7 Linux Misconceptions Debunked

Bertel King 01-06-2016

Not that many people use Linux. True or false?



I’ll admit, it’s hard to gauge how many users exist. Linux is free to download, and no single company has control. There are no sales figures to go by. TV and print ads aren’t shaping your perception.

Yet even if most of the people you know may not use Linux, there may be one who does. And many more will have no idea they interact with Linux every single day.

As it turns out, Linux has millions of users. Know what else it has? Other misconceptions that continue to give people a false idea of what Linux is like.

Let’s debunk a few, one by one.


1. Linux Is for Neckbeards

You may have heard that only a particular type of person uses Linux. Free and open source software is an area of interest only for neckbearded individuals. Behind this assertion is the implication that Linux is only for nerdy white men.


I’ve been using Linux for years, and I’m black. Yes, I’m a young man, and I do have geeky interests — but I also like exploring nature, yoga, and other physical pursuits. None of this has diminished my interest in open source ideals.

But that’s just one personal anecdote. Let’s also consider parts of the world where Linux is seeing growth. The GNOME Project named its latest release after the capital of India, home of this year’s GNOME.Asia Summit.



Prior years placed the conference in Beijing (China), HoChiMinh City (Vietnam), Seoul (South Korea), Depok (Indonesia), and elsewhere. Fedora held last year’s FUDcon in Pune [Broken URL Removed] (India). It was in Managua (Nicaragua) the year before that.

Yes, the open source community does have a diversity problem. It could benefit from having more users and developers who are women. There could be more people of various gender, social, and ethnic backgrounds entering the fold.

Fortunately we already have initiatives such as Outreachy attempting to address this issue. In the meantime, let’s not forget the non-neckbearded people with a deep appreciation for Linux.


2. Linux Is Made by Dudes in Their Bedrooms


Linux was born when Finnish (now Finnish American) developer Linus Torvalds started tinkering with the idea of making a free operating system while a student at the University of Helsinki. In a Usenet announcement, Torvalds described Linux as “just a hobby, won’t be big and professional like gnu.”

Linux has since grown into a hobby for some and a profession for others. Red Hat is a $2 billion company that creates a Linux distribution for corporate use. It also pays some of the developers who contribute to GNOME and other open source projects.

Linux powers most of the top 500 supercomputers, traffic control systems, self-driving cars, and the Large Hadron Collider Linux Is Everywhere: 10 Things You Didn't Know Were Penguin-Powered If you think the world rests on Windows, think again. Linux plays a crucial role in keeping our world going. Read More .


There are still many lone developers writing patches and contributing code from their bedrooms. But countless companies have adapted Linux to meet their needs, and many of them are also investing in its future.

As for Torvards, the Linux Foundation now pays him to continue work on the Linux kernel. Hobby?

3. Linux Is Difficult to Use


Linux has a reputation of being for computer programmers and sysadmins. Part of this stems from the operating system’s early days. What people ran shortly after that post on a mailing list was hardly ready for mainstream use. And while Linux is still gaining a foothold on desktops, it already powers the machines that run much of the Internet.

But you need zero coding skills to install or use Linux. Installation consists of downloading a file, installing it on a flash drive Install Ubuntu on Your Computer Using a USB Flash Drive Want to try Linux but don't own a DVD burner? Why not use a USB drive instead? Here's how to install Ubuntu from USB in minutes. Read More , restarting your computer, and following on-screen prompts. People who find this intimidating can buy a laptop with Linux pre-installed from companies such as System76 and ZaReason.

Afterward, you’ll find plenty of applications to choose from 10 Awesome GNOME Apps that Didn't Come With Your Distro The GNOME desktop is one of the most complete and accessible desktop environments in the Linux ecosystem, but the apps don't come preinstalled. Here's a list of several great GNOME apps to install. Read More . Many are more straightforward than their commercial counterparts. Without the effects of planned obsolescence Planned Obsolescence: Why We Can't Have Nice Things How much money are you wasting due to "planned obsolescence"? In this article, we explain what that is, why it should concern you, and what you might be able to do about it. Read More driving developers to make big design changes every few years, applications rarely undergo drastic redesigns forcing you to relearn how to do everything.

In many ways, Linux is more welcoming to first-time computer users than Windows 6 Ways Linux Is More Welcoming Than Windows for Newcomers If you recently installed Windows 10, you may have experienced a rather cold piece of automation. Contrast this with installing Linux, which is warm and informative - just two of many reasons to choose Linux... Read More .

4. Linux Is Inherently Secure

You may have heard that Linux is safe because all of its code is open source. Having more eyes on code does increase the likelihood that someone will spot vulnerabilities, but this doesn’t mean someone always will or that security risks don’t exist on Linux. They do Is Linux Really as Secure as You Think It Is? Linux is often touted as the most secure operating system you can get your hands onto, but is this really the case? Let's take a look at different aspects of Linux computer security. Read More . Some vulnerabilities can go undiscovered for decades Worse Than Heartbleed? Meet ShellShock: A New Security Threat For OS X and Linux Read More .

Part of this perception comes from the nature of the exploits that target Linux machines. Since Linux has such a small slice of desktop market share, hardly any malware exists for the platform. But that number isn’t zero, which shows that the operating system isn’t impenetrable.

Linux sees wider use by companies and governments. Attacks against these institutions won’t lead to a virus on your computer, but it could result in someone acquiring your passwords or data from other parties. Heartbleed was an example Heartbleed – What Can You Do To Stay Safe? Read More .

Sometimes the servers that distribute system updates get compromised. Occasionally a piece of software may get fixed, but a distribution has yet to package the update. Slip-ups happen.

Linux may be a relatively secure operating system that benefits from being open source, but that does not make it bullet-proof. If it were, there wouldn’t be a reason to make specialized distributions for the most paranoid among us Linux Operating Systems for the Paranoid: What Are the Most Secure Options? Switching to Linux delivers many benefits for users. From a more stable system to a vast selection of open source software, you're onto a winner. And it won't cost you a penny! Read More .

5. Linux Is Ugly

Since Linux isn’t a commercial product, its designers haven’t had to focus on making software visually enticing. That’s good, because Linux products typically have fewer resources to work with.

In the early days, Linux desktop environments were rough around the edges. Many of them still are today. But many projects are focused on making open source desktops easier on the eyes.

The modern GNOME desktop environment provides a polished and simple interface with animations. KDE is shinier and more customizable, with themes and options to get your computer just the way you like it. Elementary OS takes the polish of a MacBook but adds some open source flair Looking For A Beautiful, Easy To Use Linux Distro? Try Elementary OS Luna Elementary OS Luna is a lot more than Ubuntu with some tweaks and a nice theme. Here's what to expect. Read More .

What looks beautiful to some is garish to others. Many people can do without the pomp and circumstance of Windows 10 and Mac OS X. For them, basic (and perhaps dated-looking) options still exist such as XFCE and LXDE. Developers who love the terminal can use the likes of XMONAD and the Awesome Window Manager. Either one will make you look like that hacker in some movie you saw.

With so many interfaces to choose from The 12 Best Linux Desktop Environments Choosing a Linux desktop environment can be difficult. Here are the best Linux desktop environments to consider. Read More , there’s a good chance one will appeal to you.

6. Linux Is Not for Gamers

Most PC games run on Windows. A smaller number are available for Mac. Even fewer make their way to Linux.

But let’s be honest, that still leaves plenty of options to keep gamers satisfied 5 Games That Prove Linux Is Now a Serious Gaming Platform Big-budget games are coming to Linux, thanks to graphic driver improvements and the arrival of SteamOS. Here are five, top-tier games which undeniably demonstrate the potential of Linux as a platform for gaming. Read More .

Things have changed in recent years. Linux graphic drivers have come a long way Open Source AMD Graphics Are Now Awesome, Here's How To Get Them The AMD proprietary driver on Linux is fast but buggy, and the open source driver has now become awesome Read More . Steam is easy to install How to Install Steam and Start Gaming on Linux Installing Steam on Linux computers is straightforward, and the result is usually the same seamless gaming experience you had on Windows. Read More , and there are several other distribution platforms that offer Linux titles Where to Download the Best Linux Games Without Any Hassle Not even a decade ago, native gaming on Linux was limited to open source, cross-platform games. Today, the "no games on Linux" myth is dead. But where do you find compatible games? Read More . On computers that you use primarily for gaming, you can run versions of Linux built for gaming Not All About SteamOS: Other Great Linux Distros for Gamers SteamOS certainly isn't a requirement for Linux gaming, as games can be played on virtually any distribution. But what SteamOS alternatives are out there, ready to download and install? Read More . Some of them come with many free and open source titles pre-installed.

Will you be able to play every AAA title that gets announced for PC? No. But gamers who adjust their expections are having plenty of fun on their Linux these days.

7. You Get What You Pay For

This is literally not true. I have Linux on my computer. I did not buy it.

Kidding aside, this notion implies that Linux is inferior because it doesn’t cost anything. The software is supposedly not as good as commercial alternatives. Sometimes this is true, but it’s not always the case.

Many people choose to use open source applications instead of paid options 14 Free and Open Source Alternatives for Paid Software Don't waste money on software for personal use! Not only do free alternatives exist, they most likely offer all the features you need and may be easier and safer to use. Read More , even on Windows and Mac OS X. Cost isn’t always the factor. VLC can play seemingly any video. GIMP is a great way to edit pictures. Firefox remains one of the best browsers around.

Microsoft makes software that powers servers, but companies have adopted Linux because they view it as the better tool for the job. Some programmers feel the same way 7 Superb Reasons Why You Should Use Linux For Programming Linux has long had a reputation as a place for programmers and geeks, and is a fantastic platform for programmers. Not convinced? Well, there are many reasons to consider using Linux for writing code. Read More .

Commercial operating systems do come with an extra layer of polish, but Windows isn’t better put together than Chrome OS and Android. Those latter two are both based on Linux, and they’re free.

Some distributions are better than others. Ultimately, Linux is what you make it.

Linux Is Not for Me

Or is it? I’m willing to bet that with the right introduction, you could get by using Linux. You may even fall in love 7 Warning Signs That You're Meant to Switch to Linux I was a Windows user for years, but was doing things that have taught me I'm a Linux user at heart. Wondering if you're a secret Linux user? Here are the warning signs. Read More . The situation is rarely what it seems on the surface. The same may be true in this case too.

What fallacies have you heard about Linux or other open source desktops? What questions do you have yourself? This is a safe space. I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Image credit: Strange suspicious businessman, GNOME.Asia Summit 2016, Back view of modern programmer sitting and writing code in dark roomschoolboy behind his computer

Related topics: Linux, Open Source.

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  1. Arelem
    December 27, 2016 at 2:49 am

    I have been using Linux, Fedora and Ubuntu for around twenty years. It has never failed.
    windows BSOD and WSOD and continuous rebooting and virus infections drove me nuts before then so I never went back.
    Recently I started using Apple -only- because it has BSD OS a unix/Linux like OS and a terminal which I understood. And because it was cheaper to buy Apple than a high end graphics machine for Linux, my current Linux machine is 9 years old, 2gig ram and a low end cpu
    After years of Ubuntu I've just installed Fedora25 and Wow! I am impressed. Gimp, Inkscape, Scribus, Firefox, Drupal, Django and others are my tools of trade.
    Linux is a dream to install and it just works - day after day, I still use Xenial on my 686 Dell laptop. Don't be fooled by windows, it's not worth the money and definitely not worth the machine upgrades to satisfy it's needs.

    • Bertel King, Jr.
      December 28, 2016 at 6:14 pm

      I'm also a big fan of what the Fedora and GNOME folks have done. Impressive work.

  2. Tony L.
    June 12, 2016 at 7:41 am

    I love Linux but it suffers from several problems. Lots and lots and lots of distros. Variety is good in life but often confusing for new Linux users who hear about Ubuntu and Debian and Fedora and Arch and Manjaro. Every Linux guru has his/her favorite and newbies have no idea which is best. It doesn't come installed on computers expect those sold by companies like System 76. This means placing it on a hard drive. Many people only have one computer and its running Windows. Dual boot sounds confusing.

    Printer support can be problematic as can support for AMD. On a recent install of Linux Lite it wouldn't update. I visited the forums which was filled with the usual over complicated tech babble loved by nerds. I removed a PPA and things are fine. A new user could easily be frustrated. Linux Lite is advertised as newbie friendly. While Windows 10 can be a pain you don't need to be a IT expert to use it.

    Some Linux forums and communities are full of cool and helpful folks. Sadly many are also filled with smart people with limited social skills. Linux is and continues to be the computer enthusiasts distro.

  3. Anonymous
    June 4, 2016 at 10:54 pm

    I've got about another year of legacy support from Google on my Acer C710 Chromebook, and then I'm going to turn it into a Linux machine so I can run variants of Chrome that I happen to like better. :)

    I've played with countless distros over the years with unused pc's I had sitting around, but only now are some of the versions approaching a point of polish (for me) where I wouldn't feel like I'm peeling potatoes with a guillotine.

    Diversity is a very, very good thing (different cultures are so friggin' INTERESTING!), but it seems to me that when a certain quota of "this race...this we need this race...", when none of that has any real relationship to turning out a product, is simply wasting time. I would think that if white people or black people or yellow or red or brown or olive or whatever, want to participate in a certain endeavor...they will.

    Or they won't.

    Nobody is telling them they can't, so I guess they just don't want to.

  4. James McMichael
    June 3, 2016 at 9:07 am

    Linux has slowly but surely gained more popularity. Chrome OS has made great progress in the popularity. although not considered "traditional Linux".
    Google has been the most successful company when it comes to using the Linux kernel and building an OS around it. if you use a chromebook or android device then you are using Linux.

    Android and Chrome OS will soon be one in the same and with the added help of Vulkan we will soon see much more in the way of video processing and games come to Android and Chrome OS because of this. in the long run this will help Linux as a whole because of the development going into Vulkan.
    in the coming years i expect to see Google and Valve pushing Linux to whole new levels.

    The core of Linux will always remain geeksville which is were i hail, and is perfectly fine to me.

  5. Anonymous
    June 3, 2016 at 12:27 am

    Userspace apps are still lacking in polish. Many are still in a perpetual state of beta or version 0.x.xx. Open source software apps in certain industries are lacking or very rudimentary. For instance, I work in construction, and none of the open source CAD apps are anywhere near the quality or usability of AutoCAD. But at least some closed-source apps are available in Linux like Draft Sight.

    I like Linux and would recommend it to most users now since it has become very user friendly. I just wish that we get more quality apps that are stable enough for mission-critical work.

    • Lazza
      June 4, 2016 at 12:22 pm

      «none of the open source CAD apps are anywhere near the quality or usability of AutoCAD»

      If any person using them would donate 1/10 of the money they are saving by not buying AutoCAD licenses, the situation would be solved in a month.

  6. Really
    June 2, 2016 at 11:53 am

    Antergos + KDE may surprise you all

  7. Daniel
    June 2, 2016 at 11:42 am

    Do believe Torvalds first name is Linus.

    ChaletOS is a lovely distro for Linux newbies.
    Not perfect yet, but it has made big steps.

    • Bertel King
      June 2, 2016 at 8:45 pm

      Yikes. Typo's fixed.

  8. Anonymous
    June 2, 2016 at 8:35 am

    "Linux Is Ugly"

    I find Windows ugly to use. It never fails to amaze me just how primitive the Windows interface is. I have to use Windows in my day to day job and I constantly crave things that I can do on my home Linux box.

    Where are the multiple desktops? I have two at home and I can have more.

    Why can't I login more than once on the same machine and switch between sessions? (Ctrl Alt F1). While I can login as a different user on Windows, I have to logoff and login again to get back to my original session.

    Why only one item in the clipboard? At home I have ten items in my clipboard, which is damn useful.

    What is this messy ctrl/c ctrl/v nonsense? At home I highlight some text, move the mouse, click left/right together and the text is automatically copied in.

    Why can't I have a window always on top? Actually I can if I install a third party app.

    Why can't I mount an iso? OK, I can if I install a third party app.

    Automatic url recognition? At home, I can highlight a url in anything, beit a pdf, text file, on the command line, etc and it is automatically opened in my choice of web browser.

    Where is the shell (and I don't mean DOS)? OK, so BASH is coming in Windows 10 but only on the desktop version, where it is next to useless. If would be good on the server version so we sysadmins can automate things. Powershell doesn't cut the mustard. Who thought an object orientated shell was a good idea is an idiot (IMO). You have to constantly deobjectify items to make sense of them.

    Choice of interface is but a dream on Windows. On Linux I use XFCE, but in the past I have used IceWM, KDE, LXDE and Gnome at different times and at my whim.

  9. Anonymous
    June 2, 2016 at 2:31 am

    The article states the creator's name as Linux Torvalds but it's actually Linus Torvalds. Please fix the typo.
    -Just a friendly Linux user

    • Christian Cawley
      June 2, 2016 at 7:04 pm

      Thanks for spotting that. I must have gone Linux-blind while editing...

  10. jack
    June 1, 2016 at 10:05 pm

    All of them are still true.

  11. Anonymous
    June 1, 2016 at 8:21 pm

    "1. Linux Is for Neckbeards"
    My wife and kids have been using Linux for years.

    "the XYZ community does have a diversity problem"
    OOOHHH! How I hate that phrase! WHY does every profession and field have to be demographically balanced???

    "2. Linux Is Made by Dudes in Their Bedrooms"
    Linux is made by socially inept dudes living in their parents' basements .

    "3. Linux Is Difficult to Use"
    MUO does not help to dispel this myth by publishing articles on how to do everything using the command line. Yes, those articles are meant to be helpful and they are, but when the vast majority of computer users hear "command line" their eyes glaze over and they scream "not for me!"

    "4. Linux Is Inherently Secure"
    That is not a myth. There is a definite separation between system space and user space. A user program crashing rarely, if ever, can bring down the entire system.

    Heartbleed and Shellshock affected Windows also, so they cannot be considered "Linux vulnerabilities".

    "7. You Get What You Pay For"
    No. You get more than what you paid for. When you install Windows and/or OS/X, all you get is the operating system and some basic utilities. Then you have to start buying applications. OTOH, when you install a Linux distribution, you get a turn-key system with all the most popular applications.

  12. Anonymous
    June 1, 2016 at 6:41 pm

    It's good to see another Black person in this field!

    I just installed Kodibuntu on a laptop with Windows 10 on it. I don't mind Windows 10, but Windows still doesn't play well with underpowered, cheap hardware. I've had issues with Vista, 7 and 10 on the cheap computers that my family can afford. Linux has always pulled through in these situations. I think Elementary OS might be my favorite to put on an old PC!