Author Topic: Should I try Linux?  (Read 5506 times)

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Offline Sophia

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Should I try Linux?
« on: May 20, 2010, 12:53:45 pm »
First let me apologise because I tend to waffle ;) Summary of questions asked at the bottom.

I'm getting bored with my computer, well not the computer, but bored with windows, I am still on XP but I don't want to update, I don't for one think that my computer could hack it (the processor could but I think it would take up too much of my hardrive space which is the oldest part of my computer, the rest having been updated last year in order to run Oblivion - which I never quite got round to buying in the end, and then my harddrive became full of music, and so it was pointless getting it, although I just moved all my music to various USB drives to solve that problem, except the stuff that's on my itunes).

I recently got an iphone, which made me think about maybe getting a mac next time I buy a computer, but the more I looked into it, the more it sounded like a pretiffied toy but not really something that would sustain my interest (since I would be keeping my PC anyway, I don't see why I would need another computer that did not interest me for long) - not to mention it will be a long time before I have the money for a mac - I am sure if I am ever really rich I will satisfy my curiosity about macs but until then there seems like so much more I could spend a grand on if I saved it up (which I probably won't being a rather impulsive thing).

So then I thought "what about Linux, I've not tried that" - the only operating systems I have ever used are DOS and Windows.

So I want to try linux, see what it is like, and I need advice, first of all, there seems to be a lot of versions about. What would be good for a beginner? What has good aesthetics? Besides that, what are the advantages and disadvantages of duel booting it? I guess for me the main advantage would be that I could try it now instead of saving up for a new computer first before I get to try it (because from what I can tell from a cursory google search it is not exactly going to play nice with my iphone, and I don't really want to jailbreak it and I want to download new apps for it - also I think I just made enough space to finally get Oblivion). Apart from the iphone thing I have no real attachment to most of the programs on my windows. I mean, I like the capabilities of MS office, but again, a cursory google search tells me there are alternatives for that (and to be honest I mostly use it to make joke powerpoint presentations for imaginary companies with names like "Dethcorp - making life simpler"). My main use of the computer is the internet, frankly ANY operating system would do, as I said, I'm mostly just bored and curious and wanderlusty. I am attached to my firefox, but that works in linux right (and I assume I can transfer over all my settings as is with reasonable ease?). I also quite like trillian for instant messaging, but I am willing to change if I absolutely must.

Actually if I were completely honest I tried to instal Linux Red Hat (I think) from the disk on the front of a magazine once when I was 14 or so on a partition of a computer which had a broken fan (which I did not know at the time) and never ended up working (so I took it apart and bits of it are still around the room... lol - I don't actually know how to do stuff with the insides of computers, I just like taking things apart, it would be good of course to know how to put them back together again but alas so far I've not gotten round to learning - so many distractions).

I don't really know anything about programming (did a little Pascal in school, and played around with Fortran at home but really only in the sense of using it as a glorified calculator) I don't know how important that is, but it seems that a lot of people who use linux are programmers, which I am not (unless you really want a glorified calculator built in Fortran...).

When it comes to hardware and stuff, does plug and play work the same with linux or does everything need to be done manually? Will the drivers for my computer be availible on linux, will this end of things be likely to prove problematic at all? Obviously that's going to depend what my hardware is (which I ceirtainly could find out but do not right this second have to hand and I am asking enough questions to begin with that can be dealt with before getting into that).

I'm currently at university, so all the stuff about compatibility with the university network is obvious (although I am at my own place so I connect to the university using a VPN - would that work any differently in Linux than windows? I figure the only difference would be in how to set it up...). Speaking of networks actually, my computer connects to the internet through my dad's computer which is running win XP (it also runs win 98 on a partition but no-one ever uses that part of it anymore). Will that be a problem at all?
(On this issue, that computer is getting extremely old and trojany, no-one cares about it, they just protect their individual computers (well some of them do) and let that one fill up with all manner of crap, it runs so slowly, I am half tempted to buy a new server to replace it - again after saving up, leaving the old computer there so people don't realise what I have done, I bet no-one would even notice - at least not till the first time the "internet breaks" and even then they'll probably just ask me to fix it, mwahahahaha - when I am bored trying to manually completely delete viruses on that old computer has proved entertaining).

One last thing, although you wouldn't think it from what I have written, I do not like change very much. I get very agravated everytime they bring out a new windows. I just wish they'd leave things the same. I don't mind change that I instigate, I even like it, but when other people try and impose changes on me it irritates me (this is why I kept my old hard drive when I updated my computer, because I was told that a new computer would automatically come with new windows). If I have any major discontent with windows (apart from shallow cosmetic concerns) its this constant bringing out of new operating systems and updates and things that society then seems to expect me to adopt even though my computer was doing fine without. I'd probably still be using win 95 otherwise.

I'm looking forward to the day I can say to my mum "no I DON'T know how to fix your computer I've never even USED windows 3000 (or whatever it is by then), I don't know how it works" :p

Question Summary:
What versions of Linux are good for a beginner (I ceirtainly want a GUI - even though even in windows I like playing in CMD)?
What are the most aesthetic versions of Linux/what themes are avalible for what versions of Linux?
What are the advantages and disadvantages of duel booting?
How small a partition is too small (my computer only has 50Gb Hardrive)?
Or do you think I'd be better off saving for a new computer to run it on?
Confirm or Deny: alternatives for MS Office are readily availible on Linux?
Confim or Deny: I can reasonably easily transfer my firefox settings and bookmarks from windows to Linux?
What sort of hardware issues are likely to be a dealbreaker?
How easy is it to install drivers on Linux?
Confirm or Deny: my university VPN should be accessable over Linux? (I am in the process of contacting the University Information Services with this same question as they may be more able to answer it than yourselves).
Will I be able to connect to the internet through my home server which is running XP?
Do you think anyone in my family would notice if I replaced the server (LOL) and if so what is the minimum build I would need for it?

I think that covers it.

Offline Mad Penguin

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Re: Should I try Linux?
« Reply #1 on: May 20, 2010, 05:32:38 pm »
Yes.   8)

1. What versions of Linux are good for a beginner (I ceirtainly want a GUI - even though even in windows I like playing in CMD)?

Many / Most .. in particular Ubuntu or Mint.

2. What are the most aesthetic versions of Linux/what themes are avalible for what versions of Linux?

There are a number of different type of 'desktop, the main two being Gnome and KDE.
(Think of KDE as the German variant and Gnome as a the US variant)

Essentially if you see a Gnome theme, essentially it'll work on any Linux distribution that supports Gnome.
If you're looking for bleeding edge aesthetics rather than 'standard issue', take a look at http://www.enlightenment.org, this is a standard add-on / alternative option for an Ubuntu installation.

3. What are the advantages and disadvantages of duel booting?

Advantages, you can keep your pre-existing Windows system and use Linux too.
Disadvantages, M$ will continually change things with a view to breaking dual boot functionality and hence may take more maintenance.

4. How small a partition is too small (my computer only has 50Gb Hardrive)?

To be realistic, less than 10G is too small.

5. Or do you think I'd be better off saving for a new computer to run it on?

If your computer will boot off a USB device (many will) , why not just buy a USB hard drive and put Linux on that? I have a laptop drive here (2.5") that cost me about £25, I think it's 160Gb, and an external drive case from Amazon for ~ £9 .. works fine .. bit cheaper than buying a whole new PC :)

6. Confirm or Deny: alternatives for MS Office are readily availible on Linux?

Confirm.

7. Confim or Deny: I can reasonably easily transfer my firefox settings and bookmarks from windows to Linux?

Never had to do it , but from what I've heard it's relatively easy, see;
http://support.mozilla.com/en-US/kb/Backing+up+your+information#Firefox_3_6

8. What sort of hardware issues are likely to be a dealbreaker?

If you have Windows based software that you absolutely can't do without where there is no Linux equivalent.

9. How easy is it to install drivers on Linux?

Generally, you don't need to. If you have some exotic hardware, then the level of difficulty will be specific to the hardware.

10. Confirm or Deny: my university VPN should be accessable over Linux? (I am in the process of contacting the University Information Services with this same question as they may be more able to answer it than yourselves).

Depends on the VPN software the Uni are using (!)
If the software adheres to a standard, confirm.

<fx>MP's opinion of Uni IT staff deleted</fx>
It really depends on the competence of the Uni's IT staff and what they've bought, if you have competent staff - IMHO, confirm.

11. Will I be able to connect to the internet through my home server which is running XP?

Erm, yes .. but I *really* wouldn't for Sooooo many reasons. Raid the piggy bank and invest in a router (eg; Speedtouch 546 or similar) , for about £25 you get safe plug and play access for your entire home network and you'll be shocked how much faster your ADSL will seem (!)

12. Do you think anyone in my family would notice if I replaced the server (LOL) and if so what is the minimum build I would need for it?

(What server?)

Offline Sophia

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Re: Should I try Linux?
« Reply #2 on: May 20, 2010, 05:55:18 pm »
The problem with getting a router however common sense it may be is that it's not my network or my line or my money paying for internet access. Although again, if they don't notice... lol. We actually HAVE two wireless routers but my mum forbids me to set them up believing the radiation will melt her brain or something (despite our house being saturated already from nextdoor and everyone else on the street's ones :p)

The USB thing definitely seems like a good idea to try it. But then if I like it what next? LOL, I guess I should deal with that hurdle when it comes.

But yes, I think I am convinced. My exams are over anyway so I need a project, discovering a new OS should whittle away at least some of the long summer (what do you mean "go outside"?)

Offline Mad Penguin

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Re: Should I try Linux?
« Reply #3 on: May 20, 2010, 06:47:19 pm »
Try loading a Linux "Live CD" on your laptop and show your Mum the number of networks already overlapping the house .. that should negate any issues she has with radiation. Alternatively, fire up a router and get your laptop to show the signal strength against the router, then show here your mobile signal.

Then wander as far as you can, or at least until your mobile can't see the router any more, then show here your mobile signal again.

Then ask her to think about it, if she doesn't throw her mobile in the bin you're sorted ..  ;)

No reason why a USB drive can't be left plugged in (!) certainly on an older system, so long as you have a USB 2.0 interface it won't be much slower that the pre-existing drive, indeed it could well be quicker.

"go outside"? - only if you've got a really good display on  your laptop, most are unreadable in direct sunlight ..  :-X

Offline Mark Greaves (PCNetSpec)

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Re: Should I try Linux?
« Reply #4 on: May 20, 2010, 07:16:20 pm »
Ubuntu 10.04 and Mint 9 (due soon) will both play nicely with your iphone but AFAIK iTunes is a different matter... how are you connecting to this "server" now?... the router doesn't have to be wireless, or if you already have a "wireless" one, turn wireless off and connect with ethernet cables... a router will contain at least a NAT firewall and hide your local PC's IP addresses from the internet side... MUCH better than a software firewall.

If you are still connecting with a USB modem, this would be considered (at least in the windows world) dangerous on todays worm infested and port scanning interweb... not to mention the fact that a lot of system resources are being used to run the modem... and the power saving of replacing a full blown PC with a tiny efficient box...

The rest... Mad Penguin has covered :)

The only thing I would add is that the "Enlightenment" desktop, pretty as it can be made and "lite" as it is, is far from being the easiest to use, and you will find "understandable" support much harder to come by... My advice, stick to Gnome or KDE (although I found KDE4 (out-of-the-box) slightly "prettier", I had problems with it and switched to Gnome)... If you can say one thing about Linux aesthetics, it would be that its desktop is "ultimately configurable".

Try Ubuntu 10.04 (or Kubuntu if you want the KDE4 desktop), or Mint 9... BUT try them on a LiveCD first to see if you run into any hardware issues.

Try Googling "Linux LiveCD".... you can test a few distros before committing one to your hard drive.
also Google "OpenOffice.org" (or "KOffice"), which comes pre-installed on may Linux distros.

I would be "VERY surprised" if your university network has any problems with Linux... at least some (if not most) of its servers are likely to be  *nix based :) , but always a good idea to check first.
« Last Edit: May 20, 2010, 08:12:35 pm by Mark Greaves (PCNetSpec) »
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Offline Mad Penguin

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Re: Should I try Linux?
« Reply #5 on: May 20, 2010, 09:22:41 pm »
>If you are still connecting with a USB modem ...

Mmm, sure, but moreover, Windows IP/PPP stack is *really* naff, it's amazing how much it will slow down your PC, particularly if you're doing something intensive like trying to watch youtube etc .. if your PC is spending half it's time processing IP for the modem, it's like halving the clock speed on your CPU (!)

>I would be "VERY surprised" ..

I wouldn't .. my experience of University technical departments is that they're staffed by a combination of ... <MP's views removed yet again>

I would be very surprised if the University VPN isn't some expensive solution provided by someone like Cisco where they pay for a license for every Student, which talks to Cisco kit and the Cisco Windows client only. But hey, it's probably just me being overly cynical.   :-X

IMHO there is only ONE solution Uni's should be using and that is "OpenVPN" - if they're not using this (my cynical side says they won't be) then I claim QED on my comments ..  :o

Offline Mark Greaves (PCNetSpec)

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Re: Should I try Linux?
« Reply #6 on: May 20, 2010, 10:28:36 pm »
Heh... you're probably right, but it would "seem" kind of ironic as Linux would be the ideal solution for a lot of students... would be MUCH less likely to bombard their servers with crap from malware... and that their WAN side servers are probably *nix anyway... or should be :)

Isn't Cisco routers firmware linux based?... What no Linux client  >:(
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Offline Mad Penguin

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Re: Should I try Linux?
« Reply #7 on: May 20, 2010, 10:31:12 pm »
>Isn't Cisco routers firmware linux based?

Nope. IOS, pre-dates Linux (!)

Offline Mark Greaves (PCNetSpec)

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Re: Should I try Linux?
« Reply #8 on: May 20, 2010, 10:54:33 pm »
Ahhh... apparently there is a Cisco VPN client (at least up to ver 4.8 ) for Linux/Solaris though... whether the University will supply/implement it is another matter.
« Last Edit: May 25, 2010, 11:10:46 am by Mark Greaves (PCNetSpec) »
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Offline Sophia

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Re: Should I try Linux?
« Reply #9 on: May 20, 2010, 11:02:25 pm »
Ah yes, we are still on a USB modem (supplied by the ISP I think... years and years ago...). Again, I am not sure I have the right to mess around with these things since in the end it is all paid for by my parents and at the moment, (I am working on it) I don't have the money to change that.

In terms of the university they replied to say that the VPN will work with linux but they don't "officially" support it.

I'm going to get a blank USB drive tommorow, I'm excited.

Offline Mark Greaves (PCNetSpec)

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Re: Should I try Linux?
« Reply #10 on: May 20, 2010, 11:07:08 pm »
BEFORE you rush out and buy a USB drive, make sure your PC's BIOS supports "booting" from USB hard drives.

Also check it's USB 2.0 not 1.0/1.1 as 1.1 will be very slow
« Last Edit: May 20, 2010, 11:12:57 pm by Mark Greaves (PCNetSpec) »
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Offline Sophia

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Re: Should I try Linux?
« Reply #11 on: May 20, 2010, 11:15:37 pm »
I know it does already because everytime I leave one in there I have to take it out or it does the whole "non boot disk inserted remove and hit any key" thing.

And yes, my USB slots are USB two.

Offline Mark Greaves (PCNetSpec)

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Re: Should I try Linux?
« Reply #12 on: May 21, 2010, 12:08:56 am »
Okey Dokey then... Have fun :)
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Offline jodix

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Re: Should I try Linux?
« Reply #13 on: May 21, 2010, 08:26:53 pm »
hello, just been reading this thread, and if i were to dual boot my computer with windows and ubuntu (for example) and have photoshop on the windows half (unless it can be run on ubuntu using wine), is ther a way to swap gigabytes of pictures between the two partitions quickly?

thanks :)

Offline Mark Greaves (PCNetSpec)

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Re: Should I try Linux?
« Reply #14 on: May 21, 2010, 08:46:09 pm »
Ubuntu will be able to access the windows drive, but windows won't be able to see the Linux drive... so keep all pics on the Windows drive :)
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