I like Linux. It's my favorite operating system.
Why? Well, the only real choices for "desktop use" are Linux and windows, and I think Linux is much better because:
- It's free of charge. Yes, I'm quite pragmatic. But besides the freedom to install it on as many computers as you want without paying any license, Linux is free of all those obnoxious activations, registrations, verifications, validations, reactivations, revalidations, and "genuine advantage", that is microsoft abusing and taking advantage of their customers.
- It lets you do SO much more. Things for which you would need to pay extra thousands and thousands of dollars in the windows world come for free in Linux.
- It's more stable. It hardly ever crashes, and seldom needs to be restarted.
I started learning a little bit about Linux around 1997 (when I went to university), and later even tried it on my computer. Linux comes in various "flavors" or distributions, and I tried several of them. First it was Red Hat (before it went "enterprise"), then Mandrake (before it became Mandriva), SUSE (before Novell bought it) and various others. I never felt quite comfortable with it, and didn't keep any distro for long. The main reason was probably that at that time, none of them were mature enough for desktop use by non-experts. Installing things was especially painful, because I didn't have a good package manager, and had to hunt for RPMs on the web, solve conflicts etc. For some reason I never tried Debian, I think somebody told me it was not easy to use. I might have had a much better experience with it.
It wasn't until 2004 that I really decided to try Linux more. I was growing more and more disappointed with windows, hearing and reading about Linux maturing, and especially getting advised by some friends to try it. Again, I tried a couple of distros. I think it was Knoppix first (live CD), then SUSE again, until I finally discovered Gentoo. That was mainly because one of my friends, who I kept asking for help, was using it and said that he could help me better if I used it too. It was very difficult to install, I think it took me several days to get it to work. I'm not sure why I didn't give up, maybe I was shifting everything to my friend: "you got me started, now make it work!" But with Gentoo I discovered the most excellent documentation, great community support, the best package manager I had ever seen, and after getting the hang of it, I really felt I was in control! I also learned a lot during that time.
I kept using Linux more and more, but still had windows as my main OS, until one day around the beginning of 2007 when I finally got fed up with it and felt confident enough to switch to Linux completely. I'm still using Gentoo Linux today and I'm happy with it. My friend who introduced me to it deserted to Ubuntu in the meantime (boooo!!!) In fairness, it's probably much easier and faster to set up a system with Ubuntu, and maintain it occasionally without worrying about breaking it, and that's probably what got him to switch.
I tried Ubuntu once, I was looking for an easy and popular distro for setting up a computer that others would use to run Audacity and do some sound recording. First I observed that Ubuntu comes with GNOME, one of the worst desktop environments in my opinion. That was completely unacceptable, so I searched for alternatives, found Kubuntu and decided to install that. I went through the installer, and I don't really know what it did and what are some of the choices it made for me, but it worked. Next, the package manager was totally foreign to me (which is understandable), and also there seemed to be too many ways to install something. Anyway, I picked one of them and looked for Audacity. Nothing, zilch, nada. I asked my friend, and he said I had to manually add some package repositories called universe and multiverse or something like that. After dealing with the multiple parallel universes, I was able to install Audacity. But to say it didn't work would be an understatement. The GUI was a horrible mess, especially the menu. Totally broken and unusable. So I was quite disappointed, and pretty much gave up on Ubuntu. I may give it a chance again someday (they may have already fixed the Audacity package and other problems), but the idea of OS versioning is already a drawback.
Anyway, Linux is not (yet) for the faint of heart, and Gentoo even less so. But for those who want more than what microsoft decides to feed them, I warmly recommend it. Ubuntu may still be the best choice for a first distro, to get the system running without getting into low-level details.