Sunday, March 16, 2008

Beginning Linux

I find I'm recently getting inquiries from various friends and business associates who say they want to try Linux. So I thought I'll post about it here. I'm not an expert by any means, and it's late at night and I need to catch some zzz's, but hopefully this post might help some.

So far I've used three Linux
distributions (or distros): Xandros, Ubuntu and Gentoo.

Before I continue, the word distro just inspired me to write this post on my other blog:

Anywhoo, back to my Linux experience.

1) Xandros is very Window-like. It was a good transition for someone like myself coming from Windows. However it is a very minor distro and the community is not very large. A large community results in more standards, more ports of drivers etc. so it is more usable, and there is more support. Of course the Linux kernel is the same regardless of distribution and thus most drivers should work across the board, but in practice most non-hardcore users are helped greatly by distribution-specific installers and availability on package managers.

2) Ubuntu was very pleasant. It has a great GUI and a large community.

Of course the GUI, like anything else in Linux, is customizable in any distribution, but in this post I am only interested in describing the state of things as they are out of the box. That is the audience for whom I write, and compared to whom I am not all that much ahead on the curve either.

I can't recall what may have been any minus points with Ubuntu. Of course, compared to Windows, there are several usability drawbacks stemming from the lack of drivers or application software for some specific pieces of equipment like printers, cell phone, iPod, etc.

3) Gentoo is not pleasant. I only use it because I have to for one of my clients. It is very bare-bones. The installation of major packages is extremely time-consuming because its package manager doesn't have binaries, just source so EVERYTHING has to be compiled. Firefox took ages to compile (whereas in Ubuntu I think it was available right out of the box). I've heard that installing and setting up OpenOffice can take a good chunk of your day. Some people like this DIY approach but I certainly have better things to do.

Of course the advantage is that you only end up with exactly what you want or need. Such zen-like minimalism may be aesthetically pleasing but let's face it, hard disk space is a cheap commodity, heading inexorably toward dirt-cheap-dom, whereas for me (and doubtless you too) time just gets more and more precious.

I will write more going forward on Linux, and hopefully this is a helpful start for some.

1 comment:

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