What is Linux?
When talking about technology, be it programming, comparing and purchasing different devices for different tasks, installing software or recommending software to others, a term that may be used is "Linux". Linux, like Windows or Mac OS, is an operating system. An operating system organizes and manages different tasks on your computer. Some of these tasks may include managing the way software is run, how your computer starts or shuts down or how to display different types of media like music and video. While Windows and Mac OS are developed by big corporations, Linux is developed collaboratively by different parties around the world, who do not belong to a sinle organization or company. This not only means that Linux is free, but also that anyone can, at any time, read and modify Linux’s source code. Source code is computer code written to make a computer execute certain tasks. Since Linux is free and open, different variations of this operating system have developed over the years that are tailored to the needs of certain groups of users. This different variations are called "distributions" or distros. While Linux itself is only a very low-level interface to talk to the hardware a computer has, these distributions ship a whole suite of software to an end-user to make it usable for an average consumer. Some of this software can include an interface similar to the desktop of a Windows or Mac OS machine, some text-editing applications or even some media-editing and media-creation software.
Why would anyone use Linux?
While the reasons of why some people use Linux vary widely, there are some reasons which apply to all Linux users, regardless of which distribution they use. Because Linux is so open and under constant development by volunteers from around the world, it is much more secure than Windows or Mac OS. If any security vulnerabilities are found, an update is distributed immeidately and can be installed by a user. This stands in stark contrast to Windows or Mac OS, where users of these systems are dependent on Microsoft or Apple to roll out any updates or security fixces to their users. The second reason also comes from the fact that Linux is open, namely that Linux can, at any time, be adjusted and modified to a user’s needs. This does not mean writing code to modify it, but installing different applications to customize one’s experience of the operating system. The third and final reason is the wide use of package managers on whichever distroa user has installed. A package manager searches and installs software from a secure and properly-tested index of software. These indexes, or repositories (a collection of different applications), are updated with a high frequency and new applications are added constantly. This means that most common tasks, that a user might have been able to do on Windows or Mac OS,can also be completed successfully on a machine running Linux. The use of package manager for managing and installing software makes this task significantly easier than searching the internet for an installer and praying you didn’t just download a virus.
Switching from Windows to Linux
While there is a lot of fear associated with installing a new operating system, modern Linux distros have made the process of getting them installed laughably easy. There are two main considerations that one should make before taking the plunge and installing a distribution of Linux on one’s machine. The first is this: Is the software I like to use on my Windows or Mac OS machine available on Linux also? If it isn’t available, are the similar programs that do the same task for me? The second consideration is to answer the question of which distro suits your use-case best. The first consideration often depends on the second because different distributions use different package managers with different software in their respective repositories. To helpü you answer this question, I shall outline the different types of Linux users and which distributions they use and why ion the next section.
The tiers of Linux users
To understand which software is needed on any system to be usable, we must first understand what a usable system is made up of. The first component two components are the most basic. A kernel and a file system. A kernel is a piece of software that tells different pieces of hardware how to interact with software. Linux is just a kernel at the most basic level. When free and open software is added on top of this kernel to make a system function like Windows or Mac OS, a Linux distribution is the result. The second component, the file system, is the package manager, the different utilities to make, create, edit, and delete files, different other needed applications, and some other things to make the system boot and disdplay something, usually a prompt where a user has to type commands to interact with the computer. The next component is a display server. This piece of software manages user input and what is displayed on your monitor. By itself it can receive events but not do anything. This is where the next piece of software comes in: a display client. This display client comes in many different forms and variations on different distributions but essentially does the same thing on any distribution. This task is to give you, the user, an overview of applicationns, help you interact with these applications and give you the desktop experience you are used to from Windows or Mac OS. There are two main vairations of a display client: The first is called a "desktop environment". A desktop environment gives you everything you might be used to from a Windows desktop system. This includes a small bar with important info like the time or the status of your internet connection. Furthermore, you also get what is called a "window manager". This window manager decides and manages how your windows of your different applications are displayed on your monitor and how they can behave. The final component that a desktop environment gives you is a dock bar. This bar contains an assortment of applications you may want to use or4 do use on a regular basis. The second variation of a display client is called a window manager. You might have noticed that window managers are part of desktop environments. Some people may prefer only using one application at a time and maybe setting a wallpaper. This second variant of a display client is very minimalistic and requires a lot of manual installation and configuration.
Now that we know what makes up a usable system, we can move on to the types of Linux users and which type of user you might be.
The first tier of Linux user is the person who would like as much of a Windows-like experience as possible. This user might want distributions like Ubuntu, Linux Mint, Pop_OS!, or Majaro. All of these distributions come with a pre-installed desktop environment. Most things are managed for you and these distributions are geared towards people who want a stable and easy experience. One of the draw-backs with these distributions is that you cannot customize as much you can on other distributions in the next two tiers.
The second tier consists of users that are slightly more advanced and would like to tinker more with their system. While the distributions for users in this tier are similar to those in the previous tier, these distributions allow users to pick and choose which software hey would like for their system at install time and also allow users to change the way they use their desktop drastically after they installed thewir system. Users in this tier might want to consider distributions like Void Linux, Garuda Linux, Archcraft or Debian Linux.
The final tier of users are the advanced users who want to tweak and cusotmize their system asd much as possible. These users install a system without a display server and just a command prompt to give commands to the computer. While this type of user can customize their system exactly to their preference and liking, this approach also can be very prone to problems and sometimes be very difficult and take very long. Users in this tier often use distributions like Arch Linux, Gentoo, or similar minimal distributions.
What I use and why
At the time of writing, I fall into the last tier. I used to use a desktop environment but qwuickly discovered that I prefer my system to be as minimal as possible. I currently use Arch Linux and the Hyprland window manager. Not only is this setup very easy on my ancient computer but also runs quite reliably most of the time. My main reason for switching was that I discovered that Windows was spying on my usage habits and spying on my activities. For this reason, I switched to first Garuda Linux and the later to Arch Linux. If you’re curious what that looks like, here’s a screenshot of my current desktop:
Should you use Linux?
The short answer to this question should be a resounding "Yes!". If you value your privacy, would like to customize your experience and the way you use your computer and want to or need to use a secure system, I can only recommend a Linux-based system. Which desktop environment you use and which distribution you use, you have to research and decide. The purpose of this post was supposed to be to give you an easy and detailed introduction to this family of operating systems. If you do not want to use a desktop environment and instead want to use a minimal system, I have my configuration files backed up to my GitHub for anyone to copy, use, and customize. You can find that here.
I hope you enjoyed this blog post and I shall be posting on other lifestyle topics every Monday. If you want to keep up-to-date on anything I’m working on, make sure you follow me on Instagram or if you want to support my musical efforts, check out my YoutTube channel and/or MixCloud channel.