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Author Topic: Making the switch-01: My journey from Windows to Linux  (Read 19091 times)
zridling
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« on: June 06, 2007, 04:04:24 AM »

urlwolf gave me a good idea to document my switch from Windows to GNU/Linux. If you decide to read this ongoing series, it was his idea from the start. I've wanted to "make the switch" since 1998 when Corel came out with its own version of Linux. That lasted about two weeks before I shelved that junk. In the meantime, I've toyed with various Linux distros, but knew I was never going to switch, so at best it was a convenient distraction. I'm no expert, so I'll be learning as this series unfolds. So if you ask me a question, I'll probably just google it, since I'm not that smart.



Fast-forward nine years to 2007 and the world looks a lot different, and so does GNU/Linux. Microsoft, while still dominant, has not had a good century to date. Apple is reborn and its users love OS X for reasons I can't fathom, ha! Google bided its time and then hit the scene with its simple search engine followed by a smash hit with Gmail. Now it's onto Google Docs and Spreadsheets which ain't too shabby either. On the geek side, GNU/Linux has kept plugging along, consistently improving behind the genius of its free software licensing, all the while avoiding the entire generation of security problems that have plagued the last several versions of Microsoft OSes. Enter Mark Shuttleworth with Ubuntu and by 2006, his $100m project and its grand goals caught the attention of a lot of users and suddenly there was an explosion of interest and excitement surrounding his Debian-based "distro" of GNU/Linux. Other distros like PCLinuxOS and Fedora 7 would impress a small percentage of Windows users with their artwork, graphics, easy installations, and the ability of GNU/Linux to make an old machine new again, or at least extend its shelf-life.

By the time we get to 2007, Microsoft had spent five years developing Vista and making many promises they couldn't keep. Hardware was outpacing XP, and it seemed Microsoft had spent an inordinate amount of time on anti-piracy measures like WGA, OGA, and the absolutely unprecedented "device-dependent" EULA of Vista. Users like myself were deeply disappointed with Vista, with its increased hardware requirements, increased cost to administer, and the feeling that it offered little noticeable improvement over XP-SP2. As computing got more restricted by Microsoft, and combined with the new MS-OOXML file format introduced in Office 2007, Microsoft was suddenly ready to lock users into their OS and their proprietary file formats for many years to come.

It couldn't come at a worse time. 2006 was the pivotal year that the world decided to move on without Microsoft. Apple was doing its own thing and happy with itself. GNU/Linux users had a hit with Ubuntu, the OASIS OpenDocument (ODF) format became an international ISO-certified standard for office data, the OLPC (one laptop per child) project chose a Linux variant while could potentially put Linux into the hands of kids in poor and developing nations around the globe for a generation, and Google kept poking Microsoft with a stick with its steady acquisitions and creative use of AJAX. Meanwhile, Microsoft delayed Vista, delayed Office 2007, and instead of leading, decided to play copycat with Google, Adobe, and even ODF, seeking unprecedented ISO standardization for its MS-OOXML format, which is nothing more than a product specification at best.

All this had me looking for the Exit door on Microsoft products. I'd been their biggest fan since 1990 and the first version of Word for Windows (and I'd been an Excel user before that), but even though I had paid Microsoft for every piece of software I had ever used from them, they got the idea that I was a thief and had to "show my papers" every time I booted my system. Then came Vista which held that if my computer didn't pass Microsoft's WGA checks, Microsoft would remotely disable my OS and lock me out. That kind of stuff pisses me off. Their idea of "Trusted Computing" was indeed Orwellian. So here I am, with the intention of slowly weaning myself off the Windows platform. And while I'll keep a Windows system on my desk for the next few years, I'm committed to moving on, to a free and open future for me, my data, my OS, and my wallet. What money I will have spent on various software to support Windows from the OS to security and antivirus, I will be able to spend on better hardware more often.

I'll post a new topic as I make progress and learn new things Windows users should know about switching. I'm not asking YOU to switch. In fact, I've come to the conclusion that among OS X, Windows, and GNU/Linux, they're all different and serve different needs for each. So I won't be like those annoying "I'm a Mac" commercials and evangelize GNU/Linux at the expense of demonizing Windows. (Microsoft, however, is another story!) To start, take four minutes and read this brief outline on making the switch. In short, there are differences, some of them quite significant. I'll try to make it interesting and I hope you'll join in, especially if you find this whole "switch" a mistake. After that, look for my next post.

________________________________________________
Part-01: My journey from Windows to Linux
Part-02: Which Linux distro to choose?
Part-03: First impressions and first problems after installation
Part-04: The "User Guide" as life raft, more n00b problems
Part-05: Ten Great Ideas of GNU/Linux
Part-06: Software Management is not that different
« Last Edit: July 26, 2007, 02:57:27 AM by zridling » Logged

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Dirhael
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« Reply #1 on: June 06, 2007, 05:50:41 AM »

I think the main reason I never quite manged to switch over to *nix is the font rendering. No matter what distro or what settings I use, they never feel or look quite right compared to Windows or OSX. Secondly, it's the issue of multimedia. GNU Linux has a lot of amazing music and video players, but some codecs are not as fast as some of the Windows alternatives (mainly a problem with h.264 HD content), and getting 5.1 surround sound setup correctly is a pain in the back end if you don't have just the right sound card. I'm hoping that KDE 4 will be the solution for me, as it will come with a brand new audio interface. If they get that one right, and also solves some of the font issues (though that's more of a X issue) I might be tempted to switch over full-time.
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urlwolf
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« Reply #2 on: June 06, 2007, 06:23:14 AM »

This sounds like a really promising series of posts.
A software-guru, who knows the current windows landscape and has a website with the best picks I've ever seen, has the balls to leave all that behind.

Me, I'm impressed that you actually want to start from scratch trying to find the best software for your needs yet again. I can imagine how many hours you have invested in finding it. And I'm not even talking about the price of the licenses you own (time is more important than money).

Best of luck!
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zridling
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« Reply #3 on: June 06, 2007, 05:31:02 PM »

Dirhael, fonts are always an issue and to my surprise, as are graphics. Yea, that may be shallow, but appearance makes a difference, just ask an mac user. A lot of people I know skin the crap out of Windows. KDE is more like Windows; Gnome is more like Mac, it seems.



I can install all my TrueType fonts by merely click-n-drag to the font folder. I bought the Frutiger Next LT font years ago and use it for everything, from word processing to web browsing. Also, Microsoft makes available older fonts which are only intended to replace the those most widely used in documents, presentations, and spreadsheets — Verdana, Arial, Courier New, Tahoma, and a few others (none of the new Vista fonts). Clearly they do not replace all of the various styled fonts that Microsoft makes available, but they're familiar. Also, Red Hat released their Enterprise font set which are very close copies of the Microsoft fonts for Fedora_7. You can download those fonts using a simple terminal command. Here's the site: http://corefonts.sourceforge.net/

urlwolf, thanks! And you're right, much like anyone's music collection, I've spent 20 times as much on software as I ever have on hardware over the years. Linux even has a built-in system-wide keyboard shortcut app, but it doesn't pretend to be an AutoHotkey. Ah, the first compromises — do you know how many mistyped words AutoHotkey keeps me from misspelling throughout the day?!

The good news is that there are a few apps I can take with me right away:
— WinRAR
— Nero (though it's really not needed with an app like k3b that pre-installed)
— XnView
— OpenOffice
— Opera
— my proprietary chess games, although Linux (I should say Gnome and KDE, the two big desktop environments) includes about 20 games right off the start.
« Last Edit: June 06, 2007, 05:44:05 PM by zridling » Logged

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« Reply #4 on: June 06, 2007, 06:23:43 PM »

This is amazing stuff and certainly an eye opener. My faith in the concept and the drive is certainly there but i have to admit, not as immense to really make me do this switch for my personal productivity. I run linux on all my server machines at work and will always do.
Thank you for sharing these insightful thoughts with us.
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Darwin
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« Reply #5 on: June 06, 2007, 07:17:02 PM »

One thing that has impressed my about OpenOffice.org Impress  tongue under Ubuntu is that the font rendering is nice and crisp. Under Windows StarOffice 8's Impress fails to impress because the font rendering sucks.
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Darwin
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« Reply #6 on: June 06, 2007, 07:30:57 PM »

Quote
The good news is that there are a few apps I can take with me right away:
— WinRAR

Cool - I'm still casting about for linux analogues/versions of Windows apps that I love. However, what impresses me most about Linux in 2007 is that if I were a student with a brand new laptop and a huge, blank harddrive, I could install a Linux distro like ubuntu and be productive right off the bat - OpenOffice has everything a first year student needs - and on the internet in the blink of an eye (probably more important to an undergrad than productivity - hell, it's more important to me!).

I'm on a journey similar to Zaine's - I'm seriously considering making my next computer purchase a Linux only machine. I've been playing with ubuntu courtesy of Carl (cthorpe) and his mini-review of wubi.
« Last Edit: June 06, 2007, 07:35:25 PM by Darwin » Logged

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« Reply #7 on: June 06, 2007, 08:01:54 PM »

I too have been on this journey for a while.  I personally like Mint Linux.  It is a spinoff of Ubuntu, but has access to a larger database of drivers out of the box (so to speak) since it also has some proprietary drivers.  They also have rendered a version of the SLED SLAB interface, which is nice as well.  They just released version 3.0 (Cassandra) and are working on a KDE version of Cassandra due out in the near future.
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« Reply #8 on: June 06, 2007, 08:11:00 PM »

As soon as Intuit releases Quicken for Linux I will switch. Until that time........ Sad

Yes, I know there are similar programs in Linux but none that I've seen can touch Quicken. Specifically, I like Quicken's ability to update all my accounts daily from the web at the press of a single button.
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« Reply #9 on: June 07, 2007, 03:49:35 AM »

How about file manages (dopus)?
THere was a post in the dopus forum of one user running dopus using wine and being completely usable. (!). Maybe you could try it?

THere is another thread making Foobar work under wine here.

The problem is that some good apps in win do suck when ported to linux (maybe devs cannot pay enough attention as the market is not as big). Finding these and making a list would be good. How is opera under linux? And SFFS?
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« Reply #10 on: June 07, 2007, 07:20:03 AM »

Thanks for the pointer about DOPus, urlwolf. I've been casting about for a decent File Manager for Linux and have so far been disappointed. I was looking at WINE the other day and wondering if I should install it and see if ArcGIS will run under it. If DOpus will as well...  Kiss
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zridling
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« Reply #11 on: June 07, 2007, 10:18:57 AM »

edbro, I don't think Quicken will ever do that, or need to, unless some market research shows there's money to be made, much like Adobe won't write (or port) a version of Photoshop. Just not enough users to justify the ROI. For myself, I'd kill for AutoHotkey (not the weak substitutes); UltraEdit damnit!; NewsLeecher; and XYplorer. I'll eventually get around to testing a few apps under WINE or their Linux versions. I know that Opera works just the same as under Windows, and the same skins are used, so I was able to make it look exactly like it is in Vista.

But the reality is that under GNU/Linux, either the (free) software is different (cf. KM/GMPlayer and VLC vs. GomPlayer for me), or the Windows version is mature, as in commercial software. This is the same reason I often laugh at the mac folks. When I look at software on my friends' macs, yea, it's all polished, but most of the apps seem unfinished or they make you work in very different ways. I think someone else mentioned in another thread that the one great contribution of Windows in the early 90s (and then especially with Win95) is UI consistency. GNU/Linux doesn't have that because you can not only choose among half a dozen different desktop environments, but you can customize each far more than I ever dreamed in Windows. Great if you got time to futz around with it; however, I don't.
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« Reply #12 on: June 07, 2007, 10:27:31 AM »

hmm Zaine, am I feeling the vibration that you are starting to realize that linux will take away much of your precious little time just fiddling around to get some functionality that is standard in your windows box?

smiley
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« Reply #13 on: June 07, 2007, 11:12:33 AM »

urlwolf - I read you previous post in haste; I now realise that DOpus is not likely to run well under wine. Of course, I have to try it now! I'm also going to see what happens with XYPlorer - because that would be a HUGE improvement over anything I've yet seen in linux.
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zridling
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« Reply #14 on: June 07, 2007, 04:31:29 PM »

Quote
[URLWOLF]: you are starting to realize that linux will take away much of your precious little time just fiddling around to get some functionality that is standard in your windows box?
You nailed it! Don't forget that GNU/Linux was created by geeks of geeks and for geeks. Therefore, tweaking is allowed and encouraged. You can tweak everything from the UI to the source code, of course. I think that's the attraction of distributions ("distros") like PCLinuxOS — once it's installed and loaded, you sit back and go 'Wow, this looks good," or at least much better than I expected. Same for Fedora_7, where the artwork and graphics are really cool. SMALL POINT. In PCLinuxOS(?) or maybe it's KDE UI, you can set a navy logon screen that looks like a gray hand coming out of the darkness and pressing itself against your monitor's screen to verify your logon username and password instead of a traditional boot screen, and as it does so it pulses. Again, it's only eye candy, but it makes you say freakin' cool.

Darwin, please report back and tell us what you found. I suspect that WINE will run only the simpler Windows apps well, and something as complex as DOpus is going to suffer. But yea, I even wrote to Donald Lessau and asked: "If I won the lottery tomorrow, could I pay you to hire a staff and start writing a Linux version of XYplorer?" He said anything could happen (with enough cash set aside) — ha!! However, I figure it takes enough time to code a Windows program, much less a GNU/Linux one (Michael Rainey knows about this).
« Last Edit: June 07, 2007, 04:36:09 PM by zridling » Logged

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zridling
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« Reply #15 on: June 07, 2007, 04:44:12 PM »

Darwin, I'll talk about this in a later post, but there are some "Windows equivalent" software sites like these two around:

http://www.linuxalt.com/
http://www.linuxrsp.ru/win-lin-soft/table-eng.html

They will be a big help when I get to that point. I'll post 'Part 2' later tonight or by Friday morning and link to it in the top post here.
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« Reply #16 on: June 07, 2007, 04:55:38 PM »

Thanks Zaine. I've shied away from trying out DOpus under Wine because I want to make sure that their licensing policy will allow me to do it first and because I haven't read anything anywhere that indicates that it works! So far I've only loaded up EditPad Pro in Wine and it works, so far. The cursor has a stamp sized patch of black surrounding it until you change the colour scheme to white text on a black background. I'm tempted to try uedit as well, but none of these are priorities. As I noted in an earlier post, above, what seriously impresses me about Linux circa 2007 is that it's really pretty much load it and forget it. It's all there out of the box - e-mail, internet browser, office suite, CD/DVD authoring tools, musc and other media players and editors, graphics packages... the list goes on. DOpus or XYPlorer on Linux would be nice, but it's not a deal breaker for me. I'm sort of excited about finding Linux apps (I'm probably just feeding my software addiction!).

Anyway, I'll check out those links and will report back if and when I take a run at loading anything major under Wine. Thanks for starting the thread, Zaine - this is going to be interesting!
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« Reply #17 on: June 14, 2007, 01:48:30 PM »

edbro, I don't think Quicken will ever do that, or need to, unless some market research shows there's money to be made, much like Adobe won't write (or port) a version of Photoshop. Just not enough users to justify the ROI.

Never say never. They have already taken the first step:
Quote
Intuit takes QuickBooks Enterprise to Linux
http://blogs.zdnet.com/BTL/?p=5374
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« Reply #18 on: December 17, 2007, 06:16:41 PM »

apc recently published a superguide (22-10-2007): The Open Source Challenge. How to replace Windows completely with Ubuntu.
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