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Beginners FAQ
Why should I use Linux?

Here are lots of reasons why Linux might be the perfect operating system to meet your requirements. Here are a few:

  • A Linux Distribution has thousands of dollars worth of software for no cost (or a couple of dollars if purchased on DVD).
  • Linux is a complete operating system that is: stable - the crash of an application is much less likely to bring down the operating system under Linux; reliable - Linux servers are often up for hundreds of days compared with the regular reboots required with a Windows system; extremely powerful.
  • Comes with a complete development environment, including C, C++, Fortran compilers, toolkits such as Qt and scripting languages such as Perl, Awk and sed. A C compiler for Windows alone would set you back hundreds of dollars.
  • Excellent networking facilities
  • The ideal environment to run servers such as a web server (e.g. Apache), or an FTP server.
  • A wide variety of commercial software is available if your needs aren't satisifed by the free software.
  • An operating system that is easily upgradeable. After any length of time a typical installation of Windows and software gets into a complete mess. Often the only way to clear out all the debris is to reformat the hard disk and start again. Linux, however, is much better for maintaining the system.
  • True multi-tasking; the ability to run more than one program at the same time. This releases the power of the modern PC to sparkle by serving multiple users over the network.
  • An excellent window system called X; the equivalent of Windows but much more flexible. You can even open a window on another computer with security and work or display remotely.
  • Learning Linux is fun, profitable and liberating.
  • Much less prone to virus, trojans than XP/Vista
Can my Windows applications run under Linux?

There are a number of choices that are available. One popular commercial program is VMware, which lets you run multiple operating systems on an individual machine. A wide number of operating systems are supported including Windows 95, Windows 98, ME, 2000, XP, and FreeBSD. Their website is www.vmware.com.

If you want to run Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, Internet Explorer (why?), Access, Project, Photoshop, Visio, Notes, iTunes, FrameMaker and others, you might be interested in CrossOver Office, a project that has built upon the success of Wine.

The downside of both VMWare and CrossOver Office is that both applications are proprietary. However, there is a no cost alternative. Wine is an Open Source implementation of the Windows API on top of X and Unix. Wine makes it possible to take advantage of all the Unix strong points (stability, flexibility, remote administration) while still using the Windows applications you depend on.

Which Linux Distribution should I install?

LinuxLinks.com currently lists over 800 Linux distributions, although some of these distributions rely heavily on others.

There are a number of factors that need to be considered:

  • Installation and configuration of Linux can be non-trivial. Although email and telephone support can resolve most newbie problems, there's nothing that can replace face to face support. For home users, having a friend guiding you through the initial stages is invaluable, so it's recommended you try a distribution which (s)he regularly uses.
  • Choice of the distribution can be dictated by the hardware in your machine.
  • Some distributions are considered to be more 'technical'; for example Debian and Slackware, excellent in their own right, don't rely so much on fancy Graphical User Interface (GUI) tools.


Last Updated Saturday, June 21 2008 @ 05:15 PM EDT


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