Language Selection

English French German Italian Portuguese Spanish

Learning to love the penguin

Filed under
Linux

There may be one single penguin as the mascot for Linux, but there are countless Linuxes -- different versions that aim to fulfill different niches.

Some function as printer servers, while others as digital video recorders. And then there are also the large versions, complete with easy-to-use installation routines and large software packages.

There are so many choices, in fact, that those interested in making the switch to Linux for the first time will likely be overwhelmed with the choices.

The key factor in untangling the options is understanding how much prior knowledge one brings to the process, says Daniel Riek from Linux developer and distributor Red Hat.

"Anyone who can install Windows can install Linux, too," Riek says. He recommends, however, that new users choose a Linux distribution to which they have some connection.

It can be a real help, for instance, if a friend already knows his or her way around the same Linux package and can give advice in a pinch.

Andreas Gebhard, spokesman for the LinuxTag trade fair that recently took place in Karlsruhe, Germany, recommends a different approach.

"I would begin with the hardware," Gebhard says. Not all hardware makers provide drivers for Linux, since software is often only published after some delay, which means that new hardware is not supported.

Compared to just a year ago, the problem of missing Linux drivers for particular hardware peripherals has gotten better. But peripherals like TV cards and card readers can still present problems, says Oliver Diedrich from the computer magazine c't.

When in doubt, always inquire with the manufacturer of a hardware device, such as a graphics card, to ensure that drivers exist for any Linux iteration you plan to use.

There are other possibilities for determining whether Linux will run on an existing computer. One can test a so-called "Live Linux" like Knoppix or Kanotix.

These execute the Linux system exclusively from CD or DVD, without requiring a full installation. This allows one to see whether everything functions without actually tampering with the system, says Andreas Gebhard.

Users can then later go on the prowl for a Linux distribution to install permanently.

In Germany, for example, Suse Linux Professional enjoys wide distribution. The current version 9,3 comes with thick manuals and costs around $80 in stores.

This is cheap compared with Windows XP, particularly if one factors in the amount of software that comes included. Yet there are also many distributions like Fedora Cora, supported by Red Hat, that are free of charge.

"The advantage of Suse comes through its support," Gebhard says. Yet users of other distributions are not necessarily left to their own resources if problems surface. One of the advantages of Fedora Core is its large community of users, says Daniel Riek.

This community offers users both answers to problems and software updates. Oliver Dietrich from c't points out that Linux groups can now be found in every large city, usually with regular meetings. These users are knowledgeable enough to work through any problems with the operating system.

Advanced Linux users often reach for distributions from Debian, which unlike Suse or Mandriva has no corporation behind it. This means that there is no risk that a distribution will ever be restricted, Gebhard claims.

Another alternative is Ubuntu, which is based on Debian but is intended for Linux beginners. Like Debian, it is available for free on the internet.

The distributions often differentiate themselves through their included software packages. Multimedia and office applications as well as browsers and e-mail programs are considered standard, Gebhard claims.

The different distributors nevertheless often offer different programs. No current Linux distribution replays copy-protected DVD films on a computer, explains Oliver Dietrich. The problem is not a technical one.

To include the software, distributors would need to pay high license fees to the film studios.

There are currently two graphic interfaces available for Linux: Gnome and KDE. Some distributions allow the user to choose either of the possibilities; others rely on either one of the two interfaces (such as Gnome for Ubuntu).

"Which one is used is a question of personal taste," Dietrich says.

Linspire goes out of its way to ease the switch from Windows to Linux. It is based on Debian, but its interface looks very much like Windows XP.

Most distributions can also be easily run parallel to an existing Windows installation so that you can "jump" between the systems. Suse Linux, for example, automatically reduces Windows' partition down to the size that it really needs on the hard drive.

"I would make a backup ahead of time in any case," Dietrich recommends. If the power goes out during an installation, the files on the hard drive could potentially be irretrievably lost.

By Patrick Fauss
M&G Online

More in Tux Machines

Videos: Akademy 2017 Talk, Upgrading Linux Mint, This Week in Linux

  • Akademy 2017 talk
    The talk by Jean-Baptiste Mardelle’s at Akademy 2017 is released along with many other interesting talks. Akademy is the annual world summit of KDE, one of the largest Free Software communities in the world. It is a free, non-commercial event organized by the KDE Community.
  • How To In-place Upgrade Linux Mint
    This video shows how to upgrade Linux Mint from 17.3 to 18.3 while keeping all of your personal data intact. Please be sure to give EzeeLinux a ‘Like’ on Facebook! Thanks! Also check out http://www.ezeelinux.com for more about Linux.
  • Linux Kernel 4.14, Firefox Quantum, Fedora 27, Munich? Meh | This Week in Linux 14
    On this episode of This Week in Linux. The first 6 Year LTS Linux Kernel was released this week. Huge Update from Mozilla with Firefox Quantum. New distro releases from Fedora and Slax.

LibreELEC (Krypton) v8.2.1 MR

LibreELEC 8.2.1 is a maintenance release that includes Kodi 17.6. It also resolves a minor time-zone issue after recent daylight saving changes, a resume from suspend issue with the Apple IR driver, and it provides two new SMB client configuration options in Kodi settings. You can now set a minimum SMB protocol version to prevent prevent SMB1 from ever being used, and a ‘legacy security’ option forces weak authentication to resolve issues seen with the USB sharing functions on some older router/NAS devices. If updating to LibreELEC 8.2 for the first time PLEASE READ THE RELEASE NOTES below here before posting issues in the forums as there are disruptive changes to Lirc, Samba, and Tvheadend. Read more

Microsoft Worker Leaves for Google, Criticizes Post-Windows Vista Dev Strategy

Microsoft employee Tim Sneath, who spent no less than 17 years with the company, announced in a blog post that he’s leaving the software giant to work for Google on the new Flutter mobile framework. Sneath started his post by emphasizing how great Microsoft is, explaining that he company has “incredibly diverse interests” and is “filled with talented people.” Despite the good parts, however, the former Microsoft Program Manager who worked on a series of projects for developers, discussed what he described as the “missteps” that the Redmond-based software giant embraced beginning with the Windows Vista era. Read more Also: ‘Goodbye Microsoft, hello Linux’

LiFT Scholarship Recipients Advance Open Source Around the World

Fifteen people from 13 different countries have received Linux Foundation Training Scholarships (LiFT) in the category of Linux Newbies. This year, 27 people received scholarships across all categories — the most ever awarded by the Foundation. Now in its seventh year, the program awards training scholarships to current and aspiring IT professionals worldwide who may not otherwise have the means for specialized training. The Foundation has awarded 75 scholarships worth more than $168,000 since the program began. Read more