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Friday, November 14, 2014

Life with GNU/Linux as Main OS

Life with GNU/Linux as Main OS

Life with a GNU/Linux Operating System as my main driver for computing needs is not so hard as people think it is. Choosing a Linux distribution could be a challenge in itself,however there is no problem at all as there are GNU/Linux Distributions like Zorin OS which resembles Windows 7 in look and feel also there is Linux Mint which is 100% ready to go out of the box. We also have Chromebooks and all you need is an Internet connection to get going. All you need is to select one and start using it, there will be issues however there are ways to fix as well.

So what are the general challenges with using GNU/Linux as your main driver?
  1. GNU/Linux has a learning curve.
  2. GNU/Linux is a completely different experience and takes a little getting used to.
  3. Sometimes things don't work as expected but there is a plenty of help available on the internet.
  4. With a little patience and searching the forums things can be fixed.
  5. Hardware compatibility is a hit and miss sometimes.
  6. Graphics Drivers (Proprietary) can be pain at times.
  7. Lack of a productivity suite like MS Office.
Let me explain about the challenges one by one and the best ways to get around them.

1. GNU/Linux has a learning curve

That is true for everyone, Starting to use GNU/Linux is a challenge to begin with, especially if you have a Windows background, if you are a Mac user, some things might  feel easier in comparison with a pure Windows user. Linux has a completely different architecture and is very secure. That is why it has a different way of working around things. There may not be a gui for everything because it was designed to be able to do everything by running commands in a Terminal. Different aspects  of the OS are handled differently.The way Linux handles its devices, hardware and memory is completely different/better than anything else out there. The most difficult thing to digest for a Windows user when coming to Linux is the fact that everything in Linux is a FILE.

Windows presents a different way or visualizing your hardware and managing it using a Management Console. There is nothing like that in Linux, The best way to see you hardware is using the Terminal and the commands dmesg, lspci or lsusb. There are a couple of GUI software like NetworkManager Applet and Disks utility in GNOME Desktop, which could be helpful in managing your networks  and Disks respectively, however for the most part Terminal and the Linux command line is your friend.

You are presented with different tools to manage your hardware and system components depending on the Desktop Environment you are using. There is one universal fact though, Terminal and commands always work.Getting used to using the Terminal and commands to get your job done is the biggest challenge. Today most of the Desktop Environments provide a lot of great GUI tools to manage things, however the Linux Terminal commands are always there in case GUI fails for some reason.I guess it is worth it, learning something for once and using it for the rest of your life. Every Operating System for that matter has a learning curve I took a long time to learn Windows and get used to it. It took me so much time as to why did Windows Freak Out on me with Blue Screen. 

The excuse of saying "Linux is difficult " is total Crap it is the laziness of the user and not the complexity of Linux that prevents most users from switching to Linux.

Linux is not so difficult give it a chance.t is a completely different experience and takes a little getting used to.

2.  GNU/Linux is a completely different Experience and takes a little getting used to.

For a person who has used only one Operating System for his/her whole life, Using Linux can sometimes feel like an alien experience. The problem is all the more visible if you are from a Windows background. You are used to one panel and one menu launcher and a GUI for everything for the most part Excluding Windows 8.1. Using a desktop environment like GNOME 3 or Unity on Linux can be a challenge in the start, however after some time you enjoy the experience. There are Desktop Environments which present windows like experience, like Cinnamon and KDE, however they also need some getting used to.

There are different GUI tools for managing hardware and devices. The process for installing and removing software is not as easy as in windows. There is no double click installs by default, although one could set to launch the package manager gui on double clicking installable files.Moreover it is not so easy to setup, depends on your distro, if you are on a debian/ubuntu based distro then you could use Gdebi. Other distributions might not have that feature.

The way you install software is completely different in Linux. Linux always requires super user rights to install or remove any software.On top of it different Linux distributions have different packaging format, .deb for debian based and .rpm for any RPM based distro. Things are not so simple. However once you choose your Linux Distribution you will learn its ways in no time. There are software centers and other things to install and remove software.

3. Sometimes things don't work as expected but there is a plenty of help available on the internet.

Somethings some times may not work as expected, Just take an example of sharing a folder. In windows world, sharing a folder is very simple. You don't even know what technology it  uses in the backend. However in Linux may be easy or difficult depending on your distribution, If you are on Ubuntu or any distro based on Ubuntu, chances are that File Sharing will work out of the box. If not there is a lot of help available on the Internet, there are plenty of forums, and any problem you face would have already been faced by someone before you and the answer is probably lying around on the internet on some forum. You might need your googling skills to find that and you can fix the issue. If not you can file a bug report so the developer of the Distro fix the issue for you and others.

Another example is from the OpenSuse, After installation on OpenSuse 12.3 and 13.1, You don't have network just after installation, That is a known bug however for a new user it is nothing but frustration. So what to do in that case ? Simple. YOU ARE NOT THE FIRST PERSON TO FACE THE ISSUE. Trust GOOGLE for your issues. Ask google and google will take you to the appropriate page with a fix. Have patience and you will be sorted in short time.I used google and found that many people had faced the same issue however after reboot on OpenSuse 13.1 the network came fine whereas on OpenSuse 12.3 I had to enable the NetworkManager Service as per the instructions.

sudo systemctl enable NetworkManager and sudo systemctl start NetworkManager.And issue was fixed.

My advice :- Have Patience, Ask Google, if nothing comes up, File a bug report, help yourself and others as well.

4 With a little patience and accessing the forums things can be fixed.

Like I said above, Googling and reading the forum can fix most of the issues. Every Distribution has a dedicated forum and the skill of searching through the forums for your issues can be a life saver. I have always found solution for all issues i faced by asking google and by searching forums.

If you find a forum thread that lists the solution to your issue, don't just use the solution to fix your problem, Please take the time to update the thread with your results, even if that does  not work for you, you should update it will save a few others from trying it, or if it works, it will encourage others to use it.

It is a win win for everyone.

Hardware compatibility is a hit and miss sometimes.

Historically Linux has been notorious for lack of hardware compatibility, however with every new release of the Linux Kernel more and more hardware is supported, more and more vendors are making Linux Compatible Hardware. If you plan to start using Linux before formatting your PC/Laptop, Check the Ubuntu Hardware compatibility database.

This has sub sections for different supported hardware under linux, Right from network Cards to Graphic cards to mice and keyboards. You can select from there. if it is not there you could at least find the brands or model numbers which are compatible you could ask google to give you similar hardware. 

I found this very helpful in assembling my Rig and it was not so difficult.

Another useful link to check out is

This is mostly up to date as good as Ubuntu's Hardware Compatibility List.

The second link tells you about Systems Vendors who are certified for Ubuntu and you can find at least a few models which come pre-installed with Ubuntu. There is also SYSTEM76 which only makes Linux Desktops and Laptops. So we have good choice.

The best thing about Linux is that if it works on One Linux Distribution it works on all. So if it works on Arch or Ubuntu it will work on all other Linux Distributions.

So with careful planning you can get yourself a great Linux Computer.

6. Graphics Drivers (Proprietary) can be pain at times.

Linux has good support in built with Open Source Radeon and Nouveau and Intel Drivers. The Open Source drivers are mostly capable of running most Games without a problem, However some games may require you to install proprietary graphics drivers.

There is a thing with the Proprietary Linux Drivers that they may not support the latest Linux Kernel or Xorg Server. The update frequency for Proprietary drivers is slow and you can't run the latest Xorg and Kernel without patching the Driver, Most of the time Community does it Like in case of Arch Linux, most of the times not for every distro.

So if you plan to use the proprietary Graphics Card driver, I suggest you avoid cutting edge rolling release distributions like Arch Linux. For starters you should always use something like Zorn/Linux Mint and only that release which is based on the Long Term support Release of Ubuntu. I would suggest Linux Mint as it will be based only on LTS versions of Ubuntu starting Linux Mint 17.

That is the only catch. For the most part you don't even need the proprietary drivers unless you are a heavy gamer. You won't have to install anything to get started, Zorin and Linux MInt are fully loaded by default. They have all the software you will even need all loaded by default. You install and you are production ready.

7. Lack of Productivity Software like MS Office.

I accept that we do not have a very great productivity software like MS office, however we do have LibreOffice and KingSoft WPS. Both are functional enough to take care of your day to day productivity needs no matter if you are a home user or an Enterprise user. Even in the enterprise most of us do not need all the Advanced Features that MS Office has, We have enough features in Open Source productivity software that it can take care of your most needs. The compatibility with MS Office file formats is being worked on every day on LibreOffice. This is going to improve over time.

In my opinion Open Source Productivity software is more than sufficient for most people. If that does not make you happy, we are living in a Cloud Era, One could use google docs, Like that on Chromebooks. 

Chromebooks are increasing in popularity this clearly certifies that google docs is more than enough for most people.That is exactly what I am saying, We are OK with what we have under linux, and work is underway to improve things for us in future.

Even Microsoft has realized the potential of Open Soure so they have decided to open source their .NET framework so it works on Linux as well. This has been in the news all this week.

I am Confident that very soon Linux will succeed on the Desktop as well. I see 2015 as the year of Linux Desktop.

Thanks for reading.

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