Tuesday, 1 September 2015

5 Reasons Not To "Not Use Linux"

Posted by Gary Newell  |  at  22:37 17 comments


The one thing I really like about Linux is that there is always something to write about and sometimes articles just seem to fall out of the sky and land on your head like a large dollop of stuff seagulls like to drop.

This week I was browsing the latest Linux Youtube videos and I stumbled on one called "5 Reasons Not To Use Linux".

The video is about 10 minutes long and I was hoping it was going to be a useful insight as to why someone wouldn't use Linux. Unfortunately it would have been a useful insight into why somebody wouldn't have used Linux maybe 15 years ago.

This article is intended as a rebuttal to that particular video and not to Tim himself because there are some good videos on his feed at www.timmytechtv.com and he comes across as a likeable guy. This time however I think he got it wrong.

As in the video I will be going back from 5 to 1.

5. Too Many Distros

I can't believe we are back here again. The too many Linux distributions debate is one that will run and run and quite often it is an argument that is used inside the Linux community as well as by outsiders looking in.

The way I like to think of it is this. There are hundreds of different flavours of crisps but most people stick to the same few flavours. Everyone tends to like "Salt and Vinegar", not many people are so on "Quails Egg and Lemongrass".

The point is that yes there are hundreds of Linux distributions but most people stick to the main 5 or 6 with the rest of the distributions getting a much smaller share of the users and people helping towards them.

One argument that Tim makes that kind of makes sense is that if everyone pooled together to make one or two distributions you would end up with something better. You have to question that if this is the case why are we all using Linux and not Windows. Windows has loads of developers but it still isn't perfect.

The big distributions all have lots of people working on their projects. What the other distributions do which I think makes them relevant and what ultimately contributes to the greater cause is provide innovation. 

Smaller distributions can afford to take chances and develop new pieces of software and try new things out. Innovative ideas soon make their way up the chain if they are any good.

4. Drivers

Number 4 on Tim's list is the lack of drivers available for hardware that you might want to run on Linux.

To be fair, Tim admits that things have got better but the main argument is that because the market share of Linux is so small the hardware vendors will always consider Linux support as an afterthought to the Windows market.

Ok, I get the point and it is a reasonable one. Let me think about all the hardware that I have in my possession.

I have a 10 year old Samsung laptop, all the hardware works on it including wi-fi, video drivers, audio drivers, bluetooth and webcam.

I have a 3 year old Toshiba laptop (this one in fact). I am running Bodhi Linux and all my hardware works perfectly well. 

I have a 2 year old Dell laptop which again has fully working hardware under Linux. That laptop gets hammered as it is the one that I do most of my reviews on. 

I bought a wireless Epson printer which was easier to set up under Linux than it was with Windows 8.1 although I will confess that everything seems to be easier to set up on my phone now than it does on traditional hardware.

Talking of which. I have a western digital my cloud device. Fully works under Linux using Samba. My HP headset works perfectly, my Samsung Galaxy phone works perfectly, my Sony Walkman works perfectly (not the cassette player from the 80s).

I can't think of a single thing that I have bought in the past few years that hasn't worked straight away with Linux.

3. GUI

To quote the video:

This is the bit where Tim shows that he isn't really a Linux user and probably never really has been. The other clue is that during his point about the number of distributions he mentions that he can name a dozen distros but his own personal favourite is "Red Hat".

"Red Hat Linux" isn't really the sort of distribution most people would run from home especially when there are free alternatives such as Fedora or CentOS.

So back to the point. Apparently there aren't any good user interfaces within Linux and it is ugly. The one that Tim has always used is "XWindows".

Now I am going to give Tim the benefit of the doubt and hope that by saying "XWindows" he maybe meant "XFCE" but it is likely he really did mean XWindows which is the graphical server that most window managers and then desktop environments are built on top of.

To answer the point however. There are no good user interfaces in Linux? If you are looking for beauty then take a look at these:



This all goes back to the choice argument. There are so many different desktop environments to choose from that you are bound to find one which you think works for you better than anything else.

The ridiculous thing about this argument is that Windows 8 can never go down as having a better GUI than either Unity, GNOME, KDE, Pantheon, Cinnamon, XFCE, MATE, Enlightenment or even LXDE,

If we are talking about usability then what about the mess that is Microsoft Office. Those ribbon bars are truly horrific.

There seems to be this impression that Microsoft does software well. Has anybody tried using Reporting Services to get a consistent report to Excel? The columns generally end up all over the place. Visual Studio 13 seems to be crashing a lot more now than it used to as well.

2. Software

This is the point where Tim brings out his ace in the pack. "I want Adobe. I can't run Adobe on Linux, I'm not using Linux".

The same argument can be said of a few different packages including the Microsoft Office suite. I'm not going to try and argue with this point.

If you really need to use Photoshop, then use Windows or OSX and use Photoshop. In the video Tim says that somebody will say but you can use this other graphics package but he doesn't want to, he wants to use Adobe. Full stop.

So here are my feelings on this. As I said before if you are a heavy Photoshop user and you can't get over that then use Windows. Nobody is forcing anyone to use Linux.

How many people however are Photoshop users? How many people really utilise enough of the features of Photoshop that they couldn't try something else like GIMP?

How much does Photoshop cost by the way? According to the Adobe website it is £17.15 per month for a subscription of Photoshop CC.

If you aren't a professional image editor and you aren't using it for business you could save yourself a fair bit of cash by trying something new.

The same goes for Microsoft Office. An Office 365 subscription costs £5.99 a month. Do you really use £5.99 a month worth of features that don't exist in either Google Docs or LibreOffice?

If you upgrade to Windows 10 by the way you also have to pay for the media player and the games are ad-supported.

I know lots of people that are using Windows but who use mainly packages which are also available for Linux. For example LibreOffice, VLC media player and Thunderbird Email.

Your decision about Windows or Linux doesn't have to be a choice of one or the other. Many households have multiple devices and so you can use different computers for different tasks.

Let me ask you a question,which of these would you prefer to use to surf the web:

1. A Windows PC packed to the hilt with Antivirus software which is only about 70% effective. The same Windows PC which when booting will say "Installing update 1 of 364". When you finally boot up every other package wants to update itself and the machine is running at half capacity because the antivirus software is eating up most of the CPU and memory 

2. A Linux PC which boots in seconds and is straight online with a much reduced risk to your security.

Everything has its good points and everything has its bad points.

1. Ease Of Use

I can't believe ease of use is the number 1 reason not to use Linux.

I bet if I gave my eldest child who is 13 a Windows DVD and a Linux DVD and asked him to install one on one computer and one on the other he would find it easier to install Linux.

My wife who is not particularly computer literate quite often borrows one of my laptops running Linux and she can navigate her way around without any hassle.

How can anyone level ease of use being a problem for Linux when you now have to compare it against Windows 8 and above?

Is Unity and GNOME any harder than using the tiled Windows 8 interface? Is Cinnamon any harder to use than the Windows 7 interface?

What about software? Is Evolution any more difficult than Microsoft Outlook and can anybody honestly say that it is harder to use LibreOffice than it is Microsoft Office with the dreaded ribbons?

I mentioned earlier that it was easier to set up my printer using Linux than Windows. Using Mint, Bodhi and Ubuntu I simply had to click "Add Printer" and it found my printer and installed the driver. Within Mageia I had to download and install the driver. When I used Windows I had to insert a CD, install the driver and software and then download an update, finally followed by the obligatory reboot.


2000+ people have already watched Tim's video and that is potentially 2000 people that might not use Linux based on invalid arguments.

Hopefully a few more people will read this article and therefore redress the balance somewhat.

Before I go I wanted to mention that Tim has produced his own counter argument called "5 Reasons To Use Linux".  The points in that video state that Linux is multikernel, is open source, has support for many different hardware devices such as the Raspberry PI, has lots of distros (which kind of counters against point 5 in the reasons not to use Linux) and finally it is free.

If you have read this article and you are looking for a distribution why not read this guide which highlights the "5 easiest to use modern distros". It is a year old and I plan to update it but might still be good for an indication.

Thanks for reading.

About the Author

Gary Newell started the Everyday Linux User blog in 2010 and has written reviews on dozens of different Linux based operating systems. He has also written a number of tutorials.

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  1. While I agree that there is some Windows and Mac software that can't be used in Linux, this isn't the case for Microsoft Office or Adobe Reader. I am running both using Play on Linux (a Wine front end) that is free and makes them easy to install. The only proviso for Office is that at present, the latest version supported is 2010.

  2. About software, it also goes for free (as in beer) software like Acrobat (now it has a linux version, last time I tested it it was behind windows though --- no viable competitor when it comes to reliably open some pdf files using arcane features of the standard, e.g. administrative forms) or Skype (has a linux version, nowadays it's less behind, but it doesn't work on all systems --- no competitor). Probably a lot of OSX apps as well, but I don't know OSX well enough.

    You mention Office. There is one specific feature that Office offers that no free linux competitor offers: full compatibility with Office document formats. Sure, libreoffice can open and save docx documents. Last time I tried showing that to an actual office user, with a real document, he could find a point of failure in less than 10 seconds. (Don't really remember what it was, something about drawing a frame around a title or something, probably fixed by today, not the question anyway)
    And docx and xlsx are almost supported, but that leaves aside a LOT of formats. How do I edit a .pub document on linux? Yup, reboot on windows.

    And office UI does have its meh elements (ribbons...), but it is also awesome for other things. Drag-and-drop features are a breeze most of the time, for example.

    Also, just because some software is available on both windows and linux doesn't mean it's the same experience. I can watch netflix with firefox on windows, not on linux. I can watch twitch with chrome on windows, not on linux.

    "Everything has its good points and everything has its bad points." I believe that it's precisely what this guy is trying to show on his channel.

    1. Does the full compatibility with Office documents thing go back to the same issue that we used to have with Internet Explorer. Every other browser was standards compliant except for Internet Explorer. People used to shun other browsers and say it was their problem until Chrome came along and then everybody realized it was Internet Explorer that needed to change. Maybe it is the same with the Office products. Not enough standardization and/or standards being followed.

  3. Fair enough comments. My step-father, who I introduced to Linux several years ago, has installed (usually Mint) Linux on the machines of various retired persons at his cyberclub.

    They all say the same thing: as easy to use as Windows if not more so. They like that they can easily install things, their machines are faster and they don't have to keep looking for various other software to make their machines run properly or safer.

    If the population of retired persons find Linux easy to use...

  4. Just look at /r/unixporn to find awesome looking DEs... I just hate if someone tries to convince others to not use Linux based on false arguments... Unfortunatedly, most of the "Linux sucks" videos are pure garbage

  5. I really don’t qualify as Windows user.
    I ignored W3.1, when it came out. It was more of a novelty.
    Then came W95 and I started looking for something else.
    When W98 came out I was already exploring alternatives including Linux.
    Yes, I was a dual booting Linux at first. A couple of months later I made the leap.
    I tried and explored several versions until I finally settled on what I have been using for over a decade. I have now been a full time Linux user for the past 15 years.
    I use it for everything I do.

    I’m NOT a power user, my needs are very basic. Word processing, spreadsheets, browsers, desktop and web creations, photography, video editing, podcasting, email and music.
    I can’t give you an opinion on Windows, they lost me with their blue screen of death, viruses and their closed inflexible ways.

    You have every right to use whatever you want, I learned that there are options and alternatives to choose from. I will never limit my options again.

  6. Horses for courses. For personal use i.e Internet/email/ light word processing etc Linux is absolutely fine . For business use eg accounts packages, payroll etc like it or not it is very difficult to replace windows.

    I also agree with him about ease of use. For typical readers of this blog Linux is no problem but I cannot see the "point and click" brigade warming to Linux.

    I am neither for nor against Linux or Windows ( I use both incl Debian with XFCE DE) but I do not like the frequently encountered anti Windows attitude of some Linux users who seem to start with a presumption that Microsoft/Windows is some sort of conspiracy.

  7. I will agree that some of the reasons given in that video are B.S., but nobody ever seems to mention the real reason not to use Linux, so I will. The reason is, in Windows or OS X, you can use older versions of software without any problem, if you can obtain or have saved the older install package. In Linux, almsot everything comes from repositories, and you often can't get an older version. Once you have allowed an update you are pretty much stuck with the new version, for better or worse.

    I'm speaking as a typical computer user that doesn't have a clue how to compile software from scratch. If knowing how to compile software is considered a necessary skill for using Linux, that alone is a reason not to use it, because neither Windows nor OS X requires you to know that. But with Linux, if you complain that a new version of software broke some functionality, some wiseguy will always suggest that you compile from source - which assumes you can even get the source for the older version, AND that you know how to compile it.

    And, because Linux installs dependencies once for use by all the software that requires that dependency, you are often required to upgrade software if you upgrade the operating system, because the older software wants a dependency that's no longer available.

    Here's two examples of how this works in practice. Under Windows there was an easy to use graphics program that made some major changes in a version. But since I had the installer for the older version, I continued to use it. Then I moved to OS X and continued to use that old program under WINE. It's probably abut 15 years old now and still does exactly what I need it to do.

    Compare that to a media player program called Kodi. For Windows or OS X, you can download an installer and if you have to revert to an older version, no problem. But I installed Ubuntu 14.04 on a small media center PC, and the only version of Kodi that I could obtain was the new "Isengard" version. That would not be a problem except that they also rewrote all their PVR addons, and broke the one that works with Tvheadend so you can't skip around in programs (meaning that if you try to skip commercials, you often get thrown to some random place in the program, or out of the program completely). The previous version (Kodi Helix) worked great but there is no way to obtain it - the repository only offers the newest version. And if I were running a newer version of Ubuntu, an older version of Kodi might not work anyway, because it would likely require older dependencies that aren't present anymore. Sure, loading a dependency once saves space, but what good is that if you are stuck with buggy software?

    And Linux developers, particularly those who develop free software, often seem to have the attitude that they can change things on a whim and users just have to put up with it, or they can break functionality and never fix it. Which again would be fine if users could effectively vote against the changes by reverting to an older version, but in most cases they can't.

    Believe me, if Linux had a way that you could download software as an .exe file (as in Windows) or a .dmg file (as in OS X) I would be much, much, MUCH happier with Linux. Then, if a developer f***ed up the latest version of their software, you could reinstall the version you previously downloaded. In OS X it's actually even easier if you aren't installing to a brand new system, you just restore the previous version of the .app file using Time Machine. In both cases any needed "dependencies" are packaged with the program itself. I know you probably think the Linux way of doing things is better, but from the viewpoint of a non-technically proficient user in his 60's, it sucks.

    Despite all that, there are many things I like about Linux, but I have been bitten once too often by this business of software upgrades breaking things and developers not seeming to care if those things are ever fixed or not.

    1. So much anger, an f-bomb even! So that you don't mistake my reply as angry because anger is often returned for anger, just picture a calm, reasonable fellow as you read this reply.
      Did you purchase Kodi or the GNU/Linux OS you installed it on? There might be many users of Windows XP upset to find out that they probably need to purchase an upgrade for a purchased program when they get a new Windows 10 computer.
      Did you read the changelog, the comments developers leave for updates, before updating to find out if it was necessary for you? I understand the importance of security updates, but those rarely cause breakages that feature updates cause. Although, even Microsoft, with their many paid developers, are human and have security updates that cause unintended issues.
      Consider it an opportunity to help out the developer by submitting a bug report because the developer probably does not have the same device to run tests on. If they ask you to do something that you don't know how to do, like compile from the latest source, ask them or ask on the project forum. My best advice for anyone asking for technical help on forums and such is to be patient and respectful. Pretend you are speaking to someone you know and respect.
      I think it is great that free software, as defined by the Free Software Foundation, has non-technical users using it on a daily basis. Try to remember that the developers of that free software are either paid by companies with goals that might be different than yours, paid by donations from individual users or associations, or not paid at all and only do it for their own reasons: fun, education, a whim, etc.
      I do hope you get your device running again without having to buy a newer model or a different brand.

  8. My 7 year old has a refurbished laptop that runs Mint, just to watch movies, mess around in scratch, and play some of his educational games on sites like PBS kids.

    If he can figure it out without help, so can everyone else.

  9. Get a Logitech keyboard or mouse with a unifying receiver and try installing one in Windows without a conventional keyboard. In Linux they just work.

  10. The only thing that's stopped me from easily migrating to Linux at home is that I've not gotten HDMI audio to work easily on my HP desktop.

  11. One thing I would like to point out, and I don't know if you already knew this before writing this article: Tim works for Microsoft (not in the Windows OS division, he's in the networking section of the company I believe). Not that that would influence his opinion, it's just that of course he doesn't have a lot of experience with Linux, he literally uses Windows for a living. By the way I've been following Tim for a while now, he is a nice guy and a PC enthusiast in general, as I'm sure most of the folks reading this article are - myself included.

  12. My wireless adapter TP LINK 8200ND doesn't work with Linux. I'd tried all solutions to install the driver, but nothing works.
    sorry my english!

  13. It's just best to not to pay attentions to these stuff.

    Actually the only driver problem i have is not having LGS for my g510's monitor and graphics driver's for my r7 250x, other then that everything is better and simpler, specially for programming!

  14. I too which there were less distro's and more people working together.
    You are making sense, but I do not agree about the gui.
    Look at opensuse with kde. It looks good, and is easier to use then windows especially for the people who do not know much not want to know much about computers.
    There is one answer to all questions like, how do I install a program, or how do I change some setting. Its called yast.
    It also has features for the more advance users, it does not hide them from you like windows does.

  15. Okay, I give him "too many distros." They are fun for advanced users, but confuse the heck out of beginners. I'll even give him a bit on the drivers, though Linux has come a *long* way compared to the early days when I first started using it. GUI - nope, no way. I can't tolerate 8 or 10 because they are just too...busy.

    But ease of use? My kids (two are in their 20's and one in her teens) has used Linux since they were little. My youngest started using it as a toddler! She could find the games and play them for hours (her favorite was tuxpaint). To this day my youngest has the worst luck with Windows - but she can take a Linux box and do anything. No slowdowns, no crashes, it just works. And she's hard on them.

    I've turned people who know almost nothing about computers lose on Linux and they've all raved about it. Several had me install it on their systems because they could do more with it than with Windows.


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