Making the switch to Linux

Blacktharne

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Nov 12, 2004
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I?m a graduate student in the sciences? I use my computer primarily for gaming, general internet browsing and email, research, and word/powerpoint/excel applications?Until recently I was probably like most people in that I booted windows, used the applications that I needed, and didn?t really pay attention to anything else?

More recently though, I?ve become somewhat obsessed with everything ?tech? (for lack of a better word I guess)?firefox and all its extensions (I don?t know how I used to function without tabbed browsing), digg, Gmail (I?m a fan of everything google, yes I said it), bloglines, desktop search, lifehacker, ccleaner, spybot search and destroy, kerio firewall, keyboard shortcuts, more keyboard shortcuts, you get the idea?a whole new world of computer related crap for me to waste my time reading about?

Also, I?ll begin taking a series of courses (3 semesters) this summer about programming (C++ based) ? I?d like to be able to generate simple apps to make data collection and repetitive tasks more efficient and possibly do some more complex things down the road?

With that being said?I?ve come across Linux a lot in my new everything-computer meanderings, so?Why switch to Linux? Cheap, open source, tons of freeware, more secure you say? Well, I don?t have any security problems with my current windows setup (I?m not a big fan of Microsoft though, that?s half the reason I?m interested in Linux), and all the software that I use I already own (most of it is included with PC purchase to begin with ? or its freeware), so I?d like to hear something relevant to my situation that would give me a push in the Linux direction.


Let?s say I do want to give Linux a shot?Where the expletive do I begin? There are about 3 million ?distros? ? I guess that?s code for different versions of Linux ? available and I haven?t a clue what the differences between them are?

The following distros pop up frequently ? Slackware, KDE, GNOME, Mandriva, Ubuntu, Gentoo, Debian, Fedora?.although some of them want me to cough up the green, which I?m not ready to do ? suck as Microsoft may, windows still rules the masses and I don?t want to shell out cash for something that ends up being incompatible with the rest of the world (or for something that in the end may not suit my needs).

So, given my situation, where should I start? - also, should I dual boot? Boot from CD at first? Where?s a good, ?how to? on repartitioning a hard drive?


Thanks in advance to anyone who takes the time to read this and respond.



By the way, I use a laptop and desktop, here are some quick specs?

Laptop ? Dell E1505
1.66 hz intel duo core
1MB RAM
100 gig hd

Desktop ? Rebuilt Gateway
2.66Ghz
2MB RAM
180 gig hd
ATI 800
 

thesix

Member
Jan 23, 2001
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Originally posted by: Blacktharne
I?m a graduate student in the sciences? I use my computer primarily for gaming, general internet browsing and email, research, and word/powerpoint/excel applications?Until recently I was probably like most people in that I booted windows, used the applications that I needed, and didn?t really pay attention to anything else?

In other words, until recently, you life was good and peaceful ...

More recently though, I?ve become somewhat obsessed with everything ?tech? (for lack of a better word I guess)?firefox and all its extensions (I don?t know how I used to function without tabbed browsing), digg, Gmail (I?m a fan of everything google, yes I said it), bloglines, desktop search, lifehacker, ccleaner, spybot search and destroy, kerio firewall, keyboard shortcuts, more keyboard shortcuts, you get the idea?a whole new world of computer related crap for me to waste my time reading about?

Yes, I got the idea.
You realize you're obsessed with craps that waste your time. Good.

Also, I?ll begin taking a series of courses (3 semesters) this summer about programming (C++ based) ? I?d like to be able to generate simple apps to make data collection and repetitive tasks more efficient and possibly do some more complex things down the road?

Good, you take courses for the good/correct reasons.

With that being said?I?ve come across Linux a lot in my new everything-computer meanderings, so?Why switch to Linux? Cheap, open source, tons of freeware, more secure you say? Well, I don?t have any security problems with my current windows setup (I?m not a big fan of Microsoft though, that?s half the reason I?m interested in Linux), and all the software that I use I already own (most of it is included with PC purchase to begin with ? or its freeware), so I?d like to hear something relevant to my situation that would give me a push in the Linux direction.

You're a graduate student in the sciences ? you should have better things to do and think than messing up with computers/OSs. Use whatever meets you needs.

Let?s say I do want to give Linux a shot?Where the expletive do I begin? There are about 3 million ?distros? ? I guess that?s code for different versions of Linux ? available and I haven?t a clue what the differences between them are?

Just pick one, see below.

The following distros pop up frequently ? Slackware, KDE, GNOME, Mandriva, Ubuntu, Gentoo, Debian, Fedora?.although some of them want me to cough up the green, which I?m not ready to do ? suck as Microsoft may, windows still rules the masses and I don?t want to shell out cash for something that ends up being incompatible with the rest of the world (or for something that in the end may not suit my needs).

Right thinking.

So, given my situation, where should I start? - also, should I dual boot? Boot from CD at first? Where?s a good, ?how to? on repartitioning a hard drive?

Start slow, try a few LiveCD first.
Find some friends who're already using Linux, let them show you how things are done.
Don't mess up with your partition yet.
 

pkme2

Diamond Member
Sep 30, 2005
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At the University of Hawaii campuses, we have Fedora Core 4, presently on our computers, mainly for the students who will need unique opportunities in the computer field.

It was decided that Fedora Core exemplified the LINUX 'way' of universal training in the field of programming, best preparing potential applicants for future positions in Hawaii or elsewhere.

FC seems best when trying to install on older computer systems and for X64 (finding drivers). The other distros are very good but check FC out, what will best give you what you need. Good computing.....

 

Varun

Golden Member
Aug 18, 2002
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First off I have never enjoyed using Linux. Call me lazy, but I don't like reading MAN pages for hours on end only to find out the information I want is not in the one I read. Linux would likely do everything I need other than gaming, but configuration and other issues are difficult to learn.

That being said I can get around in Linux, even though I don't enjoy it. It has some nice features such as the file mounting system. I still don't enjoy compiling software, but that's only because of the time required for some software installs (DDD took 45 minutes to compile the other day)

What do I like about Linux?
1. File system
2. Free
3. Tons of free software
4. Stripped down versions run well on old hardware

What don't I like?
1. Software can be difficult to install (I'll get called a n00b I know)
2. Pretty much everything that is taken care of by Windows must be configured or installed manually in Linux. USB thumbrives must be mounted, for instance. Everything you ever want to do is located in a config text file somewhere that must be located and editied with a text editor.
3. I've never liked KDE as a destop
4. I don't WANT to do everything from the command line!

Now, to be honest a lot of this IS getting worked out. Software can now be easily installed in Linux distros like Debian, where there is a package manager that takes care of everything for you. In many ways they make it even easier than Windows.

Thumbdrives can be set up to automount - though you likely have to dig through a config file to set it up.

KDE can be replaced by Gnome, which I think has a much better look and feel, but it's still not as refined as OSX or Windows XP as far as a GUI.

All that being said, of all the distros I have tried I can give this advice:
AVOID Slackware - sure it's stable as hell but it is the most difficult Linux Distro there is.
Debian is great! The package manager is really well done and that alone makes it worthwhile in trying.
Ubuntu is actually too dumbed down for me - I don't like that I can't log in as root for instance.

I think a great way to learn Linux is to try Debian. Just remember going in that Linux is NOT like Windows, the people that develop it don't WANT it to be like Windows, so that means that it is going to take more to understand it. With this comes more control over the OS of course, but it does come at a price. The learning curve for Linux is pretty steep so be prepared for some tough times ahead.
 

Evander

Golden Member
Jun 18, 2001
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Although I'm probably not the best person to advise (having not used Linux yet except for a cursory use of a Live CD), I have been watching the horizon for a long time. What seems to be the best are:
1) Ubuntu + "automatix", which will take care of alot of annoyances, such as lack of mp3 and dvd playback in the standard Ubuntu. Some people say Automatix sucks b/c by not doing pain in the ass things like installing via command line, you're not "learning" linux. My philosopy is that things should start easy, and if you like the atmosphere, stick with it and learn the more advanced stuff as needed. My first pc experiences were just wanting to run wolf3d and doom on my dad's pc. He helped me with that, and I've come a long way since then and now consider myself an advanced user.

2) PCLinuxOS. I see a lot of people saying forget Ubuntu, go with this for user friendliness. Judging by screenshots, it does seem alot like XP.

Also note that Ubuntu is gearing up for their next version I think to be released in mid june, with a beta recently released. Signs point that this will be the "main supported" version for at least 2 years, so it seems to be the version to get.

personally I would play would play with live cd's of the above 2 until the next ubuntu and new "automatix" is released, and then make a firm decision of which to choose. Like I said, I'm no expert, just watching the horizons, so take this advice with a grain of salt
 

n0cmonkey

Elite Member
Jun 10, 2001
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Originally posted by: Varun
4. I don't WANT to do everything from the command line!

Then unix-like systems aren't for you. The command line is where all of the power in the system is.

To the OP: Suse, Fedora, and Ubuntu may be good starter distros.
 

Seeruk

Senior member
Nov 16, 2003
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Ubuntu is the flavour of the day, and thus probably the best supported in terms of community activity and applications (though gentoo and other communties are generally almost as good).

Download their liveCD and try it as it requires no changes to your system. Check once, twice, and three times that all of your hardware is supported by using the livecd or linux may not be as 'free' as you think. Hardware support is a complete lottery in linux (I notice you have an ATI card, support is getting better for ATI but is still generally sketchy) so be prepared to find that some stuff just flat-out won't work, or will only work with many hours of reading newsgroup posts on page 47 of a google search.

As the first use you mentioned was gaming, you will immediately need to know that native linux games are few and far between (I dont mean crap like tuxracer).

You will never again be able to buy the latest game and expect to play it. If you are lucky then transgaming will sort the game out within 6-12 months if it's popular enough.

That aside there is no reason not to try a dual boot so you can still game on windows, but reboot into Linux for anything else.
 

Robor

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Oct 9, 1999
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If you want to try out Linux I'd suggest using a spare hard drive and Ubuntu with Automatix (check UbuntuForums.org for Automatix). It will make for a smooth and easy install and is (IMO noob Linux opinion ;) ) the quickest and easiest way to get Linux up and running. Keep in mind that using this method will not 'teach' you much but you'll be able to quickly get a functioning Linux system up and running to experiment with.
 

Nothinman

Elite Member
Sep 14, 2001
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1. Software can be difficult to install (I'll get called a n00b I know)

Yea, 'apt-get install firefox' is so difficult...

2. Pretty much everything that is taken care of by Windows must be configured or installed manually in Linux. USB thumbrives must be mounted, for instance. Everything you ever want to do is located in a config text file somewhere that must be located and editied with a text editor.

This is a good thing. For instance, you might not want the drive mounted read-write automatically if you're trying to do data recovery. But if you really want you can setup automounters, but since Nautilus adds entries for the drive when you plug them in and right click->mount isn't that difficult I don't understand the problem.

And text files are a good thing too. Once you get used to the system finding the appropriate file is simple and actually makes sense, compared to finding where things are configured in Windows, that's downright simple.

3. I've never liked KDE as a destop

So? There are other options.

4. I don't WANT to do everything from the command line!

Then you might want to move on back to Windows or OS X. As n0c said the cli is where the real power is in the system and once you get comfortable with it, it's a lot quicker, more convenient and even simpler in a lot of cases.

As the first use you mentioned was gaming, you will immediately need to know that native linux games are few and far between (I dont mean crap like tuxracer).

Yes, this is the only real downside. If you must play games on your computer then Linux might be a problem since there are very few commercial games released for Linux and WINE/Cedega works some of the time, but I wouldn't want to rely on it.
 

daniel49

Diamond Member
Jan 8, 2005
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Best way to find out which one is for you is to head over to distrowatch...theres a reason the top 10 are the top 10. Esp try the live cd ones for a taste without disturbing your harddrive.

Try PClinux OS if you want a real easy switch...from XP
 

ITJunkie

Platinum Member
Apr 17, 2003
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www.techange.com
I think everyone, so far, has given you plenty to think about so I won't go into the "which distro" issue.

I will say, however, that since you are in an "everything tech" mood, you may really enjoy Linux once you learn how to get around the file system. It's real beauty is in its simplicity. Don't let "config" files scare you because once you start to understand them, a whole new way of doing things opens up. You now have an OS that is totally customizable right down to the kernel level. Though my skills are far from that deep yet :)

Contrary to what many think, there is tons of support out there and a community that is glad to lend a hand to newbs so you don't have to "read MAN pages for hours" in order to figure something out.

Good luck!
 

Varun

Golden Member
Aug 18, 2002
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Thanks Nothingman for reading my whole post where I already went over your comments before you even posted them.
 

Nothinman

Elite Member
Sep 14, 2001
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Then I must ask, if you knew how to fix the things that you don't like why even mention them? That's like complaining because MCDonald's puts pickels on their burgers even though you know you can ask that they don't put them on.
 

Blacktharne

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Nov 12, 2004
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I just got done reading Linux is not Windows...a really great article

I don't want Linux as a replacement to windows, "I want an OS that puts all the power in the hands of the user and expects him to know how to use it," as the author puts it...I'm willing to put the time in and I know what I want out of it, so I'm pretty pumped...Problem is I'll never finish my thesis now...

Anyhow, I downloaded a LiveCD of Ubuntu and Gentoo - Is this a good start if I really want to learn about Linux and operating from the command line, or are they too much of a windows replica? Also, I haven't really looked around yet, but can anyone recommend a good resource for familiarizing myself with the Linux command line? - I know absolutely nothing about command lines but I have a strange affection for keyboard short cuts and efficiency in general...


Thanks for the advice.
 

Nothinman

Elite Member
Sep 14, 2001
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Anyhow, I downloaded a LiveCD of Ubuntu and Gentoo - Is this a good start if I really want to learn about Linux and operating from the command line, or are they too much of a windows replica?

None will be a huge Windows replica, some of the core UI stuff may look the same but Linux is Linux. The main difference will be how much work is required to get the system functioning well, Ubuntu does everything it can to setup everything for you in the background but something like Slackware or Gentoo will make you setup most of the stuff yourself. Which road you take really depends on how easily you get frustrated.
 

Varun

Golden Member
Aug 18, 2002
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Originally posted by: Nothinman
Then I must ask, if you knew how to fix the things that you don't like why even mention them? That's like complaining because MCDonald's puts pickels on their burgers even though you know you can ask that they don't put them on.

I believe they are still valid points that should be considered when choosing a distro.

Software CAN be difficult to install - which is why I recommended Debian

Things can be configured to be done automatically such as USB thumb drives etc, however it DOES take some configuration time to get everything working.

KDE is the defacto desktop on many distros, and I don't like it. Everyone has their opinion and I shared mine. I also said I like Gnome a lot better, so if this guy tries KDE, maybe he won't like it and he can try Gnome as well.

And, I had to point out to the original poster that many things in Linux MUST be done from the command line, which certainly takes a lot of getting used to. I do enough of that at work with servers that when I get home I like to just wizard through things. You can call me lazy but I see no problem with software developers making things easier for everyday use (remember apt-get?)

I know you are a hardcore <anything but Microsoft> and I actually figured you would respond to my post. You post the same things in every thread, about how much more superior your way is. I don't buy it, and I am warning this poster that Linux is NOT a walk in the park, and has a very steep learning curve.

I think Linux is a great OS for servers, but I still don't think it's ready for home use yet.
 

Nothinman

Elite Member
Sep 14, 2001
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Software CAN be difficult to install - which is why I recommended Debian

I'm a huge Debian fan, but other distributions like Ubuntu, SimplyMepis, etc share that ability because they're built on top of Debian. Even FC has yum now so hunting down dependencies is a thing of the past for everyone.

Things can be configured to be done automatically such as USB thumb drives etc, however it DOES take some configuration time to get everything working.

USB drives appear in Nautilus as soon as you plug them in and double-clicking on them mounts them for you. Yes, you have to remember to umount them before you eject them, but that's minor and is recommended on Windows as well.

And, I had to point out to the original poster that many things in Linux MUST be done from the command line, which certainly takes a lot of getting used to. I do enough of that at work with servers that when I get home I like to just wizard through things. You can call me lazy but I see no problem with software developers making things easier for everyday use (remember apt-get?)

Wizards in Windows are crap, usually they ask you like 2 or 3 worthless questions and then leave you to click through dialogs trying to find the settings that you want. IMO they get in the way more than they help. I'd much rather just edit a well commented config file anyday. And if I'm setting up the same thing twice I just have to copy that file.

You post the same things in every thread, about how much more superior your way is. I don't buy it, and I am warning this poster that Linux is NOT a walk in the park, and has a very steep learning curve.

Of course there's a learning curve, the system works completely different from what you're used to. But once you get past that point it most definitely is a walk in the park compared to Windows. Just the fact that the error logs actually tell you something is worth it, try comparing them to what's in the Windows EventLogs.
 

Varun

Golden Member
Aug 18, 2002
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Well at least we agree on Debian :)

I think it's just the right mix for a first distro. It's quiet well done.

BTW I don't think Wizards are crap. I have done some MSI packaging, and you can do some nice things. Most people don't require more out of a software install other than a)Where do you want this stored? b)What options do you want to install, and c)Do you want all users to be able to use this?

Oh - one more thing - the file rights in Linux are pretty sparse. Read/Write/Execute only. They are more than enough for a home user but I'm just used to Novell I guess.
 

Nothinman

Elite Member
Sep 14, 2001
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Oh - one more thing - the file rights in Linux are pretty sparse. Read/Write/Execute only. They are more than enough for a home user but I'm just used to Novell I guess.

True, but I can only think of one or two odd situations where I would need more.
 

SleepWalkerX

Platinum Member
Jun 29, 2004
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Well I don't think installing software is difficult in linux, but I wish there was an easy way to install software that's not in a respository. Once new software comes out I don't want to wait for it to appear in the respository. And sometimes there isn't an rpm/deb/whatever made specifically for your distro. Compiling from source is sometimes annoying because you might need a crap load of dependencies before installing and then it just becomes a hassle.

The only thing I've seen that tries to tackle this issue is autopackage.
 

n0cmonkey

Elite Member
Jun 10, 2001
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Originally posted by: SleepWalkerX
Well I don't think installing software is difficult in linux, but I wish there was an easy way to install software that's not in a respository. Once new software comes out I don't want to wait for it to appear in the respository. And sometimes there isn't an rpm/deb/whatever made specifically for your distro. Compiling from source is sometimes annoying because you might need a crap load of dependencies before installing and then it just becomes a hassle.

The only thing I've seen that tries to tackle this issue is autopackage.

Request a package from the developer.
 

SleepWalkerX

Platinum Member
Jun 29, 2004
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Originally posted by: n0cmonkey
Originally posted by: SleepWalkerX
Well I don't think installing software is difficult in linux, but I wish there was an easy way to install software that's not in a respository. Once new software comes out I don't want to wait for it to appear in the respository. And sometimes there isn't an rpm/deb/whatever made specifically for your distro. Compiling from source is sometimes annoying because you might need a crap load of dependencies before installing and then it just becomes a hassle.

The only thing I've seen that tries to tackle this issue is autopackage.

Request a package from the developer.

I don't think developers like spending all that time compiling and maintaining versions for all those distros. Even with one package format like rpm, there are a bunch of distros that use different dependency names and such, like rpms for Suse and Fedora.

And then, what if they don't?
 

Nothinman

Elite Member
Sep 14, 2001
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There's not a lot you can do, compiling from source on the distribution you intend to install on is the only way to guarantee it'll work. And even then there's the chance of problems if the author didn't test his software on your version of the libraries that you have installed. Yes, it sucks, but there's no way around it. You could always learn how to make packages for your distribution and build them locally, most distros have docs on what's required to build packages for them. RPMs are extremely easy actually, .debs are more work though.