I’ve seen a lot of “computer shop” ads out there pushing Linux as a solution to viruses and spyware. Linux is an open-source operating system designed to compete with Microsoft Windows and has come a long way towards becoming user friendly and less of a nerds-only OS. There are dozens of Linux distributions or flavors out there. The key distinction between flavors has a lot to do with the user experience and the capabilities of the OS. One of the biggest advantages is that most distributions are legitimately free, and the ones that aren’t free are still very reasonably priced – some as low as $50.
For the average user who only wants to check their email and surf the web, Linux can be an excellent solution. For others who want to install additional software and get a little more use out of their computer, it can be a real challenge for Linux to remain a viable solution. There are several applications that are available for installation very easy – in some ways easier than with windows. Many distributions link to an online application repository where you can browse through, find the program you want, and install it. Other programs can be downloaded off a website in a similar way you might download installers for windows, and they can be easily installed. For most of the Linux applications out there, though, some complex command-line operations are required to install/uninstall them. There’s no unified applet in Linux like “Add/Remove Programs” in Windows, but there are a couple that emulate the same functionality to some degree. In some ways, some distributions of Linux could be said to be more user-friendly than Windows, but for someone who’s accustomed to using Windows, any user will take some time to adjust.
The important thing to keep in mind is that Linux isn’t Windows, and it’s unreasonable to expect it to act exactly like Windows. Whether Linux is a viable replacement for an individual is dependent on a lot of factors including their technical knowledge, their tolerance for trying new things, and whether they enjoy gaming. There are some games available on Linux, but the most popular one’s aren’t – at least not out of the box. For just about everything else, there’s a suitable replacement. Linux does have a Windows emulator called Wine, which will let you run some Windows software in Windows. If you’re interested in taking the plunge, many distributions have a live CD/DVD available, so you can have OS running on your computer in a matter of minutes before making any permanent changes to your computer.
Linux has a lot to offer for not a lot of money, but if you’re a computer tech merely pushing Linux on an average user because they won’t have to worry about viruses and spyware, that’s just an admission of failure.