Linux is the Voldemort of computers. You speak its name and everyone cowers in the corner, fearful of the pain and suffering it might bring. The thing is, Linux may have been a scary operating system before, but all of that has changed in recent years. These myths, which are more accurately called lies, are now dead.
Interested in learning Linux? Be sure to drop by these five websites for Linux newbies. Having trouble picking a flavor of Linux to use? Consider this list of best Linux distros in 2014. Not sure if Linux is for you? Here are the key differences between Windows and Linux.
Lie #1: Linux Is Too Difficult
Out of all arguments against using Linux, this one is the most common. In past articles, we’ve even inadvertently implied that “Linux is too difficult to learn” without even realizing it. The veracity of the statement, however, depends entirely on the definition of “too difficult” because it could be true in some ways and false in others.
Is Linux difficult in an absolute sense? No, not really. In fact, if you really look at it from an objective standpoint, it’s arguably the most logical operating system out there. If you want to do something, you just need to learn the right commands and parameters.
When coming from a blank slate, the hardest part of Linux is learning the sheer depth of commands. Thankfully, the man command (i.e. “manual”) tells you everything you need to know about any command. That being said, Linux newbies should first get started with these 40 essential Linux commands.
But the reality is that most Linux newbies aren’t coming from a blank slate; they’re coming from Windows or Mac. If a user comes to Linux expecting it to behave like another operating system, yes, it will be difficult and frustrating. However, if Linux is treated as it should be – a unique operating system with its own design and behaviors – then it won’t be so tough to grasp.
Lie #2: Linux Is Old And Ugly
Most first impressions of Linux aren’t too great, at least when it comes to aesthetics. Those who have never touched Linux probably imagine it to be nothing more than neon green text on a black background. Those who tried Linux many years ago probably remember the clunky graphics of older versions of Gnome and KDE.
Linux may have been ugly back in the day, but things are different now.
One thing to understand is that the Linux frontend (desktop, windows, animations) are decoupled from the Linux backend (the actual cogs of the operating system). There are multiple frontends, called desktop environments, and you can switch between them if you want. This may be a foreign concept for those who are used to Windows and Mac.
We recently covered the 10 best Linux desktop environments and each one offers a unique set of benefits. Some optimize performance while others aim for maximum eye candy. Check out Unity, the default desktop environment for Ubuntu, for proof that not all Linux environments have to be sterile and outdated.
Lie #3: You Must Use the Command Line
Let’s go back to the idea of green text on a black background. The Linux stereotype is one of a basement hacker with thick glasses who types frantically on a command line, which is properly known as a terminal. As a result, most people are under the impression that Linux is 99% keyboard.
Not true at all.
The desktop environments mentioned in Lie #2 are just like the graphic environments of Windows and Mac. You can navigate files and folders with your mouse if you want. In fact, it’s entirely possible to use Linux without ever touching the terminal. Perhaps that was true at some point in history, but it hasn’t been like that for a long time.
However, there is a slight caveat. If you ever run into issues, they’ll be easier to solve if you have some knowledge of the command line. Indeed, if you want to unlock the full potential of Linux, you’ll want to learn the command line and learn it well. For day-to-day use, you won’t need it; for anything deeper, you will.
Lie #4: You Must Build From Source
If you’ve ever downloaded a cross-platform program and looked under the Linux section, you’ve probably noticed that Linux downloads often come in source code while Windows and Mac typically come as binaries. One might conclude that Linux requires the user to build all programs from source, but that’s not necessarily true.
Most distributions come with something called a package manager. In Linux, a package is a collection of files and instructions which are interpreted by the package manager to show where and how those files should be unpacked. Long story short, packages can be used in a way similar to one-click installers.
Package managers have an additional benefit: they can tap into various online repositories full of different packages, which means that a manager can often be a one-stop-shop that provides quick installation of most available programs for your particular distribution of Linux.
Lesser known programs may not be available in these repositories, however, and in those rare cases you may need to build said programs from source. As long as you stick to well-known programs, this may never be an issue for you.
Lie #5: Linux Can’t Play Video Games
One reason why Windows continues to capture a huge share of the market is its de facto standard as “the operating system for gaming.” If you want to play the latest and greatest games, chances are you’ll need a Windows computer or you’ll be out of luck. But anyone who says that Linux can’t play video games at all is a liar.
Many people don’t realize that there are several high profile games that can be played natively on Linux. Some well-known titles include Amnesia, Civilization V, Dota 2, Half-Life series, World of Goo, but there are more. Combine that with the new Linux releases by GOG and the recently released SteamOS, which is a variant of Linux that aims to support every game on the Steam platform, and you’ll see that gaming on Linux has an interesting future.
There’s another option, too, and that’s Wine, which is “a free implementation of Windows” on Linux. You can think of it as an emulator that’ll let you run Windows games on Linux. Not every game will work this way and the games that do run might experience a performance hit. However, it’s a very real option that many use on a regular basis.
At the very least, you could always check out our list of the best Linux games.
All Debunked: Got Any More Linux Lies?
There you have it: five of the most common Linux lies, debunked. What other Linux lies or myths have you heard recently? Share them with us in the comments below and help debunk them! It’s about time that these falsehoods come to an end.