Carnifex’s Field Guide to using Linux

I have been using Linux for a long time, I booted to my first Linux floppy disk in 1992 and installed Slackware on my system for the first time that same year. I compiled my first kernel in 1994, it took 18 hours on my AST 386 SX/2. I dual booted with Windows until 1998 when I started using Linux full time. I have used Slackware, RedHat, Coral, Debian, Fedora, CentOS, Gentoo, Linux From Scratch, Ubuntu, Mint and experimented with half dozen others over the years. I am not and never have been a Linux power user, my primary use has been that of a hobbyist and a casual user.  So if you are considering the move to Linux, here are some beginner tips that will make your life and mine easier.

Do your research: Do some reading, decide what you want to use Linux for and choose a distribution that best suites your needs. If you are using AutoCAD on a $5000 workstation, use RedHat. If you are building a server, use CentOS. If you are a looking to learn Linux for a future career, use Arch Linux or Linux from Scratch. While you are at it, every Linux distribution has a hardware compatibility list, please spend 10 minutes looking at it and verifying your hardware will work properly on your computer. Don’t be afraid to admit Linux is just not for you, this decision is best made at this stage rather than after you have formatted your hard drive.

Do your research part 2: Make sure the distro you pick has applications for everything you want to do. Web browser is a no brainer, but if you spend hours using the Kindle App to read ebooks on your laptop, you are going to be very disappointed in Linux. You also need to understand that even if Linux does have a program for doing what you want, it will likely work differently than the Windows program you are currently using, so it is a good idea to see if there is a Windows version of the program, install it and make sure it is usable to you. Finally, If you want to play AAA games, you need to stick with Windows.

Just use Ubuntu: Having said twice now, to do some reading, 99% of you are probably just using it for normal day to day activities like web browsing, email and such. Just use Ubuntu, don’t try to be a superhero, or prove your nerd cred, just go with Ubuntu and call it a day. It is easy to install, works with most hardware and has a lot of reasonable newbie friendly defaults. I use Ubuntu on my Raspberry Pi as a development platform, I use it on my servers and I use it as my desktop OS, it just works.

Use the LTS releases: No one likes to install a new OS every 6 months, no one likes to be a beta tester, Use the Long Term Support (LTS) releases, they come out every two years, are better supported and are more stable.

Virtual Machines are your friend: Virtualbox is free for personal use, download it, install it and use it to install Linux before you wipe your hard drive. It will give you a chance to walk through the install so you know what to expect and lets you google anything you don’t understand. It also lets you use Linux and try out those programs you might not be familiar with.

Don’t be knob: When you ask a friend to help you install Linux and they spend 4 hours at your house helping you install it and getting your desktop the way you like it, don’t format and reinstall Windows 2 days later because you can’t figure out how to unzip a file. Go to Google and spend the 5 minutes it will take you to find the answer. If you are not willing to put in the time to learn a new OS, don’t waste my time.

Consider buying a system with Linux pre-installed: Most all the big OEM computer makers sell Linux machines, there are also several small companies that specialize in Linux systems. The big advantage to this is they will sort out the hardware for you, install Linux for you and provide you with support when you need it. If you really do not need all the bells and whistles, consider buying a Chromebook, it is Linux in its simplest form.

 

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