People who know me know i beat the drum for Linux. I swear it’s not just for geeks .
Windows users usually ignore me when I bang my Linux drum. Ah well; so it goes.
But a couple of things happened recently that convinced me Linux has finally, truly, really, no-kidding gone beyond being a contender against Windows for the average desktop user. It has become clearly superior to Windows for the average desktop user.
Two evidences that Linux is ready for the rest of us
1. A couple months ago, I loaded Linux onto my computer . I wasn’t eager to try Linux, but i was beyond fed up with Windows — with its nagging popups, blue screens of death, chronic slowdowns, daily application crashes, and Big Brother in Redmond watching.
I have’nt had a single problem since. Aside from little things like getting used to buttons being in different places, ive been happily browsing the web, sending email, playing music, editing photos, and watching DVDs since Linux Day One.
2. More recently, I had to perform a routine configuration task on a computer. It took me five minutes on Linux. After five hours on Windows I still couldn’t get it done. But I did manage to crash the brand, shiny new operating system. Twice. Without even trying. Later, I succeeded in performing the job — but only after giving in to some Microsoftian nannying.
Yes. We’ve now reached the point where Linux can be easier than Windows.
10 specific reasons to try Linux
1. Money. You can download many versions of Linux free or buy them on CD for as little as $1.75.
2. Money. Most applications for Linux are free, including full-featured equivalents of apps like PhotoShop (the GIMP) and Microsoft Office (OpenOffice).
3. You can try without committing. Most Linuxes are now available on “live” CDs that let you test drive the operating system before installing. Have fun. Check it out. Then, when you feel comfortable — install off the same CD. You have nothing to lose!
4. No nannying popups.
5. No spyware.
6. Freedom from viruses and trojans, nearly all of which are specially designed around flaws in Windows.
7. Linux is by independent people, for independent people.
8. Stability. Applications may occasionally crash. But Linux itself? Like the Rock of Gibralter.
9. Property rights. When you buy a copy of Linux, you own it. No begging permissions to re-install. No having to prove to Bill Gates that yours is a “legitimate” copy.
10. The most popular Linuxes for newbies feature “package managers” that automate installation of software and fulfill all dependencies at the same time.
10a. Seriously. I mean it. Linux can be easier to use than Windows.
Three reasons not to try Linux
1. Because you’re married to Windows by some professional requirement (e.g. you need software made only for Windows; your work network is Windows-only, etc.)
2. Inertia (or as my formerly Linux-phobic friend said less charitably of himself this morning, “fear and ignorance”)
3. “Because I’m just not interested, Claire. So shut up and quit bothering me!”
Okay. But if it’s reasons 1 or 2, you could still drag that old, spare computer out of a closet and give Linux a try. Or just boot up a “live” Linux CD on the very machine you’re using now and poke around a little without obligating yourself to anything.
If you do decide to install a Linux, you can still keep Windows and do a dual boot.
One great Linux for newbies
I’m going to make this super-simple.
There are hundreds of “flavors” of Linux — different looks, feels, features, and functionality built on the same core operating system. Some are strictly for geeks. Slackware, for instance. Newbies don’t go there. Others are astonishingly specialized. There’s a Linux especially for multimedia artists. And one customized for Christians. There are Linuxes solely in Portuguese or Chinese.
But you can bypass all that confusion.
The best, all-round, totally newbie friendly, impressively full-featured Linux is this one PCLinuxOS.
Ub-what? Deb-who? Never mind. What that means to newbies is that PCLinuxOS has a solid history, plenty of stability, and hoards of available application packages.
What sets PCLOS apart, though, is that it’s designed to give you everything the everyday user wants right out of the box.
It not only comes with all the big apps (e.g. Firefox browser, Thunderbird mail reader, the GIMP photo manipulation program,). Many Linux distros have all those. But the standard download or CD edition comes complete with media codecs. Yep. Crank up PCLOS (which takes only about 1/2 hour or less to install) and you’ll be playing DVDs with no further fuss or expense.
It’s clean, simple, & pretty, too.
Five other n00b-compatible Linuxes
If you decide you don’t want PCLinuxOS … or if you want to try five or six Linuxes at once (and why not? It’s cheap!) here are other major, newbie-friendly Linux distros:
1. Mandriva. My long-time personal favorite, Mandriva was the very first Linux designed (back in 1998) specifically for ease of use. Unlike Mint, it also has sophisticated system administration tools built into the GUI. (Newbie version to choose: MandrivaOne)
2. Puppy. Puppy’s claim to fame is that it’s both friendly and very, very, very small. Hey! Just like a puppy. The entire operating system loads into RAM, so you can carry it around with you on a USB stick or a flash card and use it on any computer equipped with the proper ports. Despite being so small, it’s got lots of applications (though not always the big standard ones) and its very fast.
3. Ubuntu. Ubuntu could be called “the people’s Linux.” It’s built on a philosophy that everybody in the world should be able to use, customize, and alter free software, regardless of their native language or disabilities. It’s hugely popular. But since you can get all the good things of Ubuntu and more via Mint, I’d go with Mint.
4. KNOPPIX. It’s been a few years since I tried KNOPPIX, but I remember it as an unfancy type of Linux, easy to use and definitely not a memory hog. (In fact, if memory serves, it was one of the first to use the “live” CD concept that lets you try without committing.) Like Mint and Ubuntu, KNOPPIX is based on Debian, which gives you a solid base of applications and proven technology.
5. Mepis. Another Debian-based, elegant, nice-and-easy Linux. Last time I tried this one (about a year ago), it irritated me by asking for a password before I could use its live CD. That’s silly! But I think the password it wanted was just “demo” and if you have the patience to type that in, you’ll see a very nice, sleek OS.
5a. Fedora. Fedora is based on Red Hat — another of the old-line, very stable, very respectable Linuxes. As with the Debian-based Linuxes, it has its own package manager that makes software installation a dream and it has tons of software in its repositories. Some people might say Fedora isn’t ideal for n00bs because it tends to be bleeding edge. Red Hat uses it as a testing ground for new apps and new code. So yes, occasionally it might produce frustration. But it’s a nice, slick operating system and its basics are very sound. So let’s say this one is for newbies who are also willing to be bold explorers now and then.
How to get ‘em — free, cheap, and easy
There are lots of ways to get every Linux. But the easiest place to begin — Linux Central, so to speak — is DistroWatch. DistroWatch has a page for every Linux. Type in the name of the Linux you want or choose from the drop-down menu at the top of the page and click GO.
Or, if you want to keep it simple, click on my recommendations above. All those links go to DistroWatch listings.
On the individual distro’s page, you’ll find links to download sites and reviews.
If you want to buy your copy on CD, DVD, or USB, DistroWatch has links to two vendor sites, OSDisc.com and LinuxCD.org. You can buy a “live” CD for as little as $1.75, an installation DVD for as little as $4.95, or a USB stick pre-loaded with a distro for $15 and up. Both sites offer various shipping discounts, return customer discounts, etc.
TIP: Microsoft assumes that every user should interact with the operating system in exactly the same way (via one standardized graphical user interface, aka windows manager, aka the thing that makes Windows look like Windows). Linux users get to choose among many interfaces. It can be a little confusing at first. Don’t worry about it. Most distros come with an interface called Gnome (pronounced G’nome) or one called KDE; they’re the two Big Boys among windows managers. If you’re given a choice, Gnome’s a little simpler. But either will serve you just fine.
So, Windows users … what’s holding you back?
Questions? You still have questions? I’m no geek or Linux guru, but if you’re serious about giving Linux a try and want the benefit of my ordinary user experience, I’ll do my best to answer in the comments section. And what I can’t answer, the more serious Linuxians among the blog readers probably will.