Warning: five things to know before switching to linux by ken hess, pc world

A happy customer might tell someone. An unhappy customer tells everyone. Converting to Linux before taking a dose of reality might make you a very unhappy customer. Let's be perfectly honest. Linux isn't for everyone-yet. However, Ubuntu, Mandriva, and a few other distributions come close but for now, Linux is a little more difficult to use than Windows.

That said, there are still compelling reasons to make the switch to Linux from Windows. Your business and productivity depends on the stability of your computers, the happiness of your employees, and the ability of you and your staff to perform your work in the most efficient and trouble-free ways possible. If you're serious about considering a switch from your current Windows systems, there are a few things you should be aware of before going any further. Linux is an incredibly useful, versatile and interesting operating system, but it does have its drawbacks, so familiarize yourself with them.

1. It Isn't Windows

Although this one should fall under the "duh" category, you shouldn't expect Linux to be Windows. Linux has some striking similarities to Windows: the graphical interface, cascading menus, applications represented by icons, configurable desktop themes, and most of the desktop gadgetry you've come to expect from Windows. It looks and behaves like Windows, but it isn't. Its fans say that it's better because of its stability, its multi-user capability and its overwhelmingly cheaper price (free is hard to beat).
Yet, Linux still falls short of the Windows glory that it attempts to mimic — at least on the surface. Windows enjoys multiple advantages over Linux: thousands of paid developers, a giant marketing machine, third-party vendor support, several more years of existence, and a dedicated individual and corporate user base. It's no small wonder that Windows dominates the market for the world's available computing dollars.
In many ways Windows vs. Linux is like the old VHS vs. Betamax video format struggle. Betamax was the superior product, but it never caught on in the consumer marketplace. Linux is a more modern version of the Betamax format. Linux isn't Windows. It will never be Windows.

2. It Isn't Quite Unix Either

Linux possesses many Unix attributes, such as its filesystem layout, multi-user capability, stability, efficient resource utilization and security. Yet, Linux is very different from commercial Unix flavors too. It runs on commodity x86-based hardware, has full virtualization built into its kernel, has the ability to run embedded, and can operate from a USB pen drive.

This extreme flexibility makes Linux unique in the small business, enterprise, and consumer computing markets. Linux is a type of Unix, but not in the purest sense of the word. Its developers call it a Unix clone. Commercial Unix flavors suffer the same problems as Linux when it comes down to the compatibility question. For example, if you're currently running your applications on IBM's AIX, those applications would be no more or less compatible with Linux than they would be with Sun Solaris or HP-UX.

3. Printers and Other Peripherals

It's true that Linux doesn't have a large number of choices when it comes to peripheral support. And, if you've ever tried to set up printing under Linux, it's likely that you're missing a few locks of your hair. There are hundreds of supported printers in the list but if yours falls outside that list, good luck to you.