Making the Jump from Windows to Linux
Making the jump from Microsoft Windows to Linux can be a scary thought. Questions like "how will I do what I do now" and "what software will help me complete my every day tasks" fill a persons head. Installing Linux on a machine is not the difficult part, and it actually takes less time than any Windows install. Replacing the software can be a more daunting task. However, there are alternatives to most applications, and the vast majority are free and easy to install.
For now, we will be looking at a flavor of Linux called Ubuntu. The term "Flavor" is used by the Linux community to describe the many different Linux distributions available. This is not the same as the different version of Windows, as many flavors have been around for years and are continuously updated. I chose to discuss Ubuntu only because of its incredible package manager that allows for quick and easy installation of thousands of useful applications. Most flavors have some sort of package manager so the process is just as easy.
Today it appears that the most important activity on most computers is accessing the Internet. Many in the Microsoft world will use Internet Explorer and whatever email program Microsoft bundled with their latest operating system. In Linux, chances are these programs will not work, and luckily there are solutions, better solutions, already built in to most installs:
- Web Browsing - use FireFox or Google Chrome
- E-mail - use Thunderbird, Evolution, and many others
Many other Internet enabled applications are also supported on Linux, including software like Google Earth and most file sharing and torrent applications. The trick is to find them. I will cover that a little later in this hub.
The majority of Windows users are likely using one version of Microsoft Office or another. Though there are ways to get older versions of MS Office working through the Wine windows emulator in Linux, there is also a free option known as Open Office, which includes a clone of most MS Office applications. Wait, did I say free? Yep, and easy to install too, but I will cover that in a few moments.
Is Open Office the same as Microsoft Office? Yes, and no. Yes, because it includes all of the basic applications in MS Office. No, because several things are different, some better, some not. It will take some time for the veteran MS Office user to become proficient in Open Office, but it also took that person time to become proficient in MS Office. Sorry folks, changing operating systems is going to require at least a small amount of effort, and a little more learning, but it can be done - and for free.
Unfortunately, the vast majority of games created for Windows will not work under a Linux installation. This means the hard-core gamer is going to be stuck either with Windows, or with a dual boot system to get his or her fix. However, there are a myriad of games available for Linux, many of them free, and many of them very easy to install. Besides, with so many games available on-line, the operating system no longer matters.
A word of caution however. Although there are several first-person shooters available for Linux, and several ways to get games like Quake and Doom to run on Linux, you will still need the same hardware that Windows needs, and about the same amount of memory. A hardware graphics accelerator is a must for games in just about any operating system.
As I said above, I am going to focus on Ubuntu, which uses the Synaptic Package Manager for installing and upgrading applications. The package manager is found under the "System" → "Administration" menu. You will likely need to enter your administrator password to open this.
The package manager will list applications in a number of categories, and in the top right corner is a search option. You can use these at the same time. For example, find the Games category, then search for any keyword, like first-person shooter. You will get a list of games, with descriptions. If you click on a game you can get more detail, and often you can download a screen-shot.
To install applications, you need to click on the check-box in the left most column. Often this will bring up a window showing other files and applications, known in Linux as "dependencies", that need to be installed as well. The package manager knows what is needed, and in what order to install them. You can install an unlimited number of applications at once, so select everything you see that you might want to try.
Once you have everything selected, click on the Apply icon at the top of the window. This will download any files that are needed, then install all of your applications and dependencies. The process time will vary based on the number of downloads, and the size of the applications. Obviously, since this action will download the necessary files, you will need to be connected to the Internet.
When the process is complete, most, if not all, of your applications will be added to your Applications menu. Some may not, and you will need to do a little research on how to access those applications.
Now that you know how to install applications, you will likely go hog wild and install anything that appeals to you. Eventually, you will find something that either does not work on your system, or that you decide you do not want. Removing those applications is also done in the Package Manager.
You can sort the list of applications by clicking on the column headings in the list. By clicking on the "Installed Version" column header twice, you can list all of the installed applications at the top of the list. Search through this list to find the applications you want to remove. You can also restrict the list to any category in the left panel.
To remove an application, click on the green square in the leftmost column. You will get several options:
- Mark for Removal: This option will remove the application files.
- Mark for Complete Removal: This option will also remove any configuration files for the application.
- Mark for Reinstallation: If your application is not working or stopped working, you can attempt to reinstall it.
You may notice that when you select an application that had dependencies when it was installed, the additional files that were installed are not also checked. This is because some dependencies work for many applications, and removing them may cause other applications to stop working. Many games have the application file, and other files such as a common and a data file. You will need to mark these individually to remove those files.
Once you have the files marked that you wish to remove, click on the "Apply" button at the top of the window. By the way, you can install and remove applications during the same process. This means you can add one game while removing the other.
Is that it?
For the most part, yes, that is it. However, remember that things will work very different. Menus and screens will be different. How you open and close applications will be different. Where things are stored will be different.
If you plan to make the jump, you must also plan some time to learn the new layout and familiarize yourself with the changes. I have listed two books here that are great resources for the first time Linux user.
Remember to take your time. It took you a while to learn how to use Windows, and at least you have the basics this time. I am positive you can easily transition into an avid Linux user if you just take some time and learn to understand what is different, and why it is better.