Switching from Windows to GNU/Linux (a newbie’s guide) part one

Posted: April 11, 2008 in Generally Speaking..
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

So, you have decided to be rid of your not so Micro-software and jump into the GNU/Linux world…Great!  The problem is that you are a complete newbie or a Windows refugee…That’s okay!  Linux takes everyone and just about every kind of computer you might have.  You have heard many rumors, no doubt, like “Linux is sooo hard to learn!” or “You can’t do nearly as many things with Linux as you can with Windoze” or some other such thing..
So let’s start off with some clearing of the air about GNU/Linux…
Question and Answer time:
1.  Um, what is GNU/Linux? And what is a GNU?
—It all began with Unix, an operating system for which all the internet was made from.  Taking the Unix system and developing it (freely!!), the GNU project (which stands for Gnu’s not unix) was published in 1985.  Being a not quite complete system, the GNU project combined with the work of the infamous Linus Torvald, who created a kernel for an operating system he called Linux (a combination of his first name and Unix, released in 1992 freely!).  The GNU project and Linux Torvald collaborated and became GNU/Linux which is now used by millions of people who believe that knowledge should be shared freely, rather than monopolized by a few.  GNU is an a large antelope type of animal also known as a wildebeest.
2.  Hmm…okay..but what exactly does GNU/Linux do?
—–GNU/Linux is an operating system for the computer.  An operating system is kind of like the translator between you and your computer…the computer doesn’t speak your language and you don’t speak its language, so you ‘talk’ to the Operating System and it ‘talks’ to the computer.
3.  How is it different from what I have been using? (i.e. Microsoft)
—–GNU/Linux is different by virtue of being free.  When I say free, I don’t mean free as in “free beer” but free as in the liberty to take the source code and change it however you like, without having to pay someone else to be able to do it.  Often times, though, it is also free (as in beer) which makes it hugely different from Windows, especially if you have ever had to replace of copy of that, OUCH!
4.  So why should I be using GNU/Linux?  The name seems complicated by the way!
—–If you enjoy paying a hundred bucks just for the copy of Windows that your computer has, then so be it.  If you don’t have a problem with not being able to put your files where you want to without downloading a special program like TweakUI, then GNU/Linux isn’t for you…If you have never said “I really hate Internet Explorer because it is slow and unsafe” then by all means, keep Windows..but if you like being in complete control of your computer, being able to surf the internet without constant fear of viruses and being able to use a different webbrowser or if you hate Media Player and want to use something else….with GNU/Linux..you can!!  And as for the name..call it Linux if you want, but if you are talking to a guru (i.e. GNU/Linux expert) you might want to call it by its proper name lol. (most people probably have a hard time with the word gnu..)
5.  Okay, then so IS GNU/Linux hard to use?
—–Honestly, it can be, depending on the distribution of GNU/Linux that you choose…if all you have ever used is Windows, then it is probably advisable to start with a version of Linux that is specifically aimed at Windows refugees.  (Don’t worry I will go into detail about that in Part Two of this post.)  As long as you are willing to learn and are good at reading (because there is quite a bit to learn lol) then you should make the transition just fine.  Additionally, there is no need to abandon the safety net until you are ready..there are always Linux versions that will help you set up a dual-boot system, which means you can run Windows and Linux on the same computer.
6.  Okay, I am all about being in charge! What do I do now?
—–The first step to getting GNU/Linux is do to a little research in order to find out which distribution (or “distro”) is right for you…A distribution is a version of GNU/Linux that someone or someones wrote and decided to publish..In other words, some computer geek said “I want my computer to do this…” and designed it to do just that..then, they wanted to show it off and/or share it with the world (“heyyy look at what my computer can do”) and they would publish their version, or distribution…If others liked it, they would get it for themselves, which resulted in several very well known versions of GNU/Linux and many not so well-known versions..

Okay then, if you are hooked on the idea of complete control of your PC and excited about the possibilities of maybe someday designing an operating system that does exactly what you want it to do, then it’s time to “pick your flavor” of Linux.  This is probably the most exciting (and the most frustrating) part of choosing GNU/Linux…remember when I said complete control?  That means all the decision making too!! lol….My next post will specifically deal with several different distros of Linux, in order to help newbies decide which one suits their needs….

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Comments
  1. KK says:

    Great explaination,i use linux and i think it is like open sea,It give us space to explore thing,window operating system that not provide.when i use window i think i am in closed and dark room(Everything is Hidden).I am waiting for your part 2 explanation

  2. Jerry says:

    come on…do you really think people cant figure out how to download and store files wherever they want without using tweakui? or that they cant install another web browser or email client and use it instead of IE or OE? or another media player like Real Player? i know this is for linux newbies, but if someone is really wanting to switch over to linux, i can almost certainly guarantee that they have figured out how to fix the stuff mentioned above to make their windows pc a little safer and to their liking

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