Tech Focus: Break Away from the Two-Party Operating System

Break Away from the Two-Party System

By Rob Giuffre

No, we aren’t talking about the Democrats and Republicans.  We are talking about consumer-level desktop computer operating systems (OS).

For the past 30 years or so two companies have dominated the desktop OS market.  You have probably heard of them: Microsoft and their Windows OS, and Apple and their Mac OS.  Between these two giant companies, their software account for approximately 97 – 98 percent of the world’s consumer-level computer operating systems.  There is, however, a third option that many might not be aware exists.

linus-torvalds-1991Back in the 1991, a Finnish computer science student by the name of Linus Torvalds created the first Linux kernel while studying at the University of Helsinki.  And in 1994 with the release of Linux 1.0, the Linux operating system was born.

Today Linux is the backbone of many embedded industrial computer systems around the globe and handle some of the world’s most sensitive data.  Most banks use variations of Linux in their transaction servers; governments use Linux to process and store important administrative data; county and state board of election computers use Linux; and even Android smartphones are based on the Linux kernel.  When you go to the supermarket and check out your groceries,  the register system is using a variant of Linux.  Linux is used when a system must work and must be secure.

So then why doesn’t your home computer come with Linux?  Great question.  

In its early days Linux was reserved for the geekiest of geeks.  An individual would have to basically home-brew a usable operating system.  All Linux itself provided was the kernel.  If you think of a car, the kernel would be the chassis.  As years went by, individuals and small teams of volunteers developed distributions of Linux that included graphical user interfaces – like what one would expect with Windows or Mac OS.  

mintThe good news is that today Linux is hitting its prime.  There are dozens of great OS distributions out there for the average person.  The best part?  They are open-source, which means free.  Open source also means that the code is available to the public.  The benefit of this arrangement is that through collective consciousness bugs are weeded out and best practices are agreed upon.

The downside is that there is a bit of a learning curve when the average computer user changes over to a Linux OS.  So I will recommend two great Linux distributions for the average user who is accustomed to Windows and Mac but is curious about Linux.  

ubuntuLinux Mint 18 (Sarah) Cinnamon Edition is a great choice for a user who is used to Windows.  Ubuntu 16.04 is a good choice for users who prefer a desktop experience that Mac offers.  Both come with a full package of open source applications that cover most everyday needs

I recommend installing Mint or Ubuntu on an older computer you might have lying around before you commit to installing it on a new machine.  You will be surprised at the new life Linux will breath into old and even virus/malware riddled computers.  Once installed, tinker around with the new OS, go to the plentiful and active forums (Linux has a great online community of helpful individuals) and watch some tutorials.  

Get on the Linux bandwagon while it is still early.  Linux is experiencing positive growth in market share.  Back in January of 2012 Linux only held 0.82% of the desktop market; that number more than doubled to 1.91% in April of 2016.  Companies are also turning to Linux and other open source software to save money.  In fact, the Italian military recently switched from Microsoft Office to the open source software “LibreOffice” (which comes with both Linux Mint and Ubuntu and is even available for Windows and Mac) and is projected to save the Italian taxpayers 29 million euro.

If you have any questions about how to install Linux, the internet is loaded with guides.  You could also email me at for assistance.  

Rob Giuffre is a Network+ and A+ certified computer/network technician and sole owner of RatCat Computers. Call 347-538-6231 for a free quote and to schedule a service appointment for any computer or network issue.  We appreciate, respect and value all of our clients

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