Why Use Linux for Development?

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Linux is one of the most popular platforms used for development. Its widespread adoption stems from core design principles behind its kernel: to be extensible, efficient, modular, simple, robust and open source.

When Linux first emerged in the early 1990s, its features and performance were able to rival those of its proprietary competitors leading to a strong community of developers quickly flourishing behind it. The Linux open source system created a framework for software development that was decentralized, open and peer-reviewed – a model that persists today in modern software development practices.

Other open source projects, like the Apache web server, brought Linux mainstream visibility and success. Users adopted Apache on Linux servers, accounting for most of the websites on the internet. Linux’s modularity made it easier to secure and its open source code meant an entire community could work on removing vulnerabilities. Today, Linux and its many distributions provide the flexibility and reliability needed for the budding developer and the enterprise level website or application.

Why Use Linux over Another Operating System?

Although Linux and alternative operating systems (OS) increasingly support many of the same technologies, the historical evolution of Linux and its community has made it one of the most popular choices for present-day developers. Here are some of the reasons why you might choose Linux over other OSes:

  • Linux is free and open source, released under the GNU General Public License (GPL). This means you can install and use a Linux distribution on your machine for free.

  • A number of cloud server platforms like Linode (Linux-Node) use Linux. If you are going to host your application on a cloud server, developing your project on the same Linux variant can minimize deployment surprises.

  • Linux distributions offer native package management. Useful development tools, libraries, and updates are available for free from trusted sources.

  • New server technologies are often made available on Linux first, so you can start building with the newest and latest tooling.

  • Access to the GNU toolchain provides a set of native programming tools for software development.

  • Customize and personalize your Linux distribution with configuration files, multiple shell choices and desktop environments that range from minimal window managers to full-featured GUIs.

  • Lightweight Linux distributions have low minimum system resource requirements. These can be used to rescue aging computers from obsolescence.

  • Most Linux distributions are unofficially POSIX compliant. This means you can transfer your Linux OS knowledge to other operating systems, like macOS.

How to Get Started with Linux

There are a number of ways to adopt Linux as your development OS. It’s not necessary to immediately reinstall your computer’s operating system. Instead, you can progressively include Linux in your development flow:

  • Consider installing Linux on an older spare computer. Some Linux distributions, like Ubuntu and Linux Mint, market themselves as beginner-friendly. These include basic installation guides provided by those distributions:

  • Purchase a Raspberry Pi. Raspberry Pis are small, affordable computers which are an easy introduction to Linux. There is an active Raspberry Pi community, and many example projects to learn from and follow.

  • Create a Linode and work with the Linux command line remotely. The Linode platform offers a fast and cost-effective way to create Linux servers. You can easily create a Linode, test something out, then restart with a fresh Linode to try something else out.

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This guide is published under a CC BY-ND 4.0 license.