Linux Blog

How to talk openly about open source software

Filed under: General Linux,Linux for Newb's — at 9:42 am on Thursday, May 26, 2011

Today we have a guest post written by Whitney from Technected. Whitney majored in journalism and has been using Linux ever since. She now works for a large automotive corporation in the Midwest. In her spare time she enjoys playing video games, gardening and watching Dr. Who.

You already know Linux is superior. There’s a reason you downloaded it, even if you had to overwrite your pre-programmed OS. You painstakingly created partitioned files for your /boot, /swap, root and /home files. You even bought a stuffed penguin — the Jesus fish of Linux users — to proudly display on your desk.

With great power comes great responsibility, though. Suddenly, everyone is asking you why Linux is so great, and if they should download it. Once you’ve worked with an OS for so long, it’s sometimes hard to simplify your answers for them, so here’s a handy list of answers for the masses

What makes Linux different?

Linux is an open source operating system, which basically means that all of the information and code is available on-line free of charge. Having all of the code for it means that individuals can change it as they’d like.

What makes it work?

Users are actually the force behind the software. Individual users create fixes for problems (called patches) and write programs for it.

What’s with the different packages available?

Distributions are bundled packages of software that developers have put together that work well together. The developers have also ironed out kinks to make sure it runs smoothly. If you’re looking for a quicker start with Linux than piecing together each component, finding a distribution is an excellent route to go.

How is the security and virus protection?

Linux is actually safer to use because less viruses are created for them. In addition to that, because many developers are working on the same programs, they’re likely to come up with fixes and protection for viruses within a matter of hours or days, while Microsoft can take months.

Should I be using Linux?

This question can go either route depending on who’s asking it. Evaluate the questioner. If he or she still uses a Hotmail account, thinks Solitaire is ‘pc gaming’ or thinks sending cell phone pictures is the greatest thing, the answer is no. If this person tries to install it, they will never stop asking you questions. If they manage to install it, you may eventually have to put Windows back onto their computer. Encourage them to begin using some open source programs before they make the full jump to an open source operating system.

However, if they operate their own blog with a personalized theme, have taken a few computing classes or written a basic program or two, encourage them to try it out. You can offer minimal support — they’ll know to go to Google for basic questions.

Hopefully this list will help you explain the glory of Linux to your friends and family. Remember that as a Linux user, you’ll be standing up for open source programs everywhere. Speaking about it in accessible language is a great way to promote it and keeps with the open spirit of Linux itself.