Good Reasons to Switch to GNU/Linux

I stumbled upon How You Know When It’s Time to Switch to Linux by Katherine Noyes.

She has some good points:

  • 1. Tired of Paying for Software
  • 2. You’re tired of upgrading hardware.
  • 4. You’ve seen one too many patch Tuesdays.
  • 5. You don’t have the time.
  • 6. You like speed.
  • 7. You like sharing.
  • 8. You don’t actually love Internet Explorer.
  • 9. You want to be in control.
  • 10. You’re One of a Kind

Those are all good reasons to flee that other OS on a PC or a server. I could add a few more like re-re-reboots. They are a pet peave since many of them are not actually necessary and that other OS is so slow to boot. Why we, in the 21st century should be strapped with errors of design made in the late 1980s is beyond me. No OS is perfect but surely an OS should respect “time is money” and do the minimum to inconvenience us. That other OS was designed to waste resources.
“3. Shortening of PC “life time” in general
The only counter argument to make here is that current PC technology is totally sufficient for most office tasks and consumer desires and that any performance bottleneck is not in today’s PCs but in today’s COM pipes. This in itself might slow down replacement cycles and life time shortening until we find true MIPS eating applications- a priority not only INTEL should subscribe to.”
Kempin, e-mail to Bill Gates, 1997.

If you are like me you don’t want M$ to pressure you to chuck perfectly good PCs in the trash.

On the other hand there are bunches of great reasons to go to GNU/Linux besides what Katherine mentioned:

  1. Maintenance of more complex systems on one or more PCs by networking, and a package manager,
  2. FREEDOM to use, examine, modify and to distribute,
  3. no more WGdisA and coded stickers, and
  4. many thousands of applications and services.

I switched in 2000 and my switch was driven only by one thing, that other OS would not work for my students. It kept crashing. Since then I have discovered more good things to like about GNU/Linux. Why don’t you?

I’ll give an example of a project that has brought me great joy as a teacher. In 2004/5, I was teaching in Deline, NT, a fly-in community just south of the Arctic Circle. The school had about 50 PCs all sucking on the same pipe. I think the bandwidth was about 64 kbits/s, just a step above dial-up. Using the Internet in class was almost always impossible for more than a few people simultaneously.

The number one issue for me as a teacher was having a resource that would give lots of searchable text and images to students. On the web was Wikipedia. The software that it runs is FLOSS, so on the ancestor of my Beast, I installed MediaWiki and downloaded (over many nights and weekends) the snapshot of the database and images. It took me nearly a month to examine all the 100K+ images and thumbnails to remove some disgusting spam (about 100 images) to make this kid-safe in a K-12 school. Then I opened this service to the school over the LAN. My students were able to access a huge resource using only a browser. The pinnacle of that success was a few times when the web access was down and kids who normally went to the lab to surf the web, used this service on an ordinary PC in my classroom to research for projects about how people lived around the world.

Since then I have ported this database to every school in which I have taught and it cost nothing but a bit of my time. Over the last few days, I updated the software to MediaWiki 1.15.5 from Debian’s repository. I ran the /maintenance/update.php script to upgrade the database and it ground away on my database, making it work with the new software. Not bad for a 6 year old database and application. No re-re-reboots were required. On Beast this thing is snappy. Search results in the blink of an eye … How cool is that?

Why suffer the agony of keeping that other OS running when you can experience the joy of GNU/Linux working for you?

About Robert Pogson

I am a retired teacher in Canada. I taught in the subject areas where I have worked for almost forty years: maths, physics, chemistry and computers. I love hunting, fishing, picking berries and mushrooms, too.
This entry was posted in Linux in Education, technology. Bookmark the permalink.

13 Responses to Good Reasons to Switch to GNU/Linux

  1. If you think M$ makes software that knows what humans are going to do in advance, I have a rubber room for you. I can wake up one morning and play a game, or read, or use my database, etc. M$ is wasting resources by fetching too much. I know some people boot that other OS and go for coffee but I like to get down to work immediately.

  2. Mike Hunt says:

    There is no caching in GNU/Linux? Simple fact that all most programs share libraries etc. makes it faster and more efficient.

    No precaching of page files, correct. I’m talking about virtual memory management.

    GNU/Linux doesn’t cache? Thanks for informing me, i will throw preload/prelink/readahead away as it only made startup faster. And it is so crappy that i can in addition to those choose what to cache/prelink/preload, i am immediately coming back to Windows!

    Point being virtual memory management in Linux is stuck in 1995 whereas the rest of the modern world has moved towards more intelligent ways of ensuring fast application loading.

  3. I may have some flash content somewhere… For example, I sometimes link to YouTube. WordPress does have some flash-thingies but I believe reading the content generally does not require readers to have flashpalyer installed. It’s just HTML by the time your browser sees it.

    It could be the ads…

  4. jimk says:

    Why does your site ask me to install flash player?

  5. Bender says:

    @Mike Hunt

    There is no caching in GNU/Linux? Simple fact that all most programs share libraries etc. makes it faster and more efficient.

    GNU/Linux doesn’t cache? Thanks for informing me, i will throw preload/prelink/readahead away as it only made startup faster. And it is so crappy that i can in addition to those choose what to cache/prelink/preload, i am immediately coming back to Windows!

  6. There wasn’t anything like it at the time or I would have gone with it. Also, most of the current snaps of Wikipedia are necessarily a small subset of the whole thing. I got all of it in 2004. Now it would not even fit on my hard drives.

  7. Ray says:

    “It took me nearly a month to examine all the 100K+ images and thumbnails to remove some disgusting spam (about 100 images) to make this kid-safe in a K-12 school.”

    Looks like someone already did that for you.

    http://schools-wikipedia.org/

  8. You mean the reason that other OS takes two minutes to boot is because it thinks it knows what I am going to do before I do it???

    Nonsense. I have fought with the “hour-glass” enough to know M$ has no clue that I want to run my browser right away and not my word-processor.

    GNU/Linux caches stuff, too and I can run way more applications/users/processes in 1gB on GNU/Linux than I can with that other OS.

  9. If you don’t want to manage your PC, you can hire someone to do the job. Many businesses do that. While it may cost more per fix-it guy in GNU/Linux, there is less fixing to do and they go farther. Typically a GNU/Linux shop has 1/3 as many fix-it guys as that other OS. Of course, one can find examples of expensive state-of-the-art mangement systems but the default installations of XP or “7” do not include those. Where I worked last year is went from fixing that other OS by re-imaging almost every week and I did not need to do that at all for GNU/Linux clients.

    I actually did have a day job and got a lot of work done as did any students or teachers who wanted to work as well. They all said the GNU/Linux system was way faster than that other OS so they could do their work faster.

    I haven’t seen many drivers that did not work with the stable release of Debian GNU/Linux. Check out the Linux Foundation. You will find lots of driver support there.

  10. Mike Hunt says:

    The overall handling of applications in Windows is going to be faster Robert. In Windows (since Win 2000), there’s a C:\Windows\Prefetch directory which contains files with recorded usage stats of various applications. It stores which page files were loaded (i.e. required) at start, which ones were used most and other heuristics.

    So as time goes on your applications actually run faster in Windows whereas in Linux they will take the same amount of time to run every time.

    Using a PHP cache will also run faster on Windows too because again that application will have it’s preferred pages loaded from secondary storage.

  11. I don’t see how it could be faster. I push “enter” and stuff happens. It’s way less than 1s. I am using a PHP accelerator which caches lots of stuff and I have tons of RAM (for one user, anyway).

    see APC, the Alternative PHP Cache.

    In addition I use 3 500gB hard drives so seeking and transferring data is quick.

  12. Mike Hunt says:

    Here’s my list of when you should come over to Windows and away from Linux:

    1. Tired of spending hours upon hours tweaking
    2. You’re tired of no driver support
    4. You’ve seen one too many broken distros
    5. You can’t find a suitable OSS replacement
    6. You like speed (remember: Linux doesn’t pre-cache pages, Windows does)
    7. You like software that just works
    8. You like the choice of using IE, FF, Chrome, Safari, or even Opera
    9. You don’t want to micromanage your computer
    10. You actually need to do some work

  13. Dann says:

    Do you use the default search of mediawiki?
    If you’re getting tired of it (which I did), there is SphinxSearch plugins that really speed things up.

    Cheers.

Leave a Reply