For years, you have been watching the battle of the operating systems rage on as Microsoft and Apple have done everything from airing comical commercials too trying to one up eachother in various ways with their vast custom features that link all their devices in their ecosystem.
You might have come to believe that Windows is the operating system for those in the corporate world or those who obviously own a pc and Macs are for those who are graphic designers, developers or people devoted to the apple brand who own iPods, iPhones, iPads and maybe the Apple Watch.
Have you ever wondered what else is out there to use? In this post I’m giving a shout out to Linux and highlighting it as a viable alternative to the top two players in this space.
Like most people, I have worked with Windows and Mac OS X machines for a long time. Using them for varying types of projects and keeping my skill-set up to date since these are the systems most people use. While I have been using Centos Linux for my server solution for a while now and have really good experience with it, I have recently chosen to add a desktop version of Linux to my toolset. Linux has a lot of different distributions but I am currently using Ubuntu 15.04 on my computer and Lubuntu on another.
First, get to know your current system
Whether you are using either of these systems, I always recommend that you take the time to delve deep into your computers and learn how they work, why they do certain things, how to navigate your system and how to maintain your computer.
The reason why this is important is because you should know that your computer is one of the most powerfull tools you have not only to consume content but also to create content. You should know how to protect your system by using the built in features like Windows Defender, File Vault for Mac, Fire walls and how to properly back up your system in case you ever have a hard drive failure or your system gets hacked.
Windows is the most widely used operating system since it is the default system on almost all personal computers. It has the largest support for things like applications, games and other technology that runs on the platform. Microsoft has done a good job listening to their users and learning from past mistakes with poor usability and functionality of previous versions of their operating system and internet explorer.
One of the biggest issues that Windows faces ( primarily because they are the most widely used system ) is the issue of viruses. The main reason why Windows tends to have more viruses is because it makes more sense for crackers ( the true word for what people call hackers ) to create a malicious program for the most widely used operating system.
What can you use on Windows?
Obviously the answer to this is the vast majority of applications work with Windows. So the issue of compatibility tends to not be a question that people often ask.
Mac OS X
Macs as they are often referred to are best know for the premium look, sleek feel of the hardware and what most would say is a very smooth and easy to use Graphical User Interface or GUI. Apple has been in the computer business since day 1 but until recently didn’t have much market share. Side note: Apple actually released there initial system one year before windows.
Macs have historically not faced the same issues as Windows when it comes to viruses and overall security. Most attribute this to it being based on Unix but in reality it’s because it wasn’t profitable for those who create malicious programs to write them for macs since the market share wasn’t there. Macs still tend to be somewhat more secure but can and have had issues with the operating system and security.
Macs also has a very large collection of applications that can run on it. Most of the main programs you can find on Windows can be used on Macs. Even Microsoft Office makes versions of their applications for Macs. Adobe is another company that makes their programs to run on Macs and Windows. Sorry, Microsoft doesn’t make a version of their office tools for linux and neither does Adobe.
Linux is an Open Source Operating System which means you are free to download and use it on virtually any computer you have either as the only operating system, dual boot system or virtualized system. Unlike Windows that requires you to purchase a license ( except if upgrading from an older version too Windows 10) or Mac OS X that requires you to purchase Apple Hardware ( unless you are building a Hackintosh ), with Linux, you can just head over to your favorite Distro website and download the system and use it.
This makes it very appealing to those who build there own systems or want something different from what everyone else is using. You will also find that Linux is used by developers of various programs and is actually heavily used in Hollywood movie production. Linux is actually the main server solution for Websites on the internet.
Linux is also very secure since again most malicious programmers focus primarily on Windows Systems. That doesn’t mean that Linux is 100% secure though, just that it is more secure than Windows and almost as secure as Macs ( some will say more secure ). It should be noted that no system can ever be 100% secure but it is true that Linux is extremely secure. The past few years have shown that every system has it’s vulnerabilites. Some easier to exploit than others.
What can you use on Linux Systems?
While there are some limitations like no support for Microsofts suite of Office tools or Adobes Creative Suite, Linux actually has an answer for those. You can use Libre Office in place of Microsoft Office and you can use Gimp instead of Photoshop or Inkscape instead of Illustrator. The best part is that these programs are all free to use.
How hard is it to use Linux?
Depending on the distribution you use, it can either be very very easy to use or very complex. If you want a similar experience that you are familiar with then Ubuntu is a popular choice. Some other distros might have specific use cases.
Windows, Mac OS X or Linux?
So which system is for you? For general use, you could use either operating system since they all have solutions that meet the needs of almost everyone. You can do creative work on either system or develop websites on either system. The main reason to use a Mac is if you’re developing IOS Applications and the main reason to use Windows is if you’re developing Windows Apps.
Otherwise it really is all about preference. Life long Windows users will find change hard and so would life long Mac users. You will hear people say that one system is better than the other for X reason. Note: since Mac OS X is built only to be used with Apple computers, the system does tend to run smoother than on a typical Personal Computer. This is not really Microsofts fault since each PC Builder uses different quality parts. Also since Linux has so many different distros, some are easier than others to use and you might need drivers for some of your bluetooth devices etc.
Virtualized Systems & Triple Boot Systems
You can actually run all three systems on the same computer if you wanted too. The way to accomplish this is to own a Mac with enough storage and ram so it won’t have any performance issues. You would then need to either run a Virtualization technology like VM Ware, Virtual Box or Triple boot your system which is more advanced and complex. With virtualization technology you can actually run all 3 systems at the same time but with a triple boot system you could only run one system at a time but you get the benefit of utilizing the full resources of your computer for the system thats loaded.
You might never use another operating system than the one you have used since you first purchased your first computer but if you do decide to venture to a new operating system rest assured you do have more than 2 options. Linux use is growing and some of the Distros are very user friendly or made to look and feel similar to Windows and Mac OS X.
The benefit of using linux is it’s a robust system and it’s free. You can build the computer you need or want to very precise specifications and save money at the same time. Take the most expensive Apple Computer for example, the Mac Pro fully decked out is almost $10,000 without a computer monitor. For the same price you could build a more powerful system, have a computer monitor and still probably save a few bucks.
Since I started this artcile by stating that I have used mostly Windows Computers and Macs the question might come up, will I forgoe those solutions in favor of only Linux? The answer is no. I will continue to use all 3 systems but mostly for testing purposes. Since I am a developer, it’s important for me to stay on top of what most people use. But I will say this, I am enjoying using and learning more about linux.