There are many ways to compare operating systems (OS), but if you’re reading this then you are probably already aware that there may be a better OS suited for you than Windows or Mac OSX. It’s logical to question why or how something that is open sourced like Linux could be better than the Microsoft or Apple options. The answer depends on the user, the machine, and the purpose. It is very important to note that Apple’s Mac OSX is based on the same source as Linux and Apple has mimicked development to closely parallel Linux’s evolution.
Open source software compared to the more traditional corporate development process is covered in many other articles and not the focus of this article. That said, what follows is an opinion. Linux offers users much better accessibility to the power that computers contain; which can help unlock the power and performance of older computers thus allowing the user to have a very fast cheap laptop. Distributions offer repositories full of software developed for every use imaginable. From standard end-user desktop use, to powerful software intended for use in mathematics and higher-education, all for free. This is made possible by crowd-sourcing software development. Many people write, test, verify, and improve the code to create software for in-numerous usage scenarios. In the paid OS model, the vast majority of software available is purchase or subscription based. In the open source model nearly all software is free to use and the source code is available so other developers can add to the capability. In short, more minds working to create and improve software produces a higher quality product. As a result Linux is known and respected for being extremely secure and powerful.
A kernel (the term to describe the heart of any OS) is the core of an OS and it manages how access to all aspects of a system’s resources (both hardware and software) are approached. The Linux kernel takes a more logical, stricter, and more manageable approach than the Microsoft, or initial Apple operating systems. Microsoft has come to adopt many of Linux’s permissions approaches, but also added extreme amounts of complexity, which can create security holes. Meanwhile, Apple adopted Linux’s approach to permissions and security. In both cases, Linux has been setting the bar for how a computer system should permit access, while the most prominent companies in computing have been imitating and trying to catch up.
Beyond security is power and usability. All of the aforementioned OS’s offer good looking graphical user interfaces (GUIs). Launching applications, altering settings, creating widgets for easy access to information/news/weather/etc. is all very intuitive across all three operating systems. Distributions like Linux Mint and Ubuntu have come a long way over the years and their GUIs are so user friendly it is easy to argue that they're now easier to use than Windows or OSX.