In last couple of years Linux has established itself very well in the server market.However, when it comes to desktops most people still prefer other operating systems over linux. This article talks about the various advantages of linux as a desktop and specifically talks about Linux as a desktop for developers and system administrators. Unlike other advocacy articles, no stress would be given to the fact that linux is free. Neither does this article try to bash other operating systems such as M$ Windoze. All operating systems have their benefits and we must appreciate the developers who have developed an entire OS. It is not a very easy task to develop an OS. All developers have the right to ask for money for the work they do. They also have the right to keep the code with them.
Lesser resource usage. With the costs of hardware going cheaper by the day this is one feature not many individuals are bothered about. It common practice to change a computer every 10-12 months. In corporates where the number of boxes are large, this can become a considerable overhead. Each extra month with the same box means more savings. In our organization for example we were able to increase the average life of a computer from 9-10 months to 14-18 months.
How does linux help in increasing the life of a computer? Most operating systems bring out a major update every 2 years. And linux is no exception. And with each new update comes in a lot of new features and unfortunately a higher bloat value. This bloat makes the new Operating system slower on the present hardware, leading to a hardware upgrade. With Linux too, all major distros update regularly and make the operating system more bloated. However, this is where one of the biggest benefits of open source comes in. We have access to the code. For a desktop, recompiling the kernel, X-windows and the desktop environment (KDE, Gnome) can do wonders. One can recompile the code for the specific processor, video card etc. This optimizes the OS to run on the specific hardware. This also, allows us to remove support for all hardware which we do not have. It reduces the bloat to a large extent. If Windows was free code it would have had the same advantage. Unfortunately it does not have that benefit so we would have to continue to run Windows which supports hardware that we do not have.
Most operating systems work from 80386 onwards. This means that they do not take the specific advantages of the newer processors because they have to make the system backward compatible. Thus a newer hardware just means 386 instructions executed at a faster speed. When we compile a program specifically for a processor it uses most of the instructions of the processor which make it faster. For example, the newer processors come with instructions for multimedia apps etc. (MMX). This considerably increases the processing speeds of multimedia apps.
Linux has also proven to be a robust, stable, reliable and secure operating system. This means that linux is not affected by worms, spy ware, virus etc. which has turned out to be a major problem for most Windoze users in the corporate world these days. The worst a person can do is spend most of his time in the office reinstalling the OS after his computer is effected by a virus or a worm. Many useful man hours and money is lost in just reinstalling.Linux too has it share of virus and worms but it can effect only the users files not the entire system. Given below is an portion of wonderful blog on this subject.
Any program on a Linux box, viruses included, can only do what the user who ran it can do. Real users aren’t allowed to hurt the system (only the root user can), so neither can programs they run. Because of the distinction between privileged (root-run) processes and user-owned processes, a “hostile” executable that a non-root user receives (or creates) and then executes (runs) cannot “infect” or otherwise manipulate the system as a whole. Just as you can delete only your own files (i.e., those you have “write” permission to), executables you run cannot affect other users’ (or root’s) files. Therefore, although you can create (or retrieve), and then run, a virus, worm, trojan horse, etc., it can’t do much. Unless you do so as “root”. Which it’s simple to avoid doing.
One of the most talked about advantage of Linux is that LINUX IS FREE. That still the number one reason to migrate to Linux for many. Being free means that there is no per user licence for all the software as well. For example, with windows you get a terminal server. But that has a 5 user licence limit. This means that the cost is not of the OS alone. But along with it every application costs. And each time the work environment is duplicated on another machine you spend the same amount of money. With time the software is upgraded and the files from the new applications would not work on the older versions. The users are forced to upgrade. This process can always increase the overall costs the organization has to absorb in. Hence, with most commerical operating systems the cost is never a one time cost.
Linux allows users to create an easy to manage network. Consider this with NFS (network file system), NIS (Network Information system) and DHCP (dynamic host configuration protocol) one can setup a lovely roaming profile system, where all the user information is stored on the server including his desktop. So the user can technically sit on any computer in the office and get his entire data and desktop. This makes it convinient for the users. And from the administrators point of view they need to manage just the servers to control the entire data backup, maintainance etc. Linux also has a wonderful system to allow remote access. One can use SSH to access the entire system via a text based secure shell or even use X-Windows for those who prefer a GUI to access a system remotely.
Note – This article is also published on linuxgazette :)