Three years ago when I entered academia, any book, video, or other tutorial titled 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 of owning their phone). Some of our brilliant computer science students had 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 Linux to be able to understand what the students were talking about. .
Three years later, I can honestly say that while I’m far from an expert, I know enough about Linux to realize that I should have learned it years ago. My plea for the reader who knows nothing about Linux but wants to work in the IT field in the future is to learn it. While Linux itself is often an OS within an OS for many devices, the Linux I learned comes as a distro (think of it as a prepackaged collection of applications, software and a desktop environment). There are hundreds of distros 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 parallel to Windows. There are also many niche distros, like Kali Linux, which packs a slew of cybersecurity tools.
6 reasons to discover Linux
So why bother with Linux for personal or professional use instead of Windows or IOS?
- It is open source and free, including updates
- It is highly customizable as evidenced by all distros
- It can revive old computers. Suppose you have a clunker with Windows 7 still on it with limited upgradeability, you can install Puppy Linux on it, which runs with minimal RAM and CPU requirements. For those who only need basic word processing and Internet skills, you might want to wait until you throw your clunker in the trash.
- The community support is wonderful. From bug fixing to programming tools, there is someone in the Linux world who will help you for free. The GitHub repository has over 70 million developers sharing their expertise on the code needed to do really creative things with it, like improving the software by increasing its functions. Note: If you have the problem of a programming inferiority complex, like me, you might want to familiarize yourself with the GitHub stuff. Computer science students love Linux and GitHub for the ability it gives you to collaborate, show, and invent.
- Linux distros don’t collect a lot of data and if you use a bootable USB to boot a distro like Ubuntu, every time you log out your information disappears.
- It is much faster due to the lack of add-ons that consume RAM, better file system organization, and 70 million developers constantly trying to make it faster.
There are hundreds, if not thousands, of tutorials and videos on Linux distros, with many different perspectives. It would be unfair to list one over the others, but this article contains enough information to give your search a boost. I liken Linux to a golf club that you can use for many different shots, depending on where you sit on the course. It can be a good thing to start sooner rather than later by putting Linux in your bag.
Joe Jabara, JD, is Hub Director, For Cyber Education and Awareness, Wichita State University. He is also an adjunct professor at two other universities teaching intelligence and cyber law. Prior to his current employment, 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, most of which were with the 184th Intelligence Wing as a vice commander.