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    Killing the Five Myths Against Linux

    By Mark Rais, author of the new book Linux For the Rest of Us 2nd Edition.

    Over the past few years, I have tried to focus almost exclusively on helping small companies and inquisitive users move to Linux.  I realize that much of the hesitation to apply Linux in the business and home setting extends from five core myths.  Yes, its true that some people hesitate because they adore their Windows environment.  But most users I have worked with tend to shy away from trying out Linux simply because they believe a myth.

    In response to their concerns, and because more and more new and inquisitive users desire to try Linux but remain hesitant, I document these core five myths and put an end to the shameless ritual of attacking something that works.

    Before I begin I should also note that there are plenty of great user guides for people who need detailed guidance around business Linux use, such as this excellent article from on Linux VPNs. Plenty of good sources out there making Linux easy to use even for business needs.

    Myth #1
    Linux is hard to install.  Especially if I am not sure I want to keep it, but just try it out.

    Some cynical Linux gurus end up making snide remarks to such well meaning users.  Hey, how often have YOU installed Windows?  Knowing full and well that almost no user ever installs the Windows OS, and if they did, they would potentially encounter the very same concerns, these Linux experts mock the myth.   However, for the sake of the newbie who truly wants an answer not a snide remark, I always respond in the same way.

    I slip an SuSe Live CD into their drive and wait.  As they watch Linux loading up on their Windows system they start to panic and say wait Im not ready for that!  I smile and reassure them that I am not affecting any of their existing files.  Soon enough the crisp interface, driven I must add by KDE Desktop , finishes loading and I double click on the Mozilla browser icon.

    I open a website, for instance, and then let them see and use Linux for real.  Hey, it automatically installed my SpeedStream DSL modem, cackles my newbie user in glee.  Yes, and sound works fine, so does the mouse, and selecting and using his HP printer is done in about a minute from the YaST hardware config tool.  The tool is conveniently located under the main menu by choosing System, then Configuration, then YaST.

    But what if I dont want to try out SuSe   I have no intention to sell a particular flavor to any new user.  

    Instead, I confirm that the same thing is available with most of the major flavors including Debian, Fedora, Mandrake, or derivatives including Knoppix and Xandros among many.  Plenty of choices that work and work well I might add.  Most importantly, the user did not have to install to see it and try some of the features.  Of course, getting the most out of Linux requires an installation.

    Installing the versions I name above is as easy as walking through a step-by-step wizard that explains and then recommends each option.  Ive installed everyone of the flavors noted and they all come with very easy to understand graphical tools.  

    Most importantly, they all offer an option for new users to automate the installation so the techno-blabber is absent and getting started with Linux is simple.  

    In seriousness, not everything is seamless all of the time.  Some people encounter an issue while most do not.  For instance, sometimes hardware is unsupported under Linux such as Winmodems.  Nevertheless, most of these issues can be overcome post-installation.  As with any full operating system install, you may need to tweak the software, add a driver, or change a configuration such as for your sound card.  

    However, if you have ever reinstalled Windows, youll see a marked difference.  Under Linux, YOU are empowered to correct almost any issue or make almost any configuration change.  

    The result: it is just as easy if not easier to install Linux as it is to install Windows.  And most importantly, today there are plenty of ways to try out Linux without even making changes or installing anything on your PC.

    Myth #2
    Linux is free and therefore unsupported.

    A few years ago this was a real hurdle for me to address.  People, especially business owners, viewed the term free with cheap and worried that there would be no support once a migration to Linux occurred.  

    Today this myth is easily removed by simply using Google and running a search on Linux Help.  Available at the touch of a keyboard are many Linux support forums, user groups, free consultation and documentation, and thousands of people who want to help new users learn and grow.  Its easy to find many specific forums for using Linux for small businesses, for specific flavors like SuSe, and for super new users who need a helping hand .

    There is plenty of free and friendly Linux support available across the spectrum of needs from enterprise to new home user.

    Myth #3
    Linux is for techies and does not have an interface like Windows.

    Believe it or not, I still have a number of people hesitant to try Linux because they have never actually seen a Linux GUI!  For those who have still not seen and understood that Linux not only offers very refined and professional interfaces, but several choices of interfaces as well, please look at some of these screen shots:  heres one, another, and another .  

    There are not only highly professional and easily customized interfaces available; those already familiar with Windows can readily understand and use them.

    Myth #4
    There is not much software developed for Linux available.

    It is very true that Microsoft still reigns over the software industry of the world.  However, lists like this       remove the myth that software for business and home use is not readily available for Linux.  

    Volumes of programs are released everyday for business use and home desktops written for Linux.  And many of these programs are releases from major software companies that also produce for Windows and Macintosh.  The video game industry is not alone in this.  For instance, the Peoplesoft EnterpriseOne is available for Linux , and Adobe is continuing its move towards Linux as well    .

    Why would major software development companies take Linux initiative unless there was a strong demand and benefit for Linux use?  

    Myth #5
    To use Linux I have to give up my Windows software and buy new software.

    I appreciate this point since many companies and individuals have put a lot of money into their existing software.  

    Ironically, one of the greatest hesitations of moving to Linux among individuals relates to losing access to their favorite video games.  There are several readily available solutions for those concerned with keeping their Windows software.

    Wine offers Linux users a means of running their Windows software through Linux using an emulator.  To get a sense on how much Wine offers users you can simply do a Google search on Running Windows Games on Linux and see the results.  You may be surprised to find that people have addressed running all sorts of software through the FREE Wine emulator!  

    For those who are locked in to their Microsoft applications for some time due to licensing terms, there is always the opportunity to use the reasonably priced commercial alternatives to run software under Linux including: CrossOver Office , which is a company owned product that allows use of Microsoft Office products running under Linux; and Win4Lin, which allows the running of Windows software under Linux.  

    Finally, another option is simply to run Linux as a dual boot, where you can gain the significant benefits of stability and performance while keeping your Windows system and software fully accessible. 

    Years of effort and development have already addressed the myth that moving to Linux means giving up your Windows software.  Today, there are plenty of ways to gain the benefit of both.

    Most importantly, Linux offers significant reduction in licensing costs, while enhancing performance and stability, and granting the freedom of choice.  Now its up to each of us to choose Linux.

    Mark Rais has written numerous industry articles to help those hesitant to move to Linux including:  Using DSL and Linux, Moving to Linux, and the new book Linux For the Rest of Us 2nd Edition available from your favorite on-line retailer.

    Linux is a registered trademark of Linus Torvalds.  Microsoft, Windows, Windows XP, and Microsoft Office are the registered trademarks or trademarks of Microsoft Corporation.  In some cases the term Windows has been used to help denote Microsoft specific GUI, and the term MS may also have been used to help denote Microsoft owned products.  ALL other service marks, trademarks, and registered trademarks are owned by their respective companies.  The information on this web page is published explicitly as opinions and is not to be deemed factual or verified information.  For factual information refer to more than one source and judge for your self.


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