Monday, October 22, 2007

Thinking of Using Linux? Linux and Open Source Blog

Thinking of Using Linux?

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TUX LogoYou have probably heard about this thing called Linux. Everybody seems to be arguing over it. Is it better than Windows or faster or cheaper. Some say it doesn’t support anything while others say it supports more than windows. Your curiosity is aroused and you wonder if you should give linux a try before parting with a few hundred dollars for the latest version of windows.

For a start you need to have an open mind. Linux is similar in operation to windows but it is not windows. There are differences. Sometimes significant ones. Programs will have different names and will appear different. You will definitely have some learning ahead of you. However that learning will not be much different than going from windows XP to windows Vista. The most important thing is to expect things to be different and until you get used to where everything is you will have to do a bit of searching.

Installation of modern linux distributions is very simple now and in some cases even simpler and faster than installing windows. There are very few questions asked and in almost all cases the default answers are the right ones so the familiar next,next,next routine of installing programs will feel right at home.

Once your new linux is installed you will be presented with a different looking desktop to what you will be used to. That’s normal because it is a completely different operating system. Before throwing up your hands in confusion and exasperation take a minute or two to have a close look at what you see.

You will see going across the bottom of the desktop a bar similar but not quite like the windows task bar. In fact it does the exact same thing. Right where you expect the windows start button to be you will see a button that when clicked on opens up a menu exactly the same way windows does. That button may have a picture of a gear on it or it may be something else.

On that menu, just like windows, you will see several choices. Much more than a fresh install of windows will offer. That is because a freshly installed Linux gives you all the programs you need to do 90% of your daily tasks without having to install anything else. You will have your internet, email, word processing, spreadsheet, presentation, music player, instant messaging, scanning and photograph editor and of course the requisite card games. These are all ready to use as soon as you have finished installing linux.

All of these programs look and operate very similar to their windows counterparts so after a bit of playing around they will feel right at home. Until you get used to your new linux system just about all of the linux distributions will have a forum or mailing list that are populated by people from all over the world who are willing and even eager to help you on your path of learning. In fact most, if not all questions you will have will have already been answered in a document called a FAQ which is short for frequently answered questions. It is highly suggested the this document is read at least once.

Linux Logo MediumNow that you are more familiar with your linux system and the time comes that you want to install some other programs. In the windows world that generally means buying a program from a supplier and then manually installing it. With linux you have access to tens of thousands of programs, for free, that can be installed with a few mouse clicks. This is possible because every good distribution has a packet manager which connects to a repository of programs and presents you with a list that can be categorised and searched. All you need to do is select the programs you want to install, click on install and the linux system does the rest. Once the program is finished installing it is ready to use.

Maintenance of a linux system is very easy too. With a good linux distribution all configuration that you need to worry about is presented in a very similar way to the windows control panel and you can easily adjust to the slightly different syntax. Upgrading and security patches are also handled automatically and in a linux system all installed programs from the packet manager are upgraded and patched by the distribution. You don’t need to have to manually monitor third party programs like with windows.

So when you decide to give Linux a try you will find that you will have an interesting time ahead of you. You will be confused sometimes, you will be frustrated sometimes. Sometimes you will feel like shooting your computer but then you have probably had those same feelings with windows. I can guarantee that your journey with linux will never be boring and you will learn a lot along the way.

- Locutus

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