Open Ballot: What is Linux's killer feature?


As we rev up our podcast engines for the next recording, we want to hear your words: what do you think is the killer feature of Linux? What's its strongest selling point, the thing that makes it better than its competitors? Perhaps you reckon the kernel's rock-solid stability is key, or maybe you think the plethora of desktop environments gives it an advantage.

Let us know in the comments below, and remember that leaving your name as boring old Anonymous Penguin will make kittens cry.

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Your comments

Killer Feature

The "killer" features I.E the features that kill Linux when it comes to getting "newcomers" to use it in my experience are.
1st the lack of game's for home use and
2nd the lack of a truly great CAD software for professional use.

I realize that WINE goes some of the way to addressing my criticisms of games and CAD but imagine having to use Internet Explorer though WINE to access the internet, Firefox is a solution WINE is a stop gap.

Don't get me wrong I use Linux on my Laptop, Desktop and Phone. Linux and more importantly the free/libre/open software world what ever you prefer to call it have many advantages, simple by virtue of being open and transparent in their creation. Performance, reliablity, security, continuous improvements and a configurability that makes windows and mac seem clunky.

Never mind the wide range of software that matches Linux's open philosophy such as Firefox, GIMP, Gnome (GNU in general), Blender, Libreoffice, KDE and VLC both matching their less open competitors and far exceeding them.

Also if someone is aware of a good open CAD system please feel free to tell me what an ignorant fool I am.(I do stress open and good though.)

PS By Linux I mean GNU/Linux without going all Richard Stallmany.


For me anyway, the killer feature is customization. If I don't like the way something looks or works in Linux I can change it to suit my needs. Who knows better than I do what I want. Surely not Apple and Microsoft.


Security of course. That is why it is on so many servers. Its a killer feature.

Channeling some RMS

The best feature of GNU/Linux is it's openness - both in development and use. It's amazing that anybody can improve Linux, be it simple bugfixes or new features. Also, the end-user has full control of their system and can do exactly what they want with it - with windows you're pretty much stuck with what you're given.

Easy to use

It's so easy to use and almost everything is open. I don't hack my software to death myself, but I know others do, and they are able to provide cool stuff for us normal users. :)

I really love the whole package structure too, with the update manager that updates everything on the system. Why hasn't Windows this feature yet? They have been polishing the same version of Windows during almost 20 years now. I mean, how much different is Windows 7 from Windows 95?

The package library is also great, which makes everything so easy to install and I don't have to google and being afraid for viruses. Like, if I want skype, I just type "sudo apt-get install skype" in the terminal and I'm done.

Rapid Development

The best thing about Linux is the rapid rate of improvement throughout the year. Whatever opinion you hold about a particular distribution is essentially null & void within months because either the kernal has been updated or the desktop environment has. You can wait years for new features to be added to Windows and you have to pay through the nose to get them.


Xorg is the most amazing piece of software ever made and combined with the amazing GRUB makes the best operating system on the planet.

And the winner is...

a) It's free

b) It's not Windows


d) it doesn't crash much

e) it has an app for that - that being almost anything you could want to do.

f) did I mention it's free?

For me...

it's the whole thing. The thought(even though it wasn't planned by it's creator) behind an open, free operating system, the biggest project in the world that demonstrates that people can work together as different as the people themselves might be.

killer feature: potential

Linux in general? Flexibility.

My Kindle runs linux (being able to sftp into it from anywhere in the house is more useful than it might sound), my phone runs linux, my media centres run linux and my netbook runs linux. Linux is *very* good at fulfilling these niche tasks without being limited or limiting (as something proprietary would be).

On the desktop?

It really doesn't have one. As someone else has said - if it did it would have more 'market' share.

Linux, as a desktop OS, is fine for very light users who just want to use a broswer, a media player and an office application. And it's fine for the hardcore programmers. For the inbetweens - people who, like me, do use their computers creatively but are not hardcore programmers - people who want to use creativity apps (of various sorts - graphic, video, audio, 3d as well as coding) in a *visual* way and want to play games (you do have Minecraft though - you should be shouting from the rooftops about that) - people who engage creatively with all aspects of computer culture but are not experts/specialists - Linux has very little to offer, sadly.

The games aren't there, but we could probably live with that until a solution is found. The big problem is the lack of software. Now, I'm sure you'll point to the repositories with thousands of packages and yes, they're great. But where's the Photoshop analogue? (the GIMP is not it), where's the Adobe Illustrator? The Flash (IDE), the Cubase? The Fruity Loops or Garage Band? The Premiere? The 3ds Max (again, Blender is not it)? The whatever-is-used-for-page-setting-these-days? I could go on, it's a virtually unlimited list.

I need all those things to be there for a computer to be useful to me. I need programs with some degree of standardisation and *usable* UIs to fulfill a broad range of creative tasks. We are children of point and click - while we are imaginative enough to see, understand and engage with the power of the command line we also value a more visual approach when it is more appropriate - and whatever there case for you, for us there are times when it is more appropriate.

Of course I do not expect all of these apps to appear overnight - but it would be nice to see some indication that the Linux community as a whole understands this need, this lack. We could make-do for a while if this stuff looks like it's on the way. Again, you might point to GIMP and Blender anbd Inkscape again. And I would point to the glacially slow progress and chaotic UIs. I've been trying these apps every few years for perhaps a decade or so and each time I do I'm hard-pressed to see any progress (in the terms that matter to me, at least).

You might also say: this is open source, code those things yourself. I'd re-iterate that we're not hardcore coders. We can't.

It's a shame because I identify very strongly with the freedoms (of the Stallman sort) Linux represents, and I believe that winning the sort of users I (believe I) represent over would be the key to winning a share of the desktop which reflects Linux's quality and potential - we're very good at getting others to use things we see value in.

Maybe it's fine as it is. Maybe Linux's true strength is simply satisfying these twin niches of very light use and hardcore computer nuts/coders. Maybe people who want to engage with information in a more traditionally creative way should stick with Windows and Mac where we're, if not loved, at least catered for.

But if there's a next step towards popularity, I believe it's this. today I want to draw a raster image, tomorrow I might want to draw in vectors or make a movie or a song or create a web-app or a point and click adventure game or ... etc.. I need to be able to do all of those things without spending a week learning the idiosyncrasies of whatever tool I choose, I need to be able to pick up a piece of software and to recognise enough to be able to work it out myself without pause. Or at least be able to see that someone out there understands that that's what I'm after.

Man, I'm sorry for the length of this. I'm also sorry if this comes across as entitled whining. I'm just saying I believe that if you want to get bigger you need to appeal to people who use computers in this way. If you don't care then, of course, that is fine.


control over what goes into it on install, what you take out after install, what runs, when it runs, how it runs!

I use both windows and linux, and I'm always frustrated by windows when there are so many processes I have no idea what they are! When I swap back to linux I'm always releived to have control, and the speed of the system speaks volumes to this!


I realize this isn't the case for all workloads, but for the software system I work on, Linux is faster and more efficient (~1.5x Windows performance). And that is comparing CentOS 5 to the latest Windows server. I'm eager to move to the newer kernel and all its improvements (darned "enterprise" distros).

Add that to all the customization capabilities mentioned earlier--it really rocks!


Philosophy that comes with Linux :)

2 Words...

Mike Saunders.

Freedom of Software

I can't remember how many times I've been working on a project only to have commercial software let me down, then hop onto my linux box and in minutes have found a tool that will do the job I want as I need it to be done, free of the struggle of purchase choices, stunted demos or the fear of spyware and virus in downloads.

Case in point, recently I was working on a massively complicated set of image maps on a web page. Dreamweaver kept *breaking* and I couldn't complete the job. I jumped onto my Ubuntu box and five mins later found a tool that handled image maps and completed the job in under an hour. Brilliant.

Freedom - and what drove that home for me ...

... was that picture of the Russian Police raiding some dissident organization and confiscating their PC's on the grounds that "a citizen made a complaint that you are running unlicensed Microsoft software!!!".

(The "citizen" apparently lived a thousand kilometres away and couldn't name any member of the organization).


I don't think it does Linux any favors to perpetuate the myth that Linux viruses do not exist


The first thing that sprung to my mind was "The Shell". I'm mostly a GUI user but have slowly been learning a few tricks in the shell, and find it extremely powerful.

Oh, and the lack of viruses (or should that be viri...?)

Simplicity and ease of use

The last time I installed Vista it took two and a half working days, along with some basic Applications and updates. Compared to this Linux Mint took twenty minutes to install and another twenty to update.

It is simple and reliable in use, even my Eighty-four year old neighbour finds it easy for her to use.

In two words...IT WORKS!

Linux's Killer Features

The ability to configure and use the operating system the way you want it.

With Linux you have more control over your operating system.

Not having to ask permission to use your computer eg Microsoft's Product Activation thingy.

The fact its not owned by one organization means you have choice. Especially if a distro doesn't work your computer - try another.

FREEDOM - As we say in New Zealand - Sweet As.


Christchurch New Zealand

Killing Feature

While I love the Linux platform, I'm a computer science student/ web developer so its natural for me to like an OS I can tear apart and transform from a workstation to a web server by a simple apt-get install command.

However as some Tom Walker pointed out on May 9, 2011 @ 5:31pm, Linux lack that edge that will bring more average users.

There are many things a non-technical user wont like; for instance I still cant seem to get an attractive font on netbeans that I can use to do coding where as on Win 7 the default font looks great. The display drivers up to now are decent but I don't think they can compete with other platforms yet in terms of that crisp fresh look and feel.

To Linux/BSD and any free Os credit its not the developers or community's fault. Companies are less likely to invest their developers time in "free" projects just to provide a great looking OS or inter operable system. Don't get me wrong some do, but not as much as they can.

I heard Microsoft is planning to invest in Skype Linux so perhaps in the future we will see things change in FOSS favor?

we still need one

a "killer feature" is something so powerful and flashy that people will switch to use it
our problem is the we don't have one
nobody does
the browser is all that matters
(sad but true)
on the other hand a killer feature is as powerful as its marketing
(which we suck at)
so maybe there is hope


the upcomming killer feature will be....

it runs the same OS on my Computer, my Laptop, my Phone, my Ebook Reader, my Videorecorder, my Settop box, my Car, my Fridge and even my washing machine....
As soon as the majority of people understood that they can easily transfer infos between all of those devices because the running the same tools.... Linux will become enourmous popular.
The question sonn will be "Can I connect this to my Phone?" and it is by fare easier to do this on Linux devices then on any other system.

A continuous evolution

Linux evolves, over time, like a living beast! I see this more, rolling on the [testing] repo of ArchLinux, but seriously, I think this is a killer feature.

A new feature for windows? Takes years to filter down in the next version, then you have to shell out hard cash to get it. If a new feature comes to Ubuntu, I get it in six months (Arch Linux when it's released...). I get a revamped desktop every six months to (KDE, although surrently stuck to Gnome-shell...). This is awesome, it means we stay at the edge of what's hip hop happening all the time.

Wait! There is one more I thought of...


It is THE killer feature because it is by far the easiest way to get rid of Unity...

several things

1. It's not Microsoft
2. It's not Apple
3. It's highly customisable
4. Most distros are free
5. There are no restrictions on how I use it
6. No built-in spyware, and very unlikely to be infected with viruses and spyware
7. Lots of great free applications

Designed to work, not fail after 3 years

I believe that Linux's killer feature, and the argument I make to those considering Linux, is that Linux has no vested interest in failing after 3 years and making your computer crawl like sludge. Microsoft on the other hand, has no financial interest in creating an operating system that continues to work well beyond the planned release of their new version. All of my Linux machines seem to improve with age as bug fixes are released and new features are added. Windows machines never work better than the day you install the system. It's all downhill from that day on. As a Linux user, I don't have to buy third-party software to try to remove cruft from my machine and repair a registry so that I can tweak another year or two use out of it before throwing in the towel.


You're free to use Linux however you want to, on a wide variety of hardware platforms.

That said, one "selling point" I used to use was that upgrading didn't require a hardware upgrade like Windows 7 pre-Alpha (sorry, "Vista") did. Unfortunately, that's no longer the case with the likes of Unity and Gnome 3 being a little fussy about video hardware.

chimes of freedom

Definitely the freedom aspect is the most important thing for me. As the world becomes ever more dependent upon computers, it should be of concern to us all that Microsoft, a money making institution which is not democratically accountable in any way, wields so much power and influence over our lives. Linux and the GPL gives ordinary people control over technology and this is why I would continue to use it, even if, on a technical level, it was inferior to Windows.

Open complete control

For me, being a power user and programmer, I want to control what is running and how things look. I want the freedom to setup anything that will make my everyday activities faster. On one hand, I could care less whether a new OS is easier for newbies to learn. On the other hand, those features should be there for new people. I just want to be able to get around or turn off those newbie features so that I can GET THINGS DONE faster/smarter/etc! Some OS's only offer their way of doing things (hrrrm-MacOSX-rrmmm), and some OS's don't allow the control that a power user needs. What is this random *.exe file that is running in the background and taking precious CPU cycles on my work machine? I can easily find every binary that is running, what it does, and how to turn it off on Linux.


Just couldn't help myself.


I see a comment above that says gnu/linux has no killer feature because there are so many killer features listed. I'd say that means that there are an overwhelming number of killer features or that there is no such thing as a killer feature in software.

All of the features above are a direct result of software freedom. People are able to cooperate to make the software they want rather than having to beg an owner not to fill their favorite software with malicious features. Microsoft dreams that software patents are a feature killer but packages from countries with reasonable laws prevail. Shame on the US for granting monopolies on business methods and math.

My favorite desktop software features are mainly features of X11, multiple desktops, applications that share well and modularity. The major desktop environments have too many nice programs with too many nice features to enumerate, but KDE's PIM is high on the list, even in 4.x form.


I should also mention package management and configuration control. Windows users are forced to accept a stream of trashy "upgrades" that might modify any part of their system. Then viruses make a mess of what's left. A free gnu/linux system will never feed the user an upgrade that can not be inspected and verified. It is irresponsible to use windows for critical work.

Its funny reading some of the answers.

Xorg is going by by.
Compiz is also going the same way in time.

There are viruses for Linux. They are rare. Linux world people are trained to use the repository system first. This reduces attack vectors. And most software that runs in Linux does not do insane things like running executables from email clients.

I would say Linux Killer features are. Secuirty Sanity. Followed by Scale to what ever. And I do mean what ever.
Followed by run on almost what ever.

Lack of a good integrated photo processing system. Even that the software on Linux can do everything photoshop can todo what photoshop does requires changing between to many applications. But due to the way its done Linux can take image processing to a cluster that photoshop cannot. Example of great a High end and poor a low end. More focus has to go not low end requirements.

Same is true with CADs. Building simulations....That require clusters Linux is extremely great. Interface for low and middle end users. Needs work.

Accountancy software. ERP and the like for high end Linux is great. SBS and home user. Not so great due to them not being kept upto date with countries tax laws.

Even in games its the same. Hugh server games like Wow use Linux server side in the cluster.

Android is an example what happens to Linux when someone takes a market. Looks why Linux is failing to penetrate and addresses the issues.

Forget marketing basically fix a few of the issues and Linux will go like wild fire and self market it self.

I love the sheer madness of it all

Linux is chaos and discussion and controversy and forks and foundations and racing against time to do something wonderful and daring and new. I love how change happens and everything's at high tide until the next crazy bit of madness comes along. It's creativity at its best, and human nature at its worst (sometimes), but at the end of the day it all just works (at least, it works for me!), and that's pretty amazing.

I love the fact that freedom is part of the process and (to my mind) the glue that holds it all together. I love that such a diverse, multi-cultural group can do so many outrageously awesome things. I especially love that I can be a part of it, if I choose, It's fun. It's always interesting...and best of all it ain't Windows. What more could we ask?

It's as customizable as desired.

I use KDE. I love that every facet of KDE is customizable. The right clicking menu options, initial window size, desktop widgets, the ability to change the color of system windows and KDE apps, oh how many great ways to customize.

Great ballot!

I can't really add anything to all the suggestions above. However, for me, it's got to be how easy Linux is to maintain once you've got it set up. No defragmenting, virus scanning, updating individual apps etc...


Freedom! Freedom! Freedom!
Best thing about gnu/linux is freedom!
Freedom to do what you want with it and install it on any machine. Freedom to take it with you on a disk or flash drive.

I have to keep a Windows partition because of a couple of programs I need for work that are provided by my business. Ie, Photoshop, Zbrush, and Painter. Because it's a high end workstation, I'm constantly fidgeting with it to get better performance. It's a pain in the neck every time I have to reinstall the because then I have scrounge around for serial numbers which isn't so bad until I have to go through the spartan de-activation/activation process that some proprietary programs make you go through. Once I had a drive die on a Friday night before a long weekend and when I reinstalled windows, Zbrush told me that I couldn't install it because I had it installed on too many machines, though I didn't have it installed on any. I had to wait until Tuesday before I could reach a representative to reactivate my licenses!
On the other hand, the linux partition installed in 20 minute! I have a bash script the installs all of my applications and gets rid of the ones I don't need.

If I didn't need Photoshop, Zbrush, and Painter for work, I would never boot into windows again!

Did I say Freedom?


Software licenses grant you specific rights. But when you buy a Linux distro or download it, you actually own it, and can do whatever you want with it, from loading it on all your computers, to modifying and recompiling the source. That is OWNERSHIP!<P>

As for the killer app, it's that shell code you wrote the other day, YOUR app that does what YOU want, now what some corporate droid decreed you have to want to do. Linux makes it faster to write your own stuff than it is to figure out how to use someone else's monstrous application.

I add: multiple desktops

This one feature makes other OSes feel 'crowded' and doesn't make me feel at ease when using them.

Repository installation, customizability, compiz: top features already mentioned.

The License

I was drawn to Linux because I used to change hardware a lot and always had to worry about Windows Activation or chasing some activator crack after every update. Now I can use Remastersys and install a custom OS anywhere I want.

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