A little over a year ago my desktop computer refused to work, a couple of java viruses had fried the Windows XP operating system, and I stood there looking at my dead computer in frustration. A computer that a couple of years earlier had been fried by a Windows update, and I had at that time loaded the 10 XP CDs one at a time to recover the Windows operating system from that fiasco. I did not have the heart to put XP back on the machine. So I went looking for alternatives.
I was aware of Linux. I had half-heartedly once tried to run Ubuntu on my computer, but it was too easy just to use the familiar Windows operating system back then. But I gave Linux a fresh look a little over a year ago, trying a few live DVDs, and decided upon SimplyMEPIS 11 which had recently come out. It was both beautiful and functional. There was a definite learning curve, but I don't regret my leap into Linux.
But that is not to say that Linux has been a bowl of cherries, oh no, it has often been a PITA, but so was Windows. Only this Linux PITA is not a virus magnet like Windows was/is, and Linux offers a myriad of choices and options, where Windows is pretty much stuck in its old rut. Linux has probably brought about a few more gray hairs on my head. I'm not an extremely patient person, and patience serves one well in the Linux world. Sometimes fixes are hard to find, patches are sometimes slow to arrive, or never arrive. Hardware is by far the biggest issue/problem with Linux. If you find a Linux operating system that works perfectly on your machine you should drop to your knees and thank the good Lord above.
Windows comes with drivers and settings that are tailor made for the specific hardware you use. Linux must work on hundreds of computer hardware models with varying graphic cards, wired and wireless setups that vary, all the different sorts of hardware you could imagine. Manufacturers rarely, if ever, consider Linux when they put together computers.
Some examples of what I've run into personally, Ubuntu 11.04 and its offspring gave me very weak wireless on my netbooks, but Ubuntu 11.10 was much better in that regard. Mepis 11 gave me excellent wireless on my netbooks. Ubuntu 11.04-11.10 worked great on my desktop computer, Ubuntu 12.04 is crap on my desktop computer. On two of my my netbooks Ubuntu 12.04 has a bug that prevents them from going into suspend, but on the earlier Ubuntu's the suspend worked well. Linux Mint Debian worked well across all three of my netbooks, but it was lousy on my desktop computer. Fedora 14 was crap on all my computers. In the picture above I show SolusOS 1 which works great on all my computers. I sort of feel like I've come full circle in the past year, beginning with Debian Stable SimplyMEPIS, or MEPIS for short, and ending with Debian Stable SolusOS. Yes, there is a definite pattern here :-)
I've asked myself recently, "Would you recommend Linux to others?" If so, "What would you tell newcomers about Linux?"
I think my answer is best said in this way: Linux is free software, but what it costs you is time. If you have neither the time nor the patience to learn a new operating system, then you had better stick to Windows. But, if you are willing to give it a shot, and are not afraid to take some risks with a new operating system, I think in the end you will not regret leaving Windows behind.
I know, that is not a ringing endorsement, but over this past year I have decided it is best to not paint too rosy of a picture about Linux, it can bless you, and it can break your heart, but mostly it blesses.
My personal conclusions, subject to change as Linux changes very quickly, is that Ubuntu and its offspring, like Linux Mint, are a bit of a crap shoot. When you get one that works with your hardware, it is all sunshine and cloudless skies, but as mentioned in this article, from one release to the next the weather can change with Ubuntu. What works in a stellar fashion with one release, can be complete crap on your hardware on the next release. Now this would not be so bad, except the regular releases only get about 18 months of support, namely security updates, and hardware usually lasts much longer than that. Now there are LTS (Long Term Support) Ubuntu versions, 12.04 is good for 5 years, but unless they patch that release, fixing a major freezing problem, and the suspend bug, it's a nearly worthless release for me as it only works properly on one of my four computers--that Linux hardware problem business again. As mentioned, I'm sort of coming full circle. There is no use fooling with software that is only 1/4 usable on the computers in your household. But Debian Stable, namely SolusOS, has proven 100% useful to me. As I said, it is all about your computer hardware, and how much you are willing to try to fix your computer. The best bet is to find a Linux system with 2-3 years support that works well on your hardware and stick with it.
Linux is a terrible beauty, it can be a great blessing, reviving old computers, bringing them back to life, causing new computers to run like the wind and have beautiful desktops. There can be challenges finding and getting the right applications to work on your system, but that is one of the things you should look for in a Linux distribution--software that meets your needs.
My year with Linux has been interesting, to say the least. It has been challenging, and fun, even exciting when a new, promising distribution is released like SolusOS, or when you discover some new piece of Linux software that you had not heard of before, or when you boot up a new Linux distribution and it just works on your computer out of the box. Linux is worth trying, and for me it is the only computer operating system I use. It has been a wild ride with Linux, and I will be interested to see what the future brings. One thing is for sure, Linux is not going to disappear anytime soon, and for the brave of heart it is a rose with a few thorns, both a challenge and a blessing.