There are lots of Linux sites on the internet. zazzybob.com is one of them. Its directory structure mimics that of Unix-like operating systems. The site has lots of hints, tips, and some scripts. If you want to delve into the more advanced use of Linux, this is a place to go for information.
If you want to know what software is available on Linux that meets the needs of your software on Windows, then check out The Table of Equivalents/Replacements/Analogs.
I have my own list of software that works on Windows and Linux on my Favorite Software Page.
If you do a little research, you will find that almost all Linux programs have been ported to Windows and many other Operating Systems, and they look and function the same way with only minor differences. Firefox, Thunderbird, and Open Office are three very well-known examples of this. One way to prepare for future explorations into Linux, is to use the Windows versions of software to get your job done. Almost all are free, and work just as well as the Microsoft equivalents, and often better, and usually more secure.
While I believe that Linux is mostly ready for the desktop, there are a few rough edges. Some hardware is just not useable or easy to use with Linux. Printers are items that you will want to investigate before jumping headfirst into Linux. If you cannot print, your PC may be next to worthless. Like other hardware, if the manufacturers do not make drivers, or provide specs so the Open Source community can develop drivers, the hardware may be a paperweight under Linux.
From my experience, most USB devices just work in Linux. The exception is printers. If a printer is specifially designed for Windows, there may be no way to get it to work with Linux. For example, I have a Lexmark Z23 ink jet printer that came with a PC I bought 4 years ago. Lexmark is semi-friendly to the Linuz community and provided a Linux driver. I was able to crudely print using Red Hat 7.2, but once I upgraded to Red Hat 8, then 9, and then Fedora Core 3, it will not print. The OS recognizes that the printer is there, but none of the work arounds on the net work. When I try to print, it ejects a sheet of paper. This kind of printer keeps me tied to Windows, and the need for a dual-boot PC, so I can print.
To avoid headaches, LinuxPrinting.org has assembled a Linux Printer Scorecard of various makes an models and how well they work with Linux.
Check this list before going whole hog with Linux. It is less painful to learn you may not be able to get your current printer to work BEFORE you make the switch.
The simple rule of thumb is if it is a cheap printer that is bundled with a cheap PC, and the ink costs more than the printer, it probably will not work with Linux. The Linux Printer Scorecard will tell you what others have experienced and which printers in your price range are easiest to get working with Linux.
This is an amazing use for a scanner most people would not think to consider.
I found this list the other day and find it both fun and true.
This has been making the rounds on the internet for years. I have seen this attibuted to a support technician from almost every major software vendor or ISP, so I have my doubts that this is a true story. The only element of truth in this is that at one time or another, all support technicians may think this about a new or inexperienced user.
TOO DUMB TO OWN A PC
And you thought that you had troubles…This is a true story from the
WordPerfect help line. Needless to say the help desk employee was fired;
however, he/she is currently suing the WordPerfect organization for
“Termination without Cause”.
Actual dialog of a former Word Perfect Customer Support employee:
“Ridge Hall computer assistant; may I help you?”
“Yes, well, I’m having trouble with WordPerfect.”
“What sort of trouble?”
“Well, I was just typing along, and all of a sudden the words went away.”
“Hmm. So what does your screen look like now?”
“It’s blank; it won’t accept anything when I type.”
“Are you still in WordPerfect, or did you get out?”>
“How do I tell?”
“Can you see the C: prompt on the screen?”
“What’s a sea-prompt?”
“Never mind. Can you move the cursor around on the screen?”
“There isn’t any cursor: I told you, it won’t accept anything I type.”
“Does your monitor have a power indicator?”
“What’s a monitor?”
“It’s the thing with the screen on it that looks like a TV. Does it have
a little light that tells you when it’s on?”
“I don’t know.”
“Well, then look on the back of the monitor and find where the power
cord goes into it. Can you see that?”
“Yes, I think so.”
“Great. Follow the cord to the plug, and tell me if it’s plugged into
“…….Yes, it is.”
“When you were behind the monitor, did you notice that there were two
cables plugged into the back of it, not just one?”
“Well, there are. I need you to look back there again and find the other
“…….Okay, here it is.”
“Follow it for me, and tell me if it’s plugged securely into the back of
“I can’t reach.”
“Uh huh. Well, can you see if it is?”
“Even if you maybe put your knee on something and lean way over?”
“Oh, it’s not because I don’t have the right angle, it’s because it’s dark.”
“Yes – the office light is off, and the only light I have is coming in
from the window.”
“Well, turn on the office light then.”
“No? Why not?”
“Because there’s a power outage.”
“A power… A power outage? Aha, Okay, we’ve got it licked now.
Do you still have the boxes and manuals and packing stuff your computer
“Well, yes, I keep them in the closet.”
“Good. Go get them, and unplug your system and pack it up just like it
was when you got it. Then take it back to the store you bought it from.”
“Really? Is it that bad?”
“Yes, I’m afraid it is.”
“Well, all right then, I suppose. What do I tell them?”
“Tell them you’re too stupid to own a computer.”
I saw a commercial tonight that said that in the U.S. alone, a huge amount of gasoline is wasted due to evaporation from missing or loose gas caps.
This reminded me of a situation I had. A car we use to have had the check engine light on, for quite some time. The automakers do not make it easy or cheap for the average user to find out what this means. I finaly paid the $50.00 to get it checked. The problem was a missing gas cap.
I learned that modern cars pressurize the system with air, so when there is a leak, such as from a missing gas cap, the check engine light comes on. I could have saved $50.00, if had known that a missing gas cap would make the check engine light come on.
I also think that if you want to complain about the price of gas, be sure you drive a properly tuned, fuel efficient car with a proper fitting gas cap. If you drive a suburban behemoth, I feel no sympathy for your plight. No one made you buy it. 😉
Depending on your needs, the Linux GUI, which is available in many choices, such as GNOME, KDE, etc., is very much like the GUI in any other OS, like Windows. Except with Linux, you get to chose the GUI and can easily switch from one to another, until you find the one you like best. Some Linux GUIs are so powerful that you can customize them at the smallest level, if you choose to edit all the configuration files.
If you use Firefox or Thunderbird in Windows, they are almost identical on Linux, except a couple of commands are on different menus.
From my experience, if you do not want to use command lines in Linux, you do not have to. There are fewer and fewer things that force you to use the command line to work in Linux.
Personally, I use a mix of mouse/keyboard, GUI/CLI* in my computing, whether it is Linux or Windows. Even in Windows, there are some things that are easier to do with a command line, such as renaming a bunch of files in a directory. Granted, there are Windows utilities that allow a GUI to do the same thing, if that is your preference.
If all of your hardware is recognized by a given Linux distribution on first install, you can go through your time with Linux and potentially never use a command line. If you install software that is bleeding edge/beta on Linux, you will probably have to use the CLI. However, the same is true on Windows.
Learning to use Linux, is no different than learning to use Windows. I remember the days of the transition from DOS, BTOS, and other CLI based OSes to Windows 3.11 and Win9x back in the couple of years leading up to Y2K. The legacy applications were all character interfaces, and the new Y2K compliant replacements were GUI and Windows only. I have one colleague who tells the story of training a new user and having to take three hours to convince someone that moving the mouse on the desk will move the pointer on the screen. It all depends on your perspective.
I was anti-mouse because I am old enough that I started with keyboard only interfaces. Until I got a Windows 3.0 PC and saw the possibilities. Now I am a combination user. If I know the keyboard commands for the different menus, I can do a series of steps much faster than I can with a mouse. If the menu commands are conducive to it, I can fire away on the keyboard with one hand and click away on the mouse with the other.
The way one uses a computer is as varied as individual tastes in food, or other likes/dislikes. The beauty of Linux and other Unix-Like OSes is that they give you more than one way, and often three or four or more ways to process a given task. You may decide that Linux is not for you, but keep in mind that it does not force you to use the CLI like it did years ago.
*CLI = Command Line Interface
I finally tried Mepis (3.3.1) yesterday. It is a live CD available in both a free and a fee version. I tried the free Simply Mepis version.
I have heard many good things about MEPIS, so I made time to try it for myself.
The philosophy of this Linux distribution is to make things easy for the user. Like the Knoppix and D**n Small Linux live CDs, it easily recognized my hardware and booted right up. It has all the familiar FOSS programs. One nice feature is a link on the desktop to install MEPIS directly to the hard drive of the PC. I plan to try this once I get a spare PC back in working order.
The one thing that frustrated me in downloading this distribution was the lack of an official Bittorrent. It is a single, yet full CD so it is over 650 MB, and took a couple hours, even with DSL. This is one thing that would help increase the adoption of this already popular distribution.
For its ease of use it does well in making it easy for a novice to make the switch from Windows to Linux. It has a very polish professional appearance. The creators of this distribution have done their homework on the usability front.
More will follow once in-depth testing has been done.
I discovered the “Hipster PDA” earlier last month. See 43 Folders for more information.
This is basically just index cards held together with binder clips. The idea is related to less is more, KISS, and books promoting the idea of “getting to done”. It is a new take on getting oneself organized.
In that spirit, I also discovered self-stick index cards. They are not quite as wide as 1.5 standard post-it notes. The adhesive is also a lot better, and re-sticks well, and also sticks better to more kinds of surfaces. The Duck brand cost about 97 cents for a pack of 100, which is far less expensive than a small pack of post-it notes.
I find these self-stick index cards to be good for keeping seldom used computer commands around my PC. I can also organize different tasks, projects, and honey-dos in my work area. I can cross-off items as they are completed, and pitch the card when it is done.