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Why webmasters should use desktop Linux

I think its particularly well suited to what we do



2:15 pm on Oct 6, 2013 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

Some of these are general advantages, some are general advantages of desktop Linux, some are specific to webmasters.

1) You probably use Linux or Unix servers. Its useful to learn Linux better. Things like commands that are useful on your server, are often useful on your desktop too, and vice versa. Use *nix on both and you can learn more, and can apply what you learn more.

You can also run development servers without bothering with VMs etc.

2) Easy software installation. This is a big one. If you are anything like me you install software regularly, and not standard desktop apps.

There is a huge difference between Linux software installers and Mac style app stores. The Linux variety install dependencies. For example, if you install something written in Perl through the installer, it will check whether you have Perl installed or not, and download an install it for you if its not. If different versions are available it will install the right version!

3) Easy upgrades to new versions. Most desktop distros (the big exception being Mint), allow you to upgrade painlessly within the GUI to a new version. I believe you can now do this with MacOS (and Windows?), but it looks like the Linux version is still simpler (automatic upgrades to virtually all your apps, virtually nothing to check before upgrade,...).

4) Security. Whatever the reason (popularity, better design - happy to argue about it in another thread) Linux desktops are less likely to be compromised. It is very easy to have lots of critical information on your desktop (database and server passwords, for example). Security is a lot more important for a webmaster than someone who uses a PC to go online to use Facebook. Yes, I know Windows can be made pretty secure these day, but if you have to work hard to do it, its easy to slip up (and a waste of time).

5) Lots of development tools. Linux has an excellent ecosystem of development tools. Many of them are cross-platform, but many are not, and good many of those that are cross-platform work best on *nix.

The wide choice is good. Not everyone likes, or works best with the same tools. Take text editors. I use a combination of Geany (for Python development) and Komodo Edit (for HTML, CSS and Javascript), whereas dstiles uses Kate. We have both tried multiple editors and selected what works for each of us.

One caveat: Linux does not have as wide a choice of WYSIWIG web design or graphics tools. IN particular no Dreamweaver or Photoshop for people who have spent years learning those particular tools.

6) Lots of support for managing servers and other common web master tasks. For example, most linux desktops will allow you to open the file manager, type in sftp://example.com/home/me and then act just as if it was a local directory - not just in the file manager but in most apps. You can use the file dialogue in your text editor and to open a file on your server.

7) Highly configurable. A choice of desktop environments, most of which themselves are configurable, means you can configure you desktop to suit your workflow and you preferences. Features like multiple desktops (which almost all Linux desktop environments support) support complex work flows.

8) No vendor lock-in. If Ubuntu starts being obnoxious, I can painlessly switch to another distro and use all the same applications.

This is also an advantage of the open source applications you use on Linux. Applications can be forked if developers let users down, and open formats make migrating your data to an alternative easier.

9) The *nix approach of combining lots of simple tools shines on the command lines, but not just there. Lots of applications work with/talk to/ each other.

Someone else think up number 10 please!


2:26 pm on Oct 6, 2013 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Administrator lifeinasia is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 5+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

10) Cheaper! :)


8:06 pm on Oct 6, 2013 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member dstiles is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 5+ Year Member

2) I fairly often install non-repository apps. Easy to do using apt-get. Unless it's adobe flash, which is a real pain to upgrade. But then, adobe is a real pain anyway.

3) I only recently discovered Mint has no auto-update path. Since I'm on the Maya LTS version I hope they fix this by the next LTS release. That (so far) is my only real qualm about Mint. Prior to that I used Ubuntu (last version 10.04): as you say, switching to Mint was easy. Mint Maya is based on Ubuntu Precise and perhaps that is why there is no proper upgrade path: it presumably needs to be re-based on the next version of Ubuntu. Shame, though.

4) There was a report last week (threatpost[.]com[/]linux-kernel-update-fixes-dos-leakage-bugs[/]102463 - remove brackets) that debian kernel was vulnerable BUT patches were issued at that time. This is a serious advantage of linux: issue fixes and updates when they are available rather than "Let's wait a few weeks and issue several at the same time." I know the theory behind MS's tactics but it's still a serious infection vector. (But, as you say, not really the thread for a proper security discussion.)

5) Never used dreamweaver: I used html-kit on windows (wife still does) and found it adequate but kate (for me) works better (though I do not like KDE software in general: see other recent threads hereabouts for reasons). Never used photoshop - I used to use Corel Paint - but now use gimp: difficult to get used to and it sometimes takes me a while to do something (I don't do much graphics work these days) but generally better. Still haven't found a converter for gimp from native Corel files, though, so occasionally back to windows for that.

6) Not particularly true if, like me, you maintain a Windows server. I have always used ftp to upload/download files in any case so never got involved with direct file linkage: I suspect it's more difficult to access a Windows server that way in any case. I do use a local Windows server to develope web sites and have experienced problems accessing is from SOME tools - kate, for example. Using smb4k gets over the problem but if a machine goes off-line smb4k hangs (and see note above re: KDE). On my current desktop I've worked around this: instead of loading smb4k I link via /home/(me)/.gvs/ instead. I tried via /mnt/ but that's not reliable. But once established, accessing windows machines is fairly straightforward.

10) YES. I've been talking to XP owners and urging them to switch to linux while they still have time to run the two OS's side by side for comparison. My nephew is about to run a DVD boot to try Mint before installing it as either a dual-boot or as a single OS. His father already runs Mint and XP on different machines and is soon to convert to running all off-line accesses through linux - once we can get flash to run on his linux box! :(

There are downsides to linux. A month ago I bought a cheap second-hand machine to run as a backup mail server, my windows machine having developed an alergy to summer heat. I installed Mint Maya Mate and chose postfix/dovecot. I am still pursuing the installation at a couple of hours per day. ALMOST there now but out-of-the-box it ain't, despite claims. I know it's powerful but a choice of installations for various scenarios would have helped immensely (internal use only, external-facing full mail server, backup mail server etc). As it is I've had to trawl the internet for almost every parameter and still it won't resolve MX records. On the upside, it's far more powerful than either of the windows mail servers I've been running for the past several years (mailenable and hmailserver) and is already blocking things I could only dream of before! :)

In all, I'm glad I now run linux as my primary OS and wish I'd never listened to the bloke who insisted MS would be better. I'd already got to grips with perl and the linux command line: I'd be far better off now all round. Most specifically I am not looking forward, over the next few months, to upgrading from windows 2003 server to whatever-the-latest-fad is. Which comes under 8) above, I guess. :)


5:33 am on Oct 7, 2013 (gmt 0)

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@LifeinAsia, I do not thing the cost of a desktop OS is not important. Pre-installed Windows is effectively free - the very low OEM Windows license cost is (more than?) offset by getting paid for installing a few promotional things, which is why OS free hardware is no cheaper.

Its different for servers (especially if you are doing things like running lots of small VMs) and if you have enough installs that license tracking compliance starts taking up time and creating risk. I have to admit I was thinking purely in terms of individual webmasters.

@dstiles, regarding 6): it should work if you install an ssh server on your Windows server. You may have to set permissions on transferred files, but that may be necessary with ftp as well - and it is a lot more secure than ftp.

You are, of course, at this stage quite right to keep your Windows server and once you are on Windows 8 you will have a decade to its EOL.

regarding 2). I hardly ever install non-repo apps. I do have three third party repos which will need changing when I do an OS upgrade, but there are only three of them (for MATE desktop, Komodo Edit and Ninja IDE) and I have stopped using one (Ninja).

brotherhood of LAN

5:36 am on Oct 7, 2013 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Administrator brotherhood_of_lan is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

Totally agree, as my web facing servers run Linux, it's a lot easier for me to run Linux. The only compelling reason I see for people not to run Linux is the requirement to run programs "that don't run on Linux".

Even then, no harm in a dual boot.


12:31 pm on Oct 7, 2013 (gmt 0)

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How about speed? I have some old PC's that would be useless as Windows boxes because they are too slow, but they work great running Linux.

I have a 13 year old son who has never had a Windows computer, his computers mostly run Ubuntu. I sure appreciate not having to constantly clean malware from his computers like I had to with his older brothers' Windows computers.


2:32 pm on Oct 7, 2013 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Administrator mack is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

I have been running Ubuntu for several years now, and to be honest I havenít looked back. I just find it a much more comfortable development environment as opposed to Windows.

Dataguy touched on Speed. It is very true that most Linux distros will easily run on older hardware. The common scinario would be a user who is getting a new system and decides to run a version of Linux on his/her older system. I encourage this because it can be a real eye opener just what a user can do with Linux.

If however you are a full time Linux user, then new hardware running Ubuntu is awesome.

Duel boot is a real option, especially is you NEED applications that run only on Windows OS.



3:38 pm on Oct 7, 2013 (gmt 0)

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If you're unwilling to go all the way with a Linux desktop, a Virtual Machine (either vmware player or virtualbox) given 32GB HDD and 2GB ram will perform more than adequately with Linux installed.

Run full screen on a second monitor and it will feel like you've just magically gained a Linux box (and it'll share the mouse and keyboard as a bonus)

Great solution if you still have software dependent on either Windows or OSX.


7:04 pm on Oct 7, 2013 (gmt 0)

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I have been convinced that Linux is cheaper by enough to matter and take back what I said earlier about cost not mattering.

The combined savings in software cost (especially software upgrade costs) and lower hardware costs (because you can buy cheaper hardware and it has a longer useful life, or both) and savings on buying other software (because most Linux software is free) are enough to matter.


7:56 pm on Oct 7, 2013 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member planet13 is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 5+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

There are, of course, also socio-political reasons.

It may be that particular software makers (or their CEOs) pour money into certain causes with which you disagree.


There are certain negative apsects to using Linux in your daily life; namely you officially reach status of "uber geek". also, you miss the "free time" that happens in windows between the time you double-click the icon for a program and the time it actually loads.

Also, one tends to become too dependent on the command line terminal, and types things like:

sudo apt-get purge my-ex-girlfriend-and-her-stupid-cat


8:06 pm on Oct 7, 2013 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member

LOL ^ there's the nugget of the day ^ I'm outta here now for coffee :)

But, I'll be back to participate in this thread in a few days (by the way I have no concept of time) to share what I've learned about my switch to exclusive Linux use since about a year ago (I think).

[edited by: SevenCubed at 8:07 pm (utc) on Oct 7, 2013]


8:07 pm on Oct 7, 2013 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member dstiles is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 5+ Year Member

Graeme: 6): it should work...

I installed ssh when I first got the server. And turned it off after an hour due to very high activity from hackers. I could change port, I suppose, but let's see what happens on the next windows box. As to a decade of service... I should have retired years ago! :)


9:05 pm on Oct 7, 2013 (gmt 0)

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Well I think all the important things have been said :)

What about: you can have your own redundant backup? you can use a hub with 4 USBs and get it working as ONE disk having instant redundant data.


6:04 am on Oct 8, 2013 (gmt 0)

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@dstiles, on linux I would say use fail2ban, and I have heard to similar tools for Windows.


6:08 am on Oct 8, 2013 (gmt 0)

I recently switched full-time from Win XP to Linux Mint. For me, one of the big reasons that hasn't been mentioned so far is direction of the OS.

Being largely user-driven, Unix distros seem to have a more stable long-term vision. I didn't care for the direction of Windows, and with Win 8, lost faith in them coming back around to something that would be worth trying again. I've checked in on various Unix distros over the years and finally decided Mint 13/14 were ready for prime time, so set up my main computer with Mint 15.

There have been a few growing pains, but it's mostly been a smooth transition. Like others, I've found it tougher to find one perfect text editor for all purposes. I mostly use Geany but have Kate around for the occasional thing it's flawed at.



10:14 am on Oct 8, 2013 (gmt 0)

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@dkap, I have ended up using FOUR text editors:

1) Geany for Python development
2) Komodo Edit for HTML, CSS and Javascript
3) Gedit for editing remote files, because using a different editor helps me distinguish local and remote versions for the same file.
4) Gvim for large files, because it seems to open them faster. This is something I rarely need to do, but it happens.


10:16 am on Oct 8, 2013 (gmt 0)

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Another thing, hang on to your copies of Windows XP! Its small and ideal for running in a VM to test sites with Internet Explorer.


11:55 am on Oct 8, 2013 (gmt 0)

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To piggy-back onto what Planet13 said, running Linux can bring a certain sense of 'Sticking it to The Man.' If you're like me, this is reason enough right there.


2:58 pm on Oct 8, 2013 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member

For those of us who rely on graphics and video editing tools, is Linux really feasible at this time? I don't mind switching tools as long as I have something that gets the job done well.


5:59 pm on Oct 8, 2013 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

No idea about video editing. I suspect its similar to graphics.

I think the answer is "it depends". What you want to do, what features you want, how comfortable you are with learning a now tool, your workflow, whether your are preparing graphics from print or screen etc.

This comparison of GIMP and Photoshop may be a useful starting point:

[dl.meetthegimp.org ]

I get the impression that Adobe applications are better for print (better or easier to set up CMYK, for example). Try them and see - most are cross platform - although they may look better and work more reliably on Linux.


7:49 pm on Oct 8, 2013 (gmt 0)

I've found graphics to be a bit like text editors: There's something to accomplish everything you want in Linux, but you probably won't find one program that does everything you're used to in Windows. I've been using a combination of GIMP and Pinta to mostly replace Paint Shop Pro.

A friend was just asking if there are any good Linux video editors, so if someone is able to answer diberry's question, he would appreciate knowing that, too.



7:50 pm on Oct 8, 2013 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member dstiles is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 5+ Year Member

Graeme - the hits were on windows but I've been preparing to look at fail2ban for postfix installation.

diberry - this is why my brother is retaining an off-line XP on his network: he says linux does not have the quality of video editing tools he's used to. He said that just before complaining his latest video editor update had trashed a couple of functions and was getting bloated. :)

I would say gimp is as powerful as anything I've used on windows for graphics but it takes a bit of getting used to. I don't use graphics often enough nowadays to get familiar with gimp. Inkscape is also supposed to be good and apparently easier to use but I don't know about its power.

graeme - I have so far avoided anything adobe on linux (apart from !$&* flash!). There are adequate PDF editing, viewing and printing tools in linux as far as I can see, although I don't really do PDF editing. I recently found a PDF printer to add to my printers list so I can save and email html pages direct from FF (or from any other app).


9:44 pm on Oct 8, 2013 (gmt 0)

Speaking of graphics, has anyone come up with a good image optimization program? I'm still using Ulead Smart Saver Pro (via WINE), since I haven't managed to find anything similar in Linux.

dstiles, Inkscape is on my list of programs to try...



1:16 am on Oct 9, 2013 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member

Oh, that's how ignorant I am, LOL - didn't realize GIMP worked on Linux. GIMP is what I use on both PC and Mac because I'm just editing photos to put on websites and GIMP is more than adequate. So that problem's solved.

As for video editing... I hear ya, dstiles. My videos are pretty simple too, so I've just used the Windows Live Movie Maker and iMovie that come with the other two operating systems. Recent version of iMovie are compromising quality for upload speeds, and there doesn't seem to be any way to compensate for it. I'll have to look into what's available on Linux - I really just need something that renders good quality video from good quality footage, since I'm not trying to make a blockbuster movie or anything.

Thanks for this thread, everyone! I have been wondering about Linux for years, but was intimidated by the possibility of a steep learning curve. I'm getting more and more tempted.


2:11 am on Oct 9, 2013 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member planet13 is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 5+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

Hi there, dliberry:

I've only been using Linux for about two weeks now, but I have put in a lot of hours over those two weeks so I have maybe an ok perspective as a noob.

What type of system do you have? Because it seems like there are (more or less) two major "types" of linux distributions:

1) Lightweight distros meant to run on older computers without a whole lot of memory, and

2) More complete distros which are meant to be more competitive with, say, Windows 7 or the latest mac os

Everyone has their favorites but it looks like Ubuntu and Linux Mint are very popular for people wanting a full featured version of Linux that can be made to replicate the windows "experience"

The great thing is if you already have windows on your machine and have, say, and extra 15 gigs of hard drive space, you can install ubuntu or Linux Mint on the hard drive as well (you can do that with most linux distributions, apparently), and then you can boot up into those versions of Linux, or you can boot into windows like you usually do.

(Note: I have READ that it is better to put Linux on a machine that already has Windows instead of trying to put Windows onto a machine that already has Linux. Windows tends to write over Linux if Linux is installed first... so I have HEARD. Check with someone who knows.)

There is also the possibility of running Linux in a "virtual box" on Windows ?!?!?! I haven't tried that.

Also, if you absolutely have to run windows apps, there are a few options that have been pointed to above. One option I am working with is Wine. You can see search for windows applications that run well on Linux with wine by going to this link:


When you go there, set the Rating filter to Platinum (means the program runs flawlessly) and then set the category to whatever you are looking for, and you can see what windows programs run well in that category.

Poke around that site and you might see what is available for your use.

Also, there is LOTS of open source stuff out there. so just like your experience with The Gimp, there might be something that works well and is open source.

Isn't it great that so many people like FREE stuff that there is a big open source development community?


7:59 am on Oct 9, 2013 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

Virtual machines have come up a few times.

Here is an example of Windows XP running on Ubuntu MATE desktop in Virtualbox in seamless mode (the main reason I prefer Virtual Box to other VM software).

[dropbox.com ]

You can see:

1) A Windows taskbar at the bottom of the screen, while the top of the screen has a MATE panel
2) The background of the rest of the screen of occupied by Geany
3) You can see just enough of the MATE file manager to see it has opened an sftp url
4) That is covered by a Windows Explorer window, an IE 7 window.
5) Right in front is a tabbed Linux terminal window.

My 10 year old daughter got completely confused by this. "what did you install Windows for?" followed by greater confusion as she registered the MATE panel etc.


8:13 am on Oct 9, 2013 (gmt 0)

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I did not know that these are now available for Linux + Virtualbox:


Those are downloads of pre-made virtual machines to test sites with various versions of IE.

Very useful.


10:17 am on Oct 9, 2013 (gmt 0)

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@dataguy, after a frustrating two hours trying to fix IE7s behaviour, fortunately finding an weird and obscure fix (display: hidden required overflow:hidden on the parent element to work properly!), I do not want to "stick it to the man" so much as stick it to MS in particular.

Do you really want to give money or market share to the people who gave us Internet Explorer?

I mention market share specifically, because it is very clear that MS far prefers people to pirate Windows rather than use Linux.


12:05 pm on Oct 9, 2013 (gmt 0)

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Yes, MS === The Man.


4:42 pm on Oct 9, 2013 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member drdoc is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member

Here's what I think:

- If you are writing software (PHP/Perl/Python) you should definitely use Linux, ideally using the same distribution as on your live server.
- If you are doing a lot of graphics ... Photoshop is MILES better than GIMP
- If you are mainly doing HTML (occasional graphics), then it really doesn't matter

Sure, Linux is free, and there are a lot of really good free tools out there. But, for the most part, the paid versions are just that much better for anything beyond casual use.

Excel > OpenOffice
Photoshop > GIMP

They don't even begin to compare. But, if you're anything beyond a casual user of this software, you already know these things, so this comment will become moot.
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