No Risk Linux

 

Did you know that you don't have to use the Windows OS (Operating System) on your computer.  That's right, you do have a choice.

There are many, many alternatives to the Window's experience you are probably used to right now.  This idea can be confronting at first.  Many people think of Windows as a part of their computer.  In reality Windows is just software that has been installed on your machine.  To understand this a little better try reading this article (especially if you like kittens)

One of the common alternatives to installing Windows is to use a Linux operating system. To decide if Linux is for you, keep reading.

What is Linux?

Stay with me for a moment because things are going to get technical.  A Linux OS (Operating System) is based on the Linux kernel.  The kernel is a collection of instructions and code that enable the different parts of your computer to 'communicate' with each other.  New and upgraded Linux kernels are constantly released and upgrading to them is very easy.

Think of this kernel as a seed or nut.  The wrapping around the kernel includes the GUI (graphic user interface) which is what you use with your mouse when you point and click, and any programs you use.  The programs wrapped around this core and the kernel itself are together called a Linux 'Distro'.  Distro is short for distribution.

Linux has hundreds of distributions.  There are distributions for different purposes; old computers, laptops, servers, graphics and media users and so on.  Ubuntu is probably the most popular general desktop Linux Distro at the time this article was written.

Linux Has Changed

Up until a couple of years ago I had heard of Linux but never really understood what it was.  When I first tried Linux the experience was painful.  Wireless internet access was impossible to get working without command line experience and I ended up reinstalling Windows.

So when I decided to try it again I had some background knowledge.  I knew it was an alternative to the windows operating system. I knew that it was free. I thought I knew that it was a poor cousin to Windows, and that you had to have programming knowledge to install and run it. How wrong I was.

This type of experience is in the past now, especially with the popularity of 'live' Linux distribution discs. You can try a Linux 'Distro' with these cds without changing anything on your existing computer.

Linux Today

I decided to have a closer look at Linux when I was doing reinstalling Windows on my home pc one day in an attempt to spring clean and speed it up. I am a habitual installer of software 'just to check the program out' and my computer gets bogged down very quickly thanks to this nasty penchant. After another lengthy two hour install of Windows and all the other programs I deemed necessary I thought there had to be another way: A cheaper, legal way.

Remembering Linux I quickly looked for information and found a vast new world I had been unaware of. There was a plethora of sites and Linux forums waiting to answer every question about Linux I had. When I learned of the 'live' cds, I had to try them.

Linux Advantages and Disadvantages

If you do try to switch to a Linux distro be warned.  It will not be like windows.  It will not be all smooth sailing.  This is not be the fault of Linux per say but because there is a learning curve with learning anything new and unfamiliar.  If you do decide to take the time I believe you will be rewarded.

 

Advantages

Disadvantages

Fast frequent updates (can consume data quota)
fast and easy to install Learning Curve
Don't have to wait months and years for updates Not all windows programs have an equivalent
Updating is automated Most but not all hardware is compatible
Software is free Linux is free but you need to invest time
Software is easily obtained  
Stable  
Runs on old equipment  
More secure  

Online Tech support

 
Huge online community  
Many Distros to choose from  

 

Linux Software

If you install a Linux Distro on your computer you will be able to do almost every thing you did with windows.  You will be able to use a word processor, a spreadsheet, play games and surf the internet among many other things.

Don't confuse this though with being able to run your windows programs in Linux.  You can't generally do this.  Linux has its own alternative programs and they are just as good if not better than their Windows counterparts.  The list below is by no means complete but does show some of the more commonly used Linux programs.

 

Windows

Linux

Microsoft Office Open Office, Abiword, Gnumeric, Star office
Outlook Express Evolution, Thunderbird, Kmail
Publisher Scribus
CAD LinuxCad
Photoshop The Gimp, Gimpshop
Coreldraw, Adobe Illustrator Inkscape
PhotoOrganiser Picasa
Internet Explorer Firefoc, Konquerer, Opera
MSN Messenger

Gaim, Pidgin, Kopete

Cd Burner K3b
Sound and music Amarok, Audacity
Video VLC

 

Is Linux For You?

With what I know now, I don't think Linux is for everyone. If you are happy with and can afford windows and don't have time to learn how to use new programs, don't worry about it. Stop reading now.

If you are curious, can't afford or don't want to pay for Windows, don't want to use illegal software, have time to learn a few new tricks, or are just annoyed by Windows - I think it is worth a try. Google the word 'Linux' and investigate these two sites: www.distrowatch.com and www.linuxquestions.org .

If you want a foot in both camps Linux and Windows are dual-bootable - you can have both installed and choose which one to turn on at start-up! There are even programs like 'virtualbox' that can run Linux in windows and vice versa.  Also, remember the live cds.  With these you can try Linux without changing your computer at all.

Which distro should I choose?

This is one of the most common question from new Linux users on internet forums.  It is also the cause of so many 'flame wars' (arguments).  In my opinion there is no one answer.  Part of the charm and a definite advantage to Linux is that there is so much choice.  You should choose a Distro suits your particular needs. The only way to make that choice is to read about your options.  A great place to do that is at the www.distrowatch.com roundup page but there are many other websites that can help.  A few even have quizes to help you.

My Experience

Two years after falling in love with Linux I am running it on two computers at home.  I still don't have any real experience using the command line and do everything with my mouse.  There are just a couple of minor snags stopping me from leaving Windows altogether but they have little to do with Linux itself. One day I may be able to cross over all the way and use nothing but Linux.  After all, there's no risk.