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Why Do People Switch To Linux? 746

Posted by Zonk
from the many-reasons dept.
tadelste writes "During the last month, Lxer.com conducted a survey of readers who use Linux. They asked readers why they switched to Linux and received a plethora of answers. Surprisingly, anti-Microsoft sentiment had less to do with the choice than one might imagine. Linux stands on its own merits. Anti-Microsoft sentiment comes from Microsoft's paranoia, which results in quotes like the one that had Bill Gates saying he'd put Linux in the Computer museum like he has other competitors." A respondent quote from the article: "It took me about a year to switch from W2K to Linux. The timing in the development of all of the Desktop elements has obviously been critical. If I'd tried any sooner, the whole thing would never have come together. Improved hardware support and equivalent apps have been a big part of the successful transition, and, I owe thanks to many in the Linux community for making that happen at an astounding rate and giving me my functional Desktop OS." Why do you think folks switch?
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Why Do People Switch To Linux?

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  • LaTeX (Score:4, Informative)

    by (1+-sqrt(5))*(2**-1) (868173) <1.61803phi@gmail.com> on Friday October 28, 2005 @11:23AM (#13896709) Homepage
    The ability to typeset sublime mathematics and papers based not on WYSIWYG, but form and content [latex-project.org]; both of which may be possible under MiKTeX [miktex.org], but it seemed most natural to migrate, if not to whose nativity, then to the least hostile environment for work.
  • Why switch? (Score:2, Informative)

    by siebzehn_msc (893545) on Friday October 28, 2005 @11:26AM (#13896744)
    I switched from Windows to Red Hat out of curiosity and because I was tired of BSODs. It's one of the best decisions I have ever made. The next "switches" have been between linux distros, until I found the one I love.
  • Why use Linux? (Score:5, Informative)

    by Shads (4567) * <shadus&shadus,org> on Friday October 28, 2005 @11:27AM (#13896759) Homepage Journal
    Because it works flawlessly once installed.

    We do alot of heavy duty database servers and the windows servers have a tendancy to start locking up anytime you patch something to close a security hole. The linux servers have no daemons running except for the database and ssh, there are times we go 6-12 months without needing a hotfix or patch. Even when they need patched it doesnt require a reboot, it doesn't take the machine down, and it doesn't change the day to day operation of the machine with new errors and new crashes. We use linux because it works.

    End of story (I'm sure BSD would work as well, but our familiarity with a company is much stronger on the linux side of things.)
  • by galaxyboy (825541) on Friday October 28, 2005 @11:50AM (#13896982)
    I would generally be happy to deal with a few quirks in Open Source software on Linux in exchange for the many benefits that the community provides. The major reason I haven't switched is because of the lack (that I know of) of budgeting and tax software for Linux. I love Quickens ability to download my transactions from my financial institutions automatically and I love doing my taxes electronically. Are there Open Source equivalents to these products?

    I think this brings up a general problem in that Windows is generally supported first by software and a lot of hardware where Linux is either an afterthought or it is supported soley by the community and therefore there is a lag time for getting the functionality I want.

    Maybe it has been a while since I used Linux for "consumer" activities. Maybe it has improved enough to use. The fact is that most customers don't want to write device drivers or software for the problem that isn't yet solved.

  • by jaymzter (452402) on Friday October 28, 2005 @11:51AM (#13896999) Homepage
    Switching to a GNU/Linux distribution because you're anti-Microsoft is not a long-term reason to switch. I switched because GNU/Linux was the only stable OS I could run. I got sick of Win95 crashing, Win98 crashing, and WinNT crashing, and being a new computer user, figured *something* better had to be out there. I heard about RedHat, tried it, and never looked back. Because it was *stable* (or more so, relatively speaking). I started using computers in 1997 and was on GNU/Linux by 1997.
    It's the apps and the freedom, that's why people switch.
  • Re:My story. (Score:3, Informative)

    by Homology (639438) on Friday October 28, 2005 @11:56AM (#13897045)
    I'm a long time IT guy. When I first played with Linux a decade or so ago, I couldn't get my Matrox video card to work with X Windows using a Slackware distro. So, I gave it up. Some time later, I gave Red Hat a shot. It installed this time, but then I just sat there and twidled my thumbs. Now what? I couldn't find anything practical to do with it. Windows did everything I needed it to. Years later I tried again, this time with Gentoo. I could get things to compile, so I gave up again.

    I stopped using Linux a few years ago after using SuSE for a couple of years. SuSE is nice as a Linux distro go, and I actually bought several SuSE releases. However, there where always some issues with it like YAST (the config tool) messing stuff up, or kernel source rpms that does not compile and different from the binary kernel rpm.

    After attempting to put SuSE on an older machine to use as a home firewall, I gave up (SuSE insisted to install X libs in the "minimal" install) and tried OpenBSD instead. Besides, iptables syntax truly sucks big time.

    OpenBSD is easier to administrate than SuSE, and very well documented with documentation that is uptodate and relevant. No more hunting for some outfodate howto that is not even correct. I ended up using OpenBSD on the desktop as well, and have never looked back.

    So, I'm one of those that moved from Microsoft Windows to Linux and ended up with *BSD.

  • Re:this is easy (Score:3, Informative)

    by foonf (447461) on Friday October 28, 2005 @12:15PM (#13897235) Homepage
    I switched for the games. I can play tetravex for hours (and I do).

    This is kind of amusing, since Tetravex was actually developed by Microsoft [wikipedia.org] originally.
  • by MyHair (589485) on Friday October 28, 2005 @12:15PM (#13897243) Journal
    I'd really like a low cost virtualization option so that I could run Linux without rebooting.

    VMWare has a free beta "player" now, and you should be able to download various VM images here and there...they offer a "browser appliance" VM from their site, and I was able to boot it to a KNOPPIX CD instead and reformat the virtual partition. I was trying to install Win2k3 but failed, but I don't expect there would've been a problem running debootstrap or another Linux installer using that VM with the free player.

    I just recently got Xen set up on a second computer, so this free player is a tad late for me to want to use it much for linux.

    Xen should be an interesting free VM machine with the next generation of virtualizing CPUs, and I heard they had it running windows in alpha on current processors. But the VMWare beta player is free (as in beer) right now and works right now.

    CoLinux is worth checking into, but it says it's not stable so I haven't put it on any halfway important PCs. I did see it--or at least the CoLinux TAP-TUN network adapter--last week in an embedded WinXP tablet for a specific industrial function, but I didn't get to play with the device long enough to see if it was actually running Linux under CoLinux in production.

    Before hitting submit I checked to see if I'm cross-posting...yep. They mention QEMU and MS Unix services; I haven't tried QEMU and only toyed with Unix services. Guess I should throw in mention of Cygwin (very handy...love sshd on Windows) and bochs, but bochs is slow and Cygwin has limits depending on what you want from Linux. (Cygwin is an awesome toolset to add to Windows, though.)
  • by Thatto (258697) <boogiechillin&gmail,com> on Friday October 28, 2005 @12:27PM (#13897366) Journal
    My father is a programmer. One of those whitebeards that learned programming using stacks of punchcards. There was always technology at home, usually in pieces, laying about to be studied and tinkered with. His company (a telecom) used unix quite extensively. CLI was the way to get anything done. When he heard about Linux, he brought it home and tried it out. I think it was kernel .99. If you wanted a driver you had to write it. There wasnt much it could do out-of-the-box. Hell, there wasn't even a box! But that was the greatness of it. You had to get under the hood. You had to understand the mechanisms behind the curtain. My father taught me his craft. It was a bonding activity. Some people build canoes in the garage. We built a server.

    I was hooked...then I discovered girls. I took a break for a while.
    When I came back to linux, I was in college. My roomate and I needed to share a dial-up connection. Being poor, we cobbled a underpowered machine from the scraps at school. Red-Hat 5 was new, and some disks were laying around the lab so we used it. I finally made the switch in 1998. Not because I hate windows, but because I love linux. I take pride in the fact that the community built it. We supported ourselves, and fashioned an OS that has the largest software company in the world threatened.

    The absolute best part about linux is the code distilling process. It is Darwinism for computers. Rather than a company developing to meet a business plan/schedule, you have a community tweaking and patching and improving the code everyday. cood code gets passed to the next version, the badly structured sloppiness gets dumped.... most of the time :-) /RANT
  • by fiveRocketCars (746296) on Friday October 28, 2005 @12:32PM (#13897404)
    I haven't fully migrated off of Windows yet, but more and more of my day to computer time is spent on Linux.

    For me, it is the applications and the general look and feel upgrades that continually get better and surprise me. I'm currently using Suse 9.3, and have experimented with Ubuntu 5.10 which was a very pleasent surprise.

    Main experiences that are moving me to Linux:
    1.) I know that about every six months i'll see a new Suse, Ubuntu and OpenBSD distribution,
    and I know that there will never be a financial cost to upgrading (unless of course, i choose to donate to companies supporting open source software, by purchasing their retail products.)
    2.) Firefox. -- It has a very comfortable feel similar to the same version under Windows.
    3.) OpenOffice. -- I've recently used the spread sheet and drawing program as at the moment, i didn't have access to MS Office or Viso, and I was like "hey, this is slick. and it just works!" I was also very easily able to export my document to PDF so that i could email it to somebody in a format that I knew they could view easily.
    4.) K3B. CD/DVD burning is just easy, powerful, and included in the distributions.
    5.) USB support. I recently attended a class using a Linux laptop where the instructor passed around a USB mini storage drive as a way to hand out materials, i was nervous that I may not be able to use it, but again i was pleasently surprise that "it just worked". I popped in the USB device and a window appeared showing the contents of the drive.
    6.) Misc applications. Almost anything day to day task that i would do on a computer (even if i personally haven't done it yet.....I could probably find an application for it in my full Suse distribution. There is just an enormous amount of applications available for the platform that are "good enough" for most things that a person wants/needs to do.
    7.) Suse Installation -- Just easy. Nice graphics
    8.) New Ubuntu experience. Nothing I can put my finger on, but it just like a well laid out product that is awesome to have for free. I was a bit confused at the no root password thing at first, but now quite like keeping it password free and using sudo.
    9.) Network configuration has always been a breeze for me on Linux (with exception for wireless).
    10.) Backups. It is fairly easy to do automated but simple tar/ssh based backups across multiple machines where i can set it up, and basically never touch it again. (and there are plenty of documented backup solutions available on the internet as well). Windows solutions don't seem as easy or automated. Even if i have to just push a button, i'll forget at some point, and that'll be the day the harddrive fails and i'll lose some important data.
    11.) Remote access. Doesn't matter where i am, i can usually find a computer somewhere to download putty, and log into my machines.
    12.) Server capabilities. I run a family website, web based mail server (Qmail/Horde), FTP server on my servers, and will be installing mythtv shortly. Its just cool that the mail server that my family uses is better than the yahoo/gmail/hotmail service that is available, because of all the addon packages that are available.
    13.) Development environment. I'm a software developer, and it is cool, that I can setup my computer at home to have a near identical development and deployment environment to the one we use at my place of employment. So much of my education at home is relevant to my work, and so much of my on the job training is relevant to my personal hobbies at home. I can replicate an as reliable/robust family website as my companies web site is, using the same development tools and server software that we use at work. That is just cool that an individual has the capability/capacity to do things like that.
    14.) VNC. The new VNC client/server software packages allow me to full-screen my Linux desktop on my Windows OS (or vice-versa), and allow me to have access to my linux boxes, like my monitor was attached to the box. This allows for a s
  • Re:LaTeX (Score:2, Informative)

    by drauh (524358) on Friday October 28, 2005 @12:34PM (#13897431) Journal
    latex support is "only slightly better in OS X"?

    it's at least as good as support in linux, since you can compile (or use fink) teTeX and LyX.

    but, it's better on OS X, i find, because i can use BibDesk [sourceforge.net].
  • by Hosiah (849792) on Friday October 28, 2005 @01:17PM (#13897876)
    (1) Security. About the millionth time my wife watched me stay up all night scraping viruses, malware, crap and crud out of Windows because it ground to a halt every time we tried to use the internet, and seeing me screaming in frustration and bashing the desk and miss a whole night's sleep, SHE prodded me a little closer to switching.

    (2) Work. Linux lets me be as smart as I always was; Windows forces me to be slow and stupid. Linux comes out of the box with more tools (tools, I say. Not frou-frou doodads and games!) than you could buy for Windows if you had Bill Gates' bank account. Yes, I tried MS-Visual-Basic and Visual-C++. Say what you will. Say you love it. That's your opinion. My opinion is, they're retarded. My apologies to any retarded people offended by this.

    (3) Innovation. Let me second the idea put forth by several others in this thread: the stupidest thing you can do with Linux is follow in Window's footsteps in the interest of getting more people to switch from Windows. Forget trying to make "I-Can't-Believe-It's-Not-Windows(TM)". Continue to blaze Linux's own trail as it has always been, and let everybody else catch up if they can.
    So: innovation: Live CDs. Linux that can run from floppies, USBs, old computers, everywhere. A true multi-tasking system (new to me, anyway) able to compile in one desktop, render 3D images in a second, download in a third, and let me play a game in the fourth without a bit of lag - it's like being four people on four computers! The variety of having my choice of 1000 different distros, so I can have it my way, and choice of different desktops (Fluxbox is my favorite, and I had a chance to shop around for a while to get there).

    (4) Free! Free forever! Hundreds and hundreds of distros to download free! All the software for it free! Read the source code for free! Roll your own for free! Release your own for free! Even the games are starting to improve - every time I find a Supertux, an ArmegaTron, a Tower Toppler, or a Metal Blob Solid, I'm doubly happy with it because I didn't have to pay $10-70 dollars for it.

    PS Save the standard, flaming, aggravated responses this time, willyah? If you can't tolerate reading other people's opinions, you're at the wrong website. If you love Windows and hate Linux, good for you! But we're asking me.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 28, 2005 @01:22PM (#13897935)
    Over 20 years using computers has led me to expect certain things of not only the operating system but the industrial nature of those that are behind every aspect of it.

    I used linux on and off on several occasions many years ago, throughout the years, and have used Linux for going on 3 years straight. I recently switched back to Windows from Linux because Windows offered what was necessary and had the people had the industry to provide me what I needed with the quality I expected.

    During my 3 years of linux I was very impressed with everything that was available, but I was unimpressed with the attitude of what I call the zealots (those types that insist that if you won't compile your program you are a moron). You know the mentality. It is one of those things that I feel is killing linux. The Linux community should rid themselves of those souls permanently and without appeal.

    Those three years brought me alot of learning and some of it was extremely fun. Linux brought back the feeling of the days of when software first started to gain prominence. It also, unfortunately, had the same feel as those early days of software on the PC.

    Software under Linux was widely available in virtually every category, and then some, but generally it was horribly supported (mostly unsupported), the developers wanted us to be their beta testers (which consumed my time and hence my money as time is money), and they never really compensated me becuase alot of the software I worked through in the end had tremendous short commmings or was not even in the state of useability.

    There is alot of software that is good software in the Linux community if you have the time and knowledge to keep at it to make it work for your distro, for your kernel, for your window manager, etc. If you can deal with the incompatability from release to release, if you can deal with compiling and all the dependencies involved, if you can deal with it every day (and at times all day) then Linux is OK.

    When I first started those three years of linux I had the time to spend and so I learned alot. Today I don't and the time I was still spending even after 3 years of linux and over 20 in the industry I didn't feel linux was any where near complete.

    Actual answers may have helped in this regard and a good consistent installer that would install on any distro and any release of that distro would have (and still could) change the world, but the linux zealots will have nothing of it. They brutally attack anyone suggesting such a thing.

    Luckily one org has started producing something called "autopackager". This may solve the installation issue. That leaves the tremendous effort to sort through all the junk software that's out there. It is no less daunting a task than sifting through the massive pile of junk found in the early days of Windows.

    What many have stated here is that they switched due to crashes of win95, 98, and NT, etc. Those are old operating systems. Those issues are virtually non-existent in Windows XP as long as you have solid hardware. Solid hardware is cheaply purchased these days. It is the desire to maintain your old hardware that kills your positive experience that would result in solid desktop use from cheap modern hardware.

    Linux has about 10 years to go before the average Joe will consider it outright. That'll make linux over 20 years old. Right now Linux offers a marginal experience for the average Joe even after 10 years.

    I eagerly await the next 10.
  • LaTeX on win32 (Score:5, Informative)

    by Noksagt (69097) on Friday October 28, 2005 @01:27PM (#13897982) Homepage
    While I run Linux on all of my machines, I must maintain win32 machines at work. You can use teTeX and LyX both natively and under cygwin. You can use JabRef [sourceforge.net] on any platform.
  • by unapersson (38207) on Friday October 28, 2005 @01:30PM (#13898011) Homepage
    "2) ... Also: try using linux as a desktop for 2 years and see if it doesn't start slowing down when you install a new program once every week or two, new hardware every 6 months, and new graphics drivers and security patches once a month."

    I've done that and it doesn't. Why on earth would it get slower? In fact in my experience it tends to get quicker and more optimised over time. Which is what you'd expect. I'm running a new install now because I updated my machine, before that I'd been running Linux on a 500/800Mhz machine from Mandrake 7.2 to 10.1 just doing the standard updates. No clean installs after the initial one.
  • Re:My story. (Score:2, Informative)

    by cubex (714512) on Friday October 28, 2005 @01:48PM (#13898188) Homepage
    My story is similar. I used to program on SCO Unix System V (and before than on Xenix). Later on I drifted out of the Unix world and was selling doing consulting and selling computers. When Windows 95 came out I hated it but everyone seemed to want Win95 on their computers. At approximately the same time I tried Slackware but couldn't get the cdrom to work. I also ordered Minix from Prentice Hall but the disks were unreadable. I even ran Beos for a while and it looked very interesting. In the late 80's I was using AmigaDOS for personal use. Anyways fast forward to 2003 and I tried Redhat 8. Had to mess around to get my Video Card to get it to work. I was impressed enough with Redhat 8 to stick with it and I don't use Windows for personal use. I have sold a few Linux boxes as home computers. Now I run my own web/mail server and I love it. Even play some games RT2, Heretic 2, Rocksndiamonds, etc. I agree KDE is bloated but it does the job. All my hardware works, HP Scanjet 5200C, Kodak digital camera, Raven printer, APC Ups etc. Last but not least it's fun to program again, like it was in the c64 and Amiga days. Windows programming was a royal pain and I never liked it. Linux does what I need, end of story.
  • Re:Double standards? (Score:3, Informative)

    by zootm (850416) on Friday October 28, 2005 @02:55PM (#13898715)

    LaTeX is available for Windows. That's what MikTeX is, if I remember correctly. It works 100% fine. It's not a convincing reason to switch because exactly the same software is available for Windows, not a similar package.

  • Re:LaTeX (Score:3, Informative)

    by kosmosik (654958) <kos@@@kosmosik...net> on Friday October 28, 2005 @04:43PM (#13899629) Homepage
    You can do LaTeX in WYSIWYM way (M stands for Mean in acronym). Check out LyX:

    http://www.lyx.org/ [lyx.org]

    "LyX is what?!

    LyX is an advanced open source document processor that encourages an approach to writing based on the structure of your documents, not their appearance. LyX lets you concentrate on writing, leaving details of visual layout to the software.

    LyX was originally a Unix application, but now runs natively on Windows and Mac OS X as well, thanks largely to the cross-platform Qt toolkit.

    LyX produces high quality, professional output -- using LaTeX, an industrial strength typesetting engine, in the background; LyX is far more than a front-end to LaTeX, however. No knowledge of LaTeX is necessary to use LyX, although it will give a user more power."

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