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Linux: all your questions are belong to this thread
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Old 16 Mar 2007, 01:13   #1 (permalink)
Shas'Vre
 
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Default Linux: all your questions are belong to this thread

Have a question about Linux? Have absolutely no idea who Tux is? Want to know what on earth a distribution is? Need to know about the general state of it? Just curious?


Feel free to ask any questions you may have about Linux here. For the sake of brevity I will not be covering the BSDs as they are not Linux and despite similarity of POSIX OS they are a completely and totally different animal. However, I'll be more than happy to point anyone towards an answer or answer any qualms/questions/fears/FUD about Linux.

To start off, I'll give some quick freebies that are at the top of most people's heads when they hear about it. These are to be brief to get those creative juices flowing, not an all-inclusive FAQ (that's for people's questions).

What IS Linux?
www.linux.org is an excellent place to start. Design's a little dated, the information therein hardly is.

Linux itself is a kernel, a piece of code designed to interface between software the user can control and the hardware they desire to control. It was developed for free originally by Linus Torvalds who continues to be quite the force in its development and now is worked on by thousands of people from around the world...for free.

What is a distribution?
Linux is all about freedom (free as in speech and most of the time free as in beer, too). Distributions are a direct result of that. Imagine if you will three different versions of Windows. They all have VAST differences from desktop to preferred tools, support, and "feel." Yet they are all Windows and all are perfectly compatible with each other. If you see something you like that one has that yours doesn't you can add it to your own to make a customized experience just for you. This is similar to how distributions of Linux work. They are all Linux and you can pick the flavor of Linux that you like most or even make your own.

What is freedom?
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0112573/
Just kidding. Linux is "free." Not all distributions are no-cost (unless you are a serious corporation you don't need to worry about that...and if you ARE a serious corporation you probably still don't have to worry about that) but they are all "free." Free software is free as in speech. Under the GPL (GNU Public License...it's an EULA that's pretty popular) a piece of software is free to modify as you wish. You like a particular desktop but don't like how it does something specific? By all means you can freely download the source code, modify it, and have your own desktop. There are some legal restraints but under the GPL the only one you need to worry about is "once free always free" meaning that once you modified that desktop you cannot repackage the desktop and sell it to other people (under the BSD license you could but that's a different matter beyond the scope of this thread).

All you really need to concern yourself with is that Free Software is about no limits. Do with it as you please. And, most of the time, it's even free of charge, too.

What is open source?
Ah, this is a fun one. Open source is a coding practice. It's a means where all of the development community involved in making it have access to the source code. In Linux this typically means anyone that wants to work on the kernel can and most Free software will also be Open Source (after all that means that anyone can do whatever they like with it after all). However, explicitly open source doesn't have to be free. Microsoft for instance has started using some open source code with their latest products but their testing group is limited to their own corporation. It isn't Free, but it IS open source.

Will <insert program> work in Linux?
The other major fear. Most Windows programs can work in Linux thanks to Wine www.winehq.com but for the vast majority you don't need it as there's an equivalent (or even better) already existing for Linux. Desktops, web browsers, e-mail clients, CAD applications, movie editors, games, and much, MUCH more. About the only thing you'd really have any issue with are brand-spanking-new games in which case you should either complain to the publisher or consider the pros and cons of running it with Wine or Cedega (though I advise against Cedega but it works for some people...I just don't agree with their practices concerning the Wine group...long story).


Anyway, don't worry about sounding like a n00b if you've got a question, ask away. Everyone's new to things at some point in their lives, the difference is whether they ever try to progress.
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Old 16 Mar 2007, 01:46   #2 (permalink)
Shas'O
 
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Default Re: Linux: all your questions are belong to this thread

Well, great post, highly informative first of all.

I was going to go Linux a while back, but lost interest when the huge DVD image I downloaded didn't work... mainly since Windows saw fit to delete my capability to write DVDs :.

Just days ago, this article made me want to switch over again, and I've got some questions:

For a student, what would you recommend? Last I asked on TO I was encouraged to go with SUSE, I'd like to hear your current stance though. I need the basic processing, and internet, as well as support for gaming (although nothing newer than Half-Life 2).
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Old 16 Mar 2007, 03:46   #3 (permalink)
Shas'Vre
 
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Default Re: Linux: all your questions are belong to this thread

Well, my first inclination is going to be Ubuntu or one of its derivatives. Personally I recommend Kubuntu http://www.kubuntu.org/ but then I really hate the Gnome desktop and Kubuntu is Ubuntu with the KDE desktop instead (and, just like with any distribution of Linux, you can always put in your own desktop and window manager, these just come pre-configured this way. It's entirely possible and not hard at all to completely remove or change it).

But, let me give you a balanced look based on your needs.

First, as a student, I'd recommend a larger distribution in terms of support. Why? Because you're supposed to be focused on your studies, not on trying to configure some obscure distribution. When you ask for help you should have no issue finding it. This means we're going to be looking at major ones. Slackware, (K)ubuntu, Fedora, SuSE, and their derivatives are good ideas, IMO, in no particular order. All of them are popular, powerful, full-featured, and as stable as you want them to be.

Basic processing can be handled by any distribution mercifully. If you're a coder there's a slew of development environments supporting nearly every language on the planet (of course no .NET but that's MS only anyway). I personally am liking the KDevelop suite which can be adapted to nearly anything from Ruby to C.

Internet access is in the bag. Wi-Fi is usually accomplished via the Mad-WiFi drivers but your choice in distro will probably have its own little tutorial on the website or discussion boards detailing how they like to set it up. Web browsers, like all distros, are commonplace and compatible (if you've ever used Firefox it runs better on Linux). For e-mail you'd probably want to look into Thunderbird, KMail, or Evolution. All are very wide in terms of support.


For gaming you're going to have some fun. The quick-n-dirty way to do it is to pay for a three-month membership ($15 USD) to TransGaming Technologies to get Cedega. Works, but it's a hack. Wine WILL work with Steam and IS compatible with Source but can be a bitch to get working at first. Once it's up though it runs perfectly. For this you'll probably need more community support but there's a lot of FAQs out there that will help out step by step (I know i used to run CS:S with Gentoo and Wine so it's definitely doable).

With all of those there's nothing "specific" distribution-wise, though I would recommend something that has popular support for the KDE desktop. It's functional, flexible, powerful, and arguably the best out there (and with Beryl can look snazzier than OS X Tiger). I think you'd like Kubuntu as it's based on Debian but makes it GOOD whereas Debian itself is a pile of **** (sorry to Debian-lovers out there but I think it is and have a long list of reasons why). The apt-get software installation method is awesome and extensible to handle all kinds of things (I especially like the "checkinstall" program which takes raw source code you've downloaded and automagickally turns it into a .deb package for installation and management seamlessly through the package manager).

Slackware requires a ground-up approach and much as I like it I can't recommend it for your needs at this time. Check it out though if you have a spare system. You WILL learn a lot about Linux in using it since it is source-based.

SuSE is still powerful and popular. I don't personally like the YaST package system so I don't like SuSE but it does some things very nicely right out of the box like Wireless (though Ubuntu/Kubuntu can claim this as well as others now). It's good, but just not my style personally. Check out some screenshots, try a LiveCD, see how you like it compared to the other distros.

Fedora is a solid distribution. It's good ol' RedHat and is a standard. I think it's clunky and unimaginative but that's again just personal taste. It's stable, it's fairly flexible, and comes with a mountain of support. Generally they try to through everything and the kitchen sink in there though so it can be a little slower than slicker distros (good for if you have absolutely NO idea what you like) but have a tendency to do things "their own way" which isn't quite so good for learning how Linux as a whole operates. Ultimately though it's going to boil down to personal preference.


There's also College Linux which is Slackware-based. Haven't used it personally but I've heard it's capable.

If you get a chance, burn a few LiveCDs, pop 'em in, try it out and poke around. When you find one you like install it and don't look back. If you are unsatisfied with gaming in Linux you can always do a dual-boot with Windows (it's not that complicated, just requires a bit of planning first) but I find it much easier to just jump with both feet into Linux as you learn much faster and have a better time.



My final recommendation? eh, can't help it, I still say Kubuntu, but try 'em all and make sure once you've settled on one to poke into the IRC chatroom (if you need help with this I'll point you in the right direction) and make sure you bookmark the forum page for the distro in case you need help.
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Old 16 Mar 2007, 14:19   #4 (permalink)
Shas'La
 
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Default Re: Linux: all your questions are belong to this thread

I myself, am actually going to install ubuntu sooner or later, I just need to install a new HDD, which I haven't gotten around to buying yet. I was gonna partition but i only had 20 gigs left, so i decided against it.
cheers



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Old 16 Mar 2007, 16:44   #5 (permalink)
Shas'Vre
 
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Default Re: Linux: all your questions are belong to this thread

Quote:
Originally Posted by Dartagnan
I myself, am actually going to install ubuntu sooner or later, I just need to install a new HDD, which I haven't gotten around to buying yet. I was gonna partition but i only had 20 gigs left, so i decided against it.
cheers



-D'artagnan
There are some special considerations for booting operating systems on different hard drives just so you're aware. Again, not difficult, but requires a slightly different setup. Generally you'll still use the GRUB bootloader (as it's generally held to be better than LILO) installed into the Master Boot Record of the drive with Windows and point it at each drive for booting each OS. Generally.
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Old 16 Mar 2007, 21:28   #6 (permalink)
Shas'La
 
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Default Re: Linux: all your questions are belong to this thread

Yes, I was worried about grub, but I am installing of the liveCD so it will install GRUB for me, the only thing i still need to work out are the partition sizes, which I am still a little confused about.



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Old 16 Mar 2007, 23:43   #7 (permalink)
Kroot Shaper
 
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Default Re: Linux: all your questions are belong to this thread

I got a question for da Foxxie-Woxxie about Linux. How many people in the world use Linux, and how many people use it in the US? I'm not trying to be a smartie-pants or anything, just curious to see the numbers. Add one more box to your count cuz soon I will be installing Linux on my 'puter. Muh-hahah. And that's why I'm Da Boss.
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Old 17 Mar 2007, 01:06   #8 (permalink)
Shas'Vre
 
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Default Re: Linux: all your questions are belong to this thread

<sigh> Yes, and the Slacking of Ware will be glorious.


Anyway, Dartagnan, I assume by the partitioning you're meaning the Linux side partitioning instead of partitioning with Windows. There's several schools of thought about it. To get to that let me say that you may at some point wish to mess with GRUB. It's not hard and as long as you keep a backup not permanently detrimental to your system. However, it is NOT required knowledge for Linux use as some distributions will handle it for you.

Now, for partition sizes this is what I do. The first partition I make of the format EXT2 (solid, old, and reliable, but lacks a journal so if it crashes it must be checked at the startup automatically for errors...a quick process if it's small) and make for the /boot partition. This way, if you want, you can actually limit the kernel images from anyone who's not root if you desire and helps add a measure of security. It also means that if you get a virus that fills up hard disk space it will be unable to affect the location of the kernel (always nifty).

Size? I make it about 100MB. Each kernel is usually only about 1MB and total I've never had a /boot directory that's bigger than 10MB so it's overkill but what's 100MB in a modern system?

The second partition I make is for the linux-swap. This doesn't get a mount point, it will simply be used as swap space. How much? Well, the "usual" rule of thumb is double your RAM but this can be overkill as well. I'd say that if you have 2GB or more of RAM don't bother making a swap partition bigger than 2GB. The WORST thing that would happen if the swap size was too small is the system would run slow. With any modern system you can probably budget between 1~2GB of swap space and be perfectly fine. It won't break your system, it just won't be optimal, so don't stress about it.

The third partition I fill up the rest of the disk with and make EXT3 (basically it's a journaled version of EXT2 and quite popular and reliable). This is where the root, /, will be mounted.


Why one partition for the root? This used to be a concern with performance some years ago prior to EXT3 but with modern versions of filesystems anything EXT3 level will not have a problem with large block addressing and won't, generally, be limited until you hit about a Terrabyte or two. More partitions (like making a /home partition) can be a good idea for a server though as you section it off from the rest of the filesystem.

To your average user three partitions should be just fine. If you want to play with more advanced filesystems feel free to as there's MANY of them out there but I wouldn't worry about them (when ReiserFS goes version 3 fully in the kernel I'll be switching but that's a hardcore geek thing).

Partitioning is something that once you do once and see it's all okay you'll never really worry about ever again.




Heh, how many people using Linux, huh? Nobody knows, honestly, and that's because of how there's no central control. We kinda like it that way. But http://counter.li.org/estimates.php has some of the best dissection I'm aware of.

Generally the answer is, "A lot more people than you'd think, not as many as we want."
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Old 17 Mar 2007, 09:32   #9 (permalink)
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Default Re: Linux: all your questions are belong to this thread

Quote:
Originally Posted by FOXX
<sigh> Yes, and the Slacking of Ware will be glorious.

Generally the answer is, "A lot more people than you'd think, not as many as we want."
29 Million? That's a lot! Thanks for the info; I'll send that link to my supervisor.
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Old 17 Mar 2007, 15:40   #10 (permalink)
Shas'La
 
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Default Re: Linux: all your questions are belong to this thread

OK, i sort of get what your saying. And I just want to know the partition SIZES, thats what I am confused about. And for the swap space, I only have 512 RAM , will that be a problem. I think I will get like, a 40Gig HDD, I am just having linux for fun, to fool around with, and try something new. Now, is kubuntu better? Isn't it just an easier on the system ubuntu?
thanks



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