LinuxThis is the next post in my series on why attorneys should ditch Microsoft’s Windows or Apple’s Mac OS in favor of Linux. My last article provided an overview of topics which I’ll be addressing and briefly described the fact that Linux is an open source operating system. Using open source software, which I’ll dive into in this article, can lead to greater efficiency, lower costs, and better cyber security (which also increases profits). Last time I checked, that combination can make an attorney do the happy dance. Before diving into how switching over to Linux can help in these areas, I think it’s important to explain “what Linux is” to many legal professionals. This is due to the fact, and let’s face it, that most attorneys are really frickin’ bad when it comes to technology. So let’s take a minute to explain this topic on an elementary level and in my coming articles I’ll make a clear case for why you should make the change.

I’m going to use a few terms somewhat loosely and incorrectly for the sake of making this article easy to understand. Linux is an operating system that can be run on most personal computers. By operating system, I mean the software that powers your PC – like Windows does on most computers and Mac OS does on Apple products. Windows and Mac OS are developed and owned by large companies (Microsoft and Apple). This is why you have to pay to use their software and to upgrade it to the newest versions (when you buy a new machine those costs are built into the price). Those companies develop and maintain the software entirely in house. Linux, by contrast, is “open source” software. The Linux core, known as a “kernel,” is continuously maintained, updated, and improved, by some of the largest technology companies in the world. As I mentioned in my last article, these companies include Intel, IBM, etc. Smaller software companies, as well as hobbyists and enthusiasts, also contribute to the project. These companies then create operating systems based on the Linux kernel and make money by selling devices and services that run on the software. Common examples of this include Google’s Android operating system (which is based on Linux and powers the majority of the world’s smartphones), the operating system for Amazon’s Kindle Fire line (which runs a variant of Android), and many more. As open source software, Linux operating systems are always free and receive free updates.

There are many different flavors of Linux which run on personal computers. These various flavors are known as “distributions” or “distros” for short. I’ve written this article on a machine running a distribution known as Ubuntu. Several companies manufacture and sell computers with Linux pre-installed. These include System 76 and others. In many ways Linux has already conquered computing. The initial version of Linux was released in 1991 and it has become the “go to” OS for servers, embedded devices, and many smartphones. The operating system has essentially taken over all of computing with the exception of the desktop/laptop market. That appears to be at the early stages of changing due Linux gaining higher market shares in the personal computing space and the rise of companies such as System 76 which manufacture and sell devices with Linux preloaded.

There is a wide range of free software available on Linux. Also, attorneys will find that much of the software they currently use will run without issue on the OS. These are issues I’ll get into in my coming articles. Do I think attorneys should be using Linux in place of Windows or Mac OS? Yep. If you’re just starting a firm then and are buying new computers then there are many benefits to using the operating system. Again, these benefits include security and lower costs. Over my coming articles I’ll be demonstrating why this is.

Have you tried implementing the use of Linux in your practice? Please chime in through the comment form below.