Switching From Windows To Linux
If you thought computers only came in two flavors, think again. There are other operating systems besides Mac and Windows. In fact, most of the computers that power the Internet are running Linux. This free operating system is robust, secure and runs great even on older computers. Here are some tips on switching from Windows to Linux...
Why Switch to Linux?
Linux (pronounced "lynn-ux") has been used for years to operate the servers that run much of the Internet. And just like DOS grew up and sprouted a fancy graphical interface, so Linux has evolved into a user-friendly point and click system that doesn't require a computer science degree to use.
The question remains however; why switch? Making the jump from a popular, mass-marketed product like Windows to a more obscure, less-hyped solution like Linux, is akin to opting for the wallflower over the Homecoming Queen. But sometimes the wallflower offers more than the Queen...
For starters, Linux is available for free. It is an open-source program, which means that the source code is available to anyone. This allows a worldwide army of volunteer programmers to update and tweak the Linux software. Over the years, various companies have built upon the Linux core and created their own versions of Linux, referred to as distributions. Some of the more popular Linux distributions are RedHat, SuSE, Debian, Gentoo and Ubuntu.
Linux is a more secure and reliable system than Windows. Tired of rebooting a frozen Windows machine? Linux is less prone to crashing (some users report running Linux for years without rebooting) and is less vulnerable to security threats like spyware and viruses. Also, Linux doesn't require the latest and greatest tricked-out hardware to work efficiently. It runs on any PC with a 486 processor or better and 256 MB of RAM is plenty of memory. A scant 500MB of free disk space suffices to run Linux on your desktop happily.
Which Linux?Ubuntu, which has become the most popular Linux distribution in the last two years, is available as a free download, or you can order it on a CDROM disc if you don't have a high-speed connection. Ubuntu comes with lots of software, including word processing, web browser, email and games. For techies, there are plenty of programming tools and a built-in web server.
There are dozens of Linux distributions, so which one is right for you? Most of the differences depend on your comfort level as a user. If you prefer a focus on ease of installation and everyday use, then Ubuntu or RedHat may be the way to go. If you are more of a programmer type, then Debian or SuSE may be the best choice for you.
I suggest you try a Live CD version of Linux to try it out. With a Live CD, you don't have to install the software -- just boot up from the CD and you can take Linux for a test drive without making any changes to your system. Try the Ubuntu version, Knoppix, or the Gentoo offering.
I've Installed Linux, Now What?
Whichever version you go with, you can still do pretty much the same tasks in Linux as you can in Windows. Almost all versions of Linux come with a Windows-like interface, a desktop with familiar icons, and a file manager similar to Windows Explorer. A web browser and email software will be just a click away. You'll also find games and office software.
If you don't like the browser that comes with your Linux distribution, download Firefox, which works on Windows, Mac or Linux systems. While there is no version of Microsoft Office for Linux, you can download Open Office, a free suite of programs that includes a spreadsheet, word processor, slide show creator and database. It will even create files that are compatible with Microsoft Office programs. While you may not find a Linux version of your favorite Windows-based software package, there is an abundance of free software written for Linux. Check out the Tucows repository or Freshmeat and browse around.
As Linux is constantly being updated, it is becoming more plug and play friendly. Software drivers for components and peripherals are becoming easier to find, so most hardware works just fine with Linux. The downside is that sometimes support for new hardware lags behind Windows. But vendors are keenly aware that Linux is growing fast, so you can expect that gap to close quickly in the future.
Linux can be fun for those that like to delve a bit deeper into the innards of their computer system. Full access to the source code lets curious programmers see how the operating system works. And the Linux command line, although it can be daunting, is a powerful thing of beauty once it is mastered. Check out my LowFat Linux tutorial to learn more about Linux commands.
Linux offers unparalleled stability in a secure environment. At the very least, knowing you have the choice to run an OS other than Windows or Mac gives you freedom from the onslaught of marketing and the option of being master of your own computing destiny. Got questions or comments about switching from Windows to Linux? Post your thoughts below.
Posted by Bob Rankin on 12 Apr 2007
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Article information: AskBobRankin -- Switching From Windows To Linux (Posted: 12 Apr 2007)
Copyright © 2005 - Bob Rankin - All Rights Reserved