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Nicholas_Bostaph
2006-Oct-05, 03:00 PM
Any Linux or other *nix users around here?

I've been strongly against it since the late 90s when I had a slew of bad experiences trying to maintain our Unix servers. In days when I was still using DOS for a lot of work, just learning a whole new command line OS was quite unappealing to me. Since I've started using Win2000 I never really considered non-Microsoft OSs, but with the problems I've had in my limited experience with XP, and some of the ridiculous 'security' and 'big brother' features that are being included in Vista (and that are already being pushed to XP machines), I'm rethinking my whole MS loyalty.

So I'm completely (very completey) clueless when it comes to the *nix operating systems. Considering all the support they have from users, though, I figure it might be worth considering switching over. My big question is: How do they really stack up against Windows? I guess the main things I need out of a computer are:

* Good GUI with light learning curve
* Ability to play all the cool turn-based and RTS games on my LAN (very big one)
* Ability to run Bryce, Photoshop, Premiere, and some Windows shareware
* Watch divx/xvid videos and write DVDs

I remember hearing something about Linux having a Windows emulator that would allow me to do anything I can do now even if it isn't supported on Linux itself. If that's true then I imagine that would alleviate a lot of my concerns, providing it's actually reliable.

So any thoughts on if I should take the plunge? Any good suggestions which flavor of *nix I should try? Any thoughts on how performance and reliability will stack up against Win2000 under normal use? Anyone know of any good resources I could use to get started?

I wasn't sure where I could find good unbiased opinions on switching over and just thought some fellow BAUTers might have some experience... :)

Thanks.

Moose
2006-Oct-05, 03:05 PM
* Ability to play all the cool turn-based and RTS games on my LAN (very big one)

If you're established on a windows box, there's no special reason to change. The RIAA has been doing their best to make watching DVDs on linux impossible. They've failed (somewhat), but they're still trying to block it.

Otherwise, the biggest advantage is in using free equivalents to the big expensive software (Gimp rather than Photoshop, Open Office instead of MS Office, etc.) Linux is as easy to use as windows for common user tasks, but configuration and the sheer amount of choices during installation can be somewhat daunting.

tofu
2006-Oct-05, 03:11 PM
Have you considered a cheap $500 mac?

Because there is always going to be a learning curve to linux. If learning a command line was unappealing, well... that may not be the attitude that leads to happiness with linux.

Nicholas_Bostaph
2006-Oct-05, 03:42 PM
If you're established on a windows box, there's no special reason to change.
My primary concern at this point is that Win2000 will not likely be supported too much longer, and it's only a matter of time before the newest games and software will not run on it anymore. I'm not prepared to support MS by purchasing their software when I no longer believe in their business practices or privacy policies.




Otherwise, the biggest advantage is in using free equivalents to the big expensive software (Gimp rather than Photoshop, Open Office instead of MS Office, etc.)
I'm not concerned about Office so much, but I use Photoshop a great deal. Are programs like Gimp comparable in scope and ease of use?




Have you considered a cheap $500 mac?
Well, I had at one point in the past, but now I have three PCs with reasonable hardware, one laptop, and one primary 'beefed-up' PC that I've easily put a few thousand dollars into over the past couple years. I do a lot of work that requires premium hardware. My budget is extremely tight right now and I can't even afford the new hard drive I need, let alone replacing five systems. I need something that can work on the hardware I have.




Because there is always going to be a learning curve to linux. If learning a command line was unappealing, well... that may not be the attitude that leads to happiness with linux
I don't mind putting some time and effort into learning, but I'll need to be able to do some of the basics right off the bat. After using purely Windows for a full decade I'd like something that at least feels familiar. Kind of like how I don't mind moving to a new house in the same area as I still travel familiar places and they feel like home, but I'm not ready to move to the next state.

I don't mind using a command line from time to time; I just don't want to use it for everyday stuff. I still use a DOS window to check my networking settings, but when I'm sitting down to check my email I'd like to be able to just click a shortcut. Is the command line used just for more maintenance tasks or will I be using it for day-to-day activities as well?

Moose
2006-Oct-05, 04:00 PM
Oh. Careful about attributions, Nicholas. That last bit you quoted was Tofu. Not me. [Edit: Never mind, you fixed it. :) ]


I'm not prepared to support MS by purchasing their software when I no longer believe in their business practices or privacy policies.

I hear ya. To say you can run your games is likely to depend somewhat on the specific game. The older the game (but the more powerful the machine), the more likely WINE will be able to run it without problem.


I'm not concerned about Office so much, but I use Photoshop a great deal. Are programs like Gimp comparable in scope and ease of use?

Not really sure, I'm using an old version of Photoshop that's more than adequate for my needs. I hear that for everyday stuff, it's considered very good, but if you're doing hard core stuff and/or using specific filters, fark photoshoppers consider it a clear second-place, but still better than just about anything other than photoshop. At least that's the impression I'm getting.

You can try it on for size, though. The Gimp (like Open Office) has a windows release version freely available. Just google "The Gimp" and it should take you right to it.


My budget is extremely tight right now and I can't even afford the new hard drive I need, let alone replacing five systems. I need something that can work on the hardware I have.

It's worth trying, then.


I don't mind putting some time and effort into learning, but I'll need to be able to do some of the basics right off the bat. After using purely Windows for a full decade I'd like something that at least feels familiar. Kind of like how I don't mind moving to a new house in the same area as I still travel familiar places and they feel like home, but I'm not ready to move to the next state.

No, I understand. You'll find the various windows managers a little uncomfortable for a while (or at least I did, still do, mainly because the mouse pointer is "backwards" from what I'm use to), but you'll get used to the little differences once you dive in.


I don't mind using a command line from time to time; I just don't want to use it for everyday stuff. I still use a DOS window to check my networking settings, but when I'm sitting down to check my email I'd like to be able to just click a shortcut. Is the command line used just for more maintenance tasks or will I be using it for day-to-day activities as well?

Maintainance tasks, mostly. You may find certain tasks easier and/or quicker if you use the command line (like FTP perhaps), but for the most part, you'll be pointing and clicking as you're used to.

I can't point you to an easy flavor, because my linux box is very old proprietary hardware (Gateway) that'll only install a rare few types right now.

Mandrake (they've changed names, though) and SUSE are two I've found useful in the past. My techie friend tells me Ubuntu is comfortable, but I can't personally suggest it as I haven't tried it.

If I were to build a new linux box right now, I'd probably have a very close look at SUSE first.

tofu
2006-Oct-05, 04:26 PM
I don't mind putting some time and effort into learning, but I'll need to be able to do some of the basics right off the bat.

Well OK, then go for it. The worst thing that can happen is that you get frustrated and raise your blood pressure. I mean, it's not like you're making a commitment and can't go back to windows later. The good news is that you have several computers, so you can install linux on a laptop and play with it without any pressure. If you only had one computer, that'd be different.

I hear ubuntu is pretty good.

http://www.ubuntu.com/

Try two or three different linux distributions and let us know which one you think is the easiest to use. I'd be very interested to hear how it goes for you. I have two machines on my home network running debian, but that's just because I started with debian years ago and never saw a reason to change.

I've managed to get things like half life (the original half life) running under wine. Mostly I find that anything I want to do I can find a native linux program to do. I use one debian box to play with server software like apache and bind so that I can keep that on my resume, and the other box is next to a comphy chair and I use it when doing homework (classes online so I write a lot) - but admittedly, I usually remote into one of the windows machines.

I strongly recommend installing on a laptop while sitting on your couch watching football or something. That's a really low-stress environment. Think of it as a scientific control, so that your opinions are opinions of linux and not opinions of boredom because you wasted a saturday watching a progress bar.

Also, you might consider installing VMWare on one of your windows machines. VMWare is free and it lets you run another operatng system inside a window on your desktop. So you could install linux into a VM and just delete it if you don't like it. Conversely, once you get linux running on a computer, you can install VMWare and run windows on it instead of wine to get at that windows software you can't live without.

I invested in a really beefy server for my home network. It's actually so fast, that it runs multiple VMs and they still respond faster than some of my really old machines. So that debian box I mentioned next to the comphy chair, it's almost like a thin client that I can connect to any VM I want, be that a windows VM or linux or whatever. I'm really happy with that setup. You might think about something like that.

kylenano
2006-Oct-06, 02:00 PM
I'm writing this in Firefox in Linux with a Red Hat logo on the menu. I didn't set it up and can't do much when (not if!) it goes wrong. I could do something with Windows 3.1, but there have been too many changes since then and I just don't have the time or energy to learn a complete new system.

Anyway, some of my experiences:

There is a Windows emulator called CrossOver set up, but like so many things it sort of works.

Ordinary web pages are usually OK, though I sometimes get layers that overlap, so that links are inaccessible. The flash ads on the Guardian and Independent often obscure some of the text I'm trying to read. Some websites get covered with a large grey square.

I tried to watch this video: CAMPBELL LIVE: Singer & Songwriter Tim Finn (http://www.tv3.co.nz/default.aspx?tabid=112&articleID=13978), but all I get is the Windows Media logo and then a blank screen.

When I bought a CD single from New Zealand which had a video track on it, the computer couldn't even find the file because it was some infuriating Windows only format. So I paid for something I couldn't use properly.

Open Office: when I use it I think it was written by people who don't do basic word processing. When you write a short official letter, it should be centred vertically - it would be expected in a word processing exam. But to do that in Open Office you have to put all the text in a frame and centre that. When I used WordPerfect many years ago you could do that with a single keystroke or menu. As for page numbering...grrr. A proper word processing program would have a menu for where the page numbering should start, but again you have to jump through hoop to start at any page but 1. (If I remember correctly, using the paragraph menu?). As for putting the page numbers eg centre or top left, outside etc. forget it - you have to juggle tabs in the header instead.

Open Office has been annoying me for years, but when I've mentioned it, the person I spoke to didn't take my concerns seriously. If the creators of Open Office want it to be widely used, eg in colleges where word processing is taught they will have to improve it. The version I have is not good enough.

Last week I tried using Microsoft Word in the library, and I wasn't very impressed with that either! I liked WordPerfect. If the formatting had gone wrong you could press a key and see all the codes and find out what was going on. I don't know if that's possible with Word or Open Office.

So, to conclude. We're using Linux partly for security and partly because of a dislike of Microsoft. But it has its frustrations. It works well enough most of the time - which may be the case for Windows which I rarely use these days. However, I don't know how typical my experience is. I don't have regular access to any other computers.

Cl1mh4224rd
2006-Oct-07, 12:08 AM
It's been suggested before, but I'm also casting a vote for Ubuntu (http://www.ubuntulinux.org/). You can get a LiveCD, which lets you run the OS off of a CD-ROM. Obviously things will be slower to respond (since they'll need to load from the CD), but this'll let you play around without the need to partition your hard drive or whatnot.

Gaming: Ehh... While number of major companies supporting Linux is slowing increasing, you'd still be hard-pressed to find a Linux version of most modern games. The same goes with older games, too, unfortunately. I've heard complaints about Wine being a beast to configure for most modern games.

You also to be aware that Ubuntu comes installed with open source video card drivers. As far as I understand it, these aren't up to the task of modern gaming. You'll need to "manually" install the proprietary drivers from your video card vendor (e.g. ATI or nVidia).

If you're even moderately serious about gaming performance, you're better off keeping Windows around and just dual-booting.

--

One option you might want to look into, too, is virtualization with VMWare Server (http://www.vmware.com/products/server/) (free). This will allow you create "virtual machines", which you can install other OSes to without fear of messing up your current install. This picture (http://www.plathome.co.jp/camp/vmware/img/ss_w_02.gif) might give you a better idea. That's Windows XP, with a virtual install of Windows XP Pro in the foreground window, and a virtual install of RedHat 8.0 in the background window.

Basically, this means that you can "install" any flavor of Linux and play around with it while still having full and immediate access to Windows. The best part? You can take "snapshots" of the virtual machine, so if you break something, you can just restore one of the snapshots and try again. :) This will, of course, take up disk space.

I, unfortunately, have no experience with this, and although I have dual-boot setup with Ubuntu and Windows XP (this being my primary OS for various reasons), I've been meaning to give a go for a while. Maybe this weekend.

Lucretia
2006-Oct-07, 02:52 PM
Windows 2000 is no longer supported if I remember correctly.


* Good GUI with light learning curve
* Ability to play all the cool turn-based and RTS games on my LAN (very big one)
* Ability to run Bryce, Photoshop, Premiere, and some Windows shareware
* Watch divx/xvid videos and write DVDs
Every *nix system can have a GUI that is as good looking and organized as Windows Vista, XP, or even Macs. GUIs can be changed on *nix systems as on Windows ones, and shouldn't be much of a problem.

For the games, and Windows applications I suggest Crossover Linux (http://www.codeweavers.com/products/cxoffice/). I'm not sure if it works on other *nix systems, I just know that it lets you run Windows apps and games in a Linux based environment.

For the last one, the above software should help with that. It might not, but if you have the right PC it should.



I've been strongly against it since the late 90s when I had a slew of bad experiences trying to maintain our Unix servers. In days when I was still using DOS for a lot of work, just learning a whole new command line OS was quite unappealing to me. Since I've started using Win2000 I never really considered non-Microsoft OSs, but with the problems I've had in my limited experience with XP, and some of the ridiculous 'security' and 'big brother' features that are being included in Vista (and that are already being pushed to XP machines), I'm rethinking my whole MS loyalty.
I'm currently having a bad experience with XP myself that's making me want to go *nix or Mac. I bought WinXP Professional SP2 at Circuit City, but I can't update WMP from 10 or IE6 to IE7 (which isn't really a problem since I use FF) and this all comes from the genuine check that says my copy of XP isn't legit. I fought with customer service for 3 weeks trying to prove that I have a store purchased version of it but they eventually ended the support saying I'll either have to buy a new one or wait for Vista. WLM is also giving me problems... When I deleted someone by accident I couldn't re-add them so I had to create a whole new ID and it was utter hell trying to figure out how to get around the site to use a gmail account with it.

I can safely say, my next computer is a Mac.

Plossl
2006-Oct-07, 06:20 PM
Nicholas_Bostaph,

Many Linux distributions have live CDs, and it's best to run one of these before installing. Linux doesn't yet detect hardware as reliably as Windows - after all, the hardware is made with Windows in mind.

For example: In the past 15 months, I have installed many Linux distributions on my computer and most of them had no problem with my hardware - except for the DSL modem. However, SUSE and Slackware-based distributions run all of my hardware well. I used SUSE for a year, and now I'm using a wonderful distribution called Zenwalk.

Here's a list of Live Linux CDs:

http://www.frozentech.com/content/livecd.php

You can download and burn any of these to CD, then reboot and play around in Linux without touching your hard drive. If you need any assistance downloading or burning, just ask around or come back here and we can do that.

For general questions about Linux, or to look around forums for many distributions,

www.linuxquestions.org
www.distrowatch.com

The Backroad Astronomer
2006-Oct-07, 10:43 PM
well on my machine I have the system divided into linux and widows. The reason I have linux is because I want to get into programming for myself and windows for games maybe similar solution woul work for you intill you are ready to go the way into linux.

Nicholas_Bostaph
2006-Oct-09, 04:28 PM
Thanks for all the comments and advice. I was surprised at the response I got. :)

I'll probably try to get one of these Live CDs to play around with and work from there. As I mentioned I'm not in any great hurry as my main concern is just to be moved on by the time Win2000 is no longer supporting the new apps and games I want to use. I figure I have at least a year or two for that so I have time to test and play around before deciding.

Kullat Nunu
2006-Oct-09, 04:41 PM
I tried Ubuntu, and then switched immediately to it. I now use Windows XP only rarely.

If you have some experience on computers, Ubuntu should be really easy to install (in some cases even easier than Windows!) Proprietary media formats (including MP3) may be problematic. Fortunately, most of them can be installed later.

ATI support for Linux is outrageous (read: there is no official Linux drivers at all!) so if you have a NVidia card, you're already in a better position.

Many Windows programs run fine with WINE.

Fraser
2006-Oct-09, 09:18 PM
I gained my Linux knowledge through website administration. So I learned the hard way, through the command line. I've also installed and played around with Debian, Ubuntu, Red Hat, and a few other flavours.

One of the coolest ways to play around with Linux is to download a Knoppix Live CD. You can put it into your CD drive, reboot your computer and it'll boot up Linux. You can play around with the software, and then when you reboot again, you're back to Windows.

Linux is definitely still rough around the edges. If you want to go that direction, you can remove most of your hardware hassles by trying out Knoppix. If everything works in Knoppix, then you can expect that Ubuntu or another well-supported flavour should also work quite well.

Another path you can take is to download the VMWare Server software, which is totally free. You can then install and try out various versions of Linux inside a virtual machine. You can install the OS from scratch or download pre-installed versions that have been configured in different ways.

I'd say I'm about 3 months away from jettisoning Windows altogether.

Kullat Nunu
2006-Oct-09, 09:48 PM
One of the coolest ways to play around with Linux is to download a Knoppix Live CD. You can put it into your CD drive, reboot your computer and it'll boot up Linux. You can play around with the software, and then when you reboot again, you're back to Windows.

I don't know Knoppix but I've got the impression it's rather difficult to use. Some other Linux distributions, especially Ubuntu and its variants use LiveCD. Which is really useful, since I've managed to mess up my settings twice so far... Just run Linux from the CD, fix the problem and reboot.


I'd say I'm about 3 months away from jettisoning Windows altogether.

I need Windows for playing newer games like Half-Life 2 (which I don't do often). On the other hand, some users have managed to run the game nicely under Linux using WINE. The good side about WINE is that WINE Is Not an Emulator; it lets Windows applications to use the libraries they need--therefore the programs run much faster than in a true emulator.