Well, time to read up on Linux, though I have to say that all the talk of about 800 gazillion "distro's" along with which does what well but not this or that - has been what has kept me away for the most part.
Hey Jim. No need to drive yourself crazy with the 317 active distributions currently being monitored by Distrowatch. Here's what you need to know to start:
1) Virtually every distribution is based on (and uses the software repositories of) only one of three main distributions. They are (in order of popularity) Debian, RedHat, and Slackware. There are a few exceptions (Gentoo, Arch, plus a small number of others) - but these are specialist or advanced versions of Linux that you don't need to be concerned about when you're just starting out.
2) The main difference between the three core distros is their software repositories and package managers.
3) Repositories are the collections of software that are designed and tested to work with a particular distribution. Since creating and maintaining a software repository is a large undertaking, almost every other Linux distro uses one of the major three repositories as its core software source. Some supplement their main source with additional collections or "repositories" of their own.
4) Package managers are the preferred way to install software on a Linux PC. They're very automated systems. You generally just select what you want and tell the package manager to install your selection. The software is then downloaded from the repositories via the web and loaded onto you machine. The package manager also keeps track of what is on your system and keeps track of available updates. So a package manager is something like a cross between the Microsoft installer, the add/remove software control panel, the registry, and Microsoft update.
5) Package managers are the biggest difference between Linux distros. In practice, there are four main ones in use. Debian-based distros use apt
. RedHat-based distros use something called yum
. And Slackware uses slackpkg
. There are other package managers than the prevuiously listed ones. But they're something you won't need to think about unless you pick a distro that uses one. And since they all work much the same way, learning a different package manager is usually not a challenge. Most modern distros also hide the complexities of the above package managers with pretty and informative GUI front ends. So in day to day use, you'll mainly browse a catalog, select what you want installed, and hit the go button. Piece of cake!
6) If you're new to Linux from Windows, the concept of a "windows manager" in Linux may cause you some initial confusion. Up until Metro and Windows 8, Microsoft only had one supplied windows manager (Explorer) you used whether you liked it or not. You could customize it with something like Stardock. But it pretty much was what it was. This is what companies like Apple and Microsoft are talking about when they talk about their "user experience." They're mostly talking about their window manager or main user interface (aka desktop).
Since Linux is all about choice, there are many different windows managers to choose from. Although all provide much the same utility, each has it's own way of doing things. And each is better at some things than others. That said, it's nothing to worry about when you first start out. All you need to know is that there are two major windows managers that account for about 85% of all Linux desktops. One is called Gnome
. The other is called KDE
Without getting into a long discussion (opinions run high on the choice of windows managers) you're probably best off starting with Gnome as your desktop. It's similar enough to Windows that you shouldn't experience much of a learning curve. And it's a fine desktop in it's own right.
7) Almost all the major distros now provide what are called "live CDs" in addition to their regular installation media. Live CDs are exactly that. You can boot from them into a ready to go Linux desktop. They let you run Linux without actually installing it on your machine. It's a painless way to test out a promising looking distro. (Live CDs have other uses in the LInux universe, but you'll find out about that soon enough.) If you like what you see you can also use that same live CD to install the distro on your hard drive. Which is what you'll want to do since loading things off the CD will slow down the apparent performance of the distro in question. Live CDs can make Linux feel sluggish. But in a hard drive, Linux is as fast (and often faster than) other operating systems. So don't try to judge responsiveness off a live CD.
Now lets get specifics...If you're just starting out, I'd recommend getting a Debian-based distro that uses Gnome as it's default windows manager.
Most beginners find that the easiest way to get into the Linux game. I'd personally suggest you make Linux Mint
your first port of call for a lot of reasons it would take too long to recap. Google it if you want to read reviews and discussions. Linux Mint has a great community of users and developers. Maybe not as great as DonationCoder's is
, but you can't have everything.
I'd also recommend you cruise by the Distrowatch
website and take a gander at all the goodies they keep track of. Once you get a little more experience you'll find Distrowatch
an excellent resource.
Lastly, I'd recommend you take your time and have some fun. Right now, you have the luxury of not absolutely needing to learn or use Linux. That gives you flex and some running room. Take advantage of it. Download and play with some live CDs. Check out Gnome and KDE to see what they're all about and which you prefer. Maybe even do an initial test install on your hard drive. Linux can peacefully coexist on the same drive as Windows, and set itself up to allow for booting into either operating system. Try getting Windows to be that polite.
Questions - just open up a new thread at DoCo if you're stumped or want to talk about something. There are several Linux users in the DC membership willing to help. And also enough members that don't like Linux to keep the discussions honest and prevent it from turning into a penguin love fest. Superboy started a thread
a while back which addresses some of the questions you probably have. Give it a read and possibly post any questions you have there so we can keep it all in one place.
Well, I've managed to sidestep Linux over the years, but now it's time. I'm doing it...I'm going to start transitioning to Linux.
I'm tired of feeling guilty by trying to get my Windows system to do exactly the things I want. I've noticed most of the interesting developments have been stifled in recent years because of all the copyright issues. The Linux guys really are my crowd. All open, all free...it's what I believe in.
I don't know how long it will take, it took me a year to transition from XP to Win7, so I imagine this may take me a couple of years. But i don't want to pay money anymore to faceless companies. I want to be part of a community that helps each other out regardless of how much they get paid, and that's the Linux community. And I'll gladly give them my money before the other guys.
I've been pushing the limits of Windows for a while now. I keep running into obstacles, not because I'm pushing the technology, but because copyright concerns are preventing the technologies from developing. My ideas of what I want to do with my computer should NOT feel like I'm the first person to ask for something like this. I'm really not that clairvoyant. I've struggled with the cloud for a couple of years now, and there's no need for it. Let the masses deal with the proprietary stuff and all the headaches that come along with it. I want to be with the guys that are freely exploring their ideas.
Where's Zaine? Z...I'm joining the club, I'm going underground. I held off as long as I could. (see attachment in previous post)
Luck! And welcome aboard.