Tuesday, March 5, 2013

This Linux biz is awesome, can I put it on my other computers?

Why, yes, you can I'm glad you asked.

Sorry about the delayed updates.  I haven't really been using my Raspberry Pi lately, but I did manage to trash the Windows install on my Laptop.  It was entirely my own fault.  If there's anything more dangerous than a total noob, it's a noob who knows just enough to get herself into trouble when trying to 'fix' things *sigh.*

I've been meaning to dual-boot1 my laptop for a while now, and get back into using Linux. I figured I'd take the opportunity to get Linux up and running. Here I am nearly 3 months later and I haven't even bothered to reinstall Windows. Not even for gaming (but that's a post of its own). As with the Raspberry Pi, the first step is to decide which Distribution2 to use.

 Most of the Linux Distros I've used have been based on Debian. Most recently Raspbian, but before that Antix and Ubuntu. So I figured, since I loved all the Distros based on Debian, then Debian would be even better - right? Well, no, not for my purposes. The 'problem' with Debian (for a nooby user like me, and perhaps you if you're reading this) is that most of the nuts and bolts programs that work behind the scenes are so out of date. An example is libc6 - the program that runs C languge programs. A lot of programs use libc6.  Thus a lot of the games and programs I wanted to install, well, wouldn't. I could have compiled the programs for my computer (and version of libc6), but that's a lot of work, so instead I switched to Ubuntu. I highly recommend this distro. It's beautiful, modern, and easy to use. Its compatibility to Windows Games (through Play Linux Online) means the RPGs I'm into (every one I've tried so far) all work in an easy plug and play fashion. In fact many of them run better under Ubuntu than they did in Windows 7. Especially older games in *shudders* compatibility mode.

There are a lot of reasons to choose a distro based on Debian. Its massive repos3 for starters. Sure, there are other ways of installing software, but this is by far the easiest. Ubuntu is not quite as stable as Debian, and if you don't want to install newer software then Debian is a fine choice, but I feel Ubuntu has the best of both worlds. It's still pretty stable, but modern enough to game on. Linux Mint is another option (also based on Debian) that's gaining in popularity. I haven't tried it yet, but it seems like it might be more Noob friendly than Ubuntu. Give it a try if you want, a lot of my posts will apply equally well to Mint as to Ubuntu. If you want to do more research on which is the best Distribution for you DistroWatch is a great place to start, and will give you the lowdown on all the things.

So now we (I) have chosen a distro, next is to choose a Windows Manager. Sorry, I know. Just when you think you're getting a handle on it there's another layer. First you have the Operating System (Linux) and on top of that layer is the Distribution, or Distro (Ubuntu), now this? Another layer? What are we making, an Adriano Zumbo Cake? Well, no, this is the last layer I swear. But, arguably, one of the most important. The Windows Manager will determine how you interact with your computer. It is the very top layer between you and your machine. Because of my laptop's tendency to overheat I decided against installing Unity (the default Ubuntu WM) which is graphics intensive. If you have a flash new computer, then it's fine. It is highly configurable and reasonably intuitive.

For my old beast I went with XFCE4 (also called XFWM). It's a solid Windows Manager. This is easier on your hardware than Unity, and is simple to use - especially for Windows peeps, who will feel a bit of deja vu at how it is set out.  It is not as pretty out of the box (by a long shot) as Unity, though you can change some things and there are themes available.  I'll be doing a few how-tos on making it prettier in the weeks ahead.

The easiest and best way to install Ubuntu with XFCE as your windows manager is to download Xubuntu. It comes with XFCE instead of Unity, so saves a little bit of room on your download and HDD when installed. Installing Unity when you don't need it is a massive waste of hard drive.

If you want to Dual boot with Windows there are a few headaches, which I managed to avoid by avoiding Windows.  If you really need Windows though, here's a neat how-to:
https://sites.google.com/site/easylinuxtipsproject/installation Sorry guys. I'd like to help, but I'd rather not put myself through a Windows install if I don't have to.  =)  Have fun!

Burn the disk image (ISO) file you've downloaded to disk using your fave software for this kind of thing. Right clicking on it should give you some options.  Plug in the power if you're installing to a laptop (pretty important for a Desktop too I guess =p).  If you can plug into a router using ethernet it's helpful, but not vital, so if you don't have a net connection don't worry.  Start the Install, and go and make a coffee.  It won't take much longer than that.  The 'good old days' of hours long installs are, thankfully, done.  At least for us Linux users.  Welcome to the club.  :)

DualBoot - Dual Booting means running more than one operating system on your computer. So, for example, on you Raspberry Pi you might like to run Raspbian for normal use, and XBMC for media use. Dual booting allows you to pick which one when you start your computer, rather than have to have separate SD cards (or Hard Disk Drives for larger computers). The most common configuration is Windows and one of the Linux Distro2, though you can dual boot anything. Windows XP and Windows 8, MacOS and Linux, or even MacOS and Windows (crazy kids).

Distro - The Distribution, or Distro, is the specific Linux you are using, which is packed with various other applications. Some examples are Ubuntu, Red Hat, Mandriva, Debian, Linux Mint, Raspbian, Xbian, etc.

Repos - 'The Repos' or Repositories are where the software that your Distribution live. Debian has the largest selection of software in its repositories. Software based on Debian, like Ubuntu, has access to these repos as well as its own.

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