an open source computer operating system. It’s cross-platform, which means it works both on Windows and Mac computers, and you use it in place of Windows or Mac OS Whatever-You’re-Using (it’s Lion right now, but that’s due to change soon).
Everybody trusts the penguin!
One of the most popular reasons people choose Linux over Windows or the latest Mac OS is that it’s free. Free is definitely a big draw when you’re trying to start up a new business and have to watch every single penny you make.
Another great reason to use Linux is that it is open source. This means that you pay what you want (or nothing at all), and the money goes right to the developers so they can afford to keep working on the system, making upgrades and tweaks, etc. With major corporations like Microsoft and Apple, it can feel like you’re sending money into the air. With an open-source platform, you know exactly who gets every dollar you spend.
Another major perk is that, with open source software, you’re free to make your own changes to the system (if you know how to do that kind of thing). You don’t have to worry about violating a user agreement or voiding your license or anything if you want to change how the system works. You can customize it to do whatever you want.
For a long time, people eschewed Linux because most of the other types of software out there weren’t built to run on it and would glitch if you tried. For example, trying to use Microsoft Office or iTunes on Linux would often result in lots of glitching or code run errors. Now, though, because the system has gotten so popular, you can find pretty much every program your business (whether you’re a graphic designer or sell California car insurance) will need in a Linux-compatible format.
Unfortunately, a lot of people are scared to use Linux. Maybe it’s because the idea of setting up an entirely new operating system seems daunting — especially after getting used to the ease with which Windows and Mac OS installations happen. Maybe it’s because when you Google “how to set up Linux,” the WikiHow title includes 23 steps. Twenty-three steps is an intimidating number for even an experienced computer programmer!
It only *looks* complicated!
Here’s the truth: You do not have to have any special computer know-how to trade in your current operating system and choose Linux instead. In fact, here is how you do it:
1. Figure out which distributor you want to use. Ubuntu is currently one of the most popular.
2. Go to that distributor’s site and choose the version of Linux that works best for your needs (some users need something custom fit for a netbook or a specific desktop version).
3. Download the file to your hard drive.
4. Burn it onto a CD (you can also do a Live USB download/installation, but that takes a few extra steps).
5. Run the CD and follow the installation instructions that pop up.
If you’re more experienced with computer programming or you aren’t sure whether you truly want to replace your current system, you can partition your drive and try Linux out before you make a final decision.
Whether or not you choose to go open source and run Linux or stick with one of the “big boys” is completely up to you. But don’t let fear of a potentially complicated system keep you away!
Erin Steiner is a freelance writer who writes about small business, personal finance, and Internet-geekery topics. She is a Windows user but fully supports Linux and is a big fan of the open-source platform.