Why Linux?

With the ever-maturation of the Linux operating system there are more and more people considering a migration from their operating system of choice to the flagship of the open source community. For many this migration is a strange, but simple adventure. For others, however, the task is very daunting and one challenge after another. What most people do not realize is that there are very simple ways to help ease this migration.


In this brief series (if two articles can be considered a series) I will help ease the migration from both Windows to Linux and Mac to Linux. Hopefully, upon reading these articles, you will have a good game plan so your migration (or your users migration) will be as seamless as possible.


Choose your distribution wisely


This is the real key for easy migration. There are a LOT of distributions out there, for just about every type of user and every type of use. There have been plenty of distributions that have attempted to mimic the look and feel of Windows as closely as possible (this was a very ’90s tactic). But ultimately it boils down to which distribution you choose that will help to make your migration simple. Most Windows users are going to want to stick to one of the major distributions (Ubuntu, Red Hat, SuSE) if for only one reason: support. With the major distributions you can actually have a phone number to call when you have a problem. Outside of that you are going to want to look for a distribution who’s goal is simplicity. One advantage that Ubuntu has over the other major is that it takes the root user out of the picture with the help of sudo.


Start using similar software before you migrate


Let’s face it, you spend a vast majority of your time working with applications, not operating systems. Because of that you can make the job of migration much, much easier by employing the applications you will use with the Linux operating system while you are working with Windows. You can install Firefox, OpenOffice, Thunderbird, Scribus, The GIMP, and many other applications on Windows and get used to using them in a more familiar environment. By doing this you are removing one obstacle out of your way when the migration actually happens.


Check your hardware


One of the biggest issues that many people have had in the past is hardware incompatibility. Although this is slowly becoming an issue of the past, there are instances where a specific piece of hardware is supported. When you install the operating system, and find a particular piece of hardware is not supported your computing life has become infinitely more difficult. Before you actually do the migration make sure the hardware you plan to use will function as you expect. What you want to pay particular attention to are: Networking cards, video cards, sound cards. One of the best places to check is the Linux Drivers site.


Software installation


With the Windows operating system, installation is always nothing more than a double click of a file and then what sometimes seems like an endless amount of clicking the Next button. In Linux the process of installing software is more centralized. You often read in my articles about opening the Add/Remove Software tool. This is a fundamental change to the philosophy of Windows. Think of the Add/Remove Software tool as more a shopping center for software instead of a location to manage software already installed. Once you get beyond the Windows Add/Remove Software philosophy, installing software in Linux is a snap.


More than one way to…


One of the philosophies that originally drew me to Linux was that there is almost always more than one way to take care of a task in Linux. This is something that many Windows users struggle with at the beginning. With Windows there is generally one way to handle a task – the Windows way. With Linux there is always multiple ways to do something. This is often very confusing to the new user. This is especially made true when that new user goes to a mailing list for help and gets five different replies with five different ways to solve a single problem. Is everyone wrong? Is everyone right? In that situation the best thing to do would be read everyone’s solution and decide which one sounds like it would be the easiest for you to re-create. To this end, when going to a mailing list for Linux help, it is always best to be as specific as possible. Instead of saying “How do I do A?” you might say “How do I do A using a graphical tool in GNOME?” or “What is the easiest way to do A in KDE?”


Final thoughts


You might think these very generic lessons for migration, but to the new-to-Linux user they are lessons that can save a lot of time and a lot of headache. Do you have any migration tips for Windows-to-Linux users? If so, share them with your fellow Ghacks readers.



Why Linux is better than windows

 We’ve started the debate. We’ve discussed 5 Reasons you should switch to Linux right now, and 5 Good reasons to switch to Linux. Now it’s time to up the ante and discuss some of the things Linux does better than Windows.

 Some of you may scoff and say “There is nothing Linux does better than Windows.” To that I would say you might want to reconsider that opinion. We all know (or at least I hope we know) that every operating system has its strengths and weaknesses. Many of you may have never really considered the strengths of Linux. Well, it’s time you did, and I am going to help you with that process.

The list below is in no particular order.

1.       Evolve. After ten plus years of working with Linux I have seen few set backs. Each release of the various distributions has, nearly without fail, been a step forward. Trying to recall when a release has been a bump in the road akin to Vista or Windows ME has me drawing a blank. Yes Ubuntu had some performance issues with 7 and 8 but those issues didn’t cause either of the releases to suffer.

The Linux kernel itself has been nothing less than a grand climb uphill that gets easier and easier. What was once a large hurdle to most users, the Linux kernel has become almost an afterthought. And if you take a look at the evolution of the Linux desktop you can see a perfect example of how a PC interface should evolve. Although KDE took a minor step back with the initial release of 4, it quickly recovered with grace and aplomb.

 The evolution of Windows hasn’t be nearly as smooth. With service packs causing major issues left and right, and…well…Vista.


2.       Interoperability. Let’s face it, Windows plays well with Windows. That’s it. If you attempt to introduce a foreign object into your Windows-only network you’re in for a long day. Linux, however, plays well with just about every operating system out there. Just try to find an operating system Linux can’t communicate with and I will gladly say “I was wrong.” I have yet to find an operating system that can not communicate, in one way or another, with Linux. I have found plenty, however, that can not communicate with Windows without having to add either third party software or a bridging piece of hardware.


3.       Package management. To say that Windows actually manages packages is a joke. You know that portion of the Control Panel in Windows that says Add/Remove Software? How exactly do you do the Add part? Do you click on that and then check the repository of some 23,000 different applications to purchase? Oh no, you actually purchase your software and that software uses one of the different installation systems to install the package. There is no centralized repository. There is no package “management”. Linux, however, has true package management. Synaptic, apt, yum, Yumex, rpm…Linux has package management that makes the installation and removal of applications a snap.


4.       Flexibility. One of the greatest things about Linux is that if it doesn’t work the way you want it to…change it, or find a different way of doing things. I have tackled the same task in Linux many different ways, each way had it’s pros and cons. But the best thing about it was I could do it differently. I could find an application to handle a task, I could write a script to handle a task, I could piece together various applications to handle a task…you name it, the field is wide open. Even the kernel itself. If I don’t want the kernel to load a module I can recompile the kernel myself. I can fine-tune a kernel to meet very specific needs. With Linux there are no limitations.


5.       Desktop. Many users just use their PC and don’t care much about their desktops. There are many others that do care. But it goes well beyond that of aesthetics. The Linux desktop can really serve your needs very specifically. I have deployed Fluxbox desktops on kiosk systems because I can create a very basic menu system that will allow users to do only what I want to allow them to do. And it doesn’t take much effor to do so. Or I can deploy a virtuoso-like desktop that will do anything and everything the user wants. And that’s the key – the Linux desktop CAN do what you want. The Linux desktop can look and feel EXACTLY how you want it to look and feel. You like certain aspects of OS X and certain aspects of XP or Vista? Linux has a desktop just for you. With Windows, if you want to really tweak the desktop, you better be ready to search for a third party application and hope it doesn’t eat up more ram than, say, Vista already eats up. Oh and all that eye candy on Vista? Linux has had that for years – and does it better.


And there you go. You can argue each point if you want. But the truth of the matter is, there are certain aspecs of the Linux operating system that are just plain better than Windows. And, of course, there are certain aspects of the Windows operating system that are better than Linux. And…of course…there are certain aspects of OS X that are better than either Windows or Linux. It’s a three way street here.

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