Three years ago when I entered academia, any book, video or other tutorial entitled Linux for Dummies would have been about five levels above my comprehension. In the military and in personal life, I had sold my soul to Microsoft Windows and knew nothing about other operating systems (other than a little IOS from owning their phone). Some of our bright computer science students have a club that revolved around Linux and its tools and as we introduced cybersecurity into club activities, I found that I needed to understand at least a little about Linux to be able to understand what the students were talking about.

Three years later, I can honestly say that while I am far from an expert, I know enough about Linux to understand that I should have learned it years ago. My plea to the reader who does not know anything about Linux but wants to work in the IT field in the future, is to learn it. While Linux itself is often an operating system within an operating system for many devices, the Linux I have learned about comes in the form of a distribution (think of this as a prepackaged collection of applications, software, and a desktop environment). There are hundreds of distributions to choose from, all open source and free. Some of the most common distributions are Ubuntu, Puppy Linux, and Fedora Workstation. These have word processing, presentation, and data management applications that parallel Windows. There are also many niche distributions, such as Kali Linux, which contains a multitude of cybersecurity tools.

6 Reasons to Check out Linux

So why would you bother with Linux for personal or business use instead of Windows or IOS?

  1. It is open source and free, including updates
  2. It is highly customizable as evidenced by all of the distributions
  3. It can revive older computers. Say you have a clunker with Windows 7 still on it with limited ability to upgrade, you can install Puppy Linux on it, which runs on minimal RAM and processing requirements. For those only needing basic word processing and internet capabilities, you may want to hold off tossing your clunker in the trash.
  4. Community support is wonderful. From fixing bugs to programming tools, there is somebody in the Linux world who will help you at no cost. The repository GitHub has over 70 million developers sharing their expertise on code needed to do some really creative things with it, like make software better by increasing its functions. Note: if you have the problem of a programming inferiority complex, like me, you may want to ease into the GitHub thing. Computer Science students love Linux and GitHub for the ability it gives you to collaborate, show off, and invent.
  5. Linux distributions do not collect much data and if you use a bootable USB to start a distro like Ubuntu, every time you log off your information disappears.
  6. It is much speedier due to the lack of add ons that eat up RAM, better organization of the file system, and 70 million developers constantly attempting to make it faster.

There are hundreds, if not thousands, tutorials and videos on Linux distributions, with many different perspectives. It would be unfair to list one over the others, but there is enough information in this article to give your search a kick-start. I compare Linux to a golf club you can use for many different shots, depending on where you sit on the course. It may be a good thing to start sooner than later putting Linux into your bag.

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Joe Jabara, JD, is the Director, of the Hub, For Cyber Education and Awareness, Wichita State University. He also serves as an adjunct faculty at two other universities teaching Intelligence and Cyber Law. Prior to his current job, he served 30 years in the Air Force, Air Force Reserve, and Kansas Air National Guard. His last ten years were spent in command/leadership positions, the bulk of which were at the 184th Intelligence Wing as Vice Commander.