Switching from Windows to GNU/Linux (a newbie’s guide) Part Three

Posted: May 5, 2008 in OS Reviews
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

This is a much later part of an earlier post that I broke up due to length..To see the original two parts Click Here for Part One and Click here for Part Two to see entire article of “Switching from Windows to GNU/Linux (a newbie’s guide)” for helpful information about GNU/Linux in a newbie friendly presentation.

This post, (Part Three) deals with two more reviews..First, if anyone noticed, I recently put up an announcement about the release of PCLinuxOS 2008.1-the Gnome Remaster (also known as PCLOS). The other distro I am going to review is Linux Mint, a “derivative” of Ubuntu. I will explain the use of “” later…Okay here we go………………….

First up, PCLinuxOS 2008.1 Gnome Remaster (whew! how about just PCL-G for now so remember that’s what it stands for!)
I downloaded PCL-G via a torrent Click here for the PCLinuxOS 2008.1 Gnome Remaster torrent page and I burned the iso image to disk using Brasero (it’s easy and just works) and then rebooted with the Live CD.<–confused? I will explain booting after the review! As usual with PCLOS, the live CD started right up. The only variation on the “norm” is that you have to log in on their live CD; easy enough either log in as “root” or “guest” and the password will be the same as the “username” you log in with (either root or guest). Immediately, I was impressed with the sleek look of this distro..I love a dark theme and this was it! Smooth lines and colors ooohweee it “shore wuz purty”; okay hahah, so anyway I went right to the menu to see what applications it came with…There was the usual Gnomish accessories, such as an editor and notetaker and a whole lot of multimedia programs for someone seriously into music and video..One really nice thing was that Compiz-Fusion (the eyecandy of the Linux box) was already installed and “ready to Cube!” lol..Furthermore, when I checked Synaptic (a major package manager) I noted that Opera (my favourite web browser) Brasero (my favourite disk burning program) and VLC (my favourite video player) were all listed..In addition, the MAJOR issue that has been plaguing Opera, the latest Flash Player update has been addressed with its own entry in Synaptic with an option for Flash Player 8 for Opera, even telling users about the potential (although very unlikely) security issue. (Although on a side note, I personally think Flash Player update was just trying to exclude Opera because they support Linux..but of course that is just paranoid speculation). So, since everything I wanted was there, I decided to install…
Aaaaaaand that is where I get a tad unhappy..
I clicked on the install to hard drive button conveniently located on the desktop and it went through a couple of steps, telling me I had to log out and log back in to install..(grr) okay, so I did..again and again…I couldn’t get past this step! After a few more tries, it finally started (no idea why that time and not the others) and I went through the install process which is pretty easy and installed PCL-G to my hard drive) Once I booted again (too much logging in/out required for my liking by the way) I was unable to change the color resolution from 16 bits to 24..Never figured it out either…The first thing I did was open Firefox and realized I was not connected to the internet; This is only the second distro I have ever tried that didn’t detect my ethernet automatically (the other was Puppy Linux, if you care). Fortunately for me, I knew how to fix this but it would be very difficult for a newbie to understand the various choices and options. So then, like I said, minor inconvenience for me but nothing I couldn’t handle easily enough. So then I went to download my “Big Three” applications I can’t do without..I found them easily, checked them and went to download…for some reason only Brasero downloaded; the other two had some kind of error message I had never before seen…hmm not cool!..I tried again and still had no luck. Sorry PCLinuxOS Gnome, I had to pass on this one; too many annoyances and disappointments and I had high hopes for this one too…I had been waiting to download it for weeks and what I got was not nearly as nice as what I expected..My older MiniMe was far better and I don’t even like KDE……I give it a C for performance, and A for appearance.

The other distro I am reviewing is Linux Mint…I downloaded Linux Mint 4.0 the main edition codenamed Daryna (all the editions are given a pretty female name..no idea why) All the various flavors of this 4.0 edition can be downloaded at the main Linux Mint page Click here to read more about Linux Mint and then you can Click here to download Linux Mint. I remember when I first visited the download page, I was confused (a major newb lol) so let me briefly explain what’s what…
If you just want the “Main Edition” you can skip this paragraph…
There are 7 choices of the same 4.0 Daryna version to choose from. Why? To try to give Linux Mint to everyone, no matter what type of desktop environment (or lack of one) they use…So first is Xfce..this desktop environment(remember that is what you see as far as windows, icons, panels and menus) is lighter and faster than Gnome or KDE because it doesn’t have as much as the other two..I have tried Xfce and it is just fine, somewhat of a “stripped down” version of Gnome but also very customizable. This desktop environment (or “DE”) is great for older systems or RAM memory challenged systems)…Next listed is the miniKDE edition..it comes with KDE instead of Gnome..Then, of course, the Main edition with Gnome and then the Light edition which is COMPLETELY open source, no non-free software or support for restricted drivers..this edition is great for militantly-free open sourcers or for those who live in countries where patents are enforced by law. (yes, in some countries, using non-free software is against the law)….Next is the KDE Community edition (a KDE remastering of the original) much like the miniKDE…Then, we have the Fluxbox edition…Fluxbox is a window manager but not a desktop environment, which is loved by those with VERY old computers, VERY low memory or those gurus who love the command line for all it’s worth. Finally, there is a Debian version…a “peek” at what Linux Mint would be like if based on Debian (cool!)……Okay, now that’s out of the way….
(Okay pay attention again!)I popped in the Live CD and I was delighted immediately by the nice, elegant look to it..(It’s Minty!) of course, I checked Firefox and I was connected to the internet right off the bat, no configuration required. Then I checked Synaptic and found my “Big Three” right there including the non-free flash plugin..it is the first of the trouble making flash updates so it works in Opera, just not really well so I compromise and use Firefox for my flash needs..Included on the repository is Compiz Fusion and I had a blast with “the Cube” but I couldn’t keep it for long as I have less than a Gig of Memory lol but it was a load of fun…and besides, the AWN dock is in the repo as well as Cairo-clock and there are advanced eyecandy settings in the menu..ah, yes, the menu…
The “MintMenu” is a lovely piece of work..it is the Gnome menu done right! There are 3 columns, and headings (places, system, and applications) the menu is searchable and you can also use the All applications at the top or look in sections..Additionally you can save applications as favorites, which have a menu of their own!! I love this menu, functional and elegant!! Then there is MintInstall, which a popup asks you what you are searching for..taking you to firefox and the option is presented with a download icon..from there you click download, then ok and mintInstall does the work! (It’s supposed to be “one click” but it is really 3 but hey, still super easy!!)..The downsides for me are that it takes a tad too long to start up and there is a screen that will hang unless I hit enter twice (shrugs) and on shutdown, clicking quit in the mintmenu will result in a hang also..not sure why but aside from being minorly annoying..those (for me) are the only downsides..I give it an A- for performance and an A for appearance. Oh yes, the “” from earlier about being a derivative of Ubuntu..Yes, Linux Mint is based off of Ubuntu but it is less of a derivative than it is a step to the left..(Huh?) Basically, in my opinion and that of many is that Linux Mint is what Ubuntu should be..

Now for the explanation of booting that I promised!
Making a “boot disk” of a Linux distro to try out:
Download the distro and save it somewhere easy, like the desktop..It will be in the form of an “iso image”…
Open Brasero…select “burn image” Burn existing CD or DVD image to disk…A little popup appears called image burning setup..underneath the heading “image”, it should say “path”..at the right is a little icon..click on it to browse your file system..select desktop and make sure you see the iso image file listed (something like Linux mint.iso) and click open..it will list that in the “path” line now..make sure the .iso file is in the “path” or you won’t get a boot disk.
Insert a blank disk..just cancel the window that pops up asking what to do with the disk..now, in the little popup in Brasero (the one you just changed the path in) click “Burn” and wait…
Now sometimes I noticed with GnomeBaker that if you tried to do anything while burning that disk, it would freeze..I don’t know about Brasero but I don’t have spare CDs to throw away so I don’t try to make it angry lol..I just come back when it’s done…It gets done and ejects the disk..put the disk right back in and click enter or “perform integrity check” or whatnot..this makes sure that the image file you just burned has all the stuff it’s supposed to have.

Rebooting with the Live CD you just made
Okay when you get you new disk ejected and close up Brasero, close out everything and click on quit..either do restart or shutdown, whichever you like…either way, when you (or it) turn back on the computer you will see two options for a few seconds (so be fast!)..They are F2 and F12…hit the F12 button to get to the “boot” menu…On my Dell, I hit the down arrow button til I get to choice 4, which is booting from the CD-ROM drive (it should say media drive, CD-Rom, DVD drive or something similar but it might be a different choice number, I’m not sure), then put in the shiny new disk you just made, then choose the option I just talked about and hit enter and the computer will boot up using the disk you made! It’s soooo much easier than it sounds and you can try out multiple distros without ever having to change your computer!!! Don’t worry, the computer will boot normally the next time; by default it boots from the hard drive (whatever Operating System you have on there already will run)

Okay you are ready and that took forever to type! Have fun!

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