Taking Aim at 6 Myths and Whines Surrounding Linux

12 November, 2019

It’s shocking to see what people know, or more to the point don’t know, about Linux these days. And I’m not talking about this from the perspective of a techie.

Not only is there a lot of old information and misinformation floating around out there, but there are also a number myths that still linger. And a few persistent whines, too.

There’s more to this than what FUDsters keep spreading. It’s also the general lack of knowledge on the part of the ordinary computer user and people who should know better.

Here’s a look at half a dozen myths and whines surrounding Linux.

Linux is All Command Line, All the Time

In 2014, I was working as a technical writer at a shop that developed call centre software. Once day, I helped a new writer set up a virtual machine running a Linux distribution called CentOS. When the installation was complete and the desktop loaded after he logged in, this person was very surprised that CentOS (and Linux in general) had a graphical environment. And this was someone who’d been working in the tech industry for about a decade.

Yes, even today, there are folks who think that Linux is either command line only or that you can’t use it without the command line. As I’ve keep saying, you can use Linux without ever cracking open a terminal window. I know several people who use Linux and who’ve never touched the command line and probably never will.

Having said that, sometimes a little command line can go a long way.

You Need to Compile All of Your Software

You only have to do that if you want to. Most software that you’ll use comes precompiled. You can install it using a package manager, your distribution’s software centre (if it has one), or using a pre-packaged installed (like a .deb or .rpm file).

I’ve been using Linux for about 17 years, and in that time I’ve compiled maybe a dozen programs. Everything else, I’ve installed prepackaged.

Linux is Too Difficult for the Average User

To be honest, I’m not sure who the average user of any operating system is. It is the non techie or non coder? Someone who’s elderly? Someone who only uses a computer for basic tasks like email, word processing, and browsing the web?

I know people in all of those categories who use Linux daily. They can effortlessly get their work done, and have few (if any) complaints.

On the other hand, I know a number of average users who gave up on Linux because they refused to make a few minor adjustments to adapt to Linux. Either they fell into the it’s not … trap, they didn’t give it enough time, or they didn’t take time to learn a little more about Linux.

Linux Doesn’t Work With …

Yes, there is hardware that doesn’t have open source drivers, even today. That makes it difficult for a Linux distribution to work with certain printers or scanners or other devices. Even though I’m not a coder, I know how difficult it is to write device drivers.

To be honest, I’ve only run into the problem of a Linux distro not working with a certain piece of hardware twice. Once with an HP multi-function printer (upgrading the printer support software fixed that), and once with the wifi on a Dell netbook that refused to connect to my home network, but which worked elsewhere.

If you’re wondering if a piece of hardware you use is compatible with the Linux distro you’re thinking of using, check out this reference.

Linux Doesn’t Work Like …

No, you can’t install Windows or Mac software under Linux. Well, you can install and run quite a bit of Windows software using special software called CrossOver or WINE.

And while the Linux equivalents of the software that you use — like Microsoft Office or Photoshop — don’t look the same or don’t have every feature under the sun, they’re more than up to the job.

Sadly, people get into what I call the It’s not … mindset. As in, It’s not Windows 10 or It’s not Microsoft Word. Ergo, it can’t be any good. They just need to give it a try, and take a bit of time to adapt. When they do that, then they can make a more informed judgement about something’s quality and usefulness.

Linux is Harder to Install Than Windows

I usually hear that from people who’ve never installed Windows, or any other operating system for that matter.

I’ve found that it’s just as easy to install a Linux distribution as it is to install Windows. Maybe even easier — you don’t have to worry about entering a long license key!

Over the years, I’ve installed various Linux distributions on … well, I don’t know how many desktop computers, laptops, and netbooks of varying vintages. The only time I ever ran into a problem is when I chose the wrong file system when installing Xubuntu. I easily fixed that by reinstalling Xubuntu.

The only time you’ll need to embrace your inner geek is creating a live USB for the installation. Even then, with the right software it’s not a difficult or complex chore.

Scott Nesbitt