Linux Advantages and Disadvantages: Part 2
A common anti-Linux argument is that Linux is different. That is, it just doesn't look or work the same as what you are used to. Well, what are you used to? Assuming the answer is some Microsoft platform, I assert that the differences between a KDE-based Linux desktop and your favorite Microsoft destop can be less than two different versions of Microsoft Windows.
Add to that the fact that you can customize the Linux desktop to act more (or less) like other systems and you have a pretty powerful argument to pick Linux, pick a Linux desktop environment (we tend to focus on KDE but Gnome is an alternative) and move forward.
Let's look at some differences and why they may be good rather than just different.
The addition of user logins and permissions in not unique to Linux. This has evolved on other platforms as well. Some people still see this as no more than an irritation. Let's see what the good side is.
The first issue is security. The most obvious is that files stored on your computer cannot be accessed by someone just happening upon your computer. The first group of people we are talking about are others in your office. But, the issue goes way beyond that. If, for example, your computer is connected to the Internet, the possibility of remote access exists.
If your Linux desktop is only a single-user system--that is, you are the only person who uses it--there is still an advantage of a user login here. The way Linux is designed, you don't have access to all the information on the computer. Much of that information is reserved for what is called the root user. What this means is that a mistake on your part cannot destroy the basic system. Thus, you might lose some of your own files but the system software will not have to be restored.
Now, what else can user logins offer? Different configurations for different users is one piece. While some of this is only eye candy (a different backgroud, for example) there are many things that are functionally important. Here is a list of a few:
- Different languages for the user interface.
- Automatic startup of different tasks on login.
- Storage of login information for various web sites.
- Different configurations for various applications such as word processors and web browsers.
This is what I would classify as a harmless feature that can quickly become very important to you. This is the ability to have any number of desktops that you can switch between with a single mouse click or even with a keystroke sequence.
Looking at this is a practical way, I have one desktop which always contains a web browser in full-screen mode, another with an organizer program and another with my email client. While I could have put these all on a single desktop and flipped thru them with mouse clicks, it is just easier to use when I know that desktop 3, for example, will have a web browser sitting there.
Good Eye Candy
Eye candy is not necessarily bad. Or, at least not if you have a choice as to whether or not it is there. Here are some things that KDE will do that might be of interest:
- Being able to change the screen resolution, colors and fonts can be very helpful for someone who is visually impaired.
- Being able to add custom menus attached to the middle mouse button, for example, may be very useful in an office environment.
- Being able to "mix and match" country-specific information such as the money format of one country with the keyboard layout of another.
I loved my 64 VW bug but there were some shortcomings that have been addressed by vendors in the last 40 years. The same can be said for the evolution of the computer user interface. In many cases, different can actually mean better. What is important is to see that this evolution has added capabilities without making basic use harder.
One of the best ways to ensure this is to have a system that allows you to use personal configurations, keyboard shortcuts and the like to turn your favorite way of doing things into the system default or, if it is a multi-user system, the default for your login. How you do this has already been the subject of articles that have appeared in the monthly TUX magazine.