The Linux Experiment

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Illustration: Jeff Berlin
I knew I'd had it with Windows when I had a nightmare filled with those little yellow balloons from the system tray, telling me that I had 3617 critical updates waiting to be installed. What's more, Trojan horses were prancing across my desktop and worms were crawling out of my in-box.

I woke up and thought, "There must be a better operating system." I wanted an OS that didn't need me to constantly install fixes, that didn't crash at the worst times, and that wasn't a target of every punk itching to prove his hacker skills.

I didn't want a Macintosh--for one thing, I didn't want to move to a new hardware platform. That left me just one other choice: Linux. But could I really get my work done in an OS written by a self-organizing online collective? I knew there were Linux counterparts to many Windows applications, but given that many of them are free, would they work? Would my hardware still function? And could I share my work with the more than 90 percent of the world still living in Microsoft's domain? I decided to give Linux a try for a month and find out.

What was life like in Linux-land? I found that, as its devotees swear, Linux is stable and highly customizable. I discovered a lot of solid and free--if sometimes pretty basic--apps, as well. But I also learned that Linux can be demanding for Windows users accustomed to having jobs (like installing new software) done for them almost automatically. And making the change meant making some compromises and leaving behind some old software friends that I couldn't take with me.

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