Linux is only free if you don't value your time – Is it still true?


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00:00 Intro
00:22 Get your 100$ Linode Credit
01:34 Origins of a myth
02:30 Linux is Free
03:25 Linux wastes time?
05:50 Does Linux waste MORE time?
08:08 Time is still wasted
10:27 Is it still true?

Ok, so first, that exact quote is attributed to “Jamie Zawinski” a developer, way back in 1998. And at the time it was written, it was true. THe Linux desktop, 24 years ago, was NOT the Linux we know and love today. But things have changed a lot, in 24 years.

Ok, let’s start with the Linux is free part. This one is going to be easy. Linux, as in “linux based operating systems”, is, in fact, generally free. 99.9% of dstributions choose to not charge a cent for users to download and to use their OS. Some do choose to charge users, like Zorin OS Pro, for example, or elementary OS.

Now, the second part is more subject to interpretation. The general meaning of “if you don’t value your time”, is that Linux is only free if you have time to waste, or If you don’t charge for your time.

Linux, in itself can be time consuming: when you install it, you’ll have to look up a few things, you have to try out the OS in a LIVE USB session, you have to install your necessary programs, change the few options you want, for it to work like you want it to. You can also spend a lot of time choosing which desktop or distro you want to use.

So, yeah, Linux is time consuming.

But Is it MORE time consuming than the alternatives that people already know?

The “Linux wastes time” myth is generally built upon the assumption that other systems don’t, because people are looking at the Linux desktop as something they have to install and learn, compared to something that’s already installed and that they already know how to use.

This comparison doesn’t work, because it doesn’t place the alternatives on an equal footing. You’re comparing something that you already SPENT time setting up and learning, compared to something new.

Installing Windows takes longer than installing Linux. Windows doesn’t come with all the programs you might need, just like most Linux distros, so you have to install your stuff in both cases. Windows also has issues to troubleshoot, even though these seem less frequent than the ones Linux can encounter. Windows has updates to install, like Linux, the difference is that Linux lets you pick which, and when, and WIndows forces them upon you, and they will stop you from using your computer for a LONG time in most cases.

In short, if you compare Windows and a Linux desktop, from an equal standpoint of “This is a new OS i have to install and learn”, they will BOTH waste your time.

So, Linux is FREE and it doesn”t waste your time more than alternatives. SO the sentence should be “Linux is free and wastes just as much time as paid-for alternatives”, right?

Wrong.

The time is still wasted in the end. Not because Linux is worse, not because it’s harder, but because people who will be interested in moving to Linux will already KNOW how things work with their current OS, and re-learning that stuff on another OS will always be time consuming.

What the “Linux is only free if you don’t value your time” myth ignores, is that the time you spend isn’t spent every day, for the rest of your life using Linux. It’s spend once, when you move to it, and over the course of a few days, while you get used to it, and learn how to use it. Once that’s done, you’re not wasting time anymore, you’re SAVING time, and saving money.

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38 comments

  1. Wanna get your own Linux server? Visit https://www.linode.com/linuxexperiment for a 100$ credit !

  2. I remember a client who took weeks to learn how to copy and paste in Mac. 😂 Truth is, they all take time to learn. Some just have a good start already.

  3. I used Linux desktops for about a decade, then switched back to Windows 10, mainly for the games, not least due to the built-in Linux subsystem. But Windows kept annoying me to no end, and now with Steam / Proton, there's finally no need anymore to use Windows. Just recently I switched both my PC and my G14 gaming Laptop to Pop OS and I have no regrets. Fun fact – the only thing almost keeping me from going full Linux was "Roblox", that took quite a bit of effort to make it finally work on Linux.

    The most annoying things about Linux – there should be one singular packaging standard (and possibly database. For developers, publishing software for "Linux" is extremely annoying with all the different distros. For example, I needed Wine 6 to run Roblox, but Pop Os currently comes with Wine 5. So I had to open a shell, add a new Repository etc. etc. – as long as shit like that is necessary, Linux will not push Windows from the Desktop throne. Seriously, how about a standard for a simple, setup-exe-like installer binary, that works on every distro with compatible architecture? And why Linux software to this day often still relies on shared libraries, instead of just linking everything into the executable, thereby reducing dependencies and making stuff self-contained, is beyond me.

    Still, me being familiar with it, I prefer the freedom despite the flaws. For me this really is the better, smoother desktop.

  4. Let me save everyone 13 minutes of your life by telling you what is repeated over and over again for 13 minutes. You already know your current system. You have to learn new things with your system, too. There. You’re welcome. Now for my opinion….Linux is more stable BUT after all these years simple things like my very popular Logitech mouse scroll button STILL doesn’t work right on Linux Mint. Yes, there’s some hack script someone wrote that also doesn’t work quite right. If they can’t even get Logitech products to work right after all of these years, Linux is nothing more than a toy for me to experiment on. But if you enjoy writing your own device drivers or hacking in a script to sort of get it working, Linux is for you. Checking if your hardware works ahead of time with a live distro via USB is a poor solution for products as common and widespread as Logitech. With Windows and Mac they just work AND they automatically download the correct drivers without you lifting a finger. Linux is cool, but it has a LONG way to go to become mainstream, which I am not convinced the die hard Linux community really wants anyway.

  5. The case totally reverse now, I use linux to be productive and save time

  6. I love manjaro KDE plasma

  7. Not true for servers. DEFINITELY true for desktops. You will end up wasting literally hours per day messing about with config files, which have to be reconfigured whenever some dev decides to completely change something for no reason and you make the mistake of updating 🤣

  8. I went to college in 1997 with my first PC with windows. I struggled with it and couldn’t get certain things to work like the Ethernet card.

    Heard about Linux. Got a Slackware cd. I was up and running in a long evening. Never looked back.

    Still don’t know much about windows. Tried recently to manually set an IP address and took me 15 minutes to figure it out.

  9. Watching OpenSuse on the background made me smile so much… my main distro and I love it

  10. I mostly agree BUT so far as someone who uses business software I am still stuck with Windows for some critical applications such as Quickbooks, turbotax, Excel, and doc scanner support. There are some alternatives but only if you work alone and you don't have to share files with others who are likely running Windows. For instance LibreCalc macros are not compatible with Excel.

    As an aside. Linux desktop will never get support from the big software players until it converges into just a couple of distros. The free to do as you please greatly hurts it in the regard. Imagine a gaming manufacture trying to support a 100 different distros and all of their variants. I thought flatpaks might resolve this but only about 3 of 5 work correctly making me go back to sudo apt get install for most apps (e.g. librewolf, peazip). Just my .01 cents

  11. Linux breathes new life into old hardware including even old Apple laptops based on PowerPC. Linux Mint looks and works so cool and streamlined it even starts to put Apple design to shame. And of course forget about Windows.

  12. Whether it's yes or no, I know the algorithm pushes you towards tasty baity titles, but "linux is only free if you don't value your time" or "linux is only free if you don't value your time hasn't been true since xyzw" establishes so much more credibility.

  13. I value my time, so I learned Linux 🙂

  14. My two cents: I have been a GNU/Linux (GNU! don't remove it!) evangelist for personal use for the best part of 10 yrs (2001->2009). I made many people migrate from windows to GNU. During those days I was a MSc and a PhD student. After that… I switched to OSX-MacOS in 2009. And my life got better.
    We still use GNU/Linux as an invaluable asset for my SW company as a SERVER tool. But for personal use the Mac wins.
    Windows on the other side is the worst. It was bad Windows 2000, It is very bad W11.
    Again: my 2 cents

  15. If you use Arch linux, you either love to play with your OS and tweak, which is perfectly fine OR you don't know what you are getting into and you will be wasting a tremendous amount of time. Fedora, easy peasy and not frink' Unity interface and Ubuntu bullshit. Windows is not ready for prime time and general consumers, fact, and nothing is going to convince me otherwise. If does not means Windows is perfect (nothing could be further from the truth) but it is much easier to fix and troubleshoot and you will never open a terminal in Windoes if you don't want to. In Linux, you WILL open a terminal, perriod.

  16. i value my time, thats why i switched to linux

  17. For gamer like me linux propably wastes more time because they may need some tinkering to make work. I have wanted to switch to linux from 2009, but because there was too much games i wanted to play, i could not until 3 months ago, and im happy being without that microsoft bullshit.

  18. De seguro los programas en windows se instalan con la mente, uno no tiene que buscarlos, ni buscar tutoriales para hacer cosas sencillas tampoco. xd

  19. Eff this shite. "Distro-hopping"? Oh, so if you decide to reinstall Windows every day you're not wasting your time? Nobody does "distro-hopping". don't be ridiculous, please.

  20. My experience: as a Windows user, it took me literally just a few minutes to learn how to use Mac, I simply had to watch a few tutorials. ChromeOS has the smallest learning curve, even my grandma can use it. I used Linux for a couple of years, I had to spend days in learning and solving countless problems… Hours and hours trying to learn software alternatives, make Wine work (which never really did), make peripherals work, solving Linux bugs… Too many hours to solve too many issues. Life is too short to use Linux. 😂😬

  21. I use windows at home and Linux at work ….works for me.

  22. Totally disagree with you. Linux will allways consume more time in total. Maybe some tasks are quickier but the amount of research you have to do with linux even as an advanced user is higher if your work is not repeating same things.

  23. I'm running an experiment I'm gonna have my first kid use Linux on his first computer to see if my theory the the only reason windows is so common is because it's most people's first operating systems

  24. I moved from windows to Linux. I spent the time to learn Linux now I'm saving time not coping with all the windows problems

  25. You forgot to mention nanite

  26. it took like 3 distros and a day of mucking about to get a computer to run chrome and VLC last time i tried to run it. now sure, if i did the same with windows i couldn't really do it since it was running off of a flash drive.

  27. Windows is free if you don't value your privacy. As a matter of fact, you can have both and give worthless data on windows while u do anything with value on Linux. Therefore both is free. PS: the issues comes with our phones

  28. It really depends on the distro you choose in terms of difficulty. If you've never used command line and you go right off the bat trying to install something like Arch or Gentoo you're probably gonna have a bad time if you just wanted a simple install and all that. I personally use Manjaro and it's not that big a problem. I occasionally have to find workarounds for certain things, but for the most part you can find stuff in the AUR if not in Manjaro's repos.

  29. I tried Linux 3 weeks ago and it took me 2 days to install Spotify and the result was absolutely not worth it. Spotify crashed every 10 minutes. I will never touch it again. I even tried different distros and stuff. And where is my photoshop? Linux is not ready for the "standard-user" market.

  30. As soon as Linux can be used like Windows ( NO command line necessary ), then you might have something.
    You will never convince a normie to type in obscure, cryptic and properly spaced text on their computer.

  31. "linux is free if you don't value your time" is only true if you use gentoo

  32. Use time to save money 😄 it is worth learning to do what you want, because so much of what you pay for can be done for free (or the cost of your electricity + internet!)

  33. Linux is time consuming is true only for source based distributions like Gentoo because building packages from source code takes a lot of time.

  34. lol linux fanboys being linux fanboys…

  35. 25 yeras ago, linux was difficult for people that doent know how to use computers, but computer professionals had no trouble with it. Sometimes you would have to compile a program for special needs, but general needs stuff was still easy back then. WIht packages managers, thing have gotten much easier.

  36. Full stack developer and cloud engineer here: Been using Linux since 1998. For my work I must use a Windows laptop. Do you wanna know how much time it adds to make sure that WSL2, Docker and some extra virtual machines work well on it to be able to my job right?… Well, I would probably save ~20% of time… Windows & MacOS still are a pain in the ass for people that for their work need to "emulate" a public cloud on the local workstation… If I manage to convince my company for a Linux workstation/laptop, probably I could work only 4 days a week and deliver as now.