Tuesday, April 01, 2014

Lauding Linux

If you have an old computer lying around gathering dust, one you love but can't upgrade, or one you can't afford to upgrade, Linux can revive it. You most likely have some preconceptions about Linux, e.g., way too complex, command line, so let’s deal with those first. Linux in 2014 looks and feels much like Windows or Mac OS. Furthermore, consider what you have gotten acclimatized to: blue screens, random error dialogue boxes, and viruses. I haven't seen one in Linux.
Still unsure? Linux, unlike Windows or Mac OS which release one version of their operating system for a period of time, have a very large number of distributions, which you can choose based on preference. Some of these are Long Term Support (LTS) distributions that will be supported for a few years or others are rolling distributions that provide more frequent upgrades. No matter what the distribution it is easy to upgrade and transition to a new distribution. Since Linux can run on a thumb drive, you can test drive those that appeal to you without installing anything on your computer. Try the applications included on the distribution, check out the user interface, and have fun. Note that the distribution will run much faster when it's installed on your computer.
If you find a distribution that appeals to you, but don't like all the programs, don't worry. It is very easy to remove or replace programs. In particular, the Ubuntu Software Centre is great and most of the programs are free. It is like the Google Play or App Store. If you want Libre Office (an excellent office suite), search for it, and click install. Libre Office is a good example because you can install the entire suite or separate programs. You can see exactly what's installed and get new vetted programs in one place, and it's so much better than Add/Remove Programs.
Linux has music covered as well. I invested an inordinate amount of time in my iTunes meta data and was paranoid that this might get lost with any import. Fortunately, programs like Banshee do this with a click of the mouse and not only import the meta data but also playlists. Banshee processed my fairly large music library in ten minutes. The only thing it skipped was the Smart Playlists which I exported from iTunes and then imported separately.
Many distributions have workspaces, which can be best described as switchable desktops running programs you specify. For example, move large files on one workspace and then complete other work on another workspace. This way it is easy to check on the moving files and instantly switch back the other work, and even have a music player or browser on a separate monitor with it's own workspace(s).
Every now and then a problem will present itself, such as when you purchase a new network hard drive, but there are plentiful forum and blog posts to guide you. It may take some time and learning but you will resolve it. Behind all Linux distributions are a committed group of awesome people. They and their organizations release the distributions and are more than willing to help you via forums, wikis, etc. Share the love with these people.
Linux is much less scary than it used to be. If you keep all your data backed up on a portable hard drive or, better, have it on separate drive from your operating system and back it up, and have all your bookmarks, emails, etc. on the cloud, then there is very little risk in playing around with Linux.

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