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Linux for Home Users

Hey Guys! Don't raise your eyebrows or fear by hearing the word Linux. It is as user friendly as windows. Just take a look at the articles below and all myths about Linux in your mind will disappear.

Introduction to Linux:

It's a free operating system available to download but you have to pay a tiny bit to mail order it or buy it from a company. Linux came into being about 11 years ago- it was developed by Linux Tornados of Finland along with a group of programmers from the open source software movement.

Linux is growing steadily year after year. With a passionate community backing it, with big companies Like IBM and HP pledging their support for it, it's no wonder Linux- the wonder operating system for servers of the past, has also made it to the desktops of today.

Linux is based on the commercial OS, UNIX. All the operating systems try to pack in command line management of systems. System administrators of companies use command lines all the times as their lifeline, but it's not really meant for regulars users.

Tips for Home Users:

  • If you want to get comfortable with Linux, you don't have to let go of windows. Get Linux installed on a separate partition and you can switch between Windows and Linux. For new users who don't have any computer background learning windows or Linux both takes same time and sitting.

  • It is suggested that new PC buyers should get both operating systems installed and should use them equally. If you're getting Linux for more than 2-3 PCs, you can also get training and support at a small free, if you choose to have it. Else it's the Linux community on the Net to your rescue.

  • You don't have to be a great computer user to work with Linux. There are Desktop environments that let you work in Linux as you work in Windows. As you work with windows, same is the case with Linux.

Linux hands in decreasing PC prices.

PC prices are already on their way down. And you get more choice with operating systems and applications. From being an OS only computer professionals had heard about, Linux, in a short time, has made a transition into the lucrative and high profile home PC segment.

The PCs bundle the operating system. Linux being a free open source operating system means that the code that runs is open for everyone to see, work with, modify and develop their own innovative applications for it. But this is nothing compared to the money people spend on Operating Systems like windows. And a company bundles Linux and applications based on it with a computer, quite a bit of the PC cost comes down. Presently some branded PC's coming with Linux are available for Rs: 25000/- onwards.

Linux is better than other OS

Linux users won't even bat an eyelid before they say an emphasis comes from a deep dislike of Microsoft's practice of changing the earth for software. But a lot of it comes from the fact they are ready to swear upon-that Linux is more stable. According to a latest survey Web Hosts are using Linux Based Servers for hosting purposes.

One note here though: the free in Linux stands for freedom of choice, to redistribute, to install a feature, freedom to modify the source code. That's the spirit of Linux being free.

Security:

Linux has a better security support for multi-users, lets you set up a stable server, internet gateways etc, and still lets it-self to be used as a desktop workstation. There are no blue screens and no viruses to speak of. It is rarely attacked by any viruses and there are very less number of viruses written for Linux. It can be given 10+ points on a 10 point scale for security.

Myths about Linux

Installation:

Linux is hard to install, isn't it? Not really. Most people haven't ever installed Windows on their computers either-since it comes preloaded. Linux is as easy-some say easier-to install compared to Windows. You can install it through a graphical user interface like Windows. These days Linux Versions are easier to install than Windows. But what really stumps most people in installing Linux on a second partition on their hard disk, when they want to be able to use both operating systems.

A partition is a way of organizing space on your hard disk by creating virtual sections that are separate from each other. Most computers that are running Windows or MS DOS have one large chunk of space holding the OS. This space is the C drive. If you have a large hard disk, it's likely that it has been divided up into smaller bits called partitions to help you organize your data better. These partitions are usually called D:, E: etc. you could have Linux on any of these.

Windows 98 creates a file system called FAT32 on the entire hard disk, DOS and Win95 use FAT16. Linux has many file systems-on the most popular is ext3. But you could have Linux installed on Fat32 partitions also.

Linux is very difficult and based on text command

Linux has come a long way from being the system of brilliant computer users. It has extremely advanced X Windows systems that have a complete graphical user interface-you know, like Windows. It also has a large number of window manager that let you work with different levels of customization of your desktop.

Linux has a robust character-cell interface where commands need to be typed in. x Windows is a free program that runs with Linux to provide a GUI where the mouse and keyboard can be used extensively. But the X system itself is quite primitive and needs a window manager, or a desktop environment- like GNOME or KDE- to be really usable. Window managers are programs that let you interact with the underlying X system and Linux OS by relaying commands. The popular window managers are Sawfish, Enlightenment, Black box, after step and Window maker.

As for desktop managers, they have their own window manager and other tools that make you feel that you are working in Window! GNOME and KDE are the most popular of these. GNOME stands for GNU Network Model Environment and KDE for K desktop Environment. They have tools that allow drag and drop, have panels and taskbar- almost like clones of windows.

Hardware compatibility problem and few applications that run on Linux

Well, most new distributions will detect and configure your hardware in a jiffy, unless you have some really old or exotic piece of hardware. All hardware are properly detected and their drivers installed. Only Win modems (internal modems driven by Window drivers) face problems.

As for software, there's plenty. And most of it comes free-free for you to use, modify and configure according to your needs. Almost all excellent software for Linux is free and you don't lose anything by giving it a try. You get free support on the Net quickly on any query you may have. And you don't even have to wipe out your Windows. Just get Linux on a different hard disk partition and free to switch between them as you please.

Other packages are commercial and you have to buy the software-but this is mostly for the software and training you need, and not for the software itself. Sometimes, if you have the Windows version (as a doom) you can download a small program that will allow you to play the game in Linux. The games in Linux are of very high quality and features. You'll enjoy them. Here what's available?

Office suites: Star Office, Open Office, Applixware, Corel WordPerfect

Graphics: GIMP, Corel Photo paint

Music: XMMS, Free amp, Real Player

Video: MTV, Xine

Games: FreeCiv, Tux racer, Doom, Quake, Heretic, Unreal And the list is growing.

Linux varieties for Home Users:

If there are so many people working on it. There's likely to be many Linux versions too. Many companies working on Linux have come up with what are called Linux distributions. There are Linux versions that are compiled and packaged and released with additional software.

RedHat: Probably the most popular and in many ways the leading version. It's currently in version 9. The installation and configuration is easy. A blue curve file manager and the default GNOME desktop make it look simply stunning. It comes with a host of tools that allow usage as a server and as a workstation. The Red Hat Package Manger(RPM) format developed by Red Hat has almost become the defector for software distribution in Linux world. Installing new software is a breeze. It also has an advanced and easy font management system that makes fonts in X Windows look cool.

Mandrake: Mandrake Linux is now in its 10 version. It can be installed on a native Windows Partition using the Lin4Win tool, but this may slow the machine down. It also lets you do a traditional Linux install into its own dedicated partition. Mandrake's configuration and software installation is painless. It follows a slightly modified RPM architecture called mdk.rpm but most Red Hat software can also be used for Mandrake. The outstanding feature in this version is the collection of window managers-eye-candy freaks will have a great time.

SUSE: From Germany comes the Chameleon, SUSE. Now in its 8.x avatar, it has one of the most extensive software packages compiled, and getting them installed is easy with yast (Yet another Software Tool) which gives a centralized interface from where you can pick and choose the software to be installed. Among other things, SUSE comes with some stunning 3D games that showcase Linux gamming prowess

Corel/Xandross: Corel entered the Linux market with Corel Linux a few years ago. Now it has merged into Xandross OS, which is based on Corel Linux. This is a Debian-type version, and can be installed without much fuss after resizing the Windows partition. Xandross contains Crossover office, which is a refined retail version of WINE that lets you install and run many Microsoft apps.

Windows applications in Linux

Some applications have been ported over to Linux, other run with a program called WINE (Wine is Not an Emulator). Crossover, commercially available software also lets you use your Windows programs on Linux. VMWare is another program that lets you run Windows under Linux. Now many software companies have started developing high end software for Linux.

Bottom Line:

The cool thing about Linux is that most software is free, and you can legitimately use them without worrying about piracy. If you're worried that Linux won't look as pretty as windows can, all you have to do is check out some of the cool Linux interfaces and Window managers. But you don't find a lot of multimedia titles for Linux. And if you're into a lot of these, Windows is in the way to go. So if you have a PC that runs both, you can easily switch between the two, and get the best of both worlds.

About The Author

Presently working in the capacity of the Technical Director of Birbals, an e-consulting firm based in India dedicated in providing innovative and effective web, Hospitality and consultancy services to public, private and non-profit organizations. Successfully founded Birbals and other IT companies like Ebirbals and SeoBirbals. Responsible for strategy, positioning and branding, designing, planning, organizing and executing various business plans. Have set up various systems and procedures for the smooth functioning of Birbals. pawan@ebirbals.com

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