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Hi,

I am currently running windows and was wondering what the advantages of running linux would be and what i would be able to do with it that i cant with windows. ...

Using the computer as a tool, you can be *far* more productive using Linux (or almost any of the UNIX/unix-like systems).

Is OpenOffice perfect? No; it has it's problems. But I've found that for most mundane things, it does a better job than Word. I created an 80-page motorsports rulebook using OO. Every time I opened it, it was as I closed it. Word, OTOH, would lose and change formatting all by itself; I would have to spend hours tracking down all the damnable unwanted changes before printing it. And the command line tools are available on Linux so I could place the 2-up pages exactly where they needed to be on each page to counteract the quirks of my HP CLJ2500. (Professional printers will know what I mean....)

Is GIMP perfect? No, but I've editted and spoofed hundreds of images and logos using almost any image format I wanted. And GIMP is free.

Are any of the Linux-/unix-based browsers perfect? No. But then, IE 6 and 7 are *far* from perfect. Linux/unix browsers generally do a better job implementing the W3C standards. If your life revolves around viewing any and all videos found on the internet, stick with windows; Linux/unix browser integration has quite a way to go as yet.

Have you made yourself wholly dependent on Windows-based software, tools, goodies and eye candy? If so, stick with Windows. If you would rather use a computer as a tool to get work done or to learn rather than as an entertainment device (like a TV), explore Linux.

Five years ago, Linux was not ready for the desktop. Today, it is, at least for the somewhat braver. For most basic computer users, Linux is the best way to go, because it is free and many distributions have fairly rapid and easily installed security updates. The software all basic users need and want comes with most distributions.

That was the general view aimed at, using the term with dignity and respect, simple users.

The biggest difference between Windows and Linux is that Linux comes with gobs of tools to enable you to accomplish almost any task with relative ease. Using the command line, you can easily write sed, awk and other scripts to filter varied files any which way you want. Linux is best utilized by general programmers: those you would rather write long commandline pipes of filtering scripts than try to wedge their tasks into someone else's idea of how those tasks should be accomplished via a GUI. As an example, I once wrote a shell/awk/sed script of perhaps 512 bytes that accessed serial-based thermometers, converted the temp to Fahrenheit, checked the temp against limits and previously stored measurement for hysteresis and paged the responsible party if the temp was out of range, and commented it so the non-geek manager could understand what the script did (though he probably could not program it or fix it himself). That's the sort of thing unix-like systems are great for.

Want another example? Suppose you have a spreadsheet that contains club member contact info. Suppose you want to print it all out so the members can verify their information. With Linux, you save the spreadsheet as a CSV. Then you write a script that converts each line of the CSV to a PostScript array, and generates PS code using Document Structuring Conventions to send that data to a PS function. The PostScript function writes the data onto a page and prints the page. You have just written a printer PostScript program that can print thousands of pages using a single subroutine and thousands of subroutine calls. And you didn't need a GUI program to do it. Nor did you need to use a specialized text formatting program. Nor did you need to spend lots of money.

I really have only three reasons to use Windows any more:
1. Test web sites I maintain using Windows-based browsers.
2. Run Adobe Illustrator. (Linux-based vector graphic programs aren't there yet.)
3. Run Solid Edge 2D CAD. (It's free and somewhat better than QCAD on Linux.)
Everything else, I do on Linux, and have done for 7 years. Before that, I used BeOS for a few years for most day-to-day work.

If you delve into Linux, start with learning shell (sh/bash/ksh), awk, sed and perl programming. Learn PHP, TCL/TK and M4 for more advanced stuff. Mostly, learn just how much you can do and just how efficiently and quickly you can get it done without needing a program with a infuriatingly limiting GUI.

If you don't want to learn about installing and maintaining Linux just yet, you can install Cygwin on XP which will give you many of the typical unix/GNU commandline tools. You can run OO and GIMP on XP. You can even run an apache web server with perl, mysql and php on XP. All this without having to learn how to install and administer Linux before you can get to learning how to be productive with it.

Windows: a hand-holding, butt-wiping OS for people Microsoft has convinced are too stupid to learn how to use a new tool. In fact, most people are smart enough to learn how to use Linux/GNU command line tools given suitable examples. And they would gladly learn because the extra productivity they gain would reduce the pressures they face at work.

Linux/unix: a less condescending (and, yes, a less forgiving) system of tools that allows people to be as productive as they can learn to be.

It's your choice. Stick with Windows and remain a simple computer user until you can afford to buy the software you need to be a professional geek, or learn the basics of efficient and effective use of unix/GNU software on Windows via Cygwin and other FOSS, then learn to install and maintain a Linux system while you become even more proficient at using its tools and exploring all the different tools that are available.

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