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|Sep 5, 2005, 10:59 PM||#1|
HardwareHeaven Senior Member
Join Date: Dec 2004
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Starting off with Linux: Where to get it, what you need to start off with it
I've seen many "How can I start with Linux" threads that I've decided to put some basic advice in a sticky thread
Note that this post is targeted for NEW PEOPLE TO LINUX. I strongly believe that giving someone Gentoo or FreeBSD to start with is a VERY VERY BAD idea. This post is aimed in giving casual users and people who want to experience Linux instructions on how to get and setup popular and easy to use distributions. Once you feel more "at home" with the OS, you can get a more advanced distribution and tweak it to your heart's desire.
Additions to this guide are welcome, but please, bear in mind that suggestions similar to "tell'em to use gentoo, it rox for newbs" will be met by a firm NO.
Edited: Rewrote some parts of text here and there which were a bit obscure. Added a link to linux.org and wrote more about VMWare. I've now updated the VMWare section after No_Style's feedback on it. Thanks for the comments! Also, a link to the Ubuntu wiki and forums has been provided
OK so you're bored with Windows and want to try something new? Have no fear, Linux is a very good choice and has matured over the last years so that it can be easily used by home users. First off, you don't need to get rid of your Windows installation. Both Linux and Windows can happily coexist in the same computer, even in the same hard drive!
The whole philosophy of this OS it that it's open source and free. That's right! The source code of almost all applications is open to everyone, so that you can see how certain things are done or, if you're experienced, discover and fix a bug in the code or modify the program's behaviour so that it better suits your needs. Another great thing about Linux is that it comes in a lot of flavors, called distributions. Each distribution comes with different sets of tools and it is made with a different perspective, so YOU can choose which one suits you most. There are many popular and easy to use distributions for the masses, as well as more advanced ones which allow much greater customization, but require more in-depth knowledge of the operating system and are targeted at more advanced users.
Right, so let's get started! First of all, understand that you are using another operating system, and it's not Windows. You are used to some programs in Windows and the way some things are done. Linux is a different OS, so don't expect to know everything about it at once. Not all Windows programs are available under Linux, but there are many which are, plus there are many alternative choices for the programs not available under Linux. For example, you won't find Winamp under Linux, but you will find a very similar player, xmms. Note that it IS possible to run Windows applications under Linux, which will be discussed further down this post. Have a look at our sticky thread over here to see alternatives for programs you're using under Windows. A lot of the programs discussed in that thread are available both under Windows and Linux, so you can start playing with them under Windows . That way, you can use many similar programs under both OSes and have an easier time adapting to a new OS . A very good read on this subject is this DriverHeaven article on Open Source programs, written by Kombatant.
Let's get to business now. There are 3 ways of experiencing Linux, the easy, the normal and the virtual .
The easy way of trying Linux out is by playing with a Linux Live CD. This is a fully-featured operating system that requires no installation from your behalf. Just burn a live cd and boot your system from it and you'll have a new fully working OS to play with . Well-known live CDs are Ubuntu, Mepis and Knoppix. We had a thread about the "best live CD" in DriverHeaven in this thread. There's also a review of many live CDs here (thanks ChoGGi).
The second way (whish is the normal one) is to install Linux on your PC. Bear in mind that it is recommended to install Linux on a separate partition than your Windows installation, so you need to resize your Windows partition and create a new one for Linux. This can be done using Windows and Linux tools (the Linux installer comes with a very good partitioning program) and there is a discussion about partitions and Linux in this thread.
The third way is to play around with Linux under the very popular VMWare, particularly VMWare workstation. VMware Workstation allows users to run multiple x86-based operating systems, including Windows, Linux, and NetWare, and their applications simultaneously on a single PC in fully networked, portable virtual machines — no hard drive partitioning or rebooting required. So you can always play around with Linux without repartitioning your hard drive, and you can always bail out quickly to Windows if something goes wrong or if you need more help and can't go online through Linux. This solution requires very little hassle, plus you don't leave your windows desktop. You get to use static "virtual" hardware, so you will have less problems with drivers. Note though that some things might not work as expected - no emulation is perfect. Personally, I don't recommend this solution for a new user to Linux. Although it's faster and easier, you won't get to use your new OS. You just view it from the outside, without needing to use it at all and end up playing with it through Windows. For example, why bother finding out how to play an mp3 file from Linux, when you can just launch Media Player or WinAmp through Windows? You can do almost everything in Linux, but not necessarily in the same way as you do in Windows. I personally don't believe that an installation on a virtual machine will give a new user the initiative to start exploring Linux - it will just be viewed as another Windows application. Don't get me wrong here, I love VMWare, but I believe it's more suited for testing, not introducing someone to a new operating system.
Now that we saw how to install Linux, let's explore our available options. We have already discussed about the LiveCD versions, so it's time to talk about the regular ones. As mentioned before, there are many available distributions so you can choose the one you like. For a beginner to Linux, some distributions are a bit easier to use than others, since they are targeted at new users. I would recommend Ubuntu Linux as the distribution to start from as it's small, organized and very easy to install and use. It includes all the basics you'll need and it's great for new users. The second distribution I'd suggest for new Linux users is Fedora, which is a very well known and user friendly distribution, supported by RedHat (a very known company in the Linux world). Also, Mandriva and Xandros are both very good and user friendly. The best place to visit in order to decide which distro is best for you is DistroWatch, especially it's top ten distributions page.
Once you got yourself familiarized with a well-known distribution, you can move on to other more different or advanced ones. The vanilla Debian distro and FreeBSD are a bit different. Not hard, but different (some people like them more, some don't). Note that FreeBSD is not based on the same kernel as Linux, but it's very similar.
Moving on to the "hard" distributions, there's Slackware, which is more "Unix-like" and great for "old school" users and Gentoo. Gentoo is THE choice if you want to build your OS from scratch just the way you like it. You have the latest versions of everything easily and quickly, and you can customize everything. It's the recommended distribution for advanced users that have a basic grasp of Linux Operating Systems. However, bear in mind that it's not for the faint of heart. Be ready to read through a lot of instructions before you understand what you're doing and how to proceed. And note that you will be compiling everything from scratch, so that means that the installation can take many hours to complete (depending on the installation level you got, the things you want to build and of course the power of your PC).
There are many more distributions out there. Again, the best places to look are DistroWatch and linux.org, which can greatly help you in deciding which one to choose.
Now that you've installed your Linux distro, you're likely to have many questions. Ask away in the Linux forums of DriverHeaven, or refer to the manual pages available in Linux, or read some of the many FAQs and guides available on the Internet. Ubuntu has a very good wiki and forums - try those first. The Fedora FAQ is a good place to read about common questions concerning Linux. The Linux Documentation Project (TLDP) contains a lot of faqs and guides on doing many tasks under Linux. A lot of your questions can be answered with the help of those guides. Remember that there are a lot of resources in our sticky thread, including popular programs you can install and play with plus more ways to get help
A great thing to know is that it is possible to install some of your favorite Windows programs and games under Linux. For programs, you can have a look at the very popular and free Wine project, which is an Open Source implementation of the Windows API on top of X and Unix. Many programs run fine with it with quite good speed, but some don't run as they should. You can always use the very popular VMWare to have a Windows OS available under it, however that way you're not running your programs under Linux, you will just have a full featured virtual computer that will run Windows, where your programs will run. Not a very fast solution, but it almost always works for programs you can't use with Wine.
Finally, you can install your Windows games under Linux using Cedega, however it's not free and requires a registration fee. I haven't used Cedega, so I don't know if it's good or not, but I have heard that it's quite good for most games. Bear in mind that running a game under Cedega can be slower than running it natively under Windows.