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Make 2013 the year you switch to Linux

Now that Windows 8 is here, there's no better time to embrace a more free, open, and desktop-friendly alternative.

For many PC users, the prospect of switching away from Mac or Windows and onto Linux can be a nerve-wracking one.

After all, Linux holds only a minority share of the desktop market, and not all of us know people who are already using it. The idea of making the switch can often feel like taking a blind leap into the unknown.

On the other hand, those of us on Windows are now facing the prospect of Windows 8, which by most accounts is not a happy one. Will it be more painful to jump into Modern UI, with all its attendant quirks and learning curve, or to move to a Linux distribution  and at least have a choice of desktop interfaces and experiences?

I'd like to make the case for the latter.

Linux today has at least caught up with Windows for most purposes; in many areas, it's actually overtaken it. And now, with the transition required by Windows 8, it can be a whole lot less painful getting used to a Linux distribution that's at least based on conventions you're used to.

Need more convincing? Here are five reasons why I think there's never been a better time to switch to Linux.

1. Windows 8

For years Windows users have been able to coast along contentedly in a familiar paradigm, but with Windows 8 that's all changed. A mobile-style interface without a Start button is now the reality facing Windows users who upgrade, and it's not necessarily an easy transition. Linux--and especially Ubuntu--now offers what may well be a more comfortable alternative.

2. Flavors for every taste

Choice is one of the defining hallmarks of Linux, and that includes not just the choice of which distribution you use but also what desktop environment you prefer. So, you're free from the dictates of any single OS maker and can customize your experience pretty much to your heart's content. Fans of Ubuntu who don't like its new, default Unity  interface, for example, can simply swap in something they like better.

3. Superior security

Thanks in large part to its ubiquity, Windows is notorious for the viruses and other malware it tends to pick up; Macs, apparently, aren't a whole lot better. Linux, on the other hand, is renowned for its superior security--so much so that security experts recommend it for sensitive applications like online banking, for instance. There are even extra-secure distributions available for those focused on security.

4. Modest requirements

Whereas the Windows ecosystem is often referred to as a "treadmill" for the way it forces users to keep upgrading their hardware so as to keep up with the software's requirements, Linux is quite the opposite. In fact, it's long been embraced for its ability to run flawlessly even on older or low-resource computers. Wouldn't it be nice to keep your existing hardware a little longer and put that money towards something else instead?

5. Open and free

Last but certainly not least is that Linux is totally free and unencumbered by license restrictions. You can download, use, and customize it at will without fear of the wrath of any vendor. You're free, in other words, to make it your own.

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