Linux, what is it?

I have no doubt that this topic is likely to cause some discussion, as much to the merits of Linux over Windows, as well as the different versions of Linux etc available.

As a gradually more and more aggrieved MS Windows user, i have been contemplating the move away from MS to other OS’s, however, not being a real techie, have no real idea what Linux is, how easy it is to work, setup and everything else. Also what applications are available and are they able to mimic MS files for Word Excel etc, otherwise my potential usage will drop accordingly if it cannot.

I assume any VB scripts written for Excel will not work under Linux.

My suggestion is to gradually move to Linux with a Mac, espcially if you still need your computer to be productive around the clock and don’t have time to Barnes & Noble and buy all the books you need to figure everything out.

Mac OS X runs on a Linux-type OS called FreeBSD. It will give you the opportunity to learn what a UNIX/Linux is without giving up the seamless applications you need day to day to run your life (image editing, video editing, office productivity, Web publishing, Internet access, etc.)

When you understand the basics of UNIX/Linux with a Mac, then you can decide if moving over to a Linux derivative is something you want to do. I could see myself doing that in the future, but at that point my business would need to know for certain how the open source software out there would be used in my bueinss model (i.e. Open Office, Gimp, Mozilla, etc.). For now I find the hybrid of a slick GUI operating system (Mac OS X) with the underlying UNIX shell prompt rather nice for my needs. At this point, there really isn’t a burning need to go Linux, unless I have a dedicated server for DNS, mail, Apache, etc.

Jeremy, while your suggestion has some merit, I would argue that having him abandon Windows for a Macintosh simply means that he’ll have to go through two learning curves instead of just one. Plus having to spring for new versions of applications for the Mac, plus having to buy new hardware since Apple doesn’t let MacOS run on PC hardware, plus. . . .


Traveller, I would suggest setting up Linux on a second machine (or on a second hard drive, or on a second partition – depends on how cheaply you want to get off and how much trouble Windows gives you on repartitioning). You can try to find equivalent applications, see what works and what doesn’t, and learn what the new commands are. Eventually, you’ll feel comfortable enough to switch, at least for those parts of your work that you can switch over.

If you use a second PC, you can get a KVM switchbox (keyboard-video-mouse) so that you don’t have to switch cables around when you want to use the other machine (whichever one is “other” at any given moment). I don’t know what prices are like for barebones PC boxes right now; in the U.S., you’d be looking at maybe US$400 to set up a second box.

If you use a second drive or partition, you’ll have to reboot your machine each time, but could do it for either US$60-ish or US$zero-ish.

As far as “what is Linux”, Linux is all things to all men. :slight_smile:

It’s such a general question that it’s hard to answer. You will need to learn the usual commands (in many cases, the same as in MS-DOS, e.g, “cd” changes your current working directory), and will need to search for equivalent programs for the ones you use under Windows.

Star Office can read some Microsoft file formats for Word, Excel, and so on. I don’t know what the compatibility problems are, if any. I doubt that they would be able to handle VB scripts.

WINE, the Windows Emulator, can be used to run many Windows programs. I believe they use MS-Word as their benchmark, so you should be able to run at least the older versions of that (maybe not Office XP’s Word, though, not sure).
winehq.com/

Linux is an open sourced devlopement based on the old UNIX system. BSD is also a decendent of UNIX. If you already have a PC, I would suggest not wasting money on expensive Apple equipement. Go out and buy yourself a harddrive and install Linux on the new drive. That way you can dual boot and choose the operating system you want. You can still maintain the productivety you have on the winblows and can learn to use linux when you want. Redhat is a pretty good distribution of the linux system and has something like winblows update to keep the software in current releases. Also the RPMs are a bit better to deal with than tar balls.
With Red Hat, openoffice is installed that can read and write office files. It’s not a full duplicate of office but it has a good part of the functionality built in. Staroffice is the SUN paid version of openoffice and it has some other functionality that is not in openoffice. With the dual boot, whatever doe not work on openoffice, you can just boot into the winblows and work on it. Linux and all software related to it are still developing. The X11 windows systems on linux makes the interface a lot easier and allows a novice to use the system.
Most technically inept people can’t deal with the winblows system beyond the point and click menus anyways. If you can go beyond that, then you should be able to try your hand at linux. The best tool for developers and sys admin is the internet. I usually search the net for problems regarding the software that I am using on linux. There are plenty of how tos out there to guide people.

Mark

IIRC, StarOffice 5.1 was still a free version, and can be picked up around the net if you dig around a bit. The usual warnings apply about installing software from unknown places.

BTW, regarding distributions, Mandrake is very friendly, and is basically just RedHat with the GUI system swapped for the alternative (IIRC, RedHat uses KDE, and Mandrake uses Gnome).

Last time I looked, SuSE had everything all bundled up on about a dozen CDs, but they charge for it (they have to, since some of the software on their distribution is commercial software, e.g., StarOffice 6.x).

Most of my post are based on the needs of humans, based on human nature. I know myself that I’d never get into shell-based work and MySQL and PHP and Apache and … if I didn’t get a machine that could do both. Yes, I could have set a machine up in the corner with Linux … but … it would probably sit there. I usually make no comment with Linux/tech-gurus, but when a newbie really wants to know how to take that leap without forskaing the comforts of the know completey, I’m usually the voice of reason.

Getting a Mac isn’t that expensive and there is Open Office for the Mac too. I didn’t invest all that much in “new” software.

BTW, a Mac is a great networking tool. People walk over to me and start a converstation because I’m a Mac user … people of all walks of life, not just tech geeks like me. That would never happen with a Linux laptop or Dell/Windows laptop.

Maybe it’s the size of your notebook. Guess size does matter sometimes :smiley:

One important question to ask is whether you are going to be using a lot of Chinese. Open Office still has a number of incompatblities with Chinese documents. Your excel VB macros won’t work, but you may be able to trade them in for a more powerfukl scripting language like Python or Perl.

Jeremy has made a very interesting suggestions. I also notice that a lot of uber-geeks are picking up iMacs these days. One downside I see is that things are set up a bit differently on the OSX than on other *nix flavors.

Getting another hard drive or a cheap PC would be cheaper. You should be able to pick up a new system for around NT$10,000. I recommend Mandrake of Knoppix for beginners. Have fun.

I find the same thing happens when I open 4 movies at the same time on my old i-series Thinkpad 1400 (266Hhz) running BeOS.

beosonline.com/

[quote=“jeremy”]Most of my post are based on the needs of humans, based on human nature. I know myself that I’d never get into shell-based work and MySQL and PHP and Apache and … if I didn’t get a machine that could do both. Yes, I could have set a machine up in the corner with Linux … but … it would probably sit there. I usually make no comment with Linux/tech-gurus, but when a newbie really wants to know how to take that leap without forskaing the comforts of the know completey, I’m usually the voice of reason.

Getting a Mac isn’t that expensive and there is Open Office for the Mac too. I didn’t invest all that much in “new” software.[/quote]

for that matter, X11 runs on Mac OS X now, so there’s tons of software available. Heck, you can even run another Window Manager if you REALLY want to (but why?)

And used laptops/desktop macs are cheap. :sunglasses: all things being relative. The fact that Microsoft Office runs native just adds to it - what if you REALLY really have to have those apps on your machine to be 100% compatible at work?

I think Linux is great, but I agree with the first reply - learn about *nix first, THEN decide. Don’t just dive in and expect to be overly productive.

My 2

A caveat about MS-Office for the Mac: it isn’t QUITE the same as MS-Office for Windows. You WILL run into pages not lining up because things are sized just a LITTLE bit differently, etc., etc.

I don’t know why Microsoft didn’t write it so it would all come out the same on any platform . . . well, I guess I could come up with a couple of good probabilities in under ten seconds. . . .

Well the cheapest solution that I know of is to buy a copy of Lindows OS software. They have a boot disk that includes the OS and some applications. LindowsCD sells for about $29.99. You can just boot from the CD instead of doing an install of the OS.

Mark

If you’d like to just try Linux but don’t want to take the plunge, try to find a copy of Knoppix. It’s one of many distributions-on-a-CD; you just boot straight from the CD, no installation required. It has most of the big Linux apps on it, such as Open Office, the Gimp, etc., and is fully functional. It doesn’t really give a sense of what it’s like to install Linux, but if you just want to see how things work once you’ve already gotten Linux installed, it’s great. (I tried Knoppix and, a couple weeks later, I installed Mandrake Linux.)

I bought my Knoppix CD for NT$30, I think it was, at Tianlong Books, on Chongqing South Road, opposite the Burger King. (Tianlong is probably the best English-language computer books store in Taiwan, for anyone who didn’t know.) I’ve also seen Knoppix on some computer magazine CD’s at Chengpin and other places, but if you just want Knoppix, the magazines are a little steep.

Despite the frustration with Windows, Linux is (as of yet) not a viable alternative. Really. It’s a FNBN (For Nerds, By Nerds) product. I would not recommend switching to it yet. Stick with Win2000 (forget XP!) until Linux developers and distributors learn something about what the customer really wants.

Here’s an example of what you’ll get yourself into if you go Linux:

  • security holes bigger than Bill Gate’s ego
  • compatability problems with standard software and hardware drivers
  • weak, scaled down versions that are ‘free’ (the good stuff you have to pay for to people like Red Hat)

Please: linuxsucks.com/

That might have been the case five years ago, but Linux evolves over time. Unlike Microsoft, where the goal is to force every new application and technology on the “customer” whether that person wants/needs it or not, most Linux distributions install a basic set of applications and let you install anything else that you want later.

Windows 95 was more or less what I wanted; Win98 crashes for no reason whatsoever and is remarkably sluggish compared to Win95. WinNT, 2K, and XP are hogs.

[quote]Here’s an example of what you’ll get yourself into if you go Linux:

  • security holes bigger than Bill Gate’s ego
  • compatability problems with standard software and hardware drivers
  • weak, scaled down versions that are ‘free’ (the good stuff you have to pay for to people like Red Hat)
    [/quote]
    Security holes in Linux get fixed as they are found, unlike Microsoft. When was the last time you heard about a Linux worm bogging down the Internet so badly that it was practically shut down for some people?

Compatibility? Puh-leeze. I’ve never yet run into any “standard hardware” that Linux didn’t recognize. “Standard software”? Well, gosh, naturally Linux isn’t going to run Windows software. If you want to install NBPro, get Windows (or maybe try Lindows or Wine).

As for your third, it proves that you don’t have a clue about Linux, since you can get Red Hat free from the Red Hat website. But if you mean that users don’t get StarOffice free, or something equally insipid, when was the last time you got MS-Office free with Windows? (“Uh, never?” Right.)

Ah, a “parody” site. It’s really too bad that whoever writes it has all the sense of humor of a Microsoft product manager.

[quote=“WarMonkey”]Despite the frustration with Windows, Linux is (as of yet) not a viable alternative. Really. It’s a FNBN (For Nerds, By Nerds) product. I would not recommend switching to it yet. Stick with Win2000 (forget XP!) until Linux developers and distributors learn something about what the customer really wants.
[/quote]
Of course Linux will never be like Winblows, open source developers don’t want to put out crappy product like that. Open source developers also try to fix their problems before a security hole is announce to the world through a virus/worm/trojan. Winblows XP and 2000 don’t differ by much. They are both from the same NT kernel development tree. The Winblows 9x kernel development tree died with the last crappy product called Winblows ME. Most of the recent virus problems affected the NT kernel OSs like 2000, XP, and 2003. The only major consumer segment that linux does not have compatable software is the gaming industry. It’s the only reason that I keep winblows around.

Well Gate’s ego has been deflated a bit recently with the last few security flaws discovered in winblows server 2003 after M$ announced that they were going to improve the security of their products. The last time I heard about a bad security bug for linux in the news was a while ago while the last security problem from M$ was just yesterday.

When was the last time you try to install a driver for 802.11b or bluetooth? I run into compatability problems with software and hardware drivers everytime I try to update a driver for my computer. To this day, I still can’t get my Asus geforce3 video card to run on Asus drivers. I have to use nvidia drivers. Due to that problem, I can’t use the software that came with my Asus video card because it wants me to install Asus drivers.

As someone else has said. You can download Redhat for FREE. You can download Knoppix
for FREE. Those OSs include X11 window system, web browser, office software, and other software. It fulfills the needs of most people. It just can’t play winblows games.

[quote=“WarMonkey”]
Please: linuxsucks.com/[/quote]
windows-sucks.com/content/whatsbad.shtml

Mark

Many thanks for all those that responded.

I already have a spare disk in my PC that can be used for this. Does it need to be a separate physical drive or will a logical drive do.

I already have a dual boot system, in terms of Window2000 Eng and Chinese versions. Does Linux require its own boot manager or can this file be edited to run the Linux system. Does it make any difference as to the drive letter where Linus would be installed, i have 5 physical drives each of which is split into two logicaL drives, and the disk for Linux install is the last one, and would rather not want to have to change that, due to Windows doing funny things when you start chaging drives around.

As someone who over the years has used a little of unix, so copying files around etc in unix, changing permissions etc is something i am used to, is this the same for Linux or not.

What problems are likely to come with the installation, and does this make much difference depending on the version of Linux to be installed.

[quote=“Traveller”]Many thanks for all those that responded.

I already have a spare disk in my PC that can be used for this. Does it need to be a separate physical drive or will a logical drive do.

I already have a dual boot system, in terms of Window2000 Eng and Chinese versions. Does Linux require its own boot manager or can this file be edited to run the Linux system. Does it make any difference as to the drive letter where Linus would be installed, I have 5 physical drives each of which is split into two logicaL drives, and the disk for Linux install is the last one, and would rather not want to have to change that, due to Windows doing funny things when you start chaging drives around.

As someone who over the years has used a little of unix, so copying files around etc in unix, changing permissions etc is something I am used to, is this the same for Linux or not.

What problems are likely to come with the installation, and does this make much difference depending on the version of Linux to be installed.[/quote]

You can just use the empty drive to install it. It will make it unreadable to winblows. I have used Redhat 9 and XandrOS(debian). When you install on an existing system, it will ask you to choose the drive to install it. Just choose you blank drive and it will install there. It will install a bootloader on your winblows boot drive. After the install, you will have the option screen for the linux system and DOS. Choose DOS if you want to boot into winblows.

The install is relatively painless when I did it. With Redhat 9, it has an update reminder that you can run that will update your software to the latest version out there. You should at least be able to get the basic system to run and then find any drivers that you need from the website out there. If you can do some basic unix commands, you should be ok.

Mark

[quote=“Traveller”]I already have a spare disk in my PC that can be used for this. Does it need to be a separate physical drive or will a logical drive do.

Does Linux require its own boot manager or can this file be edited to run the Linux system. Does it make any difference as to the drive letter where Linus would be installed, I have 5 physical drives each of which is split into two logicaL drives, and the disk for Linux install is the last one, and would rather not want to have to change that, due to Windows doing funny things when you start chaging drives around.[/quote]
I’m not sure about whether it will work on a second partition or not. The last time I thought about doing a dual-boot machine, LILO was the only boot manager that I ever heard about, and it absolutely required that it be placed on the first few cylinders of the drive.

Someone else in this thread mentioned another boot manager as being preferred nowadays; I haven’t run into it yet, so I don’t know what its requirements are.

Yes, it will be the same.

Hmm. This depends on what you’ll be doing. If you want to do any software development, you will find that you have to worry about the “tool chain” – the various versions of the kernel patches, compiler, debugger, etc. – to make sure they are compatible with each other. If you’re not doing development, you should be pretty safe.