It’s funny how some people react when I tell them I use Linux. Sometimes they express the sentiment that I must be very computer savvy. Other’s get caught up in all the brand loyalty hype and still some have never heard of Linux! I kid you not! The truth of the matter is that I switched partly because Windows no longer offered me any challenges and reliability became an issue. The most common question I get asked whenever I present a public speaking seminar is “Why did you switch to Linux?”Well… for all those who asked, here’s the long winded answer.
I first started using Windows when Windows 286 and then later Windows 3.11 were all the rage. (I sold the floppies on eBay about 2 years ago to a collector in Italy). At that time I thought it was hot stuff! All my games were DOS based, but that was okay as Windows at that time required DOS. I went through the Windows 95 and 98 stage and became very interested when Windows NT4 was released. At that time I thought it was an incredible product because of the ease with which I could create peer-to-peer and domain based networks. It was then when I tried Red Hat and quit because (in my opinion) the network configuration and OS installation of Red Hat was a nightmare. (I think it was RH5 at that time). Maybe I just had a poor Linux instructor, I don’t know.
I decided to garner my MCSE certifications because I thought there was a strong future in the Windows (and support) industry; I also thought the certifications would be easy to get because of my experience. I was wrong on both counts. The MCSE (and other certifications) took a lot of hard work, dedication and stress to obtain. I’m happy I was successful and proud of the accomplishment. Microsoft sent me a very cool secret decoder ring and certifications. Not really! They did send certifications and a credit card-like ID:
About a year or so after I obtained my certifications, the IT employment market started to collapse. The employment opportunities for newly certified individuals dried up faster than steam and Microsoft released WinXP, which made my NT4 certifications less relevant. It actually left me with a bad taste. Part of the decision to obtain my MCSE was driven by Microsoft’s hype and the perceived promise in the industry of well paying, in demand jobs. The hype I found was, in my opinion, somewhat bias in favour of Microsoft. If that is true, I couldn’t really blame them. After all, they do their best to make their products and services look good. The better they appear, the greater the market dominance. Right? In my opinion, that’s not the best approach and they maybe appear to be suffering the effects of that now? Either way, I made the call and it was now time to make lemonade. Remember the old saying, when life hands you lemons?
My lemonade was to garner technical training positions. I succeeded in working my way into a larger private IT training college. I was good at what I did and spent a few successful years with them. I was involved in student and corporate training, curriculum development, lab development and played a role in the testing centre. The college was almost exclusively Windows based. During this period there was a fair bit of discussion among the technical trainers that more Linux based training should be included. However, I think a couple issues which kept that at bay were costs and demand. Linux was not in as much demand at that time (for our college), simply because none of the sales personnel focused on developing Linux leads (remember we were almost 100% Windows based). This in turn (I assume) gave the impression that Linux was not a viable training revenue. Another issue that may have contributed to the lack of Linux was that effective and trained Linux personnel commanded a higher salary. In any event, prudence (in my opinion) would advise that it is not wise to place all your eggs in one basket.
As prudence would have it, the college began closing campus locations as the sales dropped. I left when the campus I was working at closed. The last I knew (from a television commercial), the college was providing security guard training and a few other courses. I was pretty surprised as this had been a college which provided high quality IT training, exclusively! It was about that time when I became very disillusioned with the whole “Windows thing” and returned to Linux by giving Red Hat a try again (I think it was RH8 at that time). I liked it because I found the RH server was more powerful (in my opinion), than the Windows counterparts I worked with. I thought Linux servers rocked and tried just about any Linux server tutorial I could find!
Fedora came on the scene and I jumped on it to test the desktop environment. Wow! That’s what sold me on the viability of Linux as a primary contender for the desktop. Things I immediately noticed were the stability (no Blue Screens of Death), productivity (I could do more with my old hardware), and just plain fun (it provided a new challenge). By that stage I was out of the gaming phase (Quake on NT4 networks over Lunch breaks were the hot social of the day). Therefore the lack of gaming was not an issue. However don’t think that gaming is the pits in Linux, it’s not! But the “FUD trolls” would have us believe it. In terms of proprietary gaming, it’s some of the vendors who don’t support Linux (saying Linux does not support games is a big load of horse pooh). Just read “There is Good Gaming in Ubuntu!” or “Top 12 Best Games for Ubuntu Linux – #1 Tremulous” and you’ll see.
When I finally got around to trying Ubuntu Linux, I had my socks knocked off! Slick usable, doable, easy, fun and in my opinion, ahead of the current Windows offerings. It appeared that Linux was becoming more of a desktop leader and innovator than it had before. There were (and still are) so many different distributions, that we are able to install systems that more closely match our needs. In my opinion, this is one of the major drawbacks of Windows. To be blunt, there is hardly any variety. When I thought about it more, I realized the changes in the landscape are probably a direct result of variety. If I develop a product and there is a finite number of beta testers (such as with Windows) I could not possibly compete with the quality that the open source community provides. Their beta testing platform is the whole planet! Not a finite number of testers.
Personally, I was hooked on the sheer volume of innovative free open source products and solutions that had been unavailable to me as a regular Windows user. I didn’t have to worry about spending excessive amounts of money on software, I didn’t have to worry about upgrading hardware, I didn’t even have to worry about cross platform compatibility! I remember sourcing out my top 100 of the best (useful) opensource applications, it took a day or two because there were really 100′s of thousands. And the support from the open source community for that post was incredible as I was sent suggestions for literally hundreds more. More to the point is the valuable input I’ve received from readers of this blog. I’ve learned quite a bit from many of them and at times have had mistakes corrected. It’s a strong robust, intelligent, and growing community.
My personal top 10 reasons to stay with Linux are probably the following:
- No blue screens.
- Applications are super easy to install.
- Better security.
- Free software.
- Community support.
- Speed and functionality.
- Better networking.
- Greater innovation.
- Easier to tweak change or even add OS features.
- The full command line and scripts are there when I need them.
So there you have it. The long version of why I migrated to Linux.
Hopefully it’s of interest to some of you.
[tags]linux, ubuntu, mcse, windows, quit, switch, opinion, gaming, training, problem, career, fedora, red hat[/tags]