That's it. This is the last time I re-install you, Windows (Linux)

So, long story short: My windows box at home has crapped out on me again. I reinstalled it and now it’s running on shaky legs, but at least my data is still intact. I’ve decided to take the plunge into Linux geekdom. Now, by the power of Cecil, I harness the collective power of the SDMB!

Now, I’m not asking you guys to hold my hand through the entire process, but it’s going to be an on/off thing that will likely take a few weeks. I thought I would start a thread where we could share ideas and tips on making the transition, in between the various steps. I’ll start backing up the data today, so there will be some time for me to get my bearings.

I think of myself as reasonably knowledgeble, but I have to admit that I don’t quite know where to begin. I understand the Linux “core” is a command line interface, and the GUi is added on separately. So, I should first choose a “core”? Where do I start? I’ve read the wiki on Linux, but it seems everything written about Linux presupposes familiarity with the different terms on a level above mine.

The same is true of Windows - the Kernel isn’t a graphical thing - it’s just that you only really have one choice of GUI, and the default way to interact with the system is through the GUI.

But anyway, I think you should install Ubuntu Linux - even if you don’t end up using it permanently, I would say it represents the least painful way for a Windows user to get a taste of Linux.

I will second Mangetout in recommending Ubuntu Linux. I just recently installed it on a Mac G-4 tower here at work with no problems whatsoever.

Get thee online and order your “Ubuntu” 6.06 Live CD now. It will take a week or 3 to come. It is free.

You will be glad you did.

You can grow all geeky from there if you want.

KISS for now…


I hate to fly in the face of the gurus but my personal preference is for Fedora Core 5. You can download it and write it to the CDs yourself. It takes 5 of them. I just installed it on an old system and it went on clean, no errors, no missing drivers, no problems at all. Plus, it comes with both the KDE and GNOME user interfaces.
Just in general, I found Fedora to be at least as easy as windows to install and have had no problems at all with it. There are some things that you will need to D/L and add afterwards, like a good MP3 player.



I downloaded an Ubuntu image via torrent a few weeks back (Spectacularly fast, 850+kB/sec on a residential cable connection, BTW) but have been too timid motivated to install it yet…also, I have one machine that I must maintain XP on for a proprietary application that only runs under XPpro.

I propose a SDMB “club” to share experiences, and provide a focal point for the resident gurus to give advice, etc. With **Throatwarbler Mangrove ** and myself that’s two aboard already. A recent, or the next “Linux Virgin” doper to actually try to install Ubuntu gets the privilege of starting a “Taking the Ubuntu plunge: SDMB class of '07” thread in the appropriate forum.

Coincidentally, I installed Ubuntu last night after switching from Fedora Core 5. I got Beryl up and running, and managed to get Flash player installed in Firefox, two things that I couldn’t manage under FC5.

My first impressions of Ubuntu are:

  • it’s far more polished that FC5. FC had weird inconsistencies like its Add/Remove software applet using a different GUI style than the rest of the OS.
  • it’s far faster than FC5. Firefox took literally an age to load under FC, pretty much instantaneous now.
  • it’s got far better support than FC, too. FC wasn’t bad, per se (it’s one of the few decent distros), but Ubuntu puts it to shame.
  • it’s easier to get hold of. FC comes on about a bajillion discs. Ubuntu on a single one.

I’d recommend Ubuntu over FC any day.

Kevbo, that sounds good. I am downloading Unbuntu as I type, and hopefully will have a crack at installing it by the weekend at the latest.

My needs are modest. I need to surf with Fox, check my email, watch movies in a number of formats, integrate with my iPod, and keep a calendar/address book. I imagine these will be served adequately with the available Linux software library?

Or, if you’ve got a broadband connection, you can download it in an hour or so.

I heartily endorse the Ubuntu recommendation. I set it up on my computer a few weeks ago, in a dual-boot system with Windows XP. I wanted a dual-boot system because i’m using a few programs that i really need Windows for, and i also wanted to give myself plenty of time to get used to Linux. I consider my transition to Linux to be a slow, medium-to-long-term process.

If you’re going to keep a dual-boot system, you’ll need to partition your hard drive/s. Now, you can do this during the Ubuntu installation process, but i actually did it first using the excellent GPartEd partitioning tool. Burn yourself a GPartEd live CD, pop it in the computer, boot up, and you’re ready to go. It’s quite easy to use, but if you want some instructions, there’s a decent little YouTube video here. There’s also a decent tutorial here.

You’ll need to reduce the size of your Windows partition (defrag Windows a couple of times first), then allocate a partition for the Linux swap file, a root (/) partition for your Linux installation, and as many other partitions as you want/need for data. Keeping your installation (Windows, Linux) relatively small, and separate from your data storage partitions, means that if either OS craps out later, you can format those partitions and reinstall without losing your files and other stuff.

I have a 160Gb hard drive, and a 320Gb hard drive in my computer, and my partitions look like this:

HDD1 (160Gb):

1 x 40Gb NTFS Windows partition (drive C: )
1 x 12Gb EXT3 partition (/ for Ubuntu)
1 x 1.5Gb linux-swap partition
1 x ~50Gb NTFS partition
1 x ~50Gb EXT3 partiton (/home for Ubuntu)

HDD2 (320Gb)

2 x ~50Gb NTFS partitions
2 x ~50Gb FAT32 partitions
2 x ~50Gb EXT3 partitions

I went with this setup initially so i had plenty of hard drive space that Windows could read and write (NTFS and FAT32), and plenty that Linux could read and write (EXT3 and FAT32). Linux can read NTFS, and can now allegedly write to it as well, but i’ve read some accounts where the latter has caused problems, so as a Linux newbie i see no reason to tempt fate. If my storage needs change over time, i can reformat one or more of my storage partitions.

The Ubuntu installation was extremely simple and straightforward, and once it was up and running it detected virtually all my hardware and my network settings without a hitch. The internet (running through a router) worked perfectly with no fiddling whatsoever, and i was browsing the web using Firefox straight away. It detected my SoundBlaster sound card fine too. The GRUB loader also worked perfectly, allowing me to easily boot into either Linux or Windows when i turn my computer on.

One thing that took me a little while to set up was my second monitor. This required installing a binary driver for my nVidia graphics card, setting up an option called TwinView (nVidia cards only), and tweaking my xorg.conf file. This took a little while, but the Ubuntu forums had excellent instructions, and it was just a matter of taking it slowly, one step at a time.

One thing that almost drove me crazy for a while was the issue of permissions. Permission to write to different hard drives works differently in Linux than in Windows, and it took me quite a few frustrating hours to work out how to get write access to my extra EXT3 and FAT32 partitions. This involves editing a file called fstab, and is made more complicated by the fact that the fstab permission commands for EXT3 partitions are apparently different than those for FAT32partitions. For example, the umask instruction works for FAT32 but not for EXT3. It took plenty of Googling to work this out. If you have trouble with any of this, i have a bunch of bookmarked links that will help you deal with the fstab file, and with permissions in general.

I have a Samsung ML-2010 mono laser printer, and setting it up was very easy.

When i get something working in Linux, i make a list of all the places where i found instructions, and a copy of any of the files that i configured. So, for example, if i ever need to go back and set up my dual monitors again, i have links to all the instruction pages, as well a a copy of the xorg.conf settings i used to get it working. Same with permissions: i have all the links, and a copy of the fstab setting that worked.

Downloading and installing software has generally been a very easy process, via the Synaptic package manager, and via a program called Automatix. One thing i haven’t really been able to get a handle on yet is WINE, which allows some Windows programs to run under Linux. I’m going to need to spend some time working on that, as i’d really like to get Endnote, and maybe even Photoshop working in Linux.

But for most regular, day-to-day stuff, Linux has plenty of software to keep most people happy. I browse using Firefox, and i use Kontact/Kmail as an email client/address book/organizer. It’s great. I don’t like Ubuntu’s default media player very much, so i’m using Kaffeine, which is quite similar in operation to the Media Player Classic that i use on Windows. I used Automatix to get all the audio and video codecs i needed, and my Linux setup now has no problem playing mpeg, mp3, avi/DivX/XVid, and even Windows Media files.

(You might notice that a few of my programs start with a K. The were originally developed for the KDE Linux environment, although they work fine under Ubuntu’s GNOME environment too. But i’m actually contemplating getting rid of my Ubuntu and substituting Kubuntu)

Anyway, that’s my experience with Linux/Ubuntu so far. I’m still using Windows for a lot of things, and Linux is still a hobby and a work in progress; i don’t want to make the complete switch until i’m fully confident with it. But i’m really enjoying using it, and it really is nice to boot up your computer and know that your using all open-source software (well, except for the Windows Media codecs :slight_smile: ).

I’ve had some experience in this as well in the past six weeks or so. There was one program I wanted to run that’s only for Linux. I went out and got a book that said it had 4-5 different Linux versions. Most of them you could install. I tried the Red Hat one first, and it worked ok, but I couldn’t get the program I wanted to work. Next I went out and got the Ubuntu book that came with 6.06, that didn’t want to run the program either. Finally I got SuSE 10, the program half worked and I had to compile the last of the libraries myself and it mostly runs.

I would say that all of them were easy enough to install, if you have a DVD drive some come on DVDs so there’s no need to switch disks. The installation is easy, even for someone who doesn’t know much, like me. They all seemed to run the same way, at least from the minor things that I have tried so far. People seem to like the Ubuntu, the thing that made me switch was it kept wanting me to have internet access to upgrade, and I didn’t want to deal with that. It also was a pain to find out how to log in as root, nothing more difficult then to want to move a number of files around and have to keep logging in as root.

You really don’t need much time to get any of the Linux up and running, an hour or so. It’s after that when you need to find the stuff you want that it becomes fun. I had zero problems installing any of the versions except none of them could find my sound card. I still haven’t played with that yet, but even that seems easy enough to fix, I just don’t care.

My suggestion is to leaf through a number of books and get the one you find the easiest to understand. It will make it easier then trying to download 700+megs, or waiting for a CD.

I understand GNOME and KDE are the two commonly used GUIs, now, I’m a bit of a tweaker and I’d like to modify my GUI once I’ve got it up and running, is it better to go with one or the other? Am I screwing myself in anyway?

I had originally though about just wiping the HDD and installing linux clean, but cooler heads are prevailing and I think I might make a partition and dual boot for a bit first, and later on gradually phase out the windows stuff.

GNOME is more “Windows-like” and I think is better supported under Ubuntu, so I would go with that. (KDE, which is also a fine choice is more supported under SuSE.)

Bad news for you on the iPod integration front… Apple does not make a version of iTunes for any Linux distro, so you need to use plug-ins for other Linux apps to try to handle this. There are several apps available, with the easiest app probably being the iPod plugins for amaroK, but I have never gotten my iPod to be able to properly sync without eventually after a couple times the iPod drive becoming corrupted and having to do a Restore from iTunes on Windows (this is using SuSE 10.1 by the way, so maybe Ubuntu might fair better). My high-tech solution to this problem is to use my wife’s XP laptop when I need to sync. :wink:

I installed Beryl with about three commands in Ubuntu. To say Beryl is customisable is an understatement. It also works with both Gnome and KDE.

When I set up my first Linux box, I swapped out the Windows drive and put in a spare I had lying around. That way I kept the Windows drive safe on a shelf while I messed around.
You might want to do that for the first toe-dipping experience so that you don’t have dual-boot issues clouding the whole installation process. Linux doesn’t need a huge drive, so a spare 20G drive would fill the bill.

Go Ubuntu all the way!

I use Ubuntu especially for small servers such as my Dansguardian gateway (teenagers) and my MP3 file server. They have a “server” install that gives you a barebones server with no frills so you don’t have to spend forever removing stuff just to make it safe.

Have fun!

GNOME gets a lot of heat for not being as customizable as KDE(Conversely, KDE gets heat for having too many options). If you’re a tweaker, KDE is probably the way to go.

There are a huge number of GUIs beyond Gnome and KDE. If you get Ubuntu (as opposed to Kubuntu), Gnome is standard and KDE has to be installed specially. (Not a problem on broadband, a huge hassle on dial-up. If you are downloading an install disk, you have broadband.) Of the two, I personally like KDE a little bit better because I like the applications that come with KDE a little bit better, but you can use KDE apps under Gnome and vice-versa just fine. In fact, you can use any app under any GUI just fine once it’s been installed. (Installation is very easy. You will not believe how easy it is. Even Linux geeks who come from Fedora or SuSE have a difficult time realizing how easy it is. ;))

I personally like WindowMaker, but Ratpoison is good once you understand it. (Hint: Don’t try to use Ratpoison without understanding it. You’ll go crazy.) Epiphany is beautiful and really focuses on eye-candy. (I’ve never used Beryl. I don’t know how it compares to that.) Blackbox is somewhat austere but still stylish. Just search for “window manager” using Synaptic and you’ll have more than you can handle. (Synaptic is the software installation tool. You will come to love it. Just follow what it says and everything will be handled automatically.)

Thanks friends, I suppose I’ll deal the the interface once I get further into it.

the Ipod issue kind of concerns me. I’m really not too worried about the synchronization aspect, my needs for music are simple enough, the only reason why I have an Ipod and put up with the awful iTunes software is because IPods support audiobooks better than anything else on the market. I’ve looked at a few how tos and this particular issue is not addressed. I’m sure I’ll find some way to make it work, though.

Derleth, in my squandered youth, I tweaked extensively with litestep, to the extent that I eventually scripted my own shell for Windows 2000. I hope that Linux GUis will be similarly modifiable.

I think we are in the same boat… I use my iPod for audiobooks 90% of the time. And on top of the lack of Linux iPod support, I get my audiobooks from, which also has no Linux support… so there is no AudibleManager to even download the MP3 book onto a Linux machine to even try to get it onto the iPod without using iTunes. :smack: Fun, fun…

If you do figure it out, I’d be curious how you are able to do it, so please report back. Good luck.

There is an option to install Ubuntu direct from the net, no need to burn Cds.

I have Ubuntu 6.10.0 Edgy Eft and love it.