Linux: No need to be afraid of the penguin

Tux the penguin is the mascot of Linux. But cuteness does little to help it win over more users from Windows. — Tobias Kleinschmidt/dpa

Windows is the top dog among the operating systems for computers. Linux, despite being mostly free, open-source, more resistant to viruses and simple to use, gets a rough time. These two versions make it easy to switch.

The penguin has a hard time. Even after all these years, the mascot for the Linux operating system still struggles to make an impact against the colourful Windows symbol of Microsoft. That's because the market for operating systems on desktops and laptops is still dominated by Windows.

According to recent statistics, almost 88% of computers worldwide run Windows while the figure for Linux is around 2%. One of the main reasons is that Windows is often preinstalled on computers and many users know the system already.

However, you can save money if you do decide to give Linux a go. The programmers of the open source project have released several Linux distributions that are just as user-friendly as Windows.

For a long time there have been competitive computers running Linux, according to Frank Termer, head of Bitkom, a software industry association in Germany.

"Many small, chic netbooks are shipped from the factory with Linux and have very high performance and are unbeatably low in price due to the absence of any licence costs," he says.

There's no one Linux but rather any number of variants, some well suited for beginners and others less so.

Operating system specialist Thorsten Leemhuis recommends either Ubuntu Desktop or Linux Mint. Both are widely used so plenty of help for them can be found online. Here's an overview of the two variants.

Ubuntu Desktop

The Ubuntu distribution of Linux is considered exemplary in terms of usability and flexibility, for example, when integrating media content such as music or videos. Windows users are likely to feel at home quickly, Leemhuis believes. It includes a software centre that offers free programs.

Behind Ubuntu is the software company Canonical, which continues to develop it. The version number includes the abbreviation LTS, which stands for Long Term Support. That means five years of security and software updates are guaranteed.

Linux Mint

Linux Mint is also easy to use for beginners. It is based on Ubuntu, but is developed and maintained by a community of users rather than a software company. Multimedia of all kinds is also no problem for this Linux version.

Mint reminds Leemhuis of older versions of Windows and he also enjoys the many settings options that are available to users. This distribution has numerous programs on board, including a multimedia player.

There are a variety of other Linux distributions that are suitable for beginners and most of the programs are free. What you need above all, says Leemhuis, is time to change over to the new system.

Experienced Linux users learn about a piece of hardware's Linux compatibility before buying it. This makes sense when buying a computer too, Leemhuis says.

Some are specially configured for Linux distributions while some manufacturers with direct sales allow you to choose Linux as the operating system when you make a purchase.

In addition to low costs, Linux distributions offer another advantage: Criminals have little incentive to write malicious software for it because of the low numbers using the operating system compared to Windows. – dpa

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