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Switching From Windows To Linux

Well, for me right now, it is 3:38 in the morning, and I can't sleep. A little bit of insomnia, mainly due to my throat being dry, my nose being clogged, and my toes itching. I also can't get much more than 6 or 7 hours of sleep, and I went to bed at 10pm last night, which for me is really early. Normally, it's midnight or 1am.

So, why not blog? Do something constructive with my time? First, I am still fiddling with themes. I am not crazy about this whole forest looking theme, but it isn't bad and has potential for fixing. However, it will most likely just get replaced.

Next, I had a good conversation yesterday with a buddy of mine at work. We talked about how first we lived within a mile of each other growing up, and after I got married, and moved to Logan, we lived within another mile of each other there. Yet with all of our similar interests in Linux and such, we don't meet until we have the same job in Murray. Oh well.

Our conversation drifted to the various flavors of Linux that we have used and why we use them. Ultimately, we came to the same conclusion about moving to Linux from Windows. Use SuSE, or Mandriva (formally known as Mandrake), or Mepis, or Linspire. However, Debian, Slackware, Gentoo, Fedora Core and even Ubuntu aren't for the new Windows convert. Even if a couple of those aren't really that difficult to learn.

You see, for the longest time, there were three main issues for Windows users learning Linux. These three main problems exist in a number of distros today, but for the most part, it has come a long way. They are:

  1. Hardware recongnition, configuration and drivers.
  2. Software dependancies.
  3. 5 CD installations.

Hardware recognition, configuration and drivers. Basically, plug-and-play. Just 3-4 years ago, this only worked if you were using certain hardware on a certain architecture with a certain distro. 5-6 years ago, it was even worse, as laptops were barely supported. More than 6 years ago, forget it. You were left to your own devices on how to figure out how to get your hardware to work. Writing shell scripts, downloading rpms and tar files, and a number of other things were your day-to-day.

Now, however, I would say 90% of Linux distros just get your hardware working with the exception of some video cards and wireless. This is thanks to the many updates of the Linux kernel, and more hardware drivers being included in the initiall install. Still, with that said, Linux isn't up to par with Windows when it comes to hardware drivers as a whole. Not all distros, albeit some will, will allow to plug in your iPod, PDA or digital camera, and just start using it. You may have some configurations ahead of you. However, this is generally the exception versus the majority.

Software dependancies. This, I think, was the #1 reason why most people have a bad taste in their mouth about Linux. Slackware was the first commercial Linux on the scene, and you just had to know what software packages you needed when downloading or installing the software you needed. At first, it was a pain, but the more you installed, the less of a headache it became as chances were, you already had the dependancies installed from a previous software installation. But even at that, some software packages conflicted with others. What's worse, is every Linux distro followed suit, until Red Hat came up with RPMs.

RPMs were designed to help with the conflict of software packages. They were also designed to make installing and uninstalling software much easier than the Slackware ways. However, RPMs immediately began having problems with documentation, outdated software, and inconsistencies between distros (Mandrake and SuSE, plus many others, use RPMs). RPMs also didn't get the dependancies you software needed. You still had to download them yourself. Some solutions have come forth, such as urpmi, but overall, RPMs still hold many of the same problems today.

Debian solved this dependancy issue with apt-get, and Gentoo solved it with emerge. Today, apt-get and emerge remain as the singular most effective way to get the software you need installed, and never worry an iota about the dependancies. With this major step forward, Linux is becoming increasingly easier to use. Frankly, because of apt-get, I will never use another distro but Debian-based, such as Ubuntu. Gentoo still needs some work before I make the plunge that direction.

5 CD install. Yes, this is a MAJOR problem with Linux. Who on earth thought that it would be cool to add each and every open source application into one distro install. Because of these many CDs, it takes 2-3 hours to do a complete install, if you decide to install everything on the CDs. This is many distros' way of solving package dependancies also. The mode of thinking is, if you install everything on these 4 or 5 disks, you will never have to worry about dependancies. While that may be true, to some extent, the time it takes and the hard drive space it takes up just is NOT worth it.

Another reason why I, and so many other users, have switched to Debian, Ubuntu and Gentoo. One CD is all I need, and I can grab everything else from the 'net. This may not be feasable to some, due to either lack of a 'net connection, or a slow connection. However, enough software resides on a single CD to the get the average user up and running just fine without ever needing to go to the 'net for more software.

In conclusion, Linux has made leaps and bounds towards the direction of converting Windows users. Despite what the Windows community may say, however, Linux is not trying to become a Windows clone, but rather, make it easier using standard rules for the average user. We are talking about the average, everyday user too- not the average web, network or mail adminstrator.

As mentioned earlier, the best distros for the average Windows convert would be SuSE, Mandriva, Mepis or Linspire. These distros are trying to become Windows clones, but they do have their headaches associated with it, such as a 4 or 5 CD install. However, all of your hardware will work out of the box, and you generally won't have to worry about dependancies.

Finally, here is a great flash piece about being a Linux user. I thought it might be appropriate, due to the content of this post.

Switch To Linux

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