Why Linux is Hip

Why Linux is HipAs a modern teenager, much of what I do requires money — movies, gas, and food aren’t free. However, I am frugal. Probably too frugal. I have way more money than I could possibly need any time soon (all of which I have earned on my own), yet I still try to spend little and save often. Some could call me cheap; some could call me wise.

I was given my first computer — a Dell Inspiron 537s — some years ago as a Christmas present. It ran Windows Vista, but was eligible for a free upgrade to Windows 7 when it came out. When the time came, though, the window for that upgrade closed only two weeks after the first stable release of 7. I completely missed it and was not made aware until I got an email from Dell a month and a half later.

Needless to say, I was angry. I believed the software was rightfully mine, regardless of when I chose to utilize it. I didn’t know it at the time, but some of the ideals of free software had already begun to take hold in me.

Over the next few years, my Vista machine became sluggishly slow to the point of being nearly unusable. Infected with viruses of all types, they seemed to repopulate every time my protection software caught them. It seemed like an unfixable problem, and just something that’s a common theme with Windows operating systems.

But I fixed it.

I do not know the first time I heard of Linux, or what research I put in to finding out more about it. The next thing I knew, I had burned a live CD of Ubuntu 10.04 and was eagerly installing it. I don’t want to overrate it, but the switch was life-changing in some ways.

In this hipster-fueled era, it simply felt good to sort of “rebel against the oppressors” of the two OS giants, refusing to use their costly, limiting software. It felt good to be able to customize absolutely anything and everything to look and feel exactly how I wanted. It felt good to use open source software, even though I’m not much of a coder. It felt good to use something that none of my friends did, or even knew of for that matter.

My daily PC experience became faster, cleaner, and easier than it had ever been while using Vista.

Viruses were a goner. To this day, I haven’t installed a single anti-virus program of any kind, and I’m not worried. Yes, viruses can be designed for Linux, but I don’t see myself encountering anything of the sort for many years. (Teenagers are arrogant, you know.)

In all, I flat-out loved Linux — loved Ubuntu.

However, I was recently given the opportunity to get a new computer. $1,000 was the budget. I started excitedly searching the Web for PCs, and was prepared to make the switch back to Windows if purchasing a machine running Windows 7. I quickly realized, though, that nothing I looked at was really worth the price. My frugality kicked in, and I formed a plan to spend roughly the same amount of money, build a computer with vastly better hardware, and stick solely to Ubuntu as my operating system (to keep from spending $100 for the bare minimum Windows package).

The details of that whole process are another story altogether, but the main point is that, even with an adequate amount to spend, I chose to only run Ubuntu instead of using the operating system that “the world runs on.” If that’s not hipster-like, I don’t know what is. Simply, mediocre teens such as myself can quite easily enjoy Linux and its open source ideals. One does not have to be some sort of hacker whiz-kid or anything. Four out of the five PCs in my household now boot up Ubuntu. Several of my friends have made the switch. None of us are regretting it, and none of us are turning back.

My name is Andrew Freeman. I’m almost 16 years old, and a sophomore in high school. I’ve probably had a geek factor my entire life without realizing it until it escalated to the noticeable degree of present. I hope to attend Georgia Institute of Technology and study to become a mechanical engineer. I am an avid percussionist and taker of naps.

Image: Public Announcement: Linux is Cool! shared by keepthebyte on Flickr.