Reboot to Linux and Discover Freedom

Essential Reading for Beginners

Content

1 Why Choose Linux?
2 Where to start with so much choice
3 Desktop Environments – (Overview)
4 The Linux Distro – Food for Thought
5 Linux Distro (Overview)

Introduction

Everyday we use Linux on Smart Phones, Flight Entertainment Systems, our cars, Sony Play Stations, Smart TVs and a lot more besides. 95% of the world’s supercomputers use Linux like internet giants Google & Facebook. And now it has never been easier to install desktop Linux on your laptop or PC. Linux is computer operating system that runs on old or new hardware as an alternative Windows or Mac OSX.

At MyLinux4all I show you how to get and install Linux by sharing easy to follow contextual tutorials. Don’t worry if your not Tech Savvy, simply having the ability to read, copy and paste commands and knowing where the enter key is on your keyboard might be an advantage :-). If you intend to buy a new computer or laptop or simply want to breathe new life into an old one reading my articles

Linux has come a long way since I became a user in 2007 and today there are more reasons than ever before why Microsoft Windows and MacOSx home users should consider making the switch. My aim is to help empower new and prospective Linux users make that decision while addressing common questions with information and easy to follow tutorials.

For many years I have dedicated much of my spare time introducing and converting MS Windows and MacOSX users to Linux in my locality and on my websites. With a few exceptions, their feedback is always the same. First the surprise of how easy it was to install and use. Then after using it for a while they questioned themselves why they did not made the switch earlier.


Why Choose Linux?

With Linux you can accomplish all the same things you use your computer for today and in the majority of cases software is superior to what you are currently using. Despite this there is no guarantee that Linux is a perfect fit for your use-case. For example if you are heavily invested in “A” list Windows games or there is windows software you cannot live without. If your interested in running Linux the workaround is to “dual-boot” running Linux alongside your Windows installation. Dual booting is out of scope from my tutorials as an exclusive Linux user I have little experience.


  1. There is no cost to download and use Linux and most of the software for a normal use-case is completely free of charge.
  2. Linux users have the freedom to download, use, share, and improve open source software for any purpose. No such thing as piracy!
  3. Because of code transparency “open-source” software makes malware, viruses and spyware ineffective. No need to pay and depend on 3rd party software to protect your computer or privacy.
  4. Proprietary software is also available on Linux in many cases free of charge.
  5. Users purchase a permission to use Microsoft Windows on a single computer and are forced to accept a number of restrictions while waiving their privacy by law. Purchased software is not transferable to another computer.
  6. Unaware of alternatives like Linux, some people are ready to discard older working PC/laptops when it comes to upgrading to the latest Microsoft has on offer. Linux breathes new life into older hardware with unrivaled performance. I doubt you ever had success installing Windows 10 on an XP machine?
  7. Computers are used to share ideas, culture, and to expand our knowledge and creativity. Without freedoms over software there is a risk we lose control over being innovative as well as what we share. Without going into all the reasons (there are just too many), Microsoft simply do not value these freedoms. In fact with every new iteration (currently Windows 10) they have established unprecedented controls over your privacy and rights. Their End User License Agreement (EULA) is well worth reading.

Linux gives you so much Choice

When you walk into a computer store to buy a PC or laptop the choice is simple, Microsoft Windows or MacOSx. Assuming you have a budget you then select a model within that budget. Unlike Microsoft Windows and Mac OS X, Linux supports many desktop environments, so many that selecting the right one can be daunting as some are designed to me more intuitive than others.

There are many reasons why you might select one distro over another and hopefully this article will help you narrow the field or at least come up with a short list

There are hundreds of Linux Operating Systems known as Linux Distributions or “Distros” for short. Each Linux distro can run on old or new hardware as a complete replacement for Windows or Mac OSX. Some of the more established ones have names like Debian, Ubuntu, Fedora, OpenSuse, ArchLinux & Linux Mint. Then there are “new kids on the block” with names like Solus, elementary, Ubuntu-Mate and KDE-Neon.

Each Linux distro starts out as an implementation of ideas of a company or individual or group of individuals. A community of contributors and users is formed which grows over time. Each Linux distro comes with a desktop environment (DE) that includes built-in applications such as a file manager, configuration tools, a web browser, games and a Package Manager (Software Store) which allows you to add/remove and manage software applications. Some desktop environments are designed work with many distros while some are exclusive to their own. Here is a brief overview…


Popular Desktop Environments

GNOME is a very popular modern desktop environment and is either the default or optional in many Linux distros. It is powerful and easy to use once you become familiar with its design concept which will be a short learning curve for most.

KDE Plasma is a highly customizable modern desktop environment targeting those who want a bit more control over their desktop. More customization options normally means a longer investment in user learning time.

XFCE is fast highly customizable “old school” desktop environment targeting those who want a bit more control over their operating system.

Budgie is built from scratch and is lightning fast on most computers. A beautiful, highly intuitive well-designed modern desktop experience.

Pantheon another beautiful and well-designed modern desktop environment exclusive to elementary OS. Due to its simplicity is not as customizable or have as many out of the box features compared to other desktop environments.

Cinnamon is the default desktop environment of the very popular Linux Mint distribution.

MATE (pronounced matay is the popular revived paradigm of the older Gnome desktop environment. It is a highly intuitive customizable desktop environment. It is an option for many distros but it’s the Ubuntu MATE implementation that is particularly appealing for new Linux users with a step by step welcome screen with a getting started guide and “suggested” Software boutique.

Unity is the default environment for Ubuntu with an alternative desktop layout for the GNOME desktop environment. It has a large user base and in equal numbers has its critics. An acquired taste maybe.

LXQt is a lightweight, simple and fast desktop environment that works well on older machines due to its very low system resources usage such as low CPU and RAM consumption.


The Linux Distro – Food for Thought

You might be confused about which Linux distro to pick. Your not alone. Even experienced Linux users have this problem and some frequently hop from one distribution to another. The beauty of Linux is that the majority of distros come with a live (try me!)environment. That means you can freely try them out on a USB thumb drive without effecting your current operating system.

distromix3

What differs from distribution to distribution:

  • The community and whether it offers good support, documentation and tutorials.
  • Desktop Environment and how easy it is to install and use overall.
  • Availability and quality of: (Software Applications, Languages, Drivers, Games etc)
  • How it manages security and software updates
  • Some distros are ready to use out of the box, while others need the user to tweak/configure and add software
  • Some distros are a derivative of another distro. Derivatives benefit from and contribute to the upstream parent distro while own their own style to appeal to a niche audience.
  • Modern PCs/laptops support 64bit(x86_64) architecture however 32bit(i386)support had somewhat diminished. Some Linux distros are evolving to support 64bit only. Something to keep in mind if your machine is 8 years or older.

Linux Distro Overview

sdebian-bigDebian

Debian is the probably the largest upstream Linux distribution with a large community and software repository. Debian’s philosophy is one of stringent application testing and system stability which is supported for 5 years. Popular derivatives of Debian are Ubuntu and Solyd/xk.

subuntu-big


Ubuntu

Ubuntu is based on Debian and is financially and technically sponsored by Canonical Ltd. Ubuntu is considered a beginner-friendly distribution with an easy to use installer and a preconfigured operating system with many application choices made for you. Out of the box Ubuntu ships with the Unity DE but also officially supports other flavors which include all the desktop environments described above with the exception of Pantheon. A new developers instance of Ubuntu is released every 6 months with Long-term-support (LTS)versions released every 2 years and supported for 5 years with security updates and bug fixes.


Popular Ubuntu Derivatives


szorin-bigZorin OS– designed for beginners in mind with a similar layout to MS Windows making the transition easier. Zorin OS comes pre-loaded with all the apps and tools for an average home computer user.


selementary-bigelementary OS – is beautiful and well-designed modern distro with a MacOSX like desktop environment. Due to its simplicity it works exceptionally well for new Linux users however is not as customizable or have as many out of the box features compared to other desktop environments. The teams attention to detail is what makes elementary truly unique with a host of well developed applications. For a full home computing experience user will need to select and install their own applications. Check out the comprehensive MyLinux4all guide on Things to do after installing elementary OS


skde-neon-bigKDE Neon based on Ubuntu LTS is ready to go out of the box with a smart and beautiful environment. Uniquely this the highly customizable KDE desktop environment gives the user the capability to make it their own if your preference is to dive in and customize every single detail of the look and feel as well as the behavior and window animations. A popular distro for those willing to invest a bit more learning time.


slinux-mint-bigLinux Mint

Linux Mint is popular with new users because its objective is to to provide a complete out-of-the-box experience which includes browser plugins, media codecs and other proprietary applications that users need to install for other distros. Linux Mint is compatible with Ubuntu software repositories and ships mainly with Cinnamon or MATE desktop environments, or alternative versions KDE or Xfce. Linux Mints release cycle is the same a Ubuntu typically trailing it by one month.


sfedora-big50Fedora

Fedora is a cutting edge,community developed distro corporately backed by Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL). It is ideal for software developers or those seeking a career in Linux as it is considered the test bed for future Redhat releases. Fedora strongly encourages its users to contribute to the project however many do use the workstation edition as their daily home computing environment.


sarchlinux-bigArch Linux

See seperate post “Do it Yourself with Arch Linux” which discusses Arch and its derivatives Manjaro and Antergos.


sopensuse-bigopenSUSE

openSUSE is described on its website as “The makers choice for system-admins, developers and desktop users”. The KDE desktop environment is the default but it also supports Gnome, Xfce, LXDE, Openbox and many others. Like Fedora’s relationship with Redhat, much of the development that happens in openSUSE lands in SUSE enterprise editions.


ssolus-bigSolus

Solus is difficult to compare in the context of the other distros described above other that to say it is “its own beast”. When asked “What is so good about it?” the only answer I give is “try it as see for your self”. On the surface is the well thoughout Budgie desktop environment, that is intuitive, cohesive, pragmatic and beautiful. It just gets out of they way when you have things to do. It is not a derivative of another distro as it is built from scratch. Its performance is consistently lighting fast whether its the boot up time, downloading software from their repository. The feedback I get when demonstrating or recommending is extremely positive and I would have no hesitation making it the starting point of my search if I was new to Linux.


To help you visualize some distros and desktop environments the LinuxScoop YouTube Channel specialize is short 3 minute overviews of the latest releases

Here is an example of one, the distro I’m currently using – Solus with the Budgie DE


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