There are many jokes among some people why I chose Linux. I’ll work backwards from least to most familiar.
I decided against Mac mostly based on price. The second issue was hardware tinkerability (which has improved since their move to the Intel hardware). The third issue was software tinkerability (I know there are ways to do some of what I want, but certainly not to the extent that I want). Maybe somewhere in a distant fourth was the ability to emulate some of the Windows games I wanted to run (but I think Parallels can address that now, even down to the DirectX and 3GL rendering). At the end of the day, if I wanted a computer that “just worked” I would chose a Mac; it was first on the list for my wife to look at when we replaced her Windows laptop for that very reason.
I decided to abandon Microsoft because of reasons that are probably too volatile to express here. (I’ve already made the mistake of going contrary to that intention). I think the least volatile is cost — I didn’t like the accumulating price tag for running the OS. Ultimately, a “Windows machine” would have kept me compatible with what appears to be the mainstream. I did have to give up some games (which I no longer really have time for), and a few other trivial pieces of software that I can no longer remember.
I decided against *the system* I really wanted because of cost alone: a Solaris workstation. They are nice, but they are priced for companies, not “normal people”. In my continuing theme of “in the final evaluation” … there is _no_ practical use for me to own a Solaris system. I just have a lingering soft-spot in my heart for SUN workstations.
My foremost decision on Linux was … can you see the theme … it is free. Yes, my altruistic step was selfishly financial. Now, that was my foremost reason. I do like the fact that I can easily choose the window manager independent of the OS. I can’t help it, that is something I believe should be separable in an OS because the window manager is not the OS. But I risk tangenting here, so I’ll stop there. Probably my dead last reason was the open source factor. It is neat; but I honestly have never directly interacted with that facet of my decision. I have compiled a few pieces of software, but have yet to compile a kernel or a window manager. I could compile software on Mac or Windows if I wanted to so I don’t really see that act as delving into the “open source aspect”.
One of the things I have found very nice is the support and community around the specific distribution I chose. That was a criteria I shopped around for… so maybe that really should be my second reason. Yes, believe it or not community support for a “free” operating system exists, and works. I have been very impressed with the bugs I have filed and the responses I have received in addition to the questions I have posed on the forums or existing answers I have found for my questions. I know I like to have insight into any given process, and this “feels better” than the “black box bug filing” against other operating systems. (Aside: I have heard good stories about Apple and Microsoft support, I have just personally never experienced the same level of quality. As the saying goes “your mileage may vary”.)
So there it is spelled out in black-and-white for the very first time. Cost, support, configurability, customizability, tinkerability, and open source (with “open standards” where possible).
That being said, I have run into several pitfalls with Linux; though none yet insurmountable. I’ll leave those to subjects of future posts.