Software

High barrier to entry? Busting this and 6 more myths about Linux

Jack Wallen finishes up his "barrier to entry" series for the Linux operating system by busting a few remaining myths surrounding the platform.

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I used to say that choice of operating systems was like the choice of religion. You grew up with one and knew only enough about the others to understand that they were, in fact, a religion. If you attempted to switch from being a Baptist to being a Catholic, you had some work ahead of you. The same thing stands with operating systems: If you've used Windows for most of your life, switching to either Mac or Linux would require a bit of a learning curve.

That learning curve, across the board, has grown exponentially more shallow over the last decade. Consider what Linux was in the late '90s or early 2000s. New users migrating from Windows to Linux had a serious task ahead of them. Even the process of upgrading from release to release could be a nightmare. You wanted to upgrade the kernel? Good luck learning how to compile!

But the times have changed, and Linux today isn't the Linux of yesterday. Just how easy is Linux now? Check out this quick video I created for the unboxing of a System76 Kudu laptop (forgive the fisheye effect on the closeup of the screen).

The System76 Kudu is a powerful machine that could fill many needs.

Out of the box, the System 76 experience is as good as any. Period. The simplicity of going from box to work couldn't be any easier. Open it up, turn it on, configure a few (user-friendly) options, and start working.

I get it. There will always people that doubt the true simplicity and power of Linux (just like there are those that deny the usability of Windows and Mac). To those that continue to deny the viability of Linux, let me address the following points.

SEE: The only remaining barrier to entry for Linux

1. Linux doesn't have the apps I need

This is not the fault of Linux. In fact, the fault here lies in the application developers refusing to create cross-platform software. Even though the majority of users spend over 90% of their time in a web browser, there are those who rely on task-specific software. If that software isn't available for Linux, the blame shouldn't be placed on the platform itself, but on the shoulders of the developers. You want to use your software with the security, reliability, and cost-effectiveness of Linux... contact the developers and let them know they need to port the app to Linux or to a web-based platform.

2. The Linux upgrade process is too challenging

The fact that people still feel this way astonishes me. I've upgraded so many machines over the years, and the process now is incredibly simple. And consider this... if you're using the 4.x kernel, very soon you won't even have to reboot if the very kernel of the operating system is upgraded. And Ubuntu (as well as its derivatives) have made the upgrade process so easy that anyone can do it. Unlike Windows, you won't be constantly bothered by the need for the platform to reboot to complete an upgrade.

3. The interface isn't what I'm used to

Are you kidding me? These are the same people effortlessly switching back and forth between Android or iOS and Windows (or Mac). These are the same people that deal with iOS every time Apple decides to make a massive change in the way it looks/feels/behaves. I've introduced Linux to senior citizens and children and watched them master the interface in seconds. Come on... it's a user interface and only requires you to move a cursor around and click a button or two. It's not rocket science.

4. Solving Linux issues isn't intuitive

Let me ask you a question. Is fixing Windows issues really intuitive? Really? The truth of the matter is, if you work on Windows, you can fix the issues on the platform you know because you know it. And if you really want to get into it, solving issues on a Linux machine is actually easier than on a Windows machine. First and foremost, there are more log files that actually give you just about every piece of information you need to solve a problem (psst, take a look in /var/log). Plus, Linux rarely breaks. With the permission system as it is, truly breaking a Linux system is a challenge.

5. 90% of users haven't installed an operating system

This works both ways. Most users haven't installed Windows. But recently, a lot of users have been able to upgrade Windows to version 10... so now, they know what it's like to at least upgrade from version to version. The truth of the matter is, installing Linux (especially the likes of Ubuntu, Mint, or Elementary OS) is as easy as installing an app... and just about everyone has done that. I would venture to say if a user was tasked to install either Windows or Linux on a machine with a blank hard drive, success or failure to do so wouldn't depend on the platform (although I would venture to say most would have an easier time installing Linux than Windows).

6. New users aren't smart enough for Linux

False. False. And yet again, false. New users today are accustomed to technology. They use smartphones, navigate an endless amount of complicated websites, and so much more. And, surprisingly enough, the Linux UI is just as point and clicky as is Windows.

There are so many more "myths" that can be busted with Linux... but I think you get the point. For those that haven't tried Linux (yet still, oddly enough, complain about it), I highly recommend you give it a whirl. Download an ISO, burn it onto a disk, and boot it up. You'll be pleasantly surprised at just how user-friendly the platform is.

With all of that said, what is your barrier of entry to Linux? Share your thoughts in the discussion thread below.

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About Jack Wallen

Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website jackwallen.com.

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