On a spring day in 2012, I shut down my MacBook Air for the last time. From then on, my primary computing environment — at least on a laptop computer — was GNU/Linux. I was abandoning, as much as possible, the proprietary, control-freakish environments that Apple and Microsoft have increasingly foisted on users of personal computers.
Almost four years later, here I am, writing this piece on a laptop computer running the Linux* operating system and LibreOffice Writer, not on a Mac or Windows machine using Microsoft Word. All is well.
It’s worth noting that the author of the above post is Dan Gillmor. He was a long-time journalist for several newspapers (including the San Jose Mercury News in the mid-to-late 1990s). He is currently teaching digital media literacy and promoting entrepreneurship at Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication.
In other words, he’s not a prototypical geek. That said, he was one of the first journalists to blog for the Merc, so he clearly has some affinity for the technology. But it’s not someone I would expect to use Linux.
What do I use? I actually regularly use Windows, Mac, and Linux. There are benefits and downsides to all three. I’m definitely aware of the dangers of centralization that Microsoft and Apple are pushing and like that Linux provides a reasonable alternative for some use cases.
For most people, Linux has a “this tall to ride” problem that I doubt will ever be solved. Given there is so much mainstream support for Windows and Mac, people can’t just go buy random computer accessories at the store and expect it to just work. Not that Windows and Mac just work, but for regular folks, they largely do or they can get mainstream support when it doesn’t.
Obviously, if you have a proclivity for tinkering and don’t mind getting under hood and tinkering, Linux is a far better choice. Those of us like that are in the minority. Also, anyone who has to exchange data with other people using Microsoft Office (very common in corporate environments) or have to deal with specific security tools may find it very difficult to exist in a Linux-only world when everyone else is using Windows (generally) or Mac (occasionally).One area where Linux is far superior to Windows or Mac is support for older hardware. I have 7+ year old machines happily running Linux without issue, other than being a little slow.
Bottom line: I’m glad Linux is an option and for the right people in the right situations, it’s the right choice. That said, I don’t see the rest of the world getting onboard the Linux train anytime soon.