As of late, there has been a new spark in popularity for Linux. This is likely due to the shocking amount of data that new editions of Windows have decided to collect, even when tools designed to disable these features have been applied. It probably does not help that a lot of the typical tools for removing the data collection systems built into Windows have now had a price tag slapped on them; I think at this point it makes sense that a lot of users are feeling a little bit betrayed.
So, how viable is Linux then? Well, that is what I’m going to aim to find out. I will try to cover as many use cases as possible, as we all use our computers for different things. The big three categories I will look at are productivity, office-related work and gaming, although I will definitely be giving a quick look at how possible it is for businesses to switch over to Linux and various other use cases.
Most of the people who fear using Linux are either afraid of the difficulty attached to using it or, even worse, the inability to play their favourite games! Fret not, fellow gamer, for I have the answers.
First of all, it is worth noting that a lot of games already support Linux right out of the box. Here is my proof. At the time of writing, a whopping 4060 games on Steam fully supported Linux; I think that’s enough to keep you entertained for a long, long time. After all, it is far better than the measly figure of 1000 in early 2015. So yes, developers have caught on (or at least, the good ones have).
As far as performance goes on native Linux games, it is complicated. It really does depend on your graphics card, whether or not the native version of the game was optimised for Linux at all or whether you are running the native Linux version at all or just the Windows version through Wine. There a huge amount of variables. For native results, you can take a look at the tests Phoronix did, but they are admittedly not pleasing. It is nowhere near abysmal though, and older graphics cards tend to benefit a lot more than newer cards do, so who knows, maybe Linux will give you a little bit of extra “gaming” performance on your old laptop from 2009 or at the very least allow it to support a more up-to-date version of OpenGL.
My super-old spare laptop, the Dell Vostro 1510, was able to handle OpenGL 2.1 graphics on Linux (specifically Manjaro 18 with XFCE) while only being able to handle OpenGL 1.5 on Windows, though this is likely related to Intel’s generally poor driver support for their older accelerator GPUs.
Now, you might be wondering what to do if your game is not officially supported on Linux. Well, I can tell you this: do not panic yet. Your next bet is to try Wine, a compatibility layer that you can install on any Linux system in order to run Windows software on Linux. You might have to jump through a few minor hoops to do this though, and I would recommend taking a look at the latest guide (at the time of writing) that Linus Tech Tips has released here. Generally speaking though, my experiences with the latest version of the staging builds of Wine has been flawless. Not only can I run all my Windows-only games such as S.T.A.L.K.E.R Shadow of Chernobyl at full speed without any bugs, but I can also run software such as WinSCP and even Microsoft Office flawlessly.
Generally speaking, you should be able to run quite a lot of Windows programs through Wine with minimal effort (as long as you are using the latest versions), and even if you do encounter an issue, the WineHQ AppDB probably has a very simple workaround. On the staging versions of Wine, you can even integrate Windows applications with your GTK theme so that programs running through Wine generally look better, they are often even indistinguishable from native Linux programs.
If you are more of a casual gamer or light gamer, I think switching to Linux might be entirely plausible for you. Just make sure your favorite titles support Linux or run well on Linux via Wine and you’re good to go. Gone are the days when programs running through Wine would not stop complaining, most hardware was incompatible with Linux and the general Linux user was frustrated practically all the time. Usually, Linux these days will just leave you alone while you play your games and I think you will enjoy the experience of setting your computer free with whichever distribution of Linux you find fit for your purposes. Who knows, it might even improve your gaming experience.
So, you are planning on showing up to work with a Linux computer tomorrow, huh? That is easy. I would recommend you take a look at Ubuntu, another free Linux distribution that places a huge amount of emphasis on its stability and ease of use. It comes preinstalled with LibreOffice, which is capable of viewing and editing all of your old, obsolete Microsoft Office-based documents and it is even easier to use. If you still feel like using Microsoft Office, you can always try to install it via Wine. If that fails, then there’s always OpenOffice. I do not personally like it, but it supports more Microsoft Office features than LibreOffice does.
In general, office utilities are always going to be incorporated into every major Linux distribution and you should not have much or even any trouble switching over to your Linux distribution of choice. Personally, I use OpenSUSE and Manjaro Linux as daily drivers.
Tasks like audio/video editing, modeling, and CAD-related workloads have always had problems on Linux. Luckily, that is getting fixed. Personally, I am not someone who has to do much of these tasks, but I can tell you now from personal experience that video editing on Linux is, at the very least, possible with tools such as Kdenlive and OpenShot while dealing with audio has been fairly easy with tools such as LMMS. If you are interested in modeling, you could take a look at Blender and any other tools you need you could see about running via Wine.
If you are looking for a Linux distribution with a lot of these programs (or even alternatives!) preinstalled, take a look at Ubuntu Studio. It is just as free as regular Ubuntu, just more productivity-oriented. Generally speaking, productivity on Linux has never been easier, though that statement is quite literal because this is the easiest it is ever been in a while. Finally, Linux can be used to produce sick beats.
Okay, let me just show you these statistics first. If you are worried you can not switch over your servers to Linux, then you should really stop worrying. You really can and you really should. A Linux distribution designed for servers is likely going to give you better stability, better security, better resource efficiency, and far better support, as well as generally costing you less as most Linux distributions are free. Just do it, okay? Everyone else is, and you are just clinging on to an operating system which requires three different life support machines just to stay secure.
The only time you are going to have trouble switching your servers to Linux is if you are running a Windows domain controller, in which case, either live with it and find a Linux alternative or switch over every computer that depends on that domain controller to Linux, because chances are it is going to cause you far fewer headaches in the long run if you just deal with this scary-looking but actually fairly minor headache now. Really, there is a reason why practically every supercomputer and nearly every important server computer in the world can be seen running Linux.
While there will always be that one annoying program that nobody can seem to run on Linux, the vast majority of software will be able to run just fine one way or another. If you are interested, I would recommend researching some beginner-friendly Linux distributions such as Manjaro, PopOS, Ubuntu, and ElementaryOS. Try them out for yourself, and install them if you enjoyed the experience.
There are plenty of guides online on how to install each distribution of Linux and if you ever have an issue it is pretty much guaranteed you will find a way to fix it. Just try it and see how it goes. If you do not like it, you can always switch back. Just remember to follow the guides and always back up your files when you install a new operating system.