I installed the lastest version of SUSE Linux on my home computer last weekend.
Linux is a free alternative to Windows. For technically-minded people, it can be more powerful, safer and much cheaper to use than Windows. It is now widely used by businesses for servers (most webservers run on Linux). Easy-to-use desktop versions have been slower to emerge, partly because many of the geeks who contribute their time (free) to write, debug, improve and document Linux have not always given a high priority to developing an easy user interface.
If you have been using Firefox web browser (and about 20% of the readers of this blog do) you will know that free, open source software can be considerably more powerful, more reliable, easier to use, and more safe than the proprietary alternatives such as Microsoft’s Internet Explorer. And what is true for the web browser is true for the entire operating system.
The latest version of SUSE is a joy to use. I have Windows XP on my laptop, and I can honestly say that I think SUSE is better desktop operating system. It comes laden with free software, from music players (without any Digital Rights Management) to a free alternative to Microsoft Office which does the job at least as well (and in some ways better).
Installing and updating Linux on my desktop was quicker and easier than installing and updating Windows XP on my laptop. Installing Windows required me to update the driver for my laptop’s sound card so that I could update successfully to Service Pack 2; install SP2 (which takes an hour or more); and then uninstall various Windows services that I do not need to secure my laptop. SUSE Linux, by contrast, recognised all my hardware automatically, installed all the correct drivers, and updated itself online in 20 minutes.
I’ve made some notes here about the installation, mainly relating to ensuring that the computer correctly handles multimedia (such as MP3 files and commercial DVDs).
In addition, I have set up my own IMAP mail server at home. This is using a sledgehammer to crack a nut (I now have a commercial strength, secure mail server) and is quite involved (just as it would be in Windows). But it is also rewarding, as it gives me a very powerful and easy to use central mail system which I can access in many different ways. Full details here.