Linux - like Microsoft Windows, is a computer operating system with an easy to use graphical user interface - that's pretty much where the similarities end. Linux is open source, this means that the source code behind the operating system - and virtually all of the software applications that run on it, is open to scrutiny by anyone including security experts and developers world-wide. One of the major advantages of this approach is that it ensures that no potential threats to privacy or security can be surreptitiously included or "slipped in quietly" as an update without being noticed. There is also a very different philosophy and approach to respecting user privacy rights.
You will find Linux used in a wide range of applications, major web hosting Companies, business servers, military uses, governments, home and office computers, car computers, cell / mobile phones, digital televisions, digital top boxes, Internet routers, vehicle satellite navigation - you probably use a Linux powered device everyday without realising it. Here are 50 Places Linux is Running That You Might Not Expect. The London Stock Exchange migrated away from Windows in March 2011. The Met Office £97m supercomputer runs Cray Linux, and as of November 2017 the top 500 supercomputers in the world run Linux, International Space station laptops run Linux, plus many more major users.
Linux users have enjoyed multiple workspaces (also called virtual desktops) for years giving a broader multi-tasking environment. All can be customised to suit the way you work and use a computer. Desktops range from super fast minimalist (but still aesthetically pleasing), to full 3D effects with rotating cubes and transitional effects, there's choices of start menu styles, layouts, font and font size and more. A common misconception is that you have to be a uber geek to use Linux productively for day to day tasks, this is simply not the case in reality, anyone who currently uses Windows with any level of proficiency can switch to Linux and feel comfortable within a short space of time, there is a small learning curve as with anything new.
Recommending a particular Linux distro for everyone is almost impossible, here is a small selection of our favourites:
PCLinuxOS For new users coming from WIndows as well as seasoned users wanting an operating system for everyday use this would be hard to beat, it wasn't dubbed the "distro hopper stopper" for nothing! It is mature, stable, and up to date offering a variety of desktop environments with excellent hardware support built in, and a superb control panel, it receives regular updates using stable versions of software applications and drivers.
Qubes OS Pretty much the ultimate in secure operating systems to date that we have looked at - modestly described as "a reasonably secure operating system" by it's creators! Watch the video tours of qubes OS for an insight into what makes it quite unique.
Calculate Linux This is source based which means your software is compiled at the time when you choose to install a package, there can be performance benefits in compiling programs to suit your specific system, a solid operating system with good hardware support.
If you are a gamer the gap between Linux and Windows has narrowed fast and it is also reported that some Windows games run much better on Linux! This is in no small part due to Valve who are a video game developer, publisher, and digital distribution Company adopting Linux for their very own SteamOS for running games on - Steam is a video game digital distribution service by Valve. Another tool by Valve is Proton which is built on Wine’s compatibility layer, this has been integrated with Steam Play and makes playing Windows games easier on Linux. There is also an independent gaming client for Linux called Lutris that employs installation scripts for many Windows games, plus GOG.com which is yet another digital distribution platform for games. In addition to this, major GPU manufacturers are producing high quality Linux drivers for their products enabling the latest hardware to work properly.
Pop!_OS Particularly good for gaming, produced and maintained by System76 based in Denver, Colorado. System76 produce two versions with one being specifically for Nvidia GPU's. This distro is a custom version of Ubuntu/Debian Linux.
There are many other good desktop distros so check them out too. Some are specifically aimed at more advanced users and programmers, others are more suitable for servers and firewalls, and some are referred to as "bleeding edge", meaning they often require regular tweaks to keep everything running well. In addition, there are distro's that cater for specialist areas such as the scientific community, musicians, schools etc, and if you are inclined, you can even create your own personal operating system! There is no such thing as "one size fits all" in the Linux world!
When deciding which Linux distro (distribution) to use, and selecting a desktop environment to work with it may seem a little overwhelming at first, variety is a good thing to have though and you can download and try as many Linux distro's as you wish without altering a single thing on your PC! Start by downloading the iso file of the Linux you wish to try or use, then burn the iso image to a rewritable DVD, boot your system from the DVD and try it out. Don't judge the speed of the system when booting from optical media as it will be far slower than an installed operating system. Pretty much all of the Linux distros are listed at distrowatch.com for your perusal and you can get a decent idea of the variety of desktop environments available.
Potential disadvantages to using Linux for some people is that it does not run Windows applications natively (Windows cannot run Linux or Apple Mac software either). There are however equally good - and better in some cases, products available for most business and home user requirements. If you really do need to use a particular Windows application, it is worth looking into either the free Wine product which is included in most distro repositories, or the moderately priced Crossover version for compatibility with your particular software application.
For anyone remotely concerned about their privacy, you can rest assured that Linux contains no built in spyware, backdoors, key loggers, or ad-ware, nor does it report your computer usage, Internet activity, installed applications, personal data, contacts details, etc to anyone, and you do not get assigned a unique on-line tracking or advertising ID.
You will experience far more privacy and security in everything you do both on-line and off-line unless you choose otherwise *. When you use Linux, are in complete control of every aspect of your computer.
* Your choice of Internet browser, it's settings, add-ons / plugins will affect your level of on-line privacy, exposure to adverts, and tracking.