Linux Users: Why Did You Switch?

As a Linux Journal editor, I'd love to claim that in my college years I realized the oppression stemming from proprietary operating systems. I'd love to confess that Linux was the natural choice amongst a sea of other options. Heck, I'd even like to say back then Linux was my first choice. For me, however, the story played out a bit differently.

I was just plain old poor. In 1994, I started a computer repair business. I had failed Econ the previous semester at Michigan Tech, so you can imagine how successful my computer business was. It turns out, I didn't like charging people to help them with their problems. Much of my "profit" contained chocolate chips, and for some reason, I'd take people's old broken computers instead of charging labor. (Again, "PowerNet Computer Services" didn't last very long)

So the next year, I enrolled into a local community college. This was both because it was close to my "business", and because university was too expensive. It was during this time I started building computers from all the parts I'd taken as payment. It was also this time that I started using Linux. The price was right, and my Unix experience made Linux a viable option. I fell in love very quickly, and what started as merely a cheap way to learn about *nix developed into skills that would form my future career on several fronts. Thanks Linux!

So now it's your turn. Why are you a Linux user?


Shawn Powers is a Linux Journal Associate Editor. You might find him on IRC, Twitter, or training IT pros at CBT Nuggets.


Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.

Linux cravings made me do it

Raymond Koekemoer's picture

I love stories on how sensible people came to Linux!

When my dad died in 2001 I decided to continue running the family business and soon realised that most of the software used to run the company was "pirated". The costs of "legalising" would be massive and outweigh the value of the software. I did some googling and soon realised that Linux and open source software would do the trick. I started using Linux on my personal PC at home and loved every second of it.

The family sold the company before we could implement Linux completely but as it turns out I now make a living helping other companies onto Linux and open source software. I still love every second of it!

Why I switched to Linux

V. T. Eric Layton's picture

I had always been curious and interested in Linux, but never made the attempt to learn it until around 2006, when MS crashed my XP system for the fourth time in three years by installing a patch. I wiped the system, created multiple partitions on my drives, and commenced to try as many GNU/Linux distros as I could fit on the drives. After much learning and experimentation, I settled on Slackware as my primary operating system, with Debian as my backup. I also have Arc, Arch, Centos, and Gentoo on my system... just to play with. I keep SLAX and Puppy on flash drives for when I'm not at home. I LOVE GNU/LINUX! :)


V. T. Eric Layton


mortsahl's picture

I switched to Linux because I got tired of paying the Microsoft tax only to get more and more viruses, trojans and all sorts of nasty things.


Anonymous's picture

Needed utilities such as SSH or Apache for school. Also Linux installs all the software you need at once, no serial numbers either.

However, right now I'm a little disheartened with it because Firefox is making my computer stall due to some bug with the flash plugin. So, I guess Linux has some of the same downsides as windows.

Bottom line: Linux is not better than Windows and it isn't worse, either.

Why I switched to Linux

Mr.Huge's picture

I too used to have an unsuccessful computer business. I had a son who got bit by the Linux bug before I did. He helped me set up my first Linux server running Gentoo. When I read the Vista EULA and figured that I would need to upgrade my hardware just so I could run the @%$& thing, I looked over in the corner at my server. It was happily chugging away 24/7 without a hitch and I decided that was it. Man, was that a steeeeeppp learning curve for someone my age. But I muddled through it and within 6 months every computer in my home was Linux. It was a good day when I took all the Windows software I had and donated it to the younger folks where I work. They were happy and I was happy to be rid of it.

PS That old Athlon Gentoo machine is still running in the corner I just don't use it as a production machine anymore.

Mostly by accident :-)

nekr0z's picture

I was a student back those days, and a poor one, too. One unhappy day I spilled a glass of orange juice on a laptop I had, so the machine was taken to servicemen. Maybe it's Fujitsu, maybe it's Russia, but they had to wait for replacement parts for 5 months, so I had to find some spare machine — I needed a computer badly for my studies. The a friend of mine asked me to look what happened to his laptop, and left it to me while he was on a vacation. That laptop had a dead hard disk, but I found that it was still possible to use it with Knoppix. That was great, I was able to do almost all I needed, and I didn't even need a HDD for that!

By the time my friend returned and took his laptop back from me, I had a little money to buy a fairly old machine. I didn't feel like using Win98 on it, nor I wanted to spend money on license, so I installed Linux and went on using it. And when my laptop was finally repaired and I got it back, it only took a couple of days to realize that I was no longer comfortable with Windows. I use Linux ever since, though I no longer have that laptop and am no poor student anymore.

good luck

Anonymous's picture

I switched after taking a computer science class last year in college where we used Fedora Core 6? (I think). Since then I have been slowly moving my personal computers over to linux and just love the options to do whatever I want. There aren't many things that I can't do in Ubuntu that I could do in windows. Plus, I am always tinkering with the computers and it gives me the ability to wipe hard drives and re-install whenever I like.

Windows is plain crap

Hector's picture

My first PC was a Compaq with WindowsXP which never worked the way it was supossed to. I lost stuff because of this PC several times, after 6 months I decided to buy another PC one more time WindowsXP, same crap, after some months the PC would crash then I realised the problem was Windows not the computers.
I found about Linux I made some research began with Linspire which didn't like me, then I found about Ubuntu (5.10) and everything is perfect since then.
Around a year ago I buy a laptop which had Windows Vista, it crashed hours after the first boot, I was going to install Ubuntu on it and erase Windows anyway but that's another example of Windows "great stability and powerful features".
Linux is the best, security, stability, powerful features plus is free, did I forget something?

Why I switched

Anonymous's picture

I never really used Windows much. Back in the early 90's I was running a medical office using SCO Xenix on 286's, then 386's. It had terminals hanging off the server with serial cables. By Y2K time, I was forced to either go with SCO Unix or Linux. It was the LTSP project that sold me on Linux. We were cash poor at the time, and I was able to buy the server very cheaply, and the diskless workstations cost me only $250 plus a monitor each.

And I haven't looked back ever since.

The switch for freedom

Anonymous's picture

I'm using computers since more than 25 years. I tried everything, I allways been very curious! I discovered and falled in love with Linux in 1998 after reading a french PC magazine. The magazine included a CD with Slackware 3.0. I tried it at the office, learning it the hard way: it took me close to 3 months (a few minutes on my diner time) just to make Metro X server working! I spent times to learn the CLI and to compiled my kernel to get FAT32 support with the 2.0.28 kernel version (if I'm not wrong).

I was so upset with Windows and mostly with the license scheme. I was looking to free my PC and I did it using Linux! What a long way in 10 years and how amazing is the path of quality followed by libre software!

Why I switched to Ubuntu

Anonymous's picture

I read the Windows Vista EULA and decided that I did not want Microsoft in my future.

What a Stupid Question!

sk43999's picture

I never switched from anything. I conducted a legitimate "bake-off". I was in search of a solution - needed a portable computer that would connect to the Unix machines back at the office. OS/2 failed. Win 3.1 failed. Mac ... well, the machine was D.O.A. Linux worked. It still works. That is why I still use Linux today.

For me, it began with a love

seoirse's picture

For me, it began with a love for dabbling with things. Already as a child I would go to BIOS and, little knowing what I was doing, change the various settings, infallibly rendering the computer unusable of course. This passion for breaking things by experimenting with them carried on, and as a long time Windows user, I've had plenty of chances to do that (especially the breaking part - nothing like registry editing for the good ol' BSOD).

The decisive moment came some six years ago, after I had a particularly bad stroke of "Windows optimisation" (oxymoronic as it is) and "desktop customisation"; I did manage to slim my system directories to some 500 MB *and* make them look good at the same time (via Serious Samurize, Aston Shell and the like), but it wasn't long to discover that this time I'd broken my system for good. To top it, one of my HDDs chose to fail at that moment, taking with it not only my music collection, but most of the installed software.

So there was I, with a system good only for a fresh reinstall, hard disk without any filesystem or boot sector to talk of (I did manage to recover most of the data later on by reconstructing the FAT pretty much by hand), and with a still unquenched thirst for playing with things - what did I have to lose? So, I booted up a Fedora (version 1) CD.

That didn't work so great, and managed to wreak havok on what was left of my MBR. It didn't put me off, though, so I browsed through some forums and was left off with a strong conviction that everything was my fault because I trusted the user-friendly tools instead of configuring things manually. So, with a masochistic pleasure, I switched to Gentoo.

Gentoo was a revelation. Not for the "desktop customisation" part - I never got X to work properly in that first install - but for the "playing and breaking things" one, definitely. I was God. I could do anything and everything. (Though I still wonder how I got past downloading updates on dialup and compiling them on a 300MHz AMD.) The whole system was there for my taking, nicely lined up in text configuration files. When I needed things done, I would boot Windows. When I had some time on my hands, I would go Gentoo, launch X and succeed or fail, depending on the weather probably, or the phase of the moon - in short, have fun.

That first install stayed with me for a year or so, until my replacement HDD followed suit of its predecessor and wiped it out. I've had a brief gap then, being too busy to constantly repair things, and actually lived quite comfortably with my Windows XP.

Then, I bought a new laptop, and from the start I knew that I would dual-boot. After some reading, and a couple of live (or not-so-live) CDs (these still live on my shelf, as a vestige of the times when Ubuntu was only an obscure African word), I settled on SuSE Linux. Boy, what I change it was compared to my early days (though, all respect due - I still use Gentoo on one of my servers). I could actually have a graphical environment. And graphical tools. And it worked (more or less, at least).

openSUSE is with me to this day. So is Windows, I'm ashamed to confess (there is always one program or another that I absolutely have to use, no replacements allowed, and that doesn't work under Wine). However, each time I have to switch to the MS thing, I'm actually surprised. I really like, or used to like, Windows. But, coming from Linux, it's so... ugly. Illogical. Unmaintainable. Uncustomisable. Bloated in design. Poor in built-in features. Designed for idiots, by idiots*. Sorry, Microsoft. I'd really want to be friends - but you put me off each time I try. I've found a new love now.

* Well, perhaps not really, but I cannot resist the slogan ;)


d80zoom's picture

As a home computer user, I was totally fed up with paying for a product that was unstable. Usually within 6-8 months, windows would crash and I would have to go through the reinstallation blues. There were also too many security issues, and then you have to buy A/V programs and then buy a subscription to stay up to date.

The last straw was the way that microsoft was forcing people to buy vista, which only worked on new hardware, but there were too many driver issues. So the product looks good, but was not ready in real life. You want me to actually pay for that crap?

This situation got me looking into Linux, and then I settled on Ubuntu. I learned as much as I could, installed it, and am totally happy. Open Office is great, security and virus issues are not much of a problem and it is all free. And my computer appears to run faster with out all of the bloatware, and I have more space on my drive. I have also been running for about a year with no problems. No BSOD, No screen freezes. No BS. Just a better system that actually works as intended. I will never go back to windows no matter what they do.

Why this MCSE switched--several reasons

Sum Yung Gai's picture

There are several reasons why I switched.

1.) Like most MCSE's, I was scared to death of anything that looked like UNIX. Therefore, the only way to deal with that was to jump in head first! I got myself a copy of Red Hat Linux and taught myself how to do it. Turned out to be no harder than learning the *proper, correct* way to do Windows NT (you know, actually *study* what you're doing!).

2.) I could do penetration testing a lot better and faster with Linux. The TCP/IP stack on even Windows NT was lacking (only 255 open connections at once, not good for port scans).

3.) StarOffice 5.2 was way more stable on Linux than Windows. Yeah, I actually liked StarOffice. :-)

4.) Microsoft started attacking schools in 2002. That was the last straw, you just don't attack schools as far as I'm concerned. See this link:

But the last reason is the most important:

5.) I know I'm computing in true freedom, no DRM, no shutting down my hardware 'cause Microsoft/Hollywood doesn't like it (yeah, that happened to me, Vista shut down my DVD burner). RMS may be eccentric as hell, but he's also right.

Free Software all the way for me.


Switch to Linux? Well of course!!!

Fritz's picture

There were two problems with Windows. Cost to play and security.

Played with a TRS-80, Apple II series, and the Texas Instruments 994A when I was a kid. Cool in their day. Grew up, left for the Navy and when I got out the P100 PCs were current tech. Couldn't play with Mom's computer b/c she worried something would break and she'd have to pay for it. 10 years later that computer was given away with very low hours on it b/c she was too scared to use it.

I started out with Win3.1 and worked my way up to Vista two months ago. I either owned it (hand-me downs) or ran it on computers. Always bargain bin shopping. Always a version or two out of date.

Whatever the case I am proud to say I never bought Windows or a computer with Windows on it. VBG!

In about 2004 I was running XP at home, learning its ins and outs and generally satisifed with it. Then the XP world turned upside down for a little while with friends, family and coworkers complaining of viruses, trojans, ad-ware, etc. It seemed everyday at work I was cleaning up a coworker's computer or cleaning a floopy or zip disc of viruses. Every visit to family meant I needed to travel with software to clean their computers of problems and educate them on safe computing practices (firewall, virus scanners, etc).

Then the hackers hit my home machine with a virus... I could not fix the computer b/c it would restart constantly. Finally I saved all of my data and reformatted. I reinstalled XP and went to download my favorite free virus scanner and caught something again before I could complete the download. I was tired of this.

About this same time my own interests and curiosities were growing. I wanted to know how to use fax software, I wanted to learn some HTML, I wanted to make PDFs, I wanted to edit pictures and video, etc. Each one of these represented new software costs. I knew exactly how to obtain them from the 'net for free by cheating but I didn't like that route. It was one thing to try a software title but another to keep on using it.

Around this time I found OpenOffice. WOW! A project with alot of promise. I kept waiting for the final print to kick in. It would expire. No. It would mature and then start charging. No. Microsoft would sue them. No. Ad-ware? No! Spyware? No!

Wow... What else is out there like this and free?

Back in 1997 or so a very computer savvy friend had shown me an early Linux desktop. It was good looking but the effort to make it work was huge. I got on the 'net after I found mention of Linux on the OpenOffice site and started reading about Linux. I read everything I could get my hands on.

I didn't want to be a Linux programmer but I did want to be able to install and use it easily. I wanted to be able to trouble shoot it easily. I wanted the same Linux skills that I had developed with Windows. I wanted to be bilingual.

I had found a possible alternative to Windows! First came dual booting. Then came dual booting and ignoring Windows. Then Mandriva Linux became my only OS at home.

Today we dual boot again ONLY b/c our boys want to play some store bought games. The funny thing is despite some interesting software on the Windows side, my boys use the Linux side 99.5% of the time.

It's been two weeks since we played anything Windows based.

I still have an old Win98 based laptop (RAM for it is expensive and it really doesn't do well even on PuppyLinux). At work my desktop is Windows XP but I am moving it to Linux next week. We have many server level machines running Linux and an increasing number of Linux desktops. I have an older Toshiba TabletPC which I have put Linux on and I use it for a variety of things including showing people Linux for the first time.

I am so amazed what the open-source community has been able to accomplish in a decade working together for the simple pleasure of sharing software. Of course there have been some big players but look at what we get for free!

I spend alot of time these days telling folks young and old, students and professionals, about open source software so they don't drop $500+ on the Microsoft cash-cows to do homework and send e-mails.

I recently converted Mom and Dad over to Firefox after Internet Explorer (and thus XP) had been infected with ad-ware and a virus. It's a first step. Next comes Thunderbird and maybe someday I can get her to use OpenOffice. Maybe she'll get an "upgrade" (to OpenOffice) when she gets tired of her old MS office.

I recently converted a room full of Vista machines to XP b/c Vista was too cludgy and slow. Brand new HP workstations struggling along! The Vista GUI just complicates the user experience IMHO.

Oh, and that old desktop I first switched over to Linux years back? It's still our primary computer and still plenty fast for everything we need to do. I can edit pics, make PDFs, edit music and video, play games, - in short do everything and more than I ever did with Windows for free. Never had a virus since (though it has been the virus scanner for a few badly mangled Windows hard drive and thumb keys for friends and family).

I'll never go back to Microsoft. Ever. Neither will my family. Several friends have ditched Microsoft too. I don't want Microsoft to go away and I don't think they will but I'd like them to play fair ball and be 25% of the market more or less instead of all of the market. There will always be people who like the "interactive" Microsoft experience which is just another version of the AOL experience. Both companies in their own way steer consumers down an advertising laden path that requires frequent upgrades and planned obsolesce. Let us steer you to our portals where we will try new ways to entice you to buy our stuff. Our browser, our e-mail programs, our media players, our internet partnerships (who want your money).

I've seen enough of their business style that I don't want to do business with them (among other big corporations). I don't want to prove I'm the paying customer when I use their software either. I also don't like the license agreements that tell me I'm not the owner of the software that I paid for either...

Long Live Open-Source and Linux software!!!

NOT YET switched

riccardo's picture

writing this in VISTA.
Began in Atari STE and Dos
year 2000 tried red hat but had and still have music notation Dictionaries and photo archiving programs that still won-t run under WINE (as far as I can tell)
Now have EEEPC in linux and very happy.
If ever I can make thumbsplus quickscore ultralingua and lingvosoft run under linux I will be 100% linux

One Word -- Win95

PenguinPower's picture

I switched out of frustration. I started university in fall of '95. Windows 95 had just dropped, and I had a shiny new pentium class computer (with 32 megs of ram!!!).

Anyhow, the means of connecting to the main campus system was dialup. Which meant that I got very familiar with Trumpet WinSock. That hellacious piece of craptacular crap lead me to reconnecting a dropped line like every 5 mins. It's super annoying to have your line drop every five mins, especially when you have a programming assignment to compile and finish.

So when talking to the campus networking guys about my networking problems, they said they offered a "slip" connection, but it could only be used by a "linux" or "unix" machine. Since all the work I was doing was on HPUX, it seemed like a great option.

After installing linux, my line stayed fine for hours at a time. Never needed windows after that.

I always make the comparison to cars: windows is the shiny mercedes with leather interior, climate control, bells, whistles, and everything designed for your comfort. Linux is the Mack truck: just a seat, pedals, and gear shift. You can add the CB radio, GPS tracking devices, etc. Your in control, but it's kinda intimidating at first.


Mike's picture

When I first started using the unix command line in programming class was when I fell in love with unix. It's so much better and more powerful than dos. It's also so much easier to program on a linux platform than a windows one. Where the hell did all this crap come from.

My old platform became obsolete

Doug Winter's picture

I switched to Linux because my previous platform, RISC OS, had become obsolete. I mean, I had to switch to something, right?

I switched for free as in freedom

cainmark's picture

A friend had tried to get me to use Red Hat, and I tried it just to see if I could learn anything (thanks to my ATI card and no knowledge of drivers at the time, no-I'm an end-user).

I had WinXP and it soon started giving me the BSOD every 2 days. I ran out of room on my 40 Gig hard drive, which was large at that time, and couldn't figure out how my few things were taking so much space. Deleted a lot, found out about spyware and viruses then rebooted after cleaning it. Then I found I had to reinstall some programs. After each install of a program I had to reboot, and reboot and I got sick of it, frankly. My data was backed up, but I couldn't use any of my programs from my backups without completely re-installing them. I'm an end user, not a technician.

June 2006 and I come across a post about Ubuntu Dapper (I can't remember where exactly , but it definitely wasn't a news or tech site-I'm pretty sure it was a site about the constructed language Esperanto.) I downloaded the live cd, tried it-and loved it. mainly that I could customize everything. For free. Without a separate costly program. I put Ubuntu on my second hard drive and got my GRUB to boot straight into ubuntu. I kept WinXP for video editing. Now with KDEnlive on GNU/Linux my video editing needs are fulfilled. The only reason I keep WInXP now is because my Knology cable/internet/phone bundle requires I have a Windows machine or a Mac for service. I hardly use that hard drive at all anymore, and am only keeping it for a service contract for my interner.

p.s.-I prefer the book scanning captcha.

Let's keep it short

Paul_one's picture

I read halfway, most of them seem too long.

My history in computers star very young through the spectrum ZX/QL, to the Atari, and a few poor PC's.

I was a windows 'power-user', and needed to customize as much as I could to become 'efficient'. Yet still there were aspects that I couldn't change. Wrote a few batch scripts and used the command line frequently (for a windows user).

I had fooled about with Linux before (around the 2000-mark) but had found it a little hard to understand.
Then the second Fedora release came about, I messed about and dual-installed it, found out that where I worked used Centos and actually cobbled together an old via CPU, 4 gigs HDD, and a 300w PSU, stuck them all together on a workbench (no case) and started to install linux on it (the hardware gave up after 2 days).
Then I started working as a Unix administrator Trainee, learnt in leaps and bounds about different unix systems, used window's less and less as I found using Linux more natural.

I think the key point to get here is that, even in the windows world, I was not content with "oh, that works".. I would like to know HOW it worked, or didn't work. WHY it was like that. But I would also like to switch and experiment and do something else to see what it was like, and THAT is what switched me to Linux. The ease at which you can 'do what you want'.

I just blogged about my switch to Linux

DazzlinDonna's picture

I just blogged about this yesterday on (see post entitled How And Why I Made The Switch From Vista To Linux (Ubuntu / Kubuntu). My reasoning is not very different from yours, although the timing is very different. (Note that I just recently switched).

I switched because...

Xakh's picture

I'd tried Ubuntu once before and liked it, and then again I'd tried Kubuntu, I'd had mixed results, but it was fun enough. I had been thinking about it for months on my desktop, but then I got a laptop. It had Vista. I tried playing with it for a couple of weeks, I thought the os couldn't be as bad as the hype. I was right! it was worse. Frustrated, I turned to Ubuntu, the one I'd tried before. I ran it, it worked, and I've been a user for about four months, and never been happier with a portable system.

Wanted Unix on my PC

Anonymous's picture

I came up from an Apple ][+ to a DOS based Z-100 in college. I got a PC compatible 286 my senior year ('87-88). My roomate let me use his Unix account on a Gould and Usenet.

I was also into the shareware world on DOS. For my papers, I used LaTeX on DOS and VMS. It worked well. I had heard of a card you could get for the Z100 to run unix.

After college, I took some C classes & tried to learn lex, yacc, awk, vi, emacs, gnuplot and GNUish apps. I kept hitting the limitations of DOS. I also got exposed to Macintosh System 7 which had fewer RAM limits.

I got a copy of Minix, thinking it'd be close to real unix. I patched & remade the whole thing. But I ran into the 64K I/D of the 8088 on my 286 still.

I finally got a 486 and OS/2. Now I could run a DOS Emacs w/o the RAM limits of DOS. In OS/2, I could get better GNU utilities.

Then Dr. Dobbs ran a series on 386BSD so I downloaded that. It wouldn't boot. OS/2 had a similar issue. I downloaded SLS 1.03(?) with Linux 0.95pl3 and it worked. My LaTeX and Emacs worked.

I've been mainly Unix ever since. I got a Unix sysadmin job with SunOS, Solaris, MacOS, DOS, Irix, HP/UX, AIX, Ultrix. Usually I had Solaris on my desk, but at home I always had Linux.

What made me switch?

Anonymous's picture

When I was in college, I only had an HP Pavilion with 64 MB of RAM and WinME, which I used to do most of my homework. I wanted to be able to produce PDF files so that I could print homework out at school (No printer at home, cost too much $) before submitting it. Word2k at school did a horrible job of preserving the formatting on my essays and code, so PDF seemed like a viable option. Trouble was, Acrobat Pro was too expensive, and to top it off, my PC was nowhere near powerful enough to accomodate even a pirated version (If I knew how to get one, which I did not know). I tried many freeware tools before I read somewhere on the 'Net about Cygwin, a UNIX-like environment for Windoze. Supposedly it was possible to install some *nix tools under Cygwin that allowed me to produce PDFs for free. Messing with Cygwin taught me about the need for X11, and other stuff that had to be working first, before any PDFs could be produced. It was a lot of work, so I researched Linux distros, which were supposedly available for free, and provided all the tools I needed already pre-configured. I considered RedHat, Slackware, Debian, and Yellow Dog before settling on Mandrake, which seemed the easiest to me. It installed without bitching about lack of power, and I was able to do far more than simple PDFs with it - I was able to mess with Apache, Java, PHP, and MySQL - all running at the same time, to boot! X11 was not too stable, so I did have to reinstall a few times, but I was OK with that. So, I guess what prompted the switch was the ability to do stuff that Windows will not let me do for whatever reason. Sure, I eventually learned that there are technical reasons for WinME to not let me run MySQL properly, but that was a WinME problem (Processor and memory management), not really a hardware problem.

I can't necessarily say I've

Anonymous's picture

I can't necessarily say I've switched to Linux, because I still keep windows around for games and work (Fairly soon I should be starting to develop some Windows software, and for that I prefer to work in Windows) but I will say that if I'm not doing that stuff, I'm in Linux.

I started using computers with an old Tandy 1000 computer my dad bought from Radio Shack. He got all the bells and whistles too, joystick, 20MB HD, dual 5.25 disk drives, the works. This ran DOS 3.3 and all was good.

Sometime later I had a 286 with a 4-color display, it ran DOS something and was OK (the 4 color display killed me since I was a gamer by now)

Much later my dad bought me a 486DX4 133mhz. It ran Win3.1 and Win95. Win3.1 was good, W95 was NOT.

I had BSODs a lot, flaky home network (oh yeah, we had a spiffy 2-computer network), and worst of all to me was a loss of control. I missed the oldschool “open text editor, edit option” way of doing things and despised (still do!) the Windows Registry.

By then I still hadn't heard about Linux. That came around 1998 when my local Costco was selling boxed copies of Mandrake Linux 6.1 for $20. This intrigued me, so when I got home I hooped on the internet (blazingly fast 14.4 dial-up) and did some research. Hallelujah! A couple weeks later I scrounged up $20 and bought it. It came in a box with 3 disks and a small manual ( I no longer have the manual or box)

I got home, formatted my PC and installed Linux.

Total failure. This was back when Linux as a seriously viable desktop OS we in its infancy and lacked the hardware support it has now. Add to that all the “research” I did was about Linux WAS not how to USE it. So I put Linux aside, putting the disks in the box and such, reformatted and ran crying back to Windows. But that was enough. From then on I vowed to lean Linux and leave forever the Microsoft monopoly.

Eventually, I learned and as I did I progressed further and further away from the GUI-driven nature of Linux, wanting instead to understand how things worked under the hood. I went from Mandrake to SUSE to Red Hat (7.1) but all of these were determined to hide from me the guts of the OS, and blur my understanding of the underlying principles behind Linux.

Then I discovered Slackware. At last, I had found a distro that presented me with a basic operating system but expected me to configure it. Perfect! I learned lots at Slackware's knee, things like the fact that Linux was “POSIX compliant” and most all of the software was “Free as in speech” in addition to the more practical stuff like where my configuration files lived and how to compile my kernel.

One thing still bugged me. Packages. For some reason, I had this paranoid fear that software packages were evil and that all software should be compiled from scratch.

Enter Gentoo. This OS gave me much more control than even Slackware had since it let me compile my software from scratch and let me st up my compiler options and EVERYTHING!

I used Gentoo for years and was happy. Then I got a job and no longer have time to sit and wait for Gentoo to compile updates and stuff, so now I decided to try Kubuntu because Ubuntu is all the rage but I don't like GNOME.

I'm still using it and I'm currently attempting to install it on a new 500gb portable drive I bought so I can plug it in to my USB port and boot Kubuntu using my bios “Boot from USB drive” option

Okay that as a lot longer than I expected, sorry!

Why I switched to linux

Anonamoose's picture

Really it was (at first) just because I was bored at work, and thought back to the time when my CS majoring roommate was talking about this RedHat thing back in 1999. I thought to myself, well linux is free (as in beer) so why not give a livecd a shot. Tried out knoppix, then ubuntu, then sabayon. Now I have been totally and completely windows free (at home) for nearly two years. I use Sabayon linux (gentoo-based) and I am constantly frustrated now that I am in charge of our IT admin here at my small law firm with windows. Why can't I just image my server and install that image on a new server? Oh license, blah blah, CAL, blah blah, purchase, blah, thousands of dollars, blah, won't actually work right. GOD I HATE windows, especially in the server room. If we weren't tied to an MS only time/billing software I would make us change the server over to linux immediately. As others have said, came for the free as in beer, stayed for the free as in FREEDOM (cue Mel Gibson death scene).

Linux At work.

Douglas E's picture

Have you tried running this Windows only software on Ubuntu with wine? I have found that often it will run faster and better under wine. Also look at the pay wine helper stuff. Just take the software home or use an old laptop to test it out before you show it off to the boss.

I switched because: It was

Anonymous's picture

I switched because:

It was free(as in free beer), so if I didn't like, there was no problem. Besides, commercial options were often expensive(unless using illegal copies, of course)

Of course, I enjoy freedom, but that's not why I switched. I also used Firefox and OpenOffice so I thought it'd be a little easier to switch.

I came for the money, I stay for the freedom.

Josiah Ritchie's picture

I came for the money, I stay for the freedom.

I also stay for the power, flexibility, speed of innovation, maturity and a whole bunch of other reasons, but they don't all fit in a nice sound byte. :-)

I switched because of many

Anonymous's picture

I switched because of many reasons:

1) My job required the use of Solaris, so I was familiar with and enjoyed using the Unix command line. I found Windows increasingly frustrating in its unwillingness to accomodate the command line power user (DOS shell: blech, UNIX shell/Perl/gawk: yum). To be fair, using Cygwin on Windows makes life tolerable, but it is still limiting.

2) I wanted freedom from worrying about viruses and spyware and having to pay companies to provide anti-virus/anti-spyware software that only provided a leaky band-aid solution to a fundamentally flawed security model.

3) I didn't want to have to upgrade my PC every time a new version of Windows came out because my hardware is too underpowered.

4) I wanted my wife or I or anyone else in the house to be able to log into any PC in the house (I've had as many as 4 running at the same time) and see the same files in their /home/ directory they see on every other computer. With Linux, using NFS makes it trivially easy to share a /home drive over the whole network so there is no extra configuration to be done in the e-mail client or any other program. Doing this on Windows is a major pain, because you'd have to setup a shared drive, then mess with the e-mail client settings and your music player settings to get them to default to the shared drive, and you'd have to migrate the existing files to the new share.

5) I wanted control over my own computer.

Long history with "real" OSs

Anonymous's picture

I practically grew up with real multi-user operating systems: TOPS-10, RSX-11M+, TOPS-20, VMS, UNIX. These operating systems come from a culture where many users might be using the same computer at the same time, and by gosh, something that YOUR program does had better not mess up what MY program is doing. This idea has carried forward to Linux.

When I started working with PCs, of course, they ran DOS and Windows, which seemed fine for a "personal" computer where just one person used the machine, so, go ahead an do whatever you want. We know now, of course, that that paradigm is badly broken in an age of networked computers and people (or programs) what will blindly execute any bit code that comes by. While Windows has improved, that culture still persists.

And that's why I shun Windows whenever possible in favor of UNIX, Linux, and VMS. Linux is, of course, a cost-effective option for my personal machines.

The penguin and I

Alessandro's picture

I first heard of Linux back in 1999 and I just my first laptop, which came with Windows 98 preinstalled. For me, at that time, it was normal that a computer hang or crashed or rebooted. I asked a friend of mine, whom I knew to be an IT engineer in a Swiss scientific calculation centre, if there were any problems whith my new laptop or if the issues I was experiencing were plain normal. He listened, smiled, and said: I give you "something else". It was a Suse Linux boot floppy, accompanied by two other floppy disks. As I had no idea, he installed them. At the beginning, it was a mess. While the system itself never crashed, some applications did (I was using KDE at that time), and pretty often - and then a black screen appeared, where I supposedly had to type commands to have the system either launched or repaired. Not to talk about the [win]modem. Anyway, I kept using it on a dual boot setup, until three years ago, when I decided to get rid of the Windows system. I ran openSuse for a while and then I moved to SLED 10, as I needed a more stable system for work purposes. I am completely satisfied. The trade off is that SLED is sort of difficult to handle in terms of dependencies for not mainstream applications such as games (the only game I like is the flight simulator), so I installed Ubuntu as a dual boot. I now have SLED 10 SP1 for production use (it never hanged - in nearly two years I rebooted only for kernel upgrades and when I contacted Novell support with a test question they were simply great) and Ubuntu to stay in touch with the easiest and cutting edge technology desktop Linux has to offer.

The reason of my swith to Linux? Freedom and openness (although I disliked the Novell-MS agreement, I understand my needs are different than those of multinationals), good service (Novell released their tweaked version of Openoffice 2.4 only one week after the OOo official release), an extremely stable and secure system, and the pleasure of knowing I am growing and expanding my knowledge with it.

I installed Linux on 10-15 people machines, either as secondary or primary system, and most of them are now convinced Linux users. And they see it, it's improving day after day.




Riley's picture

I switched because I bought my computer in China and it came with the Chinese version of Vista. Needless to say my Chinese is not that good and buying the English version on a $500/month salary just didn't seem to make sense. So I dled Ubuntu and have never looked back. Honestly, best computing decision I have ever made.

2 reasons: - I saw a system

sdemchenko's picture

2 reasons:
- I saw a system administrator at my company using Linux, and asked him about it, and he gave me a link to Stallman's Right to Read. I switched right after reading.
- For programmers, Linux knowledge is an advantage.

Why Not ?

Anonymous's picture

Now here is the good question : Why do you use Windows ?!
- Do you have too much time ?
- Do you have too much money ?
- Don't you have anything to do ?
- Do you like blue screens ?
- Do you like to do things the boring way ?

Live CDs & DVDs...

btorre's picture

I’ve been wanting to cut the umbilical chord from MS for the last several years. But I just couldn’t get over the fear of possibly being disappointed by Linux and having to go through another painful re-installation and restoration of Windows.

Thank you Live CD distros!!! I burned almost every Live CD available and played with them all. A couple months later, I started grouping the CDs by preference (what I now realize was KDE vs Gnome). The playing continued...Googling all things Linux along the way.

I now have a Fedora 8 installed on my desktop, Ubuntu 8.04 installed on my notebook, and a 1 terabyte FreeNAS network attached storage box. Installation and configuration was a breeze across the board! I still have a Windows box for “work related” stuff...but now, I use it and Qemu to run Linux as well (Thanks to your Article: “Run Windows XP on Ubuntu with Virtualbox | Linux Journal”).

I'm not totally MS free due to a couple Adobe dependencies...but I'm dig'n Linux and learning something new and exciting every day.

I switched to Linux because...

stoobie's picture

Back in 2000, I had a small online business running parts and technical support for imported scooters. At the time, I was using WindowsME, and it collected so much malware from my customers e-mails that I had to reformat and reload the OS every couple of weeks. Since I needed a working computer 24/7 to stay in business, I built a second one to back-up all my parts orders, technical service advice, etc. Even though I ran Norton AV and a number of other anti-malware applications, I still had to switch back and forth between the computers every other week as they got infected and became useless. One day while I was at the store buying more software, I came across a retail version of Suse 9.3 for $35, and I figured "What the heck, I just spent $65 on more AV software, I might as well try out something different". That weekend I started with a fresh install of Windows with all my anti-malware on one computer, and Suse on the other. The Windows computer lasted 72 hours before it BSOD'd on me, and the Suse Linux computer ran flawlessly online 24/7 for over 6 MONTHS before I finally shut it down to put a bigger hard drive in it! I've been sold on Linux since then. I later bought a laptop running XP for the sole purpose of creating illustrated repair manuals, but I was so disappointed with it that I soon switched it over to Linux as well, (in fact, it is the very same laptop I'm using to write this, currently running Simply MEPIS 6.5).
I quit the scooter business a year later, but to this day I run nothing but Linux on my small home network. I still have to use XP at work, mostly for e-mail and online research, but for any serious work, like presentations and graphics design, I keep an ancient PII 300 laptop running my own mix of pure Debian in my desk drawer, and transfer the files to my work computer with a USB stick.
I'm not a Microsoft hater, I just find that Windows is irrelevant and unnecessarily expensive for what I want to use my computers for, and I haven't enjoyed home computing this much since my old Z80-A days!

I had owned an Amiga for a

Anonymous's picture

I had owned an Amiga for a long time then it finally died, I built a PC and installed Windows 98 as I needed to use Windows for some University assignments. After 2 weeks of using Windows I was so annoyed with it that I installed Red Hat and never looked back, admittedly although Red Hat was great, my annoyance with my new computer never really went away until several distributions later I discovered Debian.

It's all about control

l33tmmx's picture

I started my computing career with Sinclair ZX81 and Spectrum 48k in the '80s. After I gave up these little wonders I didn't use computers for several years, until I was given (for free) a 486 with Windows 3.11 in it; that happened in 1998. I used 3.11 for a while, and liked it. Then I installed a (pirated) copy of 95 on it: it looked good, but I didn't like the way it worked. Fortunately (!) the 486 broke down, so had the opportunity to buy a faster machine (330 MHz AMD k6), with 98SE on it: it was okay(ish), but I still hated the way Windows worked; I wanted to modify it, but couldn't find a way to do it... Then I moved onto even faster machine (AMD Duron 800 MHz), still with 98SE. But the final nail in the coffin was 98ME: bloated and unstable, I got BSOD at least once a day. I started looking for alternatives, and found Linux... That was year 2000, the rest is, as they say, history.

I started with Red Hat 7.0. I didn't understand it at all, but I was hooked... for good.

Currently I have several computers with all kind of Linux/Unix variants on them: Gentoo is my distro-of-choice, but I have also Slackware, Ubuntu, Apple OS X, FreeBSD and Sun Solaris 10 installed somewhere; as I'm writing this, I'm waiting for a install of Solaris Express Developer Edition (Solaris 11) finishing on my HP laptop.

The main reason I use Linux, and especially Gentoo, is control. I want to decide for myself how my computers work.


Anonymous's picture

It started with Windows 95. I had bought a new machine for a fair amount of money. Back when a P133 with 32M ram was the latest and greates.
The only problem was the box would not stay up for more than 2 days at a time. I got real familiar with the blue screen of death.

At first I though it was a hardware issue, but being a bit of the noob, I did not know for sure.

I dealt with the problem, and went through many reinstalls in the following year or so.

I saved some money and bought a new machine, a P450 with 64M of ram. I had heard the buzz about linux and at that time Redhat 5.1 was out.

I installed it on the P133 box and got Samba to work. Back then that was quite the accomplishment for me.

While the linux desktop at that time left alot to be desired, the server side proved to be a stable and powerful solution. Over time I got the rest of the network plumbing to work and realized that the P133 was actually a decent box. Back then uptime meant alot to me, that P133 was up for over 450 days before I finally retired it.

Overtime, the linux desktop experience improved, I liked Redhat until they discontinued the desktop version, that was version 9, I think. With no place to go I tried Mandrake, ok but not so stable, Suse, really nice and solid, but slow, and then finally Ubuntu, which just rocks.

I tried many others but never stayed long, as of now, Ubuntu has me plenty happy.

I no longer have a windows machine at the house. I use windows XP at work, and for what I do there, it is fine.

I do not see any reason to run windows at home. The money I save in software licsensing, was well spent on computer hardware.

The stability, reliability and openness are what keeps me a linux user.

It started with Windows 95.

Anonymous's picture

It started with Windows 95. I had bought a new machine for a fair amount of money. Back when a P133 with 32M ram was the latest and greates.
The only problem was the box would not stay up for more than 2 days at a time. I got real familiar with the blue screen of death.

At first I though it was a hardware issue, but being a bit of the noob, I did not know for sure.

I dealt with the problem, and went through many reinstalls in the following year or so.

I saved some money and bought a new machine, a P450 with 64M of ram. I had heard the buzz about linux and at that time Redhat 5.1 was out.

I installed it on the P133 box and got Samba to work. Back then that was quite the accomplishment for me.

While the linux desktop at that time left alot to be desired, the server side proved to be a stable and powerful solution. Over time I got the rest of the network plumbing to work and realized that the P133 was actually a decent box. Back then uptime meant alot to me, that P133 was up for over 450 days before I finally retired it.

Overtime, the linux desktop experience improved, I liked Redhat until they discontinued the desktop version, that was version 9, I think. With no place to go I tried Mandrake, ok but not so stable, Suse, really nice and solid, but slow, and then finally Ubuntu, which just rocks.

I tried many others but never stayed long, as of now, Ubuntu has me plenty happy.

I no longer have a windows machine at the house. I use windows XP at work, and for what I do there, it is fine.

I do not see any reason to run windows at home. The money I save in software licsensing, was well spent on computer hardware.

The stability, reliability and openness are what keeps me a linux user.

A series of three things

corfy's picture

I was a Windows user for years, and was fairly knowledgable about it. I was even asked to take over the computer department at my office, despite not having any formal computer training. I hadn't seriously considered trying Linux. Oh, I had heard of it for years, but I had never tried it. There were three things that happened in fairly short order that changed that.

The first, and what should have been the most obvious, was the realization that many of the programs that I used on a regular basis had versions that ran on Linux (Firefox,, GIMP, etc.). Second, I got a new harddrive for my home computer, and after moving my data from one harddrive to the other, gave me an empty harddrive that I could play around with.

The third thing was a co-worker coming up to me and asking if I could look at his personal computer because he thought he had a virus on it. Well, he had purchased the computer in November 2003. It was February 2005. The only anti-virus protection he had on it was the 90-day trial that came with the computer. He didn't have “a virus”, he had 93, not to mention hundreds of adware and spyware. I got the viruses and adware/spyware cleaned off after days of working on it at home, but somehow Windows itself got corrupted, and I had to reinstall that. It took a week of working at home to get that computer back up and running. After it was over, I decided, “There has to be a better way.”

(I guess a fourth thing that happened about that time is we got broadband Internet access at home, allowing me to download really big files that I would never have attempted over a dial-up connection.)

I had used Mac in the past, but I never did care for it. So that left this Linux thing I have heard about for years but never tried.

That was over three years ago. It took a little over a year for Linux to become my primary OS at home, and another six months or so before it became my only OS at home (well, 99% of the time, anyway). During that time, I have become a supporter of the open-source/free software philosophy (unfortunately, I'm not a contributor because I can't code).

Now I'm trying to figure out how to get Linux and FOSS into the office. I have had lots of success with some programs, a little success with other programs, but virtually no success with anything else, including Linux. But I haven't given up.

Laugh at life or life will laugh at you.

"It took a week of working

Anonymous's picture

"It took a week of working at home to get that computer back up and running. After it was over, I decided, “There has to be a better way.”"

If it took you a week to remove spyware/adware/virii and reinstall Windows, perhaps you're not as skilled as you think.

There are other ways to contibute besides coding

sgtrock's picture

There are lots of ways to contribute besides coding. Most project teams are always looking for more help.

For example, most coders /hate/ writing user documentation. Frankly, most of them aren't very good at it. If you can write or even just create screenshots that illustrate the hard to understand parts, you'll probably be thanked.

Another need is for help building better UIs, as many projects make some pretty basic mistakes. When you hit a point that doesn't make sense, file a bug report with a proposed solution. If you're an expert, put together a design mockup of what you think would work better.

If you can't contribute at that level, there's always submitting bug reports or maybe some cash.

One caveat, though. Programmers are people, too. Don't just point out a problem if you can't propose a solution. And don't take it personally if you get rebuffed. If your solution doesn't fit what they need, there's always another project that might. :)

I got angry!

Felix Dzerzhinsky's picture

I got hacked on my Windows 98 machine back in 1999. I had been reading about Linux in computer magazines and had bought some Red Hat CD's. I installed them and never looked back.

Why did I switch?

Anonymous's picture


My Story

FredR's picture

Like Shawn, I grew up poor. I lived in Central NY and went to school in a small village. I have a theory that people who are raised in areas with extreme winter weather tend to migrate towards indoor hobbies, for obvious reasons.

My exposure to technology and science was minimal. I'm technically and analytically minded, always have been. In fact, my grandmother used to call me "the absent-minded professor". My hobbies included reading, and writing, and for holidays and birthdays, my favorite gifts were magic sets and musical keyboards. I tried my hand at teaching myself piano.

The magic tricks were I think what really got me into computers. See, my dad was good at slight-of -hand and taught me several tricks. I remember the BlackStone kits you could get. One of my favorite tricks (because it involved numbers) was where someone picked a number between 1 and 128, and handed you all the cards with their number on it, not telling you their "secret" number. Engineer-types will see this a mile away as binary, because the "trick" was to add the number in the upper left-hand corner of all the cards, and viola, you've "guessed" their secret number.

These activities would lead me to kinda obsess over psychology, science, math, technology and most of all, the truth. The first few times I set my hands on a computer, I thought, "ok, what's the trick"? The "trick" being the secret ... that made it work.

Now I'll be honest ... I grew a little older and thought magic tricks were kinda disingenuous. Ie, you had to lie to people to make them feel that level of fascination. I did not want to "trick" people, yet I felt compelled to let them in on the secret. Hence, my tricks didn't last long as everyone knew what to expect.

I'll admit I was a little depressed. Living in a poor neighborhood, going to a poor school, it seemed like I would never, ever get into computers. But I was determined to do so.

My big break was about 7th or 8th grade ... my grandmother gave me some money for getting good grades. I set out to buy a computer. I found a C64 at a garage sale (and this being about 1987 they were already outdated). I think I paid $20 for it. But it was broken.

I mowed lawns, I babysat, I shoveled driveways. I rode my bike miles for work. I earned the money to have the C64 taken to one of the last Commodore shops in town and get it fixed.

It was all downhill from there. I went to the library, took out books and taught myself things. I taught myself BASIC, I taught myself hexidecimal, binary and even 6510 assembly language.

The command line was my friend. By the time I was in high school, I was a pro. I won programming contests (with another friend, Dave). I bought another C64 and had a massive C64 system. In high school we experimented with BBS's.

But the real fun was to get a unix shell from a college friend and get on the internet.

Unix seemed to be the "correct way" to do things. It made more sense than the C64s, Amigas, IBM PCs and other machines I've used in the past. It was perfect!

Yet again, I felt that familiar pang of depression... I'm never gonna have a unix mainframe at home!

By the time I started using Linux I had met my wife (a fellow geek) and built many different machines on many different platforms, and met a bunch of geeky people in all kinds of circles. I can't remember the exact year I started using Linux, but I think it was around 95-96. I remember downloading Slackware 3 floppies. I had no real training (other than being self-taught), although I was accepted in colleges for computer science and computer engineering, I never finished, only for credits towards certifications for networking and security.

My stepson grew up knowing we had a "Linux box" in the house. Whenever I needed to do something cool with networking, or needed a "workhorse" server computer, I put together some old hardware and just did it.

My real "switch" to full time Linux was only a few short years ago ... maybe 2003 or so. I said, can I do XYZ in Linux that I can do in MS Windows? At one point my dual boot system was perhaps 90% Win and 10% Linux, I quickly turned that around.

These days I run a rock-solid Linux server-type machine at home and emulate all kinds of OS's and distributions within that host as virtual machine guests.

-- FLR or flrichar is a superfan of Linux Journal, and goofs around in the LJ IRC Channel

I switched because I had to

Gomez's picture

I switched because I needed to learn *nix for my job and Unix was horribly expensive.
I switched because way back in the 1.x kernel days, I was the only one who knew about Linux at my job and it made me feel sexy.
I switched because I wanted to get all the girls.
I switched because of gcc and the ability to code in C without shelling big bucks for a compiler.
I switched because Vi made me feel powerful.
I switched because it doesn't make sense to pay for an inferior product when a superior product is available for free.
I switched because I sensed, even then, that someday WE WOULD RULE THE WORLD!!!!