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I've got a decent PC running Windows XP and a really big paper-weight that runs on Windows 95. (I don't really use that one, but I was considering installing Linux on it just to check it out, if it's even possible on such old hardware.)
But back to the decent computer. I know Linux is popular among its users and I wouldn't want to miss out on it if Linux is to operating systems what Firefox is to web browsers. I don't really know anything about Linux at all, so I'll ask the question very generally. What's so good about Linux, and is it anything that would make me want to switch from XP?
Distribution: Ubuntu, Debian, Various using VMWare
Try it and see.
If you have got space on your XP box, try dual booting with Linux to try it out. Alternatively, try downloading a Kubuntu Linux live CD, from www.kubuntu.org. Reboot with the CD in, and you can try out Linux without installing it. I don't recommend putting Linux on the Win95 box, you won't get a good experience in terms of the desktop. If you like it, you can download the installable version. Partition your hdd, install Windows then install Linux. It will take care of dual booting.
Linux has many things going for it, including stability, performance, cost , freedom to do what you want, fully customisable, etc. Like I said, try it for yourself and find out.
There are many Linux distributions, such as Ubuntu / Kubuntu (good for newbies), Fedora, Debian, Suse, and about 1000 others. I suggest Kubuntu, because it is good for newbies, and not too difficult to install.
Why **I** am moving to Linux:
Real command-line with unbelievable power
Freedom of choice
The business model seems "right"--especially the way Mark Shuttleworth (Ubuntu/Canonical) says it. It just "feels right" to have basic SW be freely accessible to all.
Breaking the feeling of being dependent on the excessively easy MS products which set out to coddle us and often wind up just creating confusion and frustration...(Ever tried page layout in MSWord?).
Moral opposition to MS business practices and the current inability/unwillingness of the terminally-inept Bush admin to deal with same.
The feeling of living a bit more "on the edge"---being challenged to do some things and yet feeling that the foundation laid down by the core OS will survive my thrashing.
and, of course, Penguins are cute.....
going on whay IBall said... try out a livecd to see if you like it! after downloading knoppix on a dvd, i soon made the switch to linux myself try a few livecd distro's, as almost all will have different interfaces. it's just a case of seeing which you like best... go ahead, try them all.... it's all free anyway
I just wanted to add a couple of things to these comments based on my own experience. You need to examine what you use your computer for. I had been using windows since the days of 3.1 and during all that time was never really power user. I wrote the occassional email, surfed the net, did some projects for work and some gaming. When I came across Linux in 1996, I, like you, had an extra box that wasn't being used, so I installed Red Hat on it (at the time Red Hat was version 5, I believe and was $29.00 for the boxed set.) Because I had never been a real computer geek (pardon that), what I found was so alien to anything I had ever experienced with Windows that I found it totally unusable for my needs. It was interesting to something on a comupter that wasn't created by Microsoft, but just to difficult for someone like me.
I didn't try Linux again until 2002 (Red Hat 8) and was absolutely stunned at the progress made to the desktop in just six years. If I had done nothing more that use my computer as I always had this would have suited me fine. But I quickly found that now that the desktop was a little more "Windows-like", I could explore a little bit. When I did, I was amazed at what I had been missing from Windows. With Windows, you are not allowed under the hood, you can't get into the guts of the system. With Linux, I could go anywhere I wanted and do anything I wanted. Amazing freedom! For me, it created a geek where there wasn't one before. That was almost four years ago now, and I am still learning, but what I have found in the end is that if I only want to play games and send emails (and don't mind the $200-300 pop everytime windows is fixed with a new version), windows is still the easiest system. But, now that I really want to know what my PC is capable of, Linux is the only answer. The live CD's are a good suggestion, but I don't think you are really going to "experience Linux" until you do a hard drive install. You can play it safe, like I did, and do a dual boot. You'll still have the "security" of windows while you learn. But, if your experience is like mine, it won't be long until ditch windows altogether. I still have windows on my system, but have not booted into it for a long time.
But be prepared for some frustrating moments. Learning Linux takes time and patience if you really want to experience the power it has to offer. There are some things that do not work "out of the box" in Linux like they do in Windows, mostly because hardware manufacturers are not totally on board yet, but that is changing rapidly.
So, if you just want ease and simplicity, stay with windows. But, if you really want to know the future of home computing, go Linux. You will not be sorry if you stick with it
Freedom. Linux treats you as though you are an intelligent being, and assumes you know what you are doing.
Or as I always say, "Linux lets me be as smart as I am."
OK, now that you're sold, I'll save us some time when you come back in two days with a puzzled frown: Linux is ten times as big as the Windows systems you're used to. Even the smallest live CD distros have more programs than a loaded Windows install, and full installed major systems have easily ten times as much stuff. Linux rarely throws anything away, so the history of some of your programs go back to early BSD and MIT 70's usage, spreading all the way through time to cutting edge stuff new this year.
What I'm getting at is, be ready for a learning curve. You'll have to read a long time if you want to understand everything. If your needs are pretty basic, pick a smaller distro (live CDs, as others have pointed out, are excellent to start with) such as Ubuntu, Puppy, or Damn Small. Live CD or dual boot is the way to go, because you don't have the gun to your head - you can run Linux once a week if you want to, learn at your own pace, but still have Windows around until you no longer need it...
Distribution: SuSE 9.X, SuSE 10, SLES 9,RedHat, Feodora Gentoo, Solaris, and more
It is a rock stable OS and you have really good control of your computer.
When I was using Windows then I often got frustrated that the software you installed spread files all over and it was impossible to find them.
With Linux you have control and really easy to find all the files for a software when you want to erase or edit something,
You don' either need to pay a fortune on licenses, there are always free alternatives for linux to use ;-)
Politely dissenting with the poster who said that you should dual-boot your XP box, I would suggest that you sacrifice your '98 paperweight. Or I should say, give it a brand new life. (After running '98 all these years, it deserves a reincarnation.)
Basically, I believe that you should explore Linux because you desperately need to. This business changes overnight and switches direction like a school of mackerels. Most of the new and exciting things that are coming out now are based on Linux/Unix technology, and there is still a narrow window of time for the "Windows Only set" to change their stripes . . .
..and a really big paper-weight that runs on Windows 95. (I don't really use that one, but I was considering installing Linux on it just to check it out, if it's even possible on such old hardware.)
I agree with sundialsvcs, there are tons of distros that will run quite merrily on your "paper-weight". I have ubuntu running on a P-I 200mhz 128MB RAM 4GB HD 8MB Intel PCI video card. Is it slow? Yeah, but it does run. If you drop out of X and go CLI only, its quite snappy. Sacrifice the old PC to your learning experience.
Now before you go and make a fool of yourself, don't come back and ask "Which distro". Search this forum for the 9 gazillion times that thread has been posted before. At the top of this page is a "Main Menu" on which you can find "Download Linux". Have fun.
Thanks a lot to everyone who replied. Linuxquestions seems to have a great community.
I'm downloading that Kubuntu live CD that IBall mentioned right now, and I wanted to ask before I boot with it whether it's possible to do any harm to my PC. (I don't really know what I'm doing, after all.)
So, can I delete or move my files accidentally or change settings in a harmful way or anything detrimental like that?
Not by default. Your hard drive will be mounted "read-only" so you can only read the files, not write. If it's NTFS, that's what you want anyway, because write support to NTFS is still a bit of a crap shoot and you can really hose up your Windows partition.
As long as you're just running off the live CD without remounting hard drives with write support, you'll be fine. Explore, browse the web, check out some programs, etc.
I'm in radio production, so I use WIndows XP for audio editing and production. No Linux apps come even close to Adobe Audition. Having said that....
I prefer Linux distros (in this order) Simply Mepis 3.4, PCLinuxOS, and Kanotix. All are live cds and installable with a click. All have good hardware detection, Synaptic is allot like WIndows Update where you can get loads of software. Linux: Customizable, Free, Fun and challenging, with a good support community. I've bought my last MS product.