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.


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Well, I switched long time

Anthony's picture

Well, I switched long time ago, the main reason is that my brother showed it to me whan it was still kernel 0.9.
Since then I always loved GNU/Linux, My first real switch was back a FC1 and since then I never switched back.

It's probably as a ex-unix sysadmin, IT consultant I could never go back onto the dark side of the force (say MS)

stock trading

bootdoc's picture

I was trading stocks back in 1998-99 and I started buying VAlinux and RedHat. Being a computer science major in college (no degree) I wanted to know what linux was all about. If I owned stock I thought it prudent to have more info on the product. I downloaded RH 6.2 and installed it next to winbloze 98. My first OS install and dual boot configuration. The more I learned, the more I liked it. Eventually upgraded from 6.2 to 8.0. Then RH ended support for RH linux. That sent me in search of a new distro. I didn't want bleeding edge Fedora. I narrowed my search down to two, Libranet and Xandros. After perusing their respective forums, I chose Libranet. The Libranet community was awesome. While using Libranet I learned a great deal, including kernel compiling. I worked with it for a couple yrs and then, sadly, the point developer died. I have been using Kubuntu ever since.

Charlie Bradley.

I had a very similar experience.

Rober Chavers's picture

At a local computer show, I picked up RedHat and tried using it in 1998. That experiment did not get very far, as I was easily frustrated with X windows compared to Win98. In 2000, I changed jobs; while there I was programming in Python on a Unix system using Xming and PuTTy on Win2k. My boss used RedHat and I was impressed by how far it had come in a few short years. After another job change, I tried again with Libranet. That was it, I was hooked. Libranet made compiling the kernel child's play. I eventually became the sysadmin at my current company, and started installing Linux on everything.

Today, my company has a mix of CentOS, RedHat, Ubuntu and even one old Libranet system converted to Debian that is still serving our intranet using Joomla. Every computer in my house runs linux; several MythTV frontends; a 1.5TB backend using mdadm; and two laptops. My parents and my wife's parents also use Ubuntu. Life is good.

Linux gets better every day, and I am thankful to all the hardworking Linux developers. Also, a special thank you to Richard Stallman and Linus Torvalds.

The scary black screen

Leslie's picture

The director of our ISP was a friend of ours and he connected our office to the Internet - along with a mysterious text-only computer running some strange version of DOS (that was the Slackware firewall). After phoning him for the 10th time to explain to me how to open up this port or that, he said "why don't you just figure it out yourself?!"

So I learned how to use VI and edit the ip-chains commands for the firewall. Then I just kept going. Pretty soon I realised that Linux could do much much more than our Windows servers, and for free! Being a church office, every cent we could save could be used for more important things, so I proceeded to replace six Windows servers with Linux and then moved to a SuSE desktop for my own computer.

Since then, every job I have had I have managed to convert whatever I was doing to a Linux box sooner or later.

Interest made me a Linux user.

QuickFox's picture

I learning about it online and learned about Linux from a friend. After learning how much more stable than Windows, I tried out Knoppix on CD. I loved using it and being able to use the Internet without needing to scan for spyware afterwards (unless there's any I don't know of).

After learning about the Ubuntu Wubi installer on Linux Journal's YouTube channel, I checked it out. I like using it now for simple things like surfing the web. I'll still use Windows XP for other things, I have a good feeling I'm going to be using Linux more.

Why I am a Linux user

Anonymous's picture

There are many reasons - direct and indirect - why I am a Linux user. Among the main ones:

1) I do not trust "closed" stuff. What is going on inside Windows? Paranoid as I am, how can I be sure that it is not spying on me? (Yes, I'm *that* crazy.) What are Microsoft's secret ties with government agencies? And with other companies that might use my info without my authorization? (Yeah, I can work around that, but I prefer not to have to work around.)

2) Microsoft doesn't trust me. "Genuine" Windows? DRM? C'mon, get off my back!

3) Linux gives me freedom, and control of what matters.

4) GPL. If I contribute an idea, I can be sure it won't be hijacked/stolen by the Microsofts of life.

(Unfortunately, I didn't make the complete switch - yet. Ironically, I am writing this on a W2K machine. (To my credit, I'm using Firefox.) But some day I'll be 100% MS-free!)

Windows was just too boring

KimTjik's picture

Yes I was bored using something that refused to be easily modified. I never came to terms with how dependent Windows is on dragging slow anti-Virus software. As I explored the true nature of formats of all kind, I came to realize how bizarre the whole situation is. Hence Linux became the natural response.

You could say my disliking of Windows got me looking for alternatives, but the true conversion was a result of Linux' qualities: the whole philosophy of open-source, flexibility, stability, the idea of empowering the user to be able to do just as much or less as he/she wishes, how it tries to make best possible use of whatever segment of hardware you use (be it high- or low-end) and a lot more. All in all my dislike for Microsoft practises is close to an irrelevant part of my choice.

reinstalls were annoying

lapubell's picture

I ran windows ever since I was about 6 starting with 3.1. I remember my dad paying about $1000 for a P90 machine with a 1G hard drive. It was incredible! I remember switching to dos for the pure fun of it, and messing with the autoexe.bat file and breaking the whole system (and being grounded from the machine, so I could never try and fix it) too many times. It was never old, there was always something more to do with it.

When I finally got XP, I was very happy with it. then I installed SP2 and I was dumbfounded that it could break so many things. I couldn't figure out how to get many of the problems fixed, so I wiped it clean and reinstalled to XP SP1. It took someone about 3 or 4 months to put up a post on how to get SP@ working with their machine (same model as mine) so i followed it and it worked like a charm, but put a big dent in my happy little windows world.

Then I lost most of my ram to antivirus/spyware software. Then I started getting VERY bad things through Kazaa and even Bit torrent (I know, how did that get through 4000 seeders?) and noticed that the same software I had come to love (VLC, OpenOffice, Azureus, etc.) all had Linux versions.

So I set up a dual boot and was SO confused. No Unix experience, and too many choices in system setup (my fault, I decided to start with a 14 cd install of slackware) I didn't get my feet too wet. Luckly I had a friend on a similar journey into linux and he started out with debian. I moved on to Fedora, and quickly switched to BLAG, and he went on to Fedora as well. I tried Gentoo once, but got sick of compiling pretty fast. My friend went on to Arch for a time but now we are both rather happy with our choices of Ubuntu (me) and PCLinuxOS (him). I also got Linux Mint for my lady, and it makes me so happy whenever she uses Win and gets all annoyed.

Better software quality

Rick Floyd's picture

A review I wrote back in '04 on the very last piece of Windows software that I purchased tells the story for me. I'm including it here because it was both so ludicrous and so typical.

"I purchased WinFax for use on a Thinkpad T23 running Windows 2000. I'd had good experiences years ago with an earlier version and had high hopes for this version. However, my hopes were quickly crushed.

"When installed, it corrupts the macros used by Microsoft Word, causing Word to crash on startup. There's a fix for this on the Symantec web site if you make the correlation and are willing to wade through the menus on the site, but I can't believe they'd ship a product with a bug like this. If there were one product to test it with...

"WinFax can be configured to answer the phone automatically. Unfortunately, it continues to do this even when the option is disabled. Very annoying (both to me and to the people who called during the 2 days it took me to figure this out).

"FAX transmission worked. However, FAX reception usually failed. There are a number of suggestions for fixing this problem on the Symantec site (they suggest that it's a hardware compatibility problem), but my need for this product and my patience both passed before I was able to get WinFax to work reliably.

"Overall, this is one of the worst products I've ever used, with most major functions failing to work correctly. This product is so bad that it finally convinced me to abandon Windows in favor of Linux. Why pay this much for a non-functional software when an equivalent donation in the Linux community goes so much farther?"

I had been a Windows user

JamieW's picture

I had been a Windows user for years and simply accepted that it was normal for computers to crash, it was required that computers be rebooted regularly, that it was acceptable to have to buy a new computer in order to upgrade the OS, that it was normal for the OS code to take up the largest chunk of the hard drive, and that it was normal to have to wipe the drive and reinstall everything every 12-18 months in order to have a functional system. I was wrong on all counts.

I started growing tired of Windows when I was introduced to Mac computers in some of my journalism classes and then spent a summer with one as an intern for a magazine in New York. Going from Mac back to Windows was like driving a Porsche and going back to a Fiesta.

But I wanted more. Linux was open source, constantly evolving, and provided all the things I needed to feed my inner geek. Most of the software I needed had open source alternatives and I could force myself to boot into Windows every now and then for the software I couldn't use in Linux.

It's been over a year now with Linux and I've already been converting my friends. (But I still make money from time to time fixing Windows computers. Thank you, Microsoft for making a product that requires people like me to keep fixing it!).

Was a better windowing environment

Hobar's picture

I switched because Windows 3.1 was horrible compared to the cool graphics you could get with X.

Why am I a Linux user?

Wiseguy's picture

I was a high-level NetWare guy before they became an endangered species. When I finally dragged myself to NT school in the name of career survival I was appalled at the shoddy workmanship in NT Server compared to the state of NetWare at the time and swore there had to be a better way to make a living than constantly jury-rigging around the shortcomings of Windows.

It took a while to really get my brain around Linux, though, because I had no Unix background. After a few years of sporadic spare-time tinkering I realized the only way I was going to learn Linux was by immersion, so I switched my home server from NT to SuSE 9.2 with Samba and my everyday work PC to Fedora Core 4 so that I'd have to learn it or go nuts. Some would say I did both. ;^)

Today my everyday work environment is Ubuntu (Hardy) with Enlightenment 17 on top. I still work with NetWare, and I occasionally do deal with Windows servers, but Linux (Red Hat/CentOS/Ubuntu/Debian mostly) is where I live. Linux lets me exercise my creativity freely to solve business problems instead of working around OS problems.

Windows Genuine Advantage

Jeff Blind's picture

My last straw with Windows was when my legally acquired copy of the OS insisted that I must be a pirate and refused to work properly without wasting my time talking to the help line. I downloaded the Ubuntu ISO, wiped my hard drive, and vowed never again to support Microsoft. I have been using Linux now for 2 years and am loving it.

Me too!

Shawn Powers's picture

The same thing happened to me! And the solution MS offered? "Sir, you can buy a legal license so you are no longer pirating Windows XP"


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

Mine was just illegal, they

Anonymous's picture

Mine was just illegal, they kicked me out.

Why I switched...

'Techie' Jim's picture

I switched from Windows XP because I got tired of the system slowing to a crawl after a few months, the repeated defragging that took close to 8 hours to complete, the registry (really... what is that for?), IE, and lack of new features.

I finally decided to make the jump to Ubuntu when it first came out (before it was popular). I saw it and thought I would give it a try. I was glad I did. I got a fast system that didn't slow over time with all the programs I could ever need and new features with every release (unlike Windows XP which is, well, XP). I will admit that there are a couple of things I would like to see available in Linux. For one thing I gave up Yahoo!'s LaunchCast in favor of Pandora (even though I like Pandora better). Yahoo! did tell everyone that they were working on a more cross-platform version... more than 5 years ago. I would also like to see more Adobe integration on the Linux platform. I do develop with Flex (which is still only in alpha for Linux). Even still, Flash is lacking and unstable on Linux. I guess I can only hope that Flash 10 and Flex 4 will be as stable on Linux as it is on Win/Mac. I think all that market share is going to their heads.

Vista was not an option. I heard too many poor things about it, tried the beta and it was horrible. Too much put into the interface and not the core. From what I have heard it still slows over time and features are put into areas that should have been developed out-of-house.

I've been using Linux since

Brett Zamora's picture

I've been using Linux since about 1998, both at work and at home. For work, it's been for groupware applications and at home it's been to serve up shared files using Samba. As I've watched the product mature, I've been wanting to switch over and use Linux as my primary desktop interface too. My reasons are primarily due to the costs of running Microsoft applications across 4 systems at home. (Mine, wife's, son's, daughter's). When you factor in Win OS upgrades, Anti-Virus software, Office upgrades, and for me the myriad of other software I use, ie, Photoshop, Painter, RayDream, etc... it gets very, very expensive. For me, it doesn't feel right to have to have a budgetary line item for annual software licensing for home use. Given all the apps available for a Linux environment, I now run a desktop system at home based on Ubuntu. I use VirtualBox to virtualize Windows XP. I use GIMP for graphics work and OpenOffice for the productivity stuff. I use the Eclipse environment for development and of course derive all the benefits of the supporting software that is now available for Linux. I have not switched my entire household over yet, but that will be happening in the near term.

A Playground for the Creative

TesserId's picture

Or rather, I used to say a programmer's playground.

On Windows, the price of admission is too high. First you have to buy the operating system, then you have to buy the tools if you want to create real programs.

But now, there are so many levels on which to be creative, it seems ridiculous to have to buy a whole program just to see if you can do something on some new level.

So what about "try before you buy"... well, try Linux first.


Anonymous's picture

"So now it's your turn. What are you a Linux user?" Shouldn't that be "Why are you a Linux user?"...

At any rate, I switched to Linux just for the sheer enjoyment of it. Remember, computers used to be fund - the challenge, the command line, the price, the satisfaction of making something work. It's something neither Mac nor Windows offer$.


Shawn Powers's picture

Thanks. Fixed. I guess if that's the worst mistake I make today, it's a great day. :)

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

why I switched to linux

PhilStream's picture

I started getting strong arm letters from Microsoft's Business Software Alliance thugs in 2001 or 2002. I have been all linux ever since.

I had toyed with Linux for a

jonfhancock's picture

I had toyed with Linux for a few years. I tried out Knoppix, Suse, Ubuntu, Kubuntu, Debian, etc. I was a software pirate with a conscience, and using pirated versions of Windows and various applications was really weighing on me. Battling with Linksys wireless cards and Brother printers kept me from making the switch fully.

Last year I took a job as a system administrator in a Windows environment, and I needed to build a few web content filters with no budget using old hardware. Naturally, I turned to Linux, Ubuntu Server to be exact, in combination with Squid and Dans Guardian. I learned so much about the systems and it satisfied a primal urge to use the command line for me.

After that, I decided to take another stab at a Linux desktop. I started with Kubuntu Feisty. Once I found compiz-fusion, I was hooked. It was just so easy. For windows (Vista or XP) I had to download half a gig of drivers for my laptop before it was useful. With Kubuntu, everything just works. Plus I don't have to feel bad about not paying for it because it's free in the first place.

When I started my programming classes for my computer science degree, setting up compilers for various languages was so ridiculously easy on Kubuntu with Eclipse that I refuse to do software development in Windows now. It's just too much of a hassle.

Now, I can't live without a bash command line, apt-get, BasKet, Kopete, Inkscape, GIMP, Amarok, Eclipse... Is there anything I don't love about OSS? Ah.. I hate the Dolphin file manager... The only programs I really miss are MS OFfice (I know...), Photoshop (works with Wine, but unstable), and Illustrator.

A steady progression over the last 7 years.

Stu's picture

For me, introduction came by way of necessity as the 4th year Engineering project I got involved with had done all their development, up to that point, on Red Hat. I was impressed, but didn't consider the full switch. Over time a bit of dabbling with dual boots, but no real reason to keep a Linux box running full time. Then I got a new computer, so I had old hardware I could play around with. The obvious choice was Linux. As time passed I was serving up media, authoring DVDs, converting media, capturing radio streams, editing photos etc. etc. and logging in remotely over ssh to be able to do these things. I was now more than impressed, I was keen to see what the OS could do on brand spankin' new hardware (instead of my old junker left-over stuff). But I didn't quite take the plunge. Finally, I noticed my wife was choosing to do her browsing on our old 1.6Ghz desktop that ran Kubuntu upstairs in the office, instead of on the newer Windows XP laptop (that could go anywhere in the house... i.e. on her lap while watching Greys Anatomy). That was it... the next computer I bought would not have any primary partition with Windows... and that's where I'm at now... and I couldn't be happier!! Seeing Ubuntu blaze away on brand new hardware is such a treat. I have XP Virtualized... but at this point its only to run Blackberry related stuff, and the Logitech Harmony remote software.

why did i change?

rogue's picture

I wanted a change and don't care for what the other guys were requiring of me (ie: expensive hardware and software). I needed to get more life from my current box and Linux (in this case - Kubuntu) gave me what I was looking for - a fast, responsive system with only some minor hardware upgrades (that were needed anyway). I have used Vista and couldn't really see buying a new system for what it was offering, ditto for Apple.

I've evolved...

nTime60's picture

One day I read about this guy in Finland who created a new OS that looked like UNIX; curiosity got the best of me so a little research brought me to this distribution called Slackware. I toyed with it for several years and also during this time I tried many other distros too.

My kids became of age where they constantly wanted access to the house computer and I was getting less and less of my time. So I started to think about creating my own home network and give the kids their own systems. I really tried to justify the expense of the big old proprietary OS, but in the end, I just couldn’t afford it.

So I built the systems and put SUSE on all of them, made them familiar enough for the kids and wife and we’ve been a Linux family ever since. I’ve shown the boys how to get WINE to run and how to get most of the big old proprietary OS games to run on their PCs.

I kept XP around for my job related activities and I’ve tried Vista 64 and 32 bit versions and find it a joke…They can’t be serious can they? This is the best the largest monopoly in the world can do? Vista is pretty but not useful and certainly not stable.

Thanks, but I’ll stick to my Slackware box for stability and speed.

why i switched..

Anonymous's picture

tired of paying prices for software that was outdated or you had to pay for updates, thinking if you bought the software you could just update it as needed, specially security updates.
tired of "creatively acquiring software"
tired of antivirus, antispyware, registry programs, hacks, reading craploads of pages to make xp work like advertised, and tired of adding tweaking programs that take up memory and space and the cpu power it was stated it would "save" and "free up"
so i figured all the time saved not doing /worrying about the above items, would be time to learn linux
tried mandrake 8x, suse 7x dualbooting with 2000, then dualbooting xp/linux, tried out like 20 distros..
fell in love with pclinuxos.. it always, after 20 distros +, JUST WORKED..
thats my story..