Linux; It's Better and It's Free

The following was written in my capacity as President of Linux Users of Victoria for a community group newsletter with minimal familiarity with computer systems.

Software is everywhere today. For most people the experience can often be frustrating; the software is complicated, it doesn't do what they want it to do, it's is prone to malicious viruses and spyware, it causes the computer to 'crash' and sometimes nobody seems to be able to fix it. Chances are that this very core software, the operating system, is what the machine came with it was purchased - and the cost was added to the price of the machine.

Surely there is a better choice? Well, the answer is that there is. As an alternative to proprietary, closed-source, and invariably expensive software offered by Microsoft, Apple and the like, there is also complete operating systems and suite of applications offered which are free and open-source. This is software that you and others can distribute, view and modify the source code, and share. Because of this ethic the software itself is better; it has much better security, it has more stable systems, it has a collaborative and dynamic development, and increasingly offers better features. And if it doesn't work it can be fixed, and fixed quickly.

This is the world of Linux. Building on the rock-solid design principles established with UNIX in the 1970s, and utilities produced by the Free Software Foundation in the 1980s, Linux was first released to the community in 1991, and quickly became the product of choice on high-end systems. Today, of the top 500 computer systems in the world, 91.0% of them use Linux (another 8% use Linux-like or Linux hybrid operating systems). The choice is no accident; the systems are too critical and too expensive to be left to operating systems that aren't stable, don't scale and have poor performance.

Increasingly Linux is making inroads into the desktop environment as well. It has all the applications that one would expect; Internet (email, web browsers, instant messaging, file sharing), multimedia capacity (image editing, audio and video recording and playing, videoconferencing, music, television reception), office applications (file management, word processing, spreadsheets, presentations, databases), games and entertainment, educational software and emulators for other operating systems - you can even run your favourite MS-Windows programs on Linux! Also, rather than being tied into one product suite, there is healthy competition in the Linux world, in everything from the applications to the desktop environment. Freedom and choice are among our keywords.

Linux is typically given away as distributions, a collection of software tailored for groups of users. Among the most popular general-use distributions are Ubuntu, Fedora, Mint, and SuSE. Specialist distributions are making enormous inroads to smartphones and Internet tables, such as those that use Android (e.g., Samsung Galaxy, LG Eve, HTC Droid, Motorolla Droid, Dell Mini, Sony Ericsson Xperia) or Maemo (Nokia N900, N810 tablets).

Best of all, right here in Melbourne there is a large, helpful and active Linux community through a public group called Linux Users of Victoria. With two regular events each month and a number of mailing lists, LUV will provide the answers to all your Linux questions. On the first Tuesday of the month LUV runs technical lectures at Trinity College in Parkville, close to Melbourne's CBD and at The Hub in Docklands on the third Saturday of the month, LUV run a hands-on beginner's workshop. Just open your browser, navigate to and join us; with Linux computing is a pleasure not a chore.

Contact: Lev Lafayette, President, Linux Users Victoria, or 0432-255-208