I have considered writing this little guide / article, because I have been busy with a lot of those questions myself lately.
I have just recently installed a Linux distribution as second operating system, after having considered this for almost a year. I ended up reading a lot On-line and bought a magazine covering a special issue on installing openSuse / Ubuntu (as they are currently the most popular Distributions in Germany). I settled for openSuse, but downloaded the latest Version.
Surely I had the same amount of questions as anyone else here and had to look about a bit. I just thought that I try to ease your first steps into the Linux world by writing this little article.
Table of Contents
- So what is this Linux anyway?
- What type of Linux to use / which flavour to choose?
- Not sure yet which one to settle on? Use LiveDistros!
- Screenshots - get a feel what a distro looks like
- Where to download Linux?
- Is Linux free?
- Do Windows programs run on Linux?
- Free On-line Magazines
So you have read and heard a lot about Linux, but are not really sure what this Linux is after all? The term "Linux" really is a result out of Linus Torvalds initiation of an operating system based on Minix, which he originally called "Freax" ( a combination of "free" and freak", where the letter "X" was intended to indicate its origin in Unix based systems. ). Now Linus Torvalds friend who administered his FTP for him however, made a directory called "Linux"  on the server for users to download Torvalds kernel. Thus the name was born.
But what exactly is it? As already mentioned it is a Unix-like operating system, which uses Linus Torvalds initiated Linux-kernel. It has gained so much attention and development, because Linus Torvalds made the source code for his kernel for anyone available for use, modification, and redistribution.
There is also a GNU/Linux operating system, which is a Unix-like operating system using the Linux kernel, but also uses GNU system software.
Linux originated in the hands of a few "freaks" who wanted to create an operating system which was free of charge and for anyone to use. Nowadays a lot of corporations and governments have started to use and support Linux. Best example in Germany is the recent switching of Munich , creating its own Debian based system called LiMux."
If you wish to know more about the history of Linux and GNU, please refer to the bottom of the article where the references are listed.
What type of Linux to use / which flavour to choose?
Compared to Windows and Macintosh (often referred to as "Mac"), Linux has a rather huge variety of "flavours" which we call distributions in this case.
Reason being is that Windows and Mac are not free of charge and only one group is developing the operating system at one time. So you often have a maximum of two operating systems each on the market. However, since Linux is free and may be redistributed, shared and edited by anyone, a lot of "offspring" have been created with different focuses as main objective.
This is where the term "flavour" comes in really. You may have distributions orienting themselves towards the following user-types, or types of use:
general public; security enhanced; embedded; minimalist; offspring (Debian-, Redhat-, Fedora Core-based distributions); as well as personal-, business-, power-, liveCD-usage.
Now this brings the difficulty of deciding, which one to take . Of course this is a rather personal decision and users on this board, or anywhere else can only say what they think is best for a beginner to chose. Hence I will try to concentrate on Linux.com / distrowatch.com and some other source which will be listed in the references list.
A lot of you may fear that your new PCs hardware will not be recognised correctly. This should not be too much of a problem these days, as the support for the major distributions seems to have caught up on this too. However, if you wish to be on the safe side, then it is best to concentrate on the major distributions such as openSuse, Ubuntu (or one of its offspring), or Mandriva. If you wish to have something that is close to the look and feel of windows, you will have to use Freespire or Xandros. I have also been told that PCLinuxOs is a good starting point too. I trust the "source" and ask you to please visit the site too and make your own decision (I do not know it at all to judge) PCLinuxOS home page (thanks raw).
Not sure yet which one to settle on? Use LiveDistros!
If you do not have a flat rate with your ISP (Internet Service Provider) and want to try different flavours of Linux, a good idea is to use the LiveDistros (LiveCDs and LiveDVDs) supplied with the major Linux or PC Magazines. However, if you do have a flat-rate and want to download these, have a look at this link.
LiveDistro basically means that you download the operating system on to a CD or DVD and you can run it from the medium without having to go through the process of adding and removing an additional operating system to the live system. Once you have decided, you may want to download either a installable CD/DVD/netInstall package.
I just found another cool tool to compare two distros with each other (currently 16 Distros to choose from afaik): Polishlinux Distro Comparison
Screenshots - get a feel what a distro looks like
If you wish to have a look at how the different Linux distributions look like, there are a few websites that are dedicated to hosting various screenshots of the different distributions:Where to download Linux?
Usually you will find links to current stable and unstable releases on the distributions homepage. There is however also the possibility of downloading the distributions via sites such as: http://www.linux.org/dist/ and http://distrowatch.com/ or as torrents via: The Linux Mirror Project or Linuxtracker.
Is Linux free?
Linux, as mentioned above is open source, freeware. To clarify this, often the term "Free as in free speech, not free beer" is found. This basically means that no one is allowed to charge for a Linux distribution itself, but rather for: professional user support (such as hotline), printed manuals, software delivered on CD / DVD, as well as inclusion of some proprietary products / drivers / codecs etc. pp.
Do Windows programs run on Linux?
One thing that is also important to know is that Windows works differently to Linux. This implies that your Windows software will not work on your Linux distribution. At least not without a tiny bit of help through additional software. But first, lets just explain why this is so.
Linux does not use file name extensions (such as exe, bat, com, etc.) per se. You can "run" any file in Linux. This is due to the fact that in Linux, the file's header contents is examined and used to determine the file type and what to do with it.
In Microsoft Windows, the file name extension is needed, for the system to operate. If a file has no extension, the system does not know what to do with it  . Now There are a few lists such as this or this, which offer you a good overview of what alternatives there are.
If there is no alternative, one last thing you can try to do is to run Wine. Have a look at the site and a read of the "about" part, which explains Wine's function very well.
Frequently Asked Questions (aka FAQs)
So here goes a list of links from the roughly quadrillion out there you can find on
Google / Yahoo!, or which ever search-engine you prefer.
- The Linux Faq
- GNU/Linux Faq
- KDE Faq
- GNOME Faq
- Official Suse Faq
- unofficial Suse Faq
- Official Ubuntu Faq
- Ubuntu Wiki
- Mandrake / Mandriva Linux Faq
- Unofficial Madriva Faq
- Linuxforums - Forum and Articles
- Ubuntu Forums
- Suse Linux
- Mandriva Club
Signing up at one of the forums, or here at BC , to be able to ask questions is one of the most important steps when switching over to Linux. Switching from Windows to Linux is quite a big step and dreaded by a lot of Windows users.
To ease the transmission from Windows to Linux and to be able to receive the most up-to-date information and an additional / alternate source for asking questions. Now there are different means of communication: Books
This section should be filled with suggested topic relevant books as time goes by. To make a start, I am gonna name the book that I got suggested to buy covering all aspects of Linux (distribution independent).
- "Linux - installation, configuration, usage" - open source library; Addisson-Wesley; Michael Kofler; ISBN-13: 978-3-8273-2446-7;
Covers: All aspects of Linux and also covers some major distris in the addendum.
(The english version is only at second edition, however the book i own, is up to edition 7).
- "Linux Phrasebook" - Developer's Library; Essential Code and Commands; Scott Granneman; ISBN-13: 978-0672328381; (BlackSpyder)
Covers: Helps Demystify the Command Line by explaining commands
- "Linux Desktop Pocket Guide" - Pocket Guide; O' Reilly; David Brickner; ISBN-13: 978-0596101046; (BlackSpyder)
Covers: Intro into GNOME and KDE usings many popular distros
- "Linux for Dummies" - For Dummies; Dee-Ann LeBlanc; ISBN-13: 978-0471752820; (BlackSpyder)
Covers: Basic Intro to Linux
- "Hacking Ubuntu" - Wiley; Neal Krawetz; ISBN-13: 978-0470108727; (BlackSpyder)
Covers: Tweaking and tuning your Ubuntu PC
This section should be filled with suggested topic relevant electronic-books (e-books; books hosted for reading on-line or as downloadable file) as time goes by.
- "Linux - Rute User's Tutorial & Exposition" - Paul Sheer; Open Source Technology Series; (cybormoron)
- "The Cathedral and the Bazaar" - Eric Steven Raymond; (cybormoron)
- Free Computer Books - Collection of (cybormoron)
- Linuxtopia - Free On-line Linux Books... (cybormoron)
- "Unix Unleashed" - Sams Publishing; (cybormoron)
This section should be filled with suggested topic relevant On-line magazines as time goes by.Conclusion
In this short article or tutorial, I tried to give some directions and information for users that are considering switching to Linux. There is a lot of informing and choices to be done at the beginning, but I am sure that you will enjoy the experience in the long run.
My major reasoning for switching to Linux were probably the constant security holes on Windows, the thought of using opensource software, and finally the vast amount of programs out there in opensource world. A great article I just found and which sums it up real nicely is this one TuxMagazine.
This article is written out of the pure curiosity of the "new" - Linux. Aiming at those that face(d) the same problems as I did when starting to finally consider making the step. I am by no means done with switching from one operating system to the other myself, but these above mentioned steps have helped me getting started, so I just wanted to make it easier for you to have such a smooth start into this new world called "Linux", just as I had.
Now there is only one last thing to say: HAVE FUN!
- wiki Unix
- wiki GNU
- Bloomberg News
- wiki Limux
- ThLinuxMirror Distributions
- forums.suselinuxsupport.de/ (English)
- wiki Internet_Relay_Chat
- wiki Usenet_newsgroup
- Ubuntu lists
- Ununtu IRC
- IBM roadmap
- LQ Linux Screenshots
- Lynucs - seeing is believing
- "Linux - Rute User's Tutorial & Exposition"
- "The Cathedral and the Bazaar"
- Free Computer Books - Collection of
- Linuxtopia - Free On-line Linux Books...
- "Unix Unleashed"
- Free online magazines dedicated to GNU/Linux and Open Source - A selection of
This article is by no means complete and is only aimed at giving you assistance with your first "baby-steps" in the world of Linux. I do not claim responsibility if you come across problems with your installation of Linux and have failed to make backups.
This article was mainly written for Bleepingcomputer.com, but I however reserve the right to also publish this article on my personal homepage. Copying this post without asking permission of Bleepingcomputer / myself is not allowed.
Any comments / suggestions on further expanding this article are appreciated. If you have any comments or ideas how to add some more details that might be of interest, please contact me via the forum PM system.
Hope this guide is a bit of help.
# Links in no particular order at time of writing (January 07)
# updated links and some additional things at time of publishing (July 14, 07)
# added section "Books" (July 15, 07)
# added section "E-Books", "Screenshots", "Free On-line magazines" (July 15, 07)
Edited by Yourhighness, 15 July 2007 - 02:43 AM.