Dabbling with Linux.

This is a discussion on Dabbling with Linux. within the Tech Board forums, part of the Community Boards category; Hey guys/gals. Since everyone around here seems to love Linux and hate Windows, my curiosity's been raised. Being a Windows ...

  1. #1
    Carnivore ('-'v) Hunter2's Avatar
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    Question Dabbling with Linux.

    Hey guys/gals.

    Since everyone around here seems to love Linux and hate Windows, my curiosity's been raised. Being a Windows (and DOS) user all my life, I really have no idea what Linux is all about; but I'd like to find out

    So anyway, school will be pretty much over in a couple weeks, so I've been doing some research about Linux on the internet. However, after reading through a couple Linux tutorials and a bunch of distro reviews, I still have only a fuzzy idea of how things work in Linux, and I figured I'd ask over here.

    First of all, what's the difference between the distros? All I've been able to gather from the reviews is that some are easy to install and have excellent "package managers", while others are for more l33t people who do everything by config file. The other difference I've noticed is the selected assortment of pre-bundled software may be different; however, am I wrong in assuming that any packages found in one distribution but not in another can be downloaded and installed online anyway?

    Second, what are "packages"? Is the concept of a package very much similar to the concept of an installer in Windows?

    Third, can you have both Gnome and KDE? What does a window manager do anyway? Is there a distinction between "Gnome programs" and "KDE programs", or are they just "Linux programs", or "GTK programs" or what?

    Fourth, does the type of file system have any noticeable effect on everyday computing life, to the average desktop user?

    Fifth, will I need to find special device drivers somewhere, or should Linux come bundled with the drivers for everything I could possibly have, or does Linux magically not need device drivers? And what will happen to the hotkey functions of my laptop?

    Sixth, could I access files from my Windows partition from Linux?

    And finally, what is it that Linux does that Windows doesn't (other than come for free)? All I've seen so far are packages that provide alternatives to things that are already available in Windows, but that seems to be more of a "let's emulate Windows" game than "we're better than Windows" thing. Or is it stability? Or what?

    Thanks in advance, I look forward to learning more about Linux
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    I have used Linux myself on and off. KDE /GNOME are just "interfaces" if you can say that, that you use for your desktop. These two basically have a few differences besides the looks. Being free and stable is the reason that most people use it, another reason which i think is very important is the fact that you can not install, modify or change anything in the system without loging in as \root. Also when you install linux, it will have the basic drivers to boot your system. After you do that then you can go and download more packages, something like patches or general applications. Besides that, linux has all a developer needs for free, server software, ftp programs, html editors,compilers etc. So basically linux is mostly for those who know what they are doing or use it fro work, your average home user wont have linux installed, maybe few will try it out of curiosity and dual boot now and the, thats what im doing. You mention l33t in your post, well the people that are real good programmers they can modify the kernel and basically suit a particual distro to their needs. You cant access windows partitions from your linux partition on pure linux distributions. Also on those packages and open source programs, when you download them, for example you download aMSN, linux version of MSN messenger, you can work on it yourself, edit the source code and add some new features etc.
    Last edited by InvariantLoop; 04-15-2005 at 05:46 PM.
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    First of all, what's the difference between the distros?
    That's a tough question to answer without typing for days. Sometimes the difference can be merely cosmetic things, other times it's in package distribution/management, and other times it can be something major.

    Second, what are "packages"? Is the concept of a package very much similar to the concept of an installer in Windows?
    A package is something that can be installed on linux. It can be an application like "gaim" or "mplayer", or it could be a library, or even a collection of scripts.

    Third, can you have both Gnome and KDE?
    yes

    What does a window manager do anyway?
    It manages windows A window manager is what manipulates the windows, and handles the UI stuff.

    Is there a distinction between "Gnome programs" and "KDE programs"
    Not really. Gnome is based on GTK, and KDE is based on QT (If I remember correctly anyways). As long as you have the GTK and QT libraries installed, you should be able to run just about anything.

    Fourth, does the type of file system have any noticeable effect on everyday computing life, to the average desktop user?
    Yes. For instance if you have a FS with journaling (like ext3 or ReiserFS), then you wont have to run an integrity check like e2fsck all the time. Other certain filesystems perform better than other under difference circumstances (directory sizes, file sizes, etc). A google search should give you some benchmarks between different filesystems.

    Fifth, will I need to find special device drivers somewhere, or should Linux come bundled with the drivers for everything I could possibly have, or does Linux magically not need device drivers? And what will happen to the hotkey functions of my laptop?
    Most if not all of the drivers you will need will come with the kernel. For instance, the only driver I had to go out and get was a driver for my video card so I could do 3D. I don't know what will happen to the hotkey functions of your laptop.

    Sixth, could I access files from my Windows partition from Linux?
    Yes. There is a read-only NTFS driver which you could use to access files on your windows partition. You cannot write to an NTFS partition though. One thing you can do to get around this is create another partition, and make it ext2 or fat32. Then both windows and linux could access that partition (you would need to install an ext2 windows driver if you used that instead of fat32).

    what is it that Linux does that Windows doesn't (other than come for free)
    Well, most of the software on linux is opensource. This means that you could always modify programs if you so desired. More importantly though, opensource software tends to be more stable and bug-free due to there being more "eyes" on the source code.

    Linux also gives you more flexibility than windows. It allows you to choose between window managers, kernel versions, etc. You can also keep file sizes smaller and increase decrease your boot speed by only compiling in the things you need.

  4. #4
    Carnivore ('-'v) Hunter2's Avatar
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    Ok, thanks a lot for the info I'll go look into the different types of filesystems then. Also, bithub, you mentioned that you had to go get a driver for your video card. Will these drivers typically be supplied by the hardware's company (i.e. ATI), or are they developed by the community separately?

    Another question that just came to mind: I noticed on some reviews of the various distros that the reviewer stated that they used Linux for programming, office, and gaming. Programming and office I can understand, with bundled/free software available, but how do games fit into the picture? Does software have to be developed specifically for Linux (and/or be compilable from source) to be used? I've seen most popular games ported to Mac, but I don't remember ever seeing a "Linux version" of any game on the store shelf, so I'm a little confused about how you can play games on a Linux platform (I assume that games that use DirectX and a Windows message pump won't run on Linux).

    Thanks again in advance.
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    Some games can be played natively in Linux, but from what my Linux friends tell me, most of them require that you use Wine (Windows emulator), and some of them can be a pain to configure.

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    Will these drivers typically be supplied by the hardware's company (i.e. ATI), or are they developed by the community separately?
    Both actually. For me, the drivers produced by ATI are far superior to the open source drivers produced by others though.

    As for games, that can be tricky. Linux of course has OpenGL support, but it doesn't have DirectX support. Games that run purely on opengl are easy to port to linux, and game developers will usually do so. Games like Doom3 and Unreal Tournament run great on linux without having to run an emulator. Games which are not ported to linux by the developers need to be run through an emulator like WINE. (I realized that I called Wine an emulator when it actually stands for Wine Is Not an Emulator, but the fact is that it emulates a windows environment). There is also a branch from Wine called WineX (or Cedega now) which contends to have better luck than Wine running games.

    In my experience, very few games that use Wine/Cedega work flawlessly, and only about half the games (or less) are actually playable. Cedega tries hard to make the most popular games work (They claim to run games like Half-life 2, and World of Warcraft), but they tend to ignore support for non-mainstream games. I ran Warcraft 3 on Cedega, and was reasonably impressed. There's a bug which causes the game to lock up in some instances when you are trying to join another game on B-net, and the fonts can be kind of hard to read. Other than that it was the same as playing on windows.

  7. #7
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    Notably when using linux, you will need to get a hold of the drivers for your hardware which are specifically for *linux*. Most of this information can be found by *googling* for it. This is especially true if you are using a 56k dial up connection for your modem as opposed to a broadband connection.


    Another recommendation, if you are a little apprehensive as to installing linux as your only operating system, is to partition your hard drive so it accepts both windows and linux. In that way if you have trouble connecting to the internet in linux you always have the security of being able to do so with windows.

    Another useful way to try linux, is to grab a hold of a cd which boots up in linux using ONLY the cd. That way you can have a look at what it's all about without actually reformatting your harddrive.


  8. #8
    Carnivore ('-'v) Hunter2's Avatar
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    Ok, thanks for all the replies everyone; I think I have all the info I need for now.

    >>partition your hard drive so it accepts both windows and linux.
    Yup, I was planning on doing dual-boot. I'm far too reliant on Windows right now (especially for games) to do anything so drastic as throw it out completely

    >>Another useful way to try linux, is to grab a hold of a cd which boots up in linux using ONLY the cd.
    I just downloaded the latest version of Knoppix as well as Gentoo (hope it isn't too complicated, I don't know much about compiling with anything other than MSVC). I'll test them out on an old computer when I have more time later, Knoppix first and then Gentoo after I've gotten my toes wet a little.
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    Gentoo's learning curve can be pretty steep for a first-timer. You may want to consider something like Fedora if you don't want to go through a bunch of steps to get your OS up and running.

    I'm currently using Gentoo and I am impressed with it, but I wouldn't recommend it to someone that was just learning linux.

  10. #10
    Carnivore ('-'v) Hunter2's Avatar
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    Ok, thanks for the tip. I guess at this point learning is more important than "the perfect OS"; I'll give Fedora or Mandrake a try then.
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    UT2004 Addict Kleid-0's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hunter2
    Yup, I was planning on doing dual-boot. I'm far too reliant on Windows right now (especially for games) to do anything so drastic as throw it out completely
    lol. I remember when I switched to Linux, and I totally washed out Windows...did I regret this later? Of course not! Even though my Unreal Tournament 2004 folder had 16 GB of characters, mods, weapons, and maps I really didn't care! WHY!? Because I deleted part of my C drive while making a trojan and I then realized that computers are crap anyways, and that's just like how Paul Allen felt when he got cancer in the lymph nodes.

    What does Linux has that Windows doesn't?
    1. More secure (since it's not as mainstream as Windows)
    2. Many apps that tremendously help me (grep, netstat, tar, zip, dmesg, uname, du -s, cat) increase productivity by a lot (some more than others of course).
    3. Shell scripting! Batch files are ok, but shell scripting feels more powerful. Makes me do recursive commands that would be very tedious in Windows, such as removing certain files in a directory filled with 100000 different logs.
    4. GUI control (many windows managers to choose from!)
    5. Different folder explorers (I always had to use the same old Windows explorer to surf around).

    What does Windows have that Linux doesn't?
    1. Better technical support (except linux commercial products like SuSE and Red Hat)
    2. Better gaming environment (except for games like UT)


    >> Can I have both KDE & Gnome?
    Yes, you use a config file that tells the X system (the GUI base) which one you want to use.

    >> Are the graphics cards by community seperate from ATI/nVidia?
    When I got Debian it came with an nVidia driver, but if you want graphics accleration to run 3D games you need to get the driver from the nVidia site...and you should anyways to get the most recent driver.

    Some things I learned from this thread:
    1. I didn't know WINE = Wine Is Not an Emulator. That's just like GNU = Gnu's Not Unix.
    2. I didn't know you could run WarCraft III on Linux, I have that game

  12. #12
    Registered User major_small's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bithub
    Gentoo's learning curve can be pretty steep for a first-timer. You may want to consider something like Fedora if you don't want to go through a bunch of steps to get your OS up and running.

    I'm currently using Gentoo and I am impressed with it, but I wouldn't recommend it to someone that was just learning linux.
    I haven't tried fedora yet, but I just compiled my first Gentoo core yesterday (the entire process from creating partitions to configuring KDE took me about three days (less than one if I hadn't let the core and KDE compile overnight).

    Gentoo can be extremely difficult for a first-time user, but it also has something that will compile an "general-purpose" kernel, which will autodetect alot of things for you--but this (as you can tell) won't be optimized for your needs.

    here's an alternative, if compiling a kernel and installing everything isn't your main priority: knoppix is a live cd that you can boot off of, and it includes lots of software you can use for pretty much any purpose you could think of (including timing your tea). you don't need to bother with installing anything or configuring (almost) anything, because there's usually a script in there that'll walk you through the process.

    it already has KDE installed and ready to go, and a user (knoppix) for you to use. just put it in your CD tray, and reboot from the CD.

    My main tip: if you're planning on installing any distro (as opposed to the live-cd idea), make sure you have a computer you're already comfortable with that can connect to the internet--I had to keep booting back into windows to find out where to go next from the gentoo website (and without a desktop environment/web browser, I was pretty lost)
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    Carnivore ('-'v) Hunter2's Avatar
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    Knoppix was the first one I downloaded. At the moment though, I have 4 different distros' ISO's downloaded and sitting in a folder somewhere. I have 2 old computers downstairs that I plan to victimize soon, for the cause of the betterment of humanity; my new laptop (and my dad's computer) will remain untouched until I get a clue about what I'm doing, which I hope I will acquire after doing 8 Linux installs
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    Have you considered Cygwin? It's not the whole Linux operating system. Instead, it's the core utilities ported to windows. I've used that to learn awk and perl and how to pipe together commands to do useful things and shell programming and such. I've done that without having to worry about getting Linux drivers for my hardware or mucking around with config files.

    But if you really want to use the operating system and everything it has to offer, more power to you. Just my two cents.

  15. #15
    Registered User major_small's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by joshdick
    I've done that without having to worry about getting Linux drivers for my hardware or mucking around with config files.
    AFAIK, most distros come with the necessary drivers you'll need--the only thing that may trip you up is not knowing which modules your system would need (knowing what your system has in it and google will help you out with that)
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