You might have heard once or twice that Windows is bad. I’m sure you also, at least once, experienced why – it’s slow, updates whenever it wants (even during standby), printers are a nightmare (they are, to be fair), browsing takes aeons… you get it. Perhaps you even thought about moving to Mac for these reasons – after all they’re well known for “just working”, right? Not just that, but you can use them for so much longer! Well, compared to cheap garbage computers that might be true, however in general it’s mostly marketing drivel.
Then there’s Linux. You probably heard about it – perhaps you even met one of our very devoted missionaries of the tux! If so, I’m very sorry – coping with big techs’ shenanigans all day and fixing family computers can result in some weird behaviour. And blogposts.
Once an operating system mostly aimed at tinkerers and developers, nowadays some versions of Linux can easily keep up and surpass the likes of Microsoft Windows and MacOS – of course always depending on what you want to do with it. Companies have been created around the free operating system selling devices with ever-increasing quality, and with the support of Valve it has been made a viable option even for demanding gamers. Heard of the new mobile gaming console, the Steam Deck? It’s running Arch Linux.
Now, I want to make one thing very clear to every reader: Linux is not to be understood simply as Windows replacement. As with MacOS it is a whole other operating system with different paradigms to get used to. In fact Linux is closer to MacOS in many aspects, given both came from the same family of operating systems called UNIX (You don’t have to remember that, just trivia). As such running a Windows .exe file on Linux instead of installing Linux software from the Software Store needs the same user approach as, let’s say, playing a Playstation 1 game on a Nintendo Switch. It simply is a different platform. However many modern tools nowadays also feature a Linux version or are web based anyway (meaning they can run inside your browser), and anything that doesn’t can be replaced by a plethora of awesome tools you find on pages 10 to 21.
The one and only exception here might be Adobe Photoshop – despite my best efforts I couldn’t find something comparable. Be not afraid though, artists do have tools like Krita, GIMP and others at their disposal with the latter being actively worked on to introduce non-destructive editing features in the future. Get them right out of the graphical Software Store that doesn’t flood your screen with ads and privacy-violating payware.
What you can expect
From here on I’ll keep talking about “Distributions” or “Distros” instead of “Linux”, since different flavours of Linux come with different expectations. Think of it like Android phones – It’s all Android, however a Google Pixel feels quite different than a Xiaomi with their MIUI Launcher, or Samsungs “One UI”. While Distributions like Linux Mint are made for ease of use and simplicity, others like the infamous Arch Linux are specifically made with powerusers in mind. To give you a hassle-free start I’ll present you three highly user-friendly distros right on the next page.
What you’ll also notice is how the Software Stores are centered around free and Open-Source applications (services like Spotify are also available though). Unlike Microsoft or Apple there are no investors to please, a majority of distros are maintained by a group of very dedicated private developers or small companies who make their main revenue by selling devices as well as support and cloud plans. As the community is extremely aware of the downsites of modern data collection you’ll also rarely find invasive applications or apps who’re calling home. This might reduce available options, however the upsides are clear: Smaller, fast-running tools that do exactly the thing you want without being slowed down by ads, want you to log in first or only exist to grab some data. This results in a faster experience overall without the system becoming slower over time.
Almost any distribution is built in a way that gives the user choice and control. That means you still have the option to let your computer automatically update itself, but it’s not the norm – instead you’ll be notified about updates after opening the Software Store. As we see on a regular basis with Windows, automatic updates without notifications often lead to massive unanticipated slowdowns. Not a good experience at all.
However if you’re always on the hunt for the newest trend in the IT buzzword world, I can happily announce to you that you’ll most likely be severely disappointed! This of course doesn’t mean Linux can’t be pretty – in fact a little visit at r/unixporn will show you how much love some people put into their machines to have them look truly unique. The goal of most developers however is to build a good and reliable system that respects you as a user – not a selling platform for the “new” Metaverse.
Enough talk – on page 3 I’ll show you how to try Linux on your computer yourself via USB stick, all without changing anything about your existing files.