Linux and Open Source Software

Welcome to the Linux and Open Source section. This is the place where you can learn more about F(L)OSS, or Free (Libre) and Open Source Software, and what it can do for you.

What is Open Source Software?

Open Source Software refers to software that has it's original source code publicly (and freely) available for scrutiny, modification and redistribution. The basic idea behind Open Source Software is that it's users should have the right to do whatever they want with it, without the developers imposing restrictions, sometimes unreasonable, upon them.

This is in contrast to Proprietary Software, which is usually copyrighted to the developer/business that made it, and is available to the users under an EULA (End User License Agreement). The EULA (End User License Agreement) usually provides users with little control, if at all, over how the software functions or can be made to function. The user also has no ownership of the software under such license agreements, and is only granted 'permission' by the developer/business to use their software. Sometimes, such permission granted to the user is only for use on one computer system.

From a security standpoint, proprietary software does not do too well either. Software such as Adobe Flash as well as Microsoft Windows have a rather illustrious history of security vulnerabilities. Case in point: if you have used Windows, you are probably familiar with having viruses/malware infecting your Operating System. As far as Adobe Flash is concerned, major companies like Mozilla, FaceBook and Apple(for a long time) have called for websites to stop using Flash (watch this video to learn more: Will Flash Be Trashed? - Linux Unplugged 101) because of how unsafe it is for users.

Some proprietary software might even collect your personal data and internet browsing/surfing habits and search terms for business use and share them with third parties without your knowledge or express consent - Microsoft Windows Privacy Policy as on 1st August, 2015 (watch this video to learn more: Get Tracked with Windows 10 - Tech Talk Today 198) is a fine example of this. And usually, the only way to gain back control over your rights, privacy and personal data is to uninstall the software from your computer.

Why use Open Source Software?

Users should always try to use Open Source Software wherever possible to avoid the pitfalls of proprietary software as mentioned above. Open Source Software is usually available for the user to freely download and use however the user wishes. There are no restrictive licenses to agree to and the user has complete control over the software. Change the code, customize the look and feel of the software and then share the changes you made with everyone else - anything goes.

Additionally, since the source code of the software is freely available for public scrutiny, possible bugs and security issues are found more quickly and consequently are fixed more quickly by the developers and the community.

Open Source Software also gives the user complete control over their privacy and personal data. You also get to decide how much protection you want on your data and who has access to it.

What is Linux?

GNU/Linux, more commonly known as just Linux, is an Open Source UNIX-like Operating System that you can use on your computer. (Technically, Linux refers to the Kernel of the Operating System, but for the purposes of this discussion taking a broader view is sufficient). Linux is a free (libre), stable, secure, reliable, highly customizable and cost-effective replacement for Windows on your Desktop or Laptop. Linux has all the benefits of Open Source Software as mentioned above and none of the drawbacks of proprietary software.

Why should you use Linux?

Linux is everywhere. Linux runs the majority of the world's web servers and other servers. Almost all research work is done using Linux. Most of the world's supercomputers run Linux. Many mainframe computers run Linux. If you have ever used any Android device, then you have used Linux - Android is built on top of the Linux Kernel. Linux can also be found on many routers, smart tvs and many other embedded devices. As the technology world moves towards an Internet of Things (IoT) culture, Linux is expected to be even more popular.

If you use a computer mainly to get on and browse the internet, send email, chat, listen to music, play videos, edit documents or view, organize and edit photos, then you have no reason to pay for a license of Windows, or get a pirated copy for that matter. A Linux OS can handle all these tasks just fine and it is perfectly legal to download and install Linux on your computer at no cost. Even if you can get a pirated copy of Windows at no cost, a Linux OS will provide you with security and system updates at no cost.

Linux is also incredibly resource efficient. I have had people install Linux on eight year old computers (Dual Core, 1GB RAM) and have it run just fine. So if you have an old computer system that runs really slow and you dont want to throw it away, you can put Linux on it and make it useful again. Technically, you can make Linux run on systems half as powerful as the one I mentioned above, but that would be a bit on the slower side (slow for Desktop/Laptop use, Linux servers can fly on those configurations). Linux is crazy fast on modern hardware though (released roughly within the last 5 years).

Are there any drawbacks at all?

Linux does not do video games very well yet (this is not a technical limitation, many games are not available as a Linux version yet). So if you are a hardcore gamer, it would be best for you to keep using Windows for now. There are some really good games available for Linux, so if you are not too picky, Linux will work just fine in this department.

You can buy Linux Games from Steam, GOG and the Humble Bundle Store (there are other stores, these are just the places I buy from).

Additionally, Adobe does not support Linux as a platform (this is Adobe's decision, not Linux's limitation). So if you have to use Adobe products, you should keep using Windows. There are Open Source alternatives available; so if you don't have a pressing need for Adobe's software, you can always give these a try.

Where can you get Linux from?

There are a number of Linux based Operating Systems available for everyday use. For beginners and people who want an easy experience, I would recommend using either Linux Mint or Ubuntu. If you want to learn about computers and would like a challenge you can try Arch Linux (Arch is not for the easily annoyed. You have been warned). You should select the proper distribution based on your hardware age.

Older hardware would need a lightweight distribution like Linux Mint MATE or Ubuntu MATE.

Newer hardware can handle Linux Mint Cinnamon or default Ubuntu.

If you want to use Arch Linux, I recommend reading the Arch Wiki. That's the traditional way to learn.

You can also contact me, and ask me questions if you want to know or need help with something. Use the contact information provided on the Contact Page or use the Contact Form at the bottom of the Contact Page. The advice is free.

If you are from my city, Kolkata, you can ask me to visit and set your system up for you. The software itself is free, but I will charge a small amount for my time and travel. Contact me using the contact information on the Contact Page or the Contact Form at the bottom of the Contact Page.

A bit of general advice that I would give you is that regardless of what other people say, Linux and Open Source software are not hard to use at all. You just need to get used to some new ideas and concepts. Use it for yourself and decide for yourself. It is what you make of it.

And as a case in point I would like to just point out that my business runs on Open Source software. This entire website was made using Open Source tools and was developed on Linux. The web server that I use runs on Linux as well.

Open Source works, and works quite well at that.