A friendly and attractive Linux distro for beginners
I’m often asked by people who want to try using a Linux operating system for the first time, which distribution would be best for a beginner. Up until this point, I’d generally recommend Ubuntu, as it is relatively easy to use, but also offers the depth and learning curve to keep them active for some time.
However now I’d be inclined to recommend Zorin, an operating system that is based on Ubuntu, but organized towards a friendly and appealing user experience that makes it easier for users used to Windows or Apple products to make the switch.
A number of the recent Future Tools issues have focused on free and open source operating systems, in no small part because I’ve been taken time during the pandemic to overhaul some of the machines I have. All machines require maintenance, and with computers that involves both hardware and software.
I suspect many computer users take their operating system for granted. For starters they probably assume that the hardware and software are bound together, and that the computer they own cannot be converted to another church of computing.
There’s also the familiarity that a long term user experience nurtures, making it disorienting and confusing to switch to something else.
As a result people put up with a lot of nonsense and inconvenience from their operating systems, bending and conforming to the software, rather than the system bending and conforming to them.
That’s one of the primary benefits of a GNU/Linux based operating system. It can be customized in such a wide number of areas that rather than do that customization yourself, there are a vast number of linux distributions that cater to the needs of all sorts of niches and communities.
Zorin OS is a distro that is designed to attract newbies or newcomers to Linux.
Part of how Zorin seeks to attract new users to Linux is to create a user interface and experience that closely resembles and appropriates from either Windows or Mac OSX. Which is where their business model comes in.
Zorin OS has four different versions. Three are free, but the Ultimate version costs U$39. This version comes with themes that make the distro look almost identical to a Windows or Mac OSX install. It also comes with games, media apps, and other proprietary apps that do not come with the free version.
The Ultimate version also comes with installation support. Although a key benefit of any Linux distribution is the support that comes from other users.
The free versions are still remarkably easy to use and feature a ton of useful and powerful applications. They’re also easy to install, and their user experience is accessible and appealing. Like many Linux distributions, one of their versions is focused on working on old machines or hardware, and another distribution is focused on educational users (and children).
It is also interesting that Zorin is helping to reverse the long standing perception that Linux distributions are ugly and not easy for beginners.
Based out of Dublin Ireland, Zorin was started in 2009, and is now finding success, with total downloads growing into the seven figure range.
Zorin Connect, a nifty app that syncs up your Android phone with your PC desktop, also packs in some improvements like auto-searching for devices only on trusted WiFi networks, and full support for the newest versions of Android.
As an off shoot of Ubuntu, Zorin is a great example of what’s possible with free and open source software. Rather than have to put in the effort to maintain an entire distribution, Zorin is able to piggy back off of the work of Ubuntu, and only maintain the differences between the two.
Like standing on the shoulders of giants, this is how Linux operates as an ecosystem. Individual elements of the operating system are developed and maintained by a wide range of teams, which are then assembled and aggregated into larger operating systems, which vary based on what people select and why.
Ubuntu is a great operating system, but that doesn’t prevent people from wanting to diverge slightly and create something just as great, but also a little easier to use, and more familiar to people accustomed to using the two dominant platforms. Zorin is just one example, albeit a successful one.
Like many Linux distros, Zorin is privacy centric, and if used correctly, easier to secure than other non-Linux operating systems.
For many users, switching to a new operating system can be intimidating if not outright scary, and that’s one reason why installing Zorin on an old computer might be a good first step. As a learning exercise it will help you better understand your computer, and dip your toe into the rewarding and relevant world of free and open source software.
Finally, it’s worth noting, that Zorin was not named after the Christopher Walken James Bond villain from A View to A Kill.
Here’s a podcast featuring Artyom Zorin discussing the future of the operating system and their efforts to bring more users to the Linux ecosystem: