Understanding Linux: rediscovering the joy of technology

Since Windows 10 users losing more and more control over their systems. The keyword is governance where companies try to educate their users. Don’t worry I will not give a huge speech about the free of will and evil tech companies. In this article I give you an opportunity to take back control of your computing device. Say goodbye to Microsoft and Windows and begin your journey with Linux.

Around the year 2015 I took a decision to get rid of Microsoft windows and move to 100% to Linux. I already had at this time several experiences with Linux on the server side. But use Linux daily on your desktop for all the tasks was a new challenge, because the tings are different. So I spended around 4 weeks and several tries to find a Linux desktop distribution which fits as best to my needs. The things you need to pay attention to the best result for yourself is the availability of a huge software repository where you can get all the applications you need. Another important point is the look and feel of your desktop. Here are also several options you can choose from. Before I give a brief overview about distributions and desktops I will explain the problem of software versions and repositories.

A software repository is just a big storage were the binaries and installers for your application is placed. If you decided for a distribution and a specific version you have a defined repository where you are able to purchase you software and distribution updates. Let’s assume we have a Linux distribution with a version from 2019. The support for this version is let’s say is until 2020. That means for the software repository the included software just contains a state from this time. If you wish to have for this distribution the newest GIMP version like 2.10.36 from November 2023 you can not get it from your original distribution repository. The last software version for GIMP in the original repository is the version from 2020. The same problem is with older software versions. This is a very specific problem for software developers and available programming languages. If you need to maintain old PHP or JAVA applications you need very specific compilers and interpreters they may not included in your software repository. To solve this problem it exist several solutions. Developers for example can use Docker. As a regular user you can try to get older or newer versions of a software directly from the Developer / Manufacturer. With this knowledge we can now learn what is a distribution and which ones existing.

If you want to choose for you a Linux distribution or in short Distro you have a huge selection where to choose from. But what is a Distro? In general you can say that a manufacturer put together a Linux Kernel, a collection of software and a repository and decorate everything with his own look and feel. It is also possible that you create your own Linux, including compiling your own kernel. But Linux is not in all the cases Linux. We need to distinguish between Linux and Unix. Linux is a derivation of Unix, like the Name LinUx as a combination from Linus and Unix already suggest. The big difference between Linux and Unix are the network functionality, which is in Unix more advanced. The operation System (OS) from Apple for example is based on Unix. A very common Unix OS is FreeBSD. BSD means Barkley Software Distribution and is continuous developed by the Barkley University in California.

Rate your favorite Linux Distribution

Beside this distinguish exist tree main Linux branches which also includes more derivation. As first there is from Germany Suse with the YAST packet manger for their software repositories. By the way Suse 7.2 was my first desktop tryout in 2002. Suse is not so common and sometimes is very hard to find for special questions or problems sufficient content. Another Distro comes from Red Hat, an Open Source pioneer. RHEL or Red Hat Enterprise Linux is a commercial Linux server distribution. The reason for a commercial Linux relies on the existence of server productive systems. With a RHEL license companies get from Red Hat a professional support in the case of emergencies. The Red Hat Desktop is not anymore supported and transformed to Fedora Linux. The default packet manger for their software repositories is YUM. The last but not least branch of the main Linux Distros is Debian with a huge brunch of Sub-Distros. All those popular beginner Distros like Linux Mint, Ubuntu or Zorin OS are based on Debian. When I changes in 2015 to Linux Desktop I started with Ubuntu Mate LTS and since end of 2023 I switched to Debian 12 with a Gnome 3 Desktop. The default packet manager for Debian systems is APT. Ubuntu introduced in 2023 their own SNAP packet Manager.

Another important term in the Linux universe is the Desktop manager. Here you can choose from: KDE, Gnome, Mate, XFCE and Cinnamon. Like my list of Distros the list of available Dektops is also not complete. I just mention the most common. The most Linux Distros comes with several Desktop manager by default. You can choose during the Login procedure which Dektop you like to use. So you have an easy way to try out which Desktop fits you as best. Later when you more experienced and you already nailed your choice for your daily work you can deselect unwanted Desktops during the installation process to save a bit of disk space.

Many people recommend new Linux users an Ubuntu distribution with the argumentation is more easy for the beginning. They give hits like that you can switch to Debian later when you more experienced. I have there a complete different opinion. The complication on Linux is not the Distro it is the Dektop. Ubuntu / Debian have a very good community and documentation. If you need to fix a problem you will find some help. This is why it is important to know of which family your Distro is based on, to search for help. Before you start with things like multi or dual boot. Create your an virtual machine with the Linux you wish to try. Like this you learn something about the installation process and file system.

The most difficult thing in the early beginning of my Linux adventures was to understand where the things get stored. For example 3rd party software usually got installed into the directory opt. Complicated is also the permission system for files and directories on ext3 / ext4. This concept don’t exist on Windows FAT or NTFS file system. Don’t worry about that. During your daily work you will figure out very fast how it goes.

Microsoft Surface 3 PRO with Ubuntu Linux

When I tied out the first time Ubuntu it was around 2010 where canonical the distributor of Ubuntu introduced by default the UNITY Desktop. I was not liked because it contains a lot of advertising and unwanted Apps like Spotify and Facebook. I figured out that Ubuntu has a Version with a Gnome Dektop Clone called Mate. I decided to try and I liked from the first moment. After the first Installation on my Laptop in 2015 I was needed until 2023 only 2 times to install Ubuntu new on my system. The reasons was I replaced my internal SSD first to 1 TB later to 2TB. No issues that the systems slowed down or the disk messed up with orphan files. No regular cleanup and service tasks like they are common in windows. The system just worked stable without serious crashes. I also never had any issues with hardware drivers. AL my new components always got detected correctly from linux and often exist little administration tools. Stremdeck UI or Noson for Sonos Speaker for example. When I got my new Laptop in December 2023 I decided to move from Ubuntu to the original. Because Ubuntu is made from a company and often they decide to go their own way. Who knows if they in the future transform to a Microsoft behavior. I prefer always to do my transition early without pressure to be prepared before I don’t have any other choice.

Of course I use an Antivirus and a Firewall on my system. Because Linux is not free against bad attacks, so there also necessities for protection.

A lot of people messing up with changing from Microsoft Office to Libre Office. The really secret to do not loose you layout is take care on the Fonts. When your MS Office original documents using the default Microsoft Fonts you need to install them also on your Linux machine to not destroy the office document layout.

For me is no real necessity to move back to Windows. Well I’m not a gamer but also for this exist plenty solutions. Steam is also available on Linux. The most persons I know they don’t even play anymore on PC or Laptops, they prefer Consoles like PlayStation. For me Linux is cool because I have full control over my system, its free and I can customize as I want. If you have an old Laptop which is not performing anymore with Windows try to install a Linux and enjoy.

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