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Linux: This time, it really IS time

Every once in a while, I beat the drum for Linux. I swear it’s not just for geeks any more. After all, I’m no geek and I’ve been using Linux — and watching it get better and better — for 12 years.

Windows users usually ignore me when I bang my Linux drum. Ah well; so it goes.

But a couple of things happened recently that convinced me Linux has finally, truly, really, no-kidding gone beyond being a contender against Windows for the average desktop user. It has become clearly superior to Windows for the average desktop user.

So, you who are using (or being used by) Windows, bear with me once more as I offer:

Two evidences that Linux is ready for the rest of us
10 specific reasons to try Linux
Three reasons not to try Linux
One great Linux for newbies
Five other n00b-compatible Linuxes and
How to get ’em — free, cheap, and easy

Here goes …

Two evidences that Linux is ready for the rest of us

1. A couple months ago, I loaded Linux onto the computer of a technophobic friend. He wasn’t eager to try Linux, but he was beyond fed up with Windows — with its nagging popups, blue screens of death, chronic slowdowns, daily application crashes, and Big Brother in Redmond watching.

He hasn’t has a single problem since. Aside from little things like getting used to buttons being in different places, he’s been happily browsing the web, sending email, playing music, editing photos, and watching DVDs since Linux Day One.

2. More recently, I had to perform a routine configuration task on several computers. It took me five minutes on Linux. After five hours on Windows I still couldn’t get it done. But I did manage to crash the brand, shiny new operating system. Twice. Without even trying. Later, I succeeded in performing the job — but only after giving in to some Microsoftian nannying.

Yes. We’ve now reached the point where Linux can be easier than Windows.

10 specific reasons to try Linux

1. Money. You can download many versions of Linux free or buy them on CD for as little as $1.75.

2. Money. Most applications for Linux are free, including full-featured equivalents of apps like PhotoShop (the GIMP) and Microsoft Office (OpenOffice).

3. You can try without committing. Most Linuxes are now available on “live” CDs that let you test drive the operating system before installing. Have fun. Check it out. Then, when you feel comfortable — install off the same CD. You have nothing to lose!

4. No nannying popups.

5. No spyware.

6. Freedom from viruses and trojans, nearly all of which are specially designed around flaws in Windows.

7. Linux is by independent people, for independent people.

8. Stability. Applications may occasionally crash. But Linux itself? Like the Rock of Gibralter.

9. Property rights. When you buy a copy of Linux, you own it. No begging permissions to re-install. No having to prove to Bill Gates that yours is a “legitimate” copy.

10. The most popular Linuxes for newbies feature “package managers” that automate installation of software and fulfill all dependencies at the same time.

10a. Seriously. I mean it. Linux can be easier to use than Windows.

Three reasons not to try Linux

1. Because you’re married to Windows by some professional requirement (e.g. you need software made only for Windows; your work network is Windows-only, etc.)

2. Inertia (or as my formerly Linux-phobic friend said less charitably of himself this morning, “fear and ignorance”)

3. “Because I’m just not interested, Claire. So shut up and quit bothering me!”

Okay. But if it’s reasons 1 or 2, you could still drag that old, spare computer out of a closet and give Linux a try. Or just boot up a “live” Linux CD on the very machine you’re using now and poke around a little without obligating yourself to anything.

If you do decide to install a Linux, you can still keep Windows and do a dual boot.

One great Linux for newbies

I’m going to make this super-simple.

There are hundreds of “flavors” of Linux — different looks, feels, features, and functionality built on the same core operating system. Some are strictly for geeks. Slackware, for instance. Newbies don’t go there. Others are astonishingly specialized. There’s a Linux especially for multimedia artists. And one customized for Christians. There are Linuxes solely in Portuguese or Chinese.

But you can bypass all that confusion.

The best, all-round, totally newbie friendly, impressively full-featured Linux is this one. Mint.

Mint came out of nowhere about three years ago. But it isn’t exactly new. It’s built on a wildly popular Linux distro called Ubuntu, which is in turn built on one of the big pioneering distros called Debian.

Ub-what? Deb-who? Never mind. What that means to newbies is that Mint has a solid history, plenty of stability, and hoards of available application packages.

What sets Mint apart, though, is that it’s designed to give you everything the everyday user wants right out of the box.

It not only comes with all the big apps (e.g. Firefox browser, Thunderbird mail reader, the GIMP photo manipulation program, OpenOffice). Many Linux distros have all those. But the standard download or CD edition comes complete with media codecs. Yep. Crank up Linux Mint (which takes only about 1/2 hour to install) and you’ll be playing DVDs with no further fuss or expense.

It’s clean, simple, & pretty, too.

Try it; you’ll like it. My technophobic friend did.

Five other n00b-compatible Linuxes

If you decide you don’t want Mint … or if you want to try five or six Linuxes at once (and why not? It’s cheap!) here are other major, newbie-friendly Linux distros:

1. Mandriva. My long-time personal favorite, Mandriva was the very first Linux designed (back in 1998) specifically for ease of use. Unlike Mint, it also has sophisticated system administration tools built into the GUI. (Newbie version to choose: MandrivaOne)

2. Puppy. Puppy’s claim to fame is that it’s both friendly and very, very, very small. Hey! Just like a puppy. The entire operating system loads into RAM, so you can carry it around with you on a USB stick or a flash card and use it on any computer equipped with the proper ports. Despite being so small, it’s got lots of applications (though not always the big standard ones) and its very fast.

3. Ubuntu. Ubuntu could be called “the people’s Linux.” It’s built on a philosophy that everybody in the world should be able to use, customize, and alter free software, regardless of their native language or disabilities. It’s hugely popular. But since you can get all the good things of Ubuntu and more via Mint, I’d go with Mint.

4. KNOPPIX. It’s been a few years since I tried KNOPPIX, but I remember it as an unfancy type of Linux, easy to use and definitely not a memory hog. (In fact, if memory serves, it was one of the first to use the “live” CD concept that lets you try without committing.) Like Mint and Ubuntu, KNOPPIX is based on Debian, which gives you a solid base of applications and proven technology.

5. Mepis. Another Debian-based, elegant, nice-and-easy Linux. Last time I tried this one (about a year ago), it irritated me by asking for a password before I could use its live CD. That’s silly! But I think the password it wanted was just “demo” and if you have the patience to type that in, you’ll see a very nice, sleek OS.

5a. Fedora. Fedora is based on Red Hat — another of the old-line, very stable, very respectable Linuxes. As with the Debian-based Linuxes, it has its own package manager that makes software installation a dream and it has tons of software in its repositories. Some people might say Fedora isn’t ideal for n00bs because it tends to be bleeding edge. Red Hat uses it as a testing ground for new apps and new code. So yes, occasionally it might produce frustration. But it’s a nice, slick operating system and its basics are very sound. So let’s say this one is for newbies who are also willing to be bold explorers now and then.

How to get ’em — free, cheap, and easy

There are lots of ways to get every Linux. But the easiest place to begin — Linux Central, so to speak — is DistroWatch. DistroWatch has a page for every Linux. Type in the name of the Linux you want or choose from the drop-down menu at the top of the page and click GO.

Or, if you want to keep it simple, click on my recommendations above. All those links go to DistroWatch listings.

On the individual distro’s page, you’ll find links to download sites and reviews.

If you want to buy your copy on CD, DVD, or USB, DistroWatch has links to two vendor sites, and You can buy a “live” CD for as little as $1.75, an installation DVD for as little as $4.95, or a USB stick pre-loaded with a distro for $15 and up. Both sites offer various shipping discounts, return customer discounts, etc.

TIP: Microsoft assumes that every user should interact with the operating system in exactly the same way (via one standardized graphical user interface, aka windows manager, aka the thing that makes Windows look like Windows). Linux users get to choose among many interfaces. It can be a little confusing at first. Don’t worry about it. Most distros come with an interface called Gnome (pronounced G’nome) or one called KDE; they’re the two Big Boys among windows managers. If you’re given a choice, Gnome’s a little simpler. But either will serve you just fine.

So, Windows users … what’s holding you back?

Questions? You still have questions? I’m no geek or Linux guru, but if you’re serious about giving Linux a try and want the benefit of my ordinary user experience, I’ll do my best to answer in the comments section. And what I can’t answer, the more serious Linuxians among the blog readers probably will.

EDIT: One more thing. My ex-Significant-Sweetie (the serious Linux guru from whom I long ago caught the Linux bug) suggested I add a link to Goodbye Microsoft. If you frequent Wendy McElroy’s blog you’ll have seen links to GM. It’s the brainchild of her husband and co-blogger, Brad.


  1. Living Freedom » Blog Archive » Linux: This time, it really IS time
    Living Freedom » Blog Archive » Linux: This time, it really IS time March 26, 2010 5:34 am

    […] See the rest here:  Living Freedom » Blog Archive » Linux: This time, it really IS time […]

  2. Bill St. Clair
    Bill St. Clair March 26, 2010 5:34 am

    Don’t forget Debian, which is the base for Knoppix and Ubunutu.

  3. FreeAgencyEnforcer
    FreeAgencyEnforcer March 26, 2010 6:50 am

    I would like to try Linux, particularly the Mint flavor is intriguing. However before I try it, is there a way to easily determine if my current hardware is compatible? I am specifically worried about my wireless network PCMCIA card. Thanks!

  4. Claire
    Claire March 26, 2010 6:50 am

    It’s in there, Bill. I didn’t recommend it as a Linux for newbies because I’ve never personally used it and back in the olden days I got the impression it wasn’t the easiest Linux around. But since I’m soon to place an order at, I may well give it a try. Heck, I might even order a copy of Slackware just to see if I’m ready for the big time. 🙂

  5. Claire
    Claire March 26, 2010 7:05 am

    Good question, FreeAgencyEnforcer. Here’s a portal site that links to all sorts of Linux compatibility lists. Or, if finding your way through mega-lists gets too daunting (and it easily could), how about just Googling Linux compatible or Linux driver and the brand name and model of your card?

    FWIW, even as little as five years ago, compatibility issues with Linux were a serious concern, especially with laptops. I started buying used IBMs because they were known as the most Linux-ready laptops around. But even then, it seemed I always had to download a driver, do some command-line configuration or something.

    I simply don’t find that to be true any more. The last three or four computers I’ve set up with Linux have simply worked from the get-go.

    Also, if a PC card doesn’t work immediately and you can’t download a Linux driver for it, you’ll find a setup in Mint’s control panel that will let you install the card’s Windows driver on Linux. I have a card handled that way (which I use as a backup to the onboard wireless card). Doesn’t receive quite as strong a signal as it does on Windows, but it does the job if I ever need it.

    Trying out a “live” CD before installing might also help you know whether everything will work under Linux.

    Hope that helps.

  6. Claire
    Claire March 26, 2010 7:25 am

    In private email, somebody brought up a valid issue: If you have a Linux computer and something goes wrong with it, you probably won’t find a local shop that knows anything about Linux, and the computer manufacturer won’t give you support.

    Pesky, but again, I’ve never found that a big deal. Some ideas:

    1. Your local shop (or possibly you) can test to determine whether the problem is hardware of software. If it’s hardware, they can fix it, regardless of the OS you’re using.

    If the problem is software …

    2. If you live in an area with a Linux Users Group, somebody in that group will probably be happy to take a look. (Google to find groups.)

    3. Run your install disk, choosing the “repair an existing installation” option.

    4. Personally, I keep all my user data on separate disk partitions from the operation system. Should the OS “go wonky” (rare, but possible), I can completely reinstall the OS without touching my precious mail, documents, bookmarks, preferences, etc. Disk partitioning is a sort of intermediate-ish skill, but it’s an option Linux gives you with every install, and its one I quickly found to be one of Linux’s greatest blessings.

  7. With so much good Open Source software available, why do people insist on using Microsoft products? | Open Source Management
    With so much good Open Source software available, why do people insist on using Microsoft products? | Open Source Management March 26, 2010 8:25 am

    […] Living Freedom » Blog Archive » Linux: This time, it rattling IS time […]

  8. Claire's technophobic friend
    Claire's technophobic friend March 26, 2010 8:29 am

    Seriously, when she’s right she’s right. Long time Microsoft user/hater, first time Linux Mint user. Hates new things. Zero problems. It’s not just as good as XP, it’s better in every measurable way and far better in some. Well, except for that reversed-buttons thing, but I got over that. Also free.

  9. Winston
    Winston March 26, 2010 9:41 am

    Thank you for the “just shut up and get Mint” advice. I’m getting a new computer one of these days and had already decided on some form of Linux, however anyone I ask in person thinks it’s stupid and we should embrace our lord and masters Microsoft and Google, and it seems anyone on the internet has to keep up their reputation as a geek and refuses to tell me how these things work in anything other than technobabble.

    All I know is that I’m not getting microsoft anything, and I’m not gonna be like that guy at the coffee shop with the Mac Book. Linux it is….

  10. Claire
    Claire March 26, 2010 9:59 am

    Winston, GOOD ON YOU! I don’t think you’ll regret that choice. And if you need any help at any point, I’ll be glad to do anything I can.

    Yeah, technobabble. That may still be Linux’s biggest problem. “Claire’s technophobic friend,” who commented so graciously about his good experience with Mint, always said that the thing that put him off Linux wasn’t the operating system, but the Linux fans who would invariably say something like, “Oh, it’s really simple! All you have to do is …” and then go on incomprehensibly. (I know those folks all too well …)

    The geeks will always be with us — and thank heaven for their good hearts, even when their words go over our heads. Sometimes they’re seriously, seriously helpful. But know what? They’re not using Mint. Or Mandriva. I promise you’ll discover that there really are “Linuxes for the rest of us.”

  11. Living Freedom » Blog Archive » Linux: This time, it really IS time
    Living Freedom » Blog Archive » Linux: This time, it really IS time March 26, 2010 10:13 am

    […] the article here: Living Freedom » Blog Archive » Linux: This time, it really IS time Posted in Uncategorized | Tags: claire, finding-it-within, freedom, […]

  12. Tweets that mention --
    Tweets that mention -- March 26, 2010 10:36 am

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  13. Philalethes
    Philalethes March 26, 2010 11:23 am

    Well, Claire, it was your 1999 column (“A non-nerd leaps to Linux”) in WorldNetDaily (when it used to be readable) which first drew my attention to Linux — I’d heard of it before, but only barely, and hadn’t thought about the political implications of Open Source.

    However, by 1999 I’d already been deeply immersed in the Macintosh world for eleven years, since I got my first computer, a Mac Plus, in 1988. And I’d been making my living as a Mac support consultant for some five years. And while the Mac was (and remains) certainly far from perfect, it was light-years better than Windows (which I’ve never used; the few encounters I’ve had provoked a visceral reaction: ugly and I could *feel* the Big Brother consciousness), with none of the practical problems (other than, yes, occasional crashes), or the security problems (a total of something like a half dozen viruses in the classic Mac OS, easily detectable and preventable; no surveillance — none of either in Mac OS X) I heard Windows users complain of constantly.

    So, despite the ideological appeal, I haven’t switched to Linux, but have followed its development from the sidelines, and wish it well — if for no other reason than that Apple really needs some real competition.

    (There’s also the problem that I’ve never yet seen a non-Apple computer that I’d want to live with on purely esthetic grounds. They all seem to be designed either by third-raters with no design sophistication, or by teenage geeks who just can’t resist adding more buttons and lights. Some of Apple’s designs might be a little too minimalist, but that’s preferable to the Star Trek control panel look.)

    And now, eleven years later, I confess I’m a little surprised to see freedom/patriot/libertarian folks *still* complaining about Windows. As you demonstrated, Linux was usable by non-geeks even in 1999, and it has come a long way since.

    I’ve never quite understood the antipathy to the Mac in the freedom community; all right, Apple *is* a corporation, and “proprietary”, but other than that, it is definitely *not* Micro$oft in all the ways that matter — including the Mac’s ease of use (and security) for non-geeks. And yes, Apple’s politics are decidedly liberal, but that doesn’t mean you can’t use a Mac while retaining your own political convictions — as prominent Mac journalist and avowed conservative Charles Moore makes clear, while non-liberals as diverse as Rush Limbaugh and Lew Rockwell are Mac users.

    (See also Moore’s “Linux, Freedom, and Frontiers“: “I’ve often mused that were it not for my affinity for the Mac OS user-experience and my admiration and appreciation for the superior industrial design, reliability (usually), and longevity of Apple computer hardware, I am more philosophically and temperamentally a Linux person.”)

    And of course, it is true that Apple’s products are more expensive than many of the alternatives — but only if your time and peace of mind aren’t worth anything. A BMW is more expensive than a Ford, but that’s not the only difference between them.

    But okay, you don’t like Apple for whatever reason; then why hasn’t the freedom community switched en masse to Linux, which is both not Micro$oft and not Apple in *every* way that matters? People who seem to be willing to go to any lengths for their liberty — declaring sovereignty, moving off the grid, fighting court battles (or worse), moving offshore and learning another language — can’t seem to be troubled to spend a little time to install and learn an operating system which, after all, looks and works very like Windows at the interface level, and is otherwise a huge breath of fresh air. Talk about staying with the herd! To my mind, something about this situation doesn’t, well, compute.

    Unfortunately, the Linux world suffers from the backside of all that freedom, which is the old libertarian problem of herding cats. A tremendous amount of creative energy is expended, but in so many diverse directions that the overall impact in the computer world unfortunately remains marginal.

    The real hopeful sign in Linux development has been Ubuntu, which, fueled by Mark Shuttleworth’s libertarian-style philanthropism, has finally begun to make it believable as a mainstream OS. Even Dell will sell you a computer with Ubuntu installed these days. Shuttleworth recently issued a challenge to the Open Source community, to meet and excel Apple’s user experience: a tall order, especially given that Apple is hardly standing still itself, but I certainly hope the community will seriously take him up on it. It is really something of a puzzlement to me that nobody seems to be able to come anywhere near Apple in creativity, innovation and style. Even Google is playing catchup copycat.

    Now that Mac OS is also based on a *nix variant (with many of the same advantages as Linux), what I hope to see eventually is a computer world on a common Unix(-like) basis, which anyone can build on to show the world their best idea for a desktop OS, and let the best ones win in a free marketplace — while applications will be relatively easy to port between OSes (as they now are between Mac OS and Linux/BSD). And then let Micro$oft demonstrate that they can build a modern, secure, easy to use *nix-based OS whose success is based on quality rather than chicanery. If they can. A complex ecosystem is a healthy ecosystem.

    Ironically, alongside the freedom-oriented aspects of Linux and Open Source, there’s also a strong element of socialist/entitlement/freeloader consciousness. It’s amusing (and sad) to see the howls of outrage that appear any time Ubuntu’s developers dare to even suggest including some “proprietary” codec in the distro — from people who apparently are oblivious to the fact that the only reason they can have their free Ubuntu (or any of the distros based thereon, e.g. Mint) is because Shuttleworth made a killing in the capitalist free market, and then decided to give it away out of his own generosity.

    There’s also the problem of software. Linux advocates always point to OpenOffice, which is grand, to be sure, but still an emulation of Micro$oftian grey-flannel spirit and complexity. I’ve tried to like OpenOffice (in its Mac incarnation NeoOffice), but it’s really no fun (as the original Macintosh Bible in 1987 said: “The First Commandment of the Macintosh: This is the Mac; it’s *supposed* to be fun”), kind of like driving a big truck when I’d rather have a sports car. I find myself turning instead, if reluctantly, to Apple’s proprietary Pages (part of the “office” suite iWork) for accessibility and using pleasure. It’s unfortunate there’s no all-round Linux application for non-office, home users.

    My all-time favorite application was AppleWorks (formerly ClarisWorks), which elegantly integrated word processing, database, spreadsheet, draw, and paint capabilities in a single attractive, easy to learn and use application — aimed at home users but also capable of light office work. (Unfortunately, AppleWorks fell foul of Steve Jobs’ compulsion to “clean house” when he returned to Apple; the new iWork suite — which is not integrated, but designed on the M$ Office model — is supposed to be the replacement, but falls far short.) The Linux world could really use something like it.

    But, of course, this brings up the Achilles Heel of the Open Source world: someone has to do the work, and not everyone can work for free. It’s not often mentioned (or, I guess, remembered) that OpenOffice, which is really Linux’s prime claim to general usability in the Real World, only exists because a *corporation* has seen fit to spend (a lot of) money developing it. So far it looks like Oracle will continue what Sun began, but that could change at any time, and possibly blow a big hole in Linux’s credibility — unless some other corporation picks up the ball.

    I wonder if Canonical (Ubuntu’s parent) might be interested in developing a Tuxworks program? Have to start from scratch, I guess, which is a big job, rather different from building on Debian.

    Meanwhile, I continue to follow developments in the Open Source world with interest (using, of course, the open source Mac browser Camino); in some ways it feels more like the early Mac world than the present-day, established ($25 billion plus in the bank, and often rather arrogant) Macintosh does. Long-term chronic illness has prevented my exploring it as much as I’d like, but I do plan soon to install Ubuntu in a VM (open source VirtualBox) on my MacBook Pro to spend some time in it — and see, among other things, if Linux can offer equivalents to my favorite Mac software (none of which is from Micro$oft; I’ve never used Mac Office or Word).

    And I’m also planning to start learning the DTP application Scribus; I’m still using PageMaker 5 (1993) on an old “Pismo” PowerBook (2000) in Mac OS 9 (2001) for occasional graphic work (which works fine, actually, now that PDF is the lingua franca of the graphics world), but it’s time to move up — and I don’t want to become an Adobe serf any more than a Microserf.

    So thanks for another good Linux article, Claire, and I hope your readers will take your suggestions and put their computers where their hearts (presumably) are. Penguins unite! You have nothing to lose but your chains!

  14. AlanR -
    AlanR - March 26, 2010 11:42 am

    Thanks for posting this. I am a techie/nerd and have been using Linux personally and to run my business for about ten years. Most of my income is from supporting and repairing Windows PCs. I occasionally have someone ask about or request a Linux install. I love to install Linux for my customers! Not everyone sticks with it but most who give it a chance are really happy with it.

    In my experience users familiar with Windows find the KDE desktop a little easier to transition to than Gnome but both are certainly easy enough to use.

    Also, second the Linux Users Groups, the bigger ones will host “Install Fests”, just bring in your computer (along with your friends and their computers) and someone will install or help you install a Linux OS on it and work through any hardware issues (which as Claire said are pretty few these days). Smaller LUGs, just contact them and someone (or everyone) will usually volunteer to help with the install at a meeting.

    Users with really new PCs may have more trouble with hardware, especially WiFi, than older machines but there’s a good chance that the older hardware running Linux will out perform the newer hardware running newer Windows OSs. And remember, actual performance will be *much* better from a real install than if you are testing Linux from a live CD. CD/DVD drives are just a lot slower than a hard drive.

  15. xntryk1
    xntryk1 March 26, 2010 12:42 pm

    OK, another total linux-noob, here. I just downloaded Mint. It’s an .iso file that doesn’t give any clue (to clueless people like me) as to how to install it! I’ve extracted all the files, and still no hint. Help!

  16. Claire
    Claire March 26, 2010 1:16 pm

    xntryk1, Thanks for downloading Mint. It’s cool to have somebody just jump in and try.

    That said — I’m sorry you ran into a problem, but you’d have had that same problem with any iso file and any software. For anybody who doesn’t know, an iso file is an image of other files and folders; it’s not designed to work on its own. It’s something like a .zip file; it has to be manipulated before the files within it can be accessed.

    Burn that iso onto a CD, put the CD in your drive and boot to that drive and you should get better results.

    Here’s more: This guy gives a couple other suggestions on how to utilize isos. But copying to CD is the one I know best. And, since you’re talking about an iso of an operating system here, it’s the one to use so you can check it out before installing.

    I have limited experience with isos (I usually buy CDs instead), so if anybody else has better suggestions, speak up please.

  17. Claire
    Claire March 26, 2010 1:27 pm

    AlanR — Thank you for excellent, supportive comments and points well taken. I should have mentioned that “live” CDs give inherently slower performance while still being good ways to “test drive” an OS.

    Philalethes — Thank you for a lot of things (not least remembering that 11-year-old article). You make a lot of good points and obviously have more knowledge than I do about trends in the open-source and *nix worlds. Must say +1 on the word “free” in this world. There’s “free software” (meaning it doesn’t cost anything) and “free software” (meaning others can jump in, make changes, re-sell it, etc. provided they keep their products open-source). On the ‘Net we get so used to having a world of free things, and perhaps Linux folk are more spoiled than the rest.

    So … If you do download and love a Linux, you might just consider making a donation to its developers. Or purchase one of the developer’s larger products, if offered.

  18. xntryk1
    xntryk1 March 26, 2010 1:40 pm

    Thanks for responding, Claire. I had tried burning the .iso file to CDs, and kept getting error messages (wasting two blank CDs). Then, I tried burning it to a DVD, and that seemed to work OK. But when I put the DVD into my drive, all that happens is that the folder opens up to show the LinusMint-8.iso file, and that’s it! Then, it just sits there, like it’s waiting for me to do something. But there aren’t any .exe files or anything else that looks similar. Gotta say, I’m lovin’ linux, so far! (just kidding! :-))

  19. Claire
    Claire March 26, 2010 2:23 pm

    I’m really sorry about all that xntry1. I’m even sorrier that I’ve run out of my very limited knowledge of .isos. Anybody else want to speak up?

    Don’t blame Linux! But if nobody solves the problem & you run out of options of your own, let me know and I’ll send you a Mint CD that I’m sure works.

    ADDED: Sent you a private email …

  20. Claire
    Claire March 26, 2010 3:33 pm

    Further info on using a Linux .iso file that you have downloaded:

    * Burn the .iso onto a CD
    * With the CD in the drive, shut down your computer and restart
    * When the computer begins to boot up, tell it to boot to the CD drive, rather than the hard drive. (This is going to be different on every computer. On mine, I hit F12 to see a list of boot devices, then choose the CD drive; on your computer, it might just happen automatically or require some other step.)
    * Mint or whatever other Linux you chose should appear.
    * You can play with the software, open applications, test everything out.
    * Keep in mind that working from a live CD is slower than working from a hard drive
    * Keep in mind that if you create any documents or set any settings while using the live CD, they will not be permanent; you’re just testing.

    * IMPORTANT TO KNOW: Playing with a live CD will not affect your existing operating system or anything else on your hard drive. You are not installing anything on your machine until and unless you hit the “install” icon (and even then, you’ll have the opportunity to back out of the installation).

    Hope that helps. Just talked with somebody who was trying to open a Linux .iso within Windows. Don’t do it that way. Won’t work. Boot your computer directly to the CD without involving Windows at all. And don’t worry; you won’t accidentally overwrite your operating system or your files.


    Sound like too much work? Might consider buying a CD instead. But the process for using it is the same. Boot directly to the CD when you start your computer. Play. When you take out the CD and restart, nothing on your computer has changed.

  21. Philalethes
    Philalethes March 26, 2010 4:41 pm

    NOTE that “Burn the .iso onto a CD” does NOT mean copy the .iso file to a CD as if you were backing up a file. The .iso is a special kind of file, an image of the contents of a CD, designed to be used to make an exact duplicate of the CD it was imaged from. You need to run a software program that will write the contents of the .iso file to a CD to create said duplicate, which can then be used to boot your computer and either (if it’s a “Live” CD, which most downloadable Linux CDs are nowadays) run the computer from the CD to try out Linux, or install Linux on your hard disk (after reformatting, partitioning, etc.).

    Since I don’t use Windows, I don’t know what software is used to burn .iso images to disc (on the Mac it’s Disk Utility), but it looks like Ubuntu’s BurningIsoHowto page has all the necessary information.

    You can also install Unbuntu within your Windows installation, which “lets a Microsoft Windows user try Ubuntu without risking any data loss due to disk formatting or partitioning.” See the Windows-based Ubuntu Installer page. I don’t know if Mint offers a similar system.

    Finally, Mint’s home page offers a lot of resources, including a discussion forum where you can probably find folks happy to help newcomers. Of course, Ubuntu also has a very active forum where help can be found.

    Note that four of Claire’s seven recommendations are based on Debian, one of the granddaddy Linux versions, which is widely regarded as the most committed to the “free” ethos; if you try and like any Debian-derived distro, it shouldn’t be too hard to switch to another (though of course it will mean an erase and reinstall).

  22. Claire
    Claire March 26, 2010 5:00 pm

    Ah … thank you, Philalethes. Bless you for all the extra info and links.

  23. Joe
    Joe March 26, 2010 5:22 pm

    xntryk1, I think the step you forgot is booting your computer, i.e., put the DVD with Mint in the DVD drive and tell Windows to go bye-bye for a while (press Restart). You may also have to catch the BIOS startup and tell your PC to boot off the DVD drive first. It may be a little scary, but there’s usually a function key (F12 or something like that) that you need to press while the PC is booting (there’s usually a message that tells you which key to press). Then you’ll have to figure out from the BIOS Setup menus how to change what is called the First Boot Device from hard drive (or floppy) to the DVD Drive. Then you exit the BIOS Setup and the PC should try to boot from the Mint DVD. Best of luck!

  24. Joe
    Joe March 26, 2010 5:23 pm

    Claire, I didn’t see your post to xntryk1 so you can delete mine if you prefer.

  25. AlanR -
    AlanR - March 26, 2010 5:55 pm

    In CD writing software you will not want to “Create a Data CD”, you want “Burn an Image” or “Burn an ISO file” option.

    InfraRecorder is an easy to use CD/DVD burning utility for Windows that can burn ISO images. (plus it is free and open source – under the hood it uses Linux software than has been ported (translated) to run on Windows)

  26. Claire
    Claire March 26, 2010 6:13 pm

    Joe, thank you for saying I could delete your message. But I think the more the better. You might say the same thing I said but in a different way that’ll better reach somebody. I’m all for that.

  27. Philalethes
    Philalethes March 26, 2010 6:43 pm

    Well, here’s a few more…

    If you want to run a Linux OS, but there’s just one Windows program you can’t live without, CrossOver might help; it’s a commercial version of the open source Wine project, which enables running some Windows programs (check the compatibility listings) without having to run Windows OS.

    If you just can’t entirely escape the Dark Side, the open source VirtualBox (similar to VMWare and Parallels) allows you to run Windows alongside Linux (or vice versa, or either with Mac OS).

    Here’s a Google search for Linux news that I like to browse now and then. ArsTechnica and CNET also provide news and commentary.

    Wikipedia has excellent articles about Linux and related subjects; here’s one about Linux Mint.

    Mark Shuttleworth‘s (the man behind Ubuntu) weblog is generally an interesting read.

    Oh, and you might be interested to read about what the Ubuntu team has identified as “Bug #1“; scroll down to read the “Bug Description” and comments.

    OpenDocument is another aspect of the Open Source movement that doesn’t get as much attention as I think it deserves. Proprietary software publishers have a bad habit of euthanizing programs for no good reason, leaving users with sometimes huge collections of files that no current programs can read. My two historically favorite applications, AppleWorks and PageMaker, are in this category, along with numerous other once-beloved Mac programs. OpenDocument is an effort to create/promote open document formats, which belong to no one and can be read by anyone; major Open Source applications (e.g OpenOffice) use them, and it is hoped that eventually proprietary software will follow suit. An uphill battle, of course, but you have to start somewhere.

    Micro$oft, of course, doesn’t like this idea, and has done its best to torpedo OpenDocument by developing its own “open” (actually proprietary) document formats, called OOXML (these are the new file formats in Office 2007 & 2008, e.g. “.docx”), and engaging in various dirty tricks (yes, really dirty) to get it certified by ISO as a “standard”. See NO-OOXML for more about this struggle; this history alone should be enough to make any decent person want to sever any relationship with Micro$oft.

  28. Jacob
    Jacob March 27, 2010 6:01 am

    I agree that Linux has lots of potential but IT IS NOT ready for the newbies….

    For a newbie, make them:
    – Print…
    – DSL connection…
    – Flash, Java out of the box…
    – Games
    – Wireless
    – etc..

    Sure there’s tutorials (eg.
    And communities to help but an newbie will never go there… They simply want it to work out of the box…

    Most procedures and documentatiosn are no good or outdated or hard to find…. EXCEPT Opensuse !!!

    Personnally, I use different distros at home… as backend (FTP, NAS, web server). But I do not recommend Linux to newbies…

  29. Claire
    Claire March 27, 2010 6:45 am

    Actually, Jacob, Mint is designed to make all that easy. And I haven’t had any configuration hassles with Linus in ages — though I’m sure it can happen, depending on the flavor of Linux, the equipment, etc.

  30. xntryk1
    xntryk1 March 27, 2010 7:39 am

    Thanks everybody for all the info. Claire – that boot-up thing didn’t work, but it wasn’t your fault. As Philalethes mentioned above, I hadn’t burned the .iso file to disk in the right way. I’m going to take AlanR’s advice, use InfraRecorder and try again. But it might not be for a few days, as my dance card is full at the moment (and I want to devote full attention to this, when I re-try). Will let you know how it goes…

  31. Winston
    Winston March 27, 2010 9:53 am

    Okay, I do have one littel question regarding linux. People have told me that it’s impossible to use flash if you run linux. Is this true, partially true (i.e. gotta mess around with it before it will do flash) or just an outdated rumor?

    Flash isn’t going to kill the deal or anything, but it would be nice if I didn’t have to give up silly time wasting games and…er…other habits.

    And yeah, I love geeks. I get to pay them back for all the technobabble when they come to me with gun related questions. (“What do you mean you can’t tell the difference between an auto and a revolver! Did you play with barbies growing up!?”) haha!

  32. Kevin Benko
    Kevin Benko March 27, 2010 12:57 pm

    Thank you, Claire.

    I’ve been using Linux since 1999, and I’ve been using Linux exclusively since 2005 (I carry a live Linux distro around on a USB stick for when I find myself face to face with a Windows computer)

    While I seem to totally blow it when it comes to Linux advocacy (I’m one of those people who should just say “I know what I’m doing, but I can’t explain it” when it comes to computers), this article is written very well, in my opinion, as a Linux advocacy piece.

    Thank you, again.

  33. Claire
    Claire March 27, 2010 8:38 pm

    Winston, I’d put that flash thing in the outdated rumor category. I use two browsers, Firefox and Opera. I have occasionally had trouble with flash on past editions of Firefox and on other Linuxes than Mint. But this may also be because I have the poor browser so loaded with security add-ons that I’ve darned near broken it. Under Mint, flash works on both browsers with no problems.

    This is really one of Mint’s strengths, I think. They’ve taken care to make everything media-related work better than it has on most previous out-of-the-box Linuxes.

  34. Claire
    Claire March 27, 2010 8:42 pm

    Kevin, thank you. 🙂 That was a nice message to come home to after a long day away.

    xntryk1, I’m really sorry for not providing the best info on how to burn and use an .iso. Thank heaven for others filling in the gaps and thank you for your patience and persistence.

    I always just buy my Linuxes on CD or accept free discs from The Linux Fairy (aka the very generous Plinker who occasionally comments here). So .isos are not my specialty. I look forward to hearing how it goes for you.

  35. Links 28/3/2010: Sabayon 5.2 and GIMP Fun | Boycott Novell
    Links 28/3/2010: Sabayon 5.2 and GIMP Fun | Boycott Novell March 28, 2010 4:31 pm

    […] Linux: This time, it really IS time But a couple of things happened recently that convinced me Linux has finally, truly, really, no-kidding gone beyond being a contender against Windows for the average desktop user. It has become clearly superior to Windows for the average desktop user. […]

  36. Johannes
    Johannes March 31, 2010 9:56 am

    Hi Claire,

    I would not recommend switching safely to Linux to any user before he has done the following:
    – at least 6 month using Firefox (or Chrome / Opera)
    – at least 6 month, preferably one year having already switched to or any cloud solution
    – checked if printers / MP3 players / Phones do work under Linux

    But thank you for your article. Linux is definitely ready for a large majority of users. But get someone to switch and be unhappy with it is definitely “dangerous”.

    And by the way, if you don’t know my guide to Ubuntu, check it out!

  37. Claire
    Claire March 31, 2010 1:05 pm

    Johannes, thank you for your very useful guide. I’m glad to have the link to it and I agree it could help any Ubuntu Linux user (and those who have derivatives of Ubuntu, like Mint).

    It would be a very bad thing for somebody to try one of the modern Linux distros and have some avoidable problem that made him shy away for years to come. However, I don’t quite agree that any prospective Linux user should have many months experience on Firefox, OpenOffice, etc. before switching. Seems to me that Firefox isn’t that different for the user than Internet Explorer (though it’s much more secure), OpenOffice is a snap to anybody who has used MS Office (particularly older versions of it), and so on.

    I agree that having some experience of those things makes the transition easier. (My Technophobe friend who switched to Mint had used Firefox and Thunderbird for a long time on Windows, but he had never laid hands on OpenOffice.) Sure, the less new stuff you have to learn after a switch, the better. But none of those apps are so difficult that learning them should be a Linux deal-killer.

    If anybody here wants to try them out first under Windows, just Google. They’re available for download & should install easily.

    I’ll also note that Mint is better set up than most for media and peripherals, and the live-CD option lets users explore some of what works and what doesn’t without a lot of research. But yes, device compatibility with Linux still isn’t 100 percent. (Most printers, for instance, work fine under Linux, but the one I have prints, copies, but doesn’t function as a scanner under Mint.) Compatibility is getting there, though, and I find it to be a rare thing these days when a device doesn’t work under Linux.

    Finally, your guide is great. But I note with irony that parts of it require doing the one thing that terrifies Linux newbies the most — using the command line.

  38. Pat
    Pat March 31, 2010 2:51 pm

    “But I note with irony that parts of it require doing the one thing that terrifies Linux newbies the most — using the command line.”

    Yes, I read that too, and ran away from Johannes’ website! I’ve always had trouble with command lines, even my simple old Commodore 64 in the 80’s.

    Firefox and OpenOffice are easy enough, even easier to handle than Safari and AppleWorks on the Mac, I think.

    What is a “live CD” — the same as a literal CD? Must it be burned, or can I buy one for Mint?

  39. Claire
    Claire March 31, 2010 4:15 pm

    Pat, a “live” CD, in Linux lingo, is one that lets you test drive a version of Linux without installing it. Just pop it in the drive, re-boot the computer (you may have to tell the computer to boot to the CD drive), then play around with whatever version of Linux you’re trying. It will run without touching any operating system or data you have on your hard drive.

    If you download a Linux .iso file, yes you would have to burn your own CD (and as pointed out by commenters above it’s a different process than, say, doing backups).

    Much easier just to buy ready-made live CDs from one of the vendors listed in the article, or from another source of your choice. And yes you can buy live CDs of Mint. (Choose the regular edition; not the “universal” one; it has all the media codecs.)

    Keep in mind that everything will be slower on the live CD than it would be in an installed version and that no document you create and no setting you set during your trial will be permanent. They will go away when you shut down.

    If you decide you like Mint, just click the “install” icon. At that point, it WILL write to your hard drive, and you can (depending on your choices) either overwrite everything on the drive or install the new Linux alongside another OS for dual booting. So take care.

  40. Pat
    Pat March 31, 2010 4:50 pm

    Thanks. My Ubuntu needs an update badly, so will be trying Mint first.

  41. Michael
    Michael April 1, 2010 1:23 pm

    While you’ve definitely pointed out that linux is cheap, it’s actually free, if you’re willing to wait a couple of weeks for the free delivery, alternatively you can pay a small, small fee and get it shipped within a couple of days.
    Another great way to find free CD’s is at free software/open source software conventions. After all, software is like sex, it’s always better when it’s free!

  42. Andrew
    Andrew April 1, 2010 5:01 pm

    The one problem for me as an attorney is that I need absolute document compatibility with other attorneys and with courts. We use documents called pleadings, with a vertical ruler and some other weird formatting conventions that sadly will always break when opened in any word processor other than the one they were drafted in. If a lawyer wrote it in WordPerfect, Word will break the formatting. If I write in Word, WordPerfect will break the formatting. OpenOffice? Forget it, it too will break the formatting unless the pleading was drafted in OpenOffice.

    Since the legal profession is about 90% Word/10% WordPerfect, a lawyer who exchanges documents simply cannot switch to OpenOffice as an alternative. WordPerfect 12 (the version I have) works fine in CrossOver and WINE (use it on my Mac), but Office 2007 does not. That makes Linux a non-starter in my line of work.

    Still, I hate Windows, so I use a Mac.

  43. Claire
    Claire April 1, 2010 6:41 pm

    Andrew … sigh, understood.

    I was going to suggest exchanging documents as .pdfs, since it takes only a click of a button to preserve the formatting that way. But then I imagine you run into problems when somebody receives something that they need to edit. Formatting is definitely the one area where OpenOffice and Word aren’t friendly. Sounds like you have one of those really good reasons not to use Linux.

    But OTOH, I’ve never heard of an unhappy Mac user. 🙂

  44. anon
    anon April 1, 2010 8:06 pm

    “It took me five minutes on Linux. After five hours on Windows I still couldn’t get it done. ”

    You obviously don’t know how to use windows 7 because you have been using linux for 12 years–you must be used to windows 98. i can assure you that someone coming from windows and learning linux would have the same 5 hour troubles doing your “routine configuration,” as did you.

    im a linux fan, but im just saying your logic is a bit off

  45. agentc0re
    agentc0re April 1, 2010 10:01 pm

    @Claire As a proud Slackware user I’m going to have to disagree with your “not noob” friendly attitude against it. I think it’s more simple than most other Linux installers. No it’s not done from some fancy gui, but the text is all the same. It requires something that most people don’t want to do though, it’s called “Reading”.

    Whats funny is that most “noobs” will come to our irc channel in freenode (##slackware) and ask us for help because no one in, ubunut, fedora, debian.. etc. could give them the help and were actually referred to us!

    I also hope you realize that Slackware is the oldest living distro as well. Here’s a n awesome time line.

    Aside from the trolls and normal gabbing, you’ll find the channel to be quite friendly and very helpful. Linuxquestions Slackware forum is also (iirc) the largest linux distro forum.

    In the end, I think the best distro is whatever distro best suits that person. I’m glad for Ubuntu and the like for being eye candy friendly for people who don’t have the time to learn everything, as they shouldn’t expect to be if linux is to become a user desktop.

  46. Claire
    Claire April 2, 2010 5:46 am

    anon, it’s true I’ve used Linux more than Windows in the last decade or so. But most of my machines have been dual boot, so I’m not entirely without recent Windows experience.

    I did consider the very thing you note. And it’s possible you’re right. But seriously, I was doing only an ordinary configuration of wifi (new router, existing computers), which should be a simple job on both operating systems. I’ve done it before. But in this case, Windows wouldn’t accept the settings I input — until I reconfigured the router to suit Windows.

    Ah well.

  47. Claire
    Claire April 2, 2010 5:52 am

    agentc0re, thank you. Wisely said. And I admit that I’ve always merely ASS-U-MEd that Slackware was scary non-n00b territory. Never actually checked it out.

    Funny, I’m actually from the command-line computer generation. When GUIs began to take over the world, I was irritated (and considered GUIs both a form of dumbing down and a take-away of control from the user). But gotta admit, I like GUIs now as much as anybody does …

  48. Claire
    Claire April 2, 2010 7:51 am

    BTW, agentc0re, that chart you linked to is something else! I don’t recommend it for anybody other than Linux buffs because it’s almost scary. But it was fascinating to confirm my impression that distros like Slackware, Debian, and Red Hat are the granddaddies. I was interested to see where Mandrake/Mandriva (my old personal favorite) came in. Did Tinfoil Hat Linux go away? I see that its timeline just dribbled off. I never used it, but for the name alone, I hope it has survived.

  49. LP
    LP April 2, 2010 11:31 am

    I’m happy to see an article about Linux in Backwoods Home, and just as pleased it’s about Mint. I’ve been using Mint for a little while and it seems to run well.
    But I would be remiss if I didn’t mention another very newbie friendly Linux OS that you didn’t list. PCLinuxOS. It’s also very friendly to those new to Linux. If you like Gnome, then choose mint, and if you like KDE, choose PCLinuxOS. There’s a Linux distro for everyone.

  50. Claire
    Claire April 2, 2010 11:45 am

    Thank you, LP! And great timing. Within the last 1/2 hour, I just placed an order for several more Linux distros I’d like to try. One was PCLinuxOS. I see that it’s a Mandriva derivative — a big plus right there — and that it’s designed to be multimedia friendly like Mint. Sounds good to me. 🙂

    Also, you hardcore guys … I included Slackware in my order. I couldn’t find a live CD of it; only an install disc. So I’m going to drag out an old laptop and give it a try.

    The new Linuxes I ordered:
    Sabayon (just because I love the name; it’s also listed as newbie-friendly)

    (FIVE operating systems for just over 20 bucks. Gotta love that Linux! Oh yeah, and that also included a Parted Magic CD for partitioning and other maintenance chores. Bill Gates would have a cow over those prices.)

    I already have on hand new copies of Mint (8 Helena; I’ve been running 7 Gloria) and MandrivaOne 2010. Oh, it’s so nice to see Mandriva again after a year or two without it.

    So I expect I may have other Linux reports over time.

  51. Pat
    Pat April 2, 2010 1:27 pm

    Sounds like you’re on a mission, Claire. 🙂

    So how do I go about partitioning a Win Dell and Linux Dell (both laptops)? It will be some time before I get to the partitioning part, but I’ve just ordered Ubuntu 9.10 and Linux Mint 8. The Ubuntu will go on the Win, and on the Linux as an Upgrade, while Mint will go on the Linux also.

    I still use MS Publisher a lot, but the Win is showing signs of old age and has been in for three medical checkups lately; when the laptop dies, that will be the end of Windows for me.

    The fellow you helped sounds happy with his — I’ve been reading his blog — so I guess if he can do it, I can too.

  52. Claire
    Claire April 2, 2010 2:16 pm

    Pat, my zeal hasn’t quite reached the point where I feel up to giving instructions on disc partitioning, especially not in a blog comments section. Sorry.

    Anyhow, I didn’t buy all those new flavors of Linux for crusading, really. I just like to explore them. The idea of plinking around with an OS without having to install it is intriguing. And it’s neat that people can come up with so many variations on one system.

    But I can tell you that most Linux distros (all that I’ve experimented with) come with a built-in partitioning tool. Often it’s one called GParted. Mandriva has a lovely one of its own. Partitioning isn’t intuitive and if you mess up you can just absolutely destroy the hell out of anything that might already be on your harddrive. But if you’re starting with a clean hard drive or one whose contents you don’t care about, when you get to the portion of the installation where it asks about partitioning, just click whatever option it gives for “Advanced” or “Custom partitioning” and mess around.

    Well … do some Googling about how to partition. THEN mess around.

    Oh yeah, with Mint (I’m not sure how it works with others) you can simply choose to let the installer install Linux side-by-side with whatever other OS happens to be on there without having to use any special partitioning skills.

    I’ll bet some of the Linux-guru types around here can give a better answer than that. But there’s no question about it: partitioning is one of those things that’s absolutely terrifying until you’ve done it a few times. Then it becomes the greatest tool for making the most of your disc space.

    I also like it (as mentioned elsewhere) because if I create separate partitions for my application data, documents and such, they’re safer in event of an OS crash.

  53. Pat
    Pat April 2, 2010 3:33 pm

    “Pat, my zeal hasn’t quite reached the point where I feel up to giving instructions on disc partitioning, especially not in a blog comments section. Sorry.”

    No, I didn’t expect that. Actually I thought there was some software available, but for Linux I wasn’t sure. My son did some partitioning for me on Windows several years ago when my desktop kept crashing (I think it was Win 98 or 2000), and I remember it wasn’t fun. I almost gave up computers at that time.

    I’ll wait and see what’s on the OS’s I’ve ordered, and then decide how to handle the computers.

  54. Claire
    Claire April 2, 2010 3:48 pm

    “Actually I thought there was some software available, but for Linux I wasn’t sure.”

    The software for partitioning can be purchased separately from the OS. The same suppliers who peddle Linux CDs and DVDs sell “Parted Magic,” which contains a partitioner and other disc-maintenance tools, which (I believe) can be used no matter what OS or OSes you have on your system. But since the Linux installers also handle partitioning, you don’t really need that if you’re just going to install then leave your partitions alone.

    Good luck!

  55. Chip
    Chip April 2, 2010 9:59 pm


    Thanks for the information on Linux. I downloaded Mint 8 Helena onto a CD and tried it for a bit “live”. A day later I installed it on the hard drive. Dual boot with Win Vista. It is so much faster, more straight forward than my Windows program. Wish I had tried it years ago.

    Thanks again.

  56. Claire
    Claire April 3, 2010 7:58 am

    Whoohoo! Thank you, Chip. It’s GREAT to hear a simple success story.

  57. Gasinecen
    Gasinecen April 4, 2010 11:35 am

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  58. Zel
    Zel April 8, 2010 9:11 pm

    Love Mint, been using it at home for years now. I am a support tech for Window$ at work, so I see the major pluses for Linux EVERY day. Really.

    Just wanted to through out to all users, Window$ and Linux alike, I just found Moovida, and I am in love. It is a Media Center app for your PC and, well dare I say it, it ROCKS!

    Great article, thanks for allowing Linux in, it will win you over every time!

  59. more linux monday « Economic Play Pin Story
    more linux monday « Economic Play Pin Story April 15, 2010 12:12 pm

    […] distributions for beginners article mentions the big names, recommends Linux Mint: “What sets Mint apart, though, is that […]

  60. Phil
    Phil April 18, 2010 2:59 pm

    I have been using Linux since 1999 but I still get tired of you Window bashers. You say it took 5 minutes on Linux and 5 hours on Windows,but you are never specific about what it was you were trying to do. If you are going to bash a product, give details.
    I also have a friend who uses Windows 7 Home Edition and loves it. He has never seen a Blue Screen or any of the “nagging” things you describe.

    I am a total Linux advocate and do everything on my Linux system ( currently using Mint 8), but bashing Windows doesn’t get us anything but flame wars. Use sound technical reasons and facts about our Linux systems to convert users, not “finger pointing” and attacks.

    My 2 cents !!!!

  61. Claire
    Claire April 18, 2010 3:07 pm

    Thanks for your two cents, Phil. But if I had gone into technical details about the problem I was having, I’d have bored most of my readers to death and they’d have stopped reading before I got to the meat of the matter. The short version is that I was configuring a wifi network, but Windows XP Professional refused to let me do it until I changed security settings on the router. This is a task I’ve done many times before on various OSes & one that ought to be intuitive for regular computer users. On Mint, it was; on Windows, not.

    If people want to use Windows and are happy with it, I’ve got no gripe with that. It’s their choice. I’m mostly talking to people who dislike Windows for various reasons but don’t know how to leave it. Or fear to leave it. Or — this happens — don’t even know that it’s possible to leave it.

    I don’t personally like Windows and I make no bones about that. But I’m not one of those people who thinks the whole world should choose as I do.

  62. Brad
    Brad May 18, 2010 5:36 pm

    Great article Claire! I have been using Arch, Gentoo, and FreeBSD for a few years now, and I found that they are easier to setup then Ubuntu (well, maybe not Gentoo). As a very involved player in the Arch community, I can safely say that it has, by far, the best documentation known to man. The only thing I see comparable is OpenBSD’s docs. As a programmer, Linux/BSD is exactly what I need, being able to edit all of the config files and such, not to mention C and Linux go hand-in-hand. I know people repeatedly say this, but nothing even compares to Linux/BSD in the server world. Sorry for that little rambling, I’m bored on this Tuesday evening. 😀

  63. Gonzalo
    Gonzalo May 24, 2010 8:21 pm

    Very nice text for our newbie friends or for the ones that are a little bit apprehensive yet, to jump in this adventure of freedom, stability and no-charge (inertia is our worst enemy) 😉
    I use a scientific distribution based on Ubuntu (previously on Knoppix – Kurumin) called Poseidon Linux. I have tried, “played with” (as you suggested above) or used for home office many distributions in the last years (since the 90’s): Caldera, Conectiva, Mandrake, SuSE, Knoppix, RedHat, and the Ubuntu family in the last 3 years. They were/are all great in some way.


  64. Gonzalo
    Gonzalo May 24, 2010 8:31 pm

    PS: excuse me, just 2 more things for potential new users:
    1) if you think to change to Linux (even if not entirely) is a great leap, think that you have changed from Win 95-98 to 2000-XP and then to Vista-7 and they were different… though keped the same blue screens 🙁
    2) troubles configuring some printers and other peripherals under Linux? Well, you surely may have the same trouble with Vista and 7 … I had! At least you will save the OS money to buy a more flexible or universal printer 😛

  65. Bob L
    Bob L June 5, 2010 9:43 pm

    Stumbled on your article tonight and liked it. Longterm Windows user and I finally got connected with Linux, using PCLinux2007 2 years ago. I really liked it, but the laptop I was using died and I’ve gotten away from using Linux in the past year. A couple of observations, though-

    (1) After figuring the .iso issue out, booting and using Linux was pretty simple.

    (2) While the GUI is relatively easy to navigate, learning the file structures and where to find the tools is something that many proponents of Linux gloss over. There is a steep learning curve for people accustomed to the way Windows handles system files. It’s like learning another Romance language….there are some similarities in sentence structure and words, but you still need time and effort to learn it to use it effectively.

    (3) One particularly vexing problem with my PCLinuxOS2007 was figuring out how to get my wireless up and running. I suspect that current Linux packages do a better job making the whole ndiswrapper routine transparent to the new user. I probably spent 10X more time getting the wireless functionality operational as I did getting the OS up and running.

    (4) In defense of Windows, I have to say that the BSD stability issue is thing of the past. I’ve encountered that once or twice since running XP in the past decade and have had no stability issues with either Vista or Win7. Like many users, I think Microsoft has gone overboard with their product verification routines and the extreme amount of time to reinstall is aggravating to an extreme. But with a little system management, some good 3rd Party utilities, and applied knowledge….I haven’t had to reinstall Windows on any system I’ve owned in over 10 years.

    (5) IMHO, Win7 has upped the ante with Linux, especially with their integrated audio/video media player and it will be interesting to see how Linux will react. As someone who started with a VIC20 and had to learn BASIC to run it, I’m intrigued with the evolutionary design of software. From MS-DOS -> Win7, OS knowledge has become less critical in using the PC. With cheaper and more plentiful RAM, software has gotten significantly more sophisticated in masking the typical non-geek user from having to learn what’s under the hood. In that sense, Win7 (or the Mac OS for Apple folks) is the superior OS for someone who wants plug and play functionality and who has no interest in learning command line level knowledge of their system. MS has a business strategy that bets new generations of users will agree. If complete and ultimate tailoring of your operating system is your primary interest, Linux is the way to go. If your interest is in the application software, then Win7 may be a better choice.

  66. B
    B September 12, 2010 11:01 am

    Well it’s official. I’m too stupid for linux.

    I finally got around to trying Mint. In years past I had tried Knopix and Ubuntu without success. I loaded Mint via the live DVD and experienced the same problem that defeated me on previous occasions, connecting to the internet.

    After searching the help files and internet forums fruitlessly for several hours I reached my frustration threshold. Linux users keep saying how easy it is for a newbie to get started. Mint is supposed to have everything necessary included but it still won’t recognize my DSL connection. I would love to dump windows but I know how to use it, configure it, and tweak it so it works. Until I find a Linux distro that connects to the internet easily I’ll just muddle along with windows.

    I hate being such a dunce.

  67. Gerald Vandebrink
    Gerald Vandebrink October 26, 2010 5:48 pm

    Great. Thanks for typing this. It is always great to see someone give back to the interet.

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