lunes, 16 de abril de 2012

I Want to Try Linux but...

Lately, I've been talking to several people who want to give Linux a try but they lack some confidence or have heard several myths about this OS. That reminds me of myself back in the times prior to my migration. Thus, I guess other computer users out there may be in the same situation. If you are one of them, feel free to keep reading. You might find useful information here. This is for simple, plain computer users who feel like giving Linux a chance.

I want to try Linux but...

1. ...I don't know much about computers.

If this is your case, then you have little to fear. The basics are pretty much the same in most operating systems so, even if you don't know much about computers, you can start learning right off your knowledge base. As with most first learning experiences, it is easier if you get the help of a friend who has more experience with Linux in the case you feel uncertain.

2. ...I am afraid Linux will break my system.

Relax! Nothing will happen to your computer if you boot Linux from a handy live CD. What's a live CD? It's a CD (although there are live DVDs or also pendrives) that lets you boot the complete operating system without even touching your hard drive. Yes, you do not have to install anything to test Linux if you boot a live CD. How can you recognize a live CD? Well, it won't ask you to install anything during the boot up. Keep in mind that since the OS is working off the CD drive, it will work a bit more slowly than if it were installed.

3. ...I am afraid I won't be able to find the programs I need.

If you use quite specialized software, this may be true. However, if you are in the wide category of computer users who mostly need an office suite, e-mail programs, chat clients, Web browsers, multimedia software, and occasionally play a simple game, you would not find a great difference using Linux. In fact, just today a coworker told me how she easily converted documents to .pdf using Libre Office on Linux while on Windows she had been lost trying to find, install, and use different programs for the same task. No, she is not a computer guru. She is just a plain computer user.

4. ...I am confused by all this "distro" / distribution thing.

Well, think of it as going to the supermarket. Do you prefer to see only one kind of product there? Probably not: the more variety, the better, right? Now, imagine you go to a supermarket and while you are seeing its great variety of products, someone told you: "all this is for you to try...FOR FREE!" Would you say "No, thanks. This supermarket is confusing. Give me only one brand of X product...and if possible, charge me as much as you like."?

Linux distributions (or "distros") are there for you to try as many as you want...and for you to choose the one (or ones...nobody said you have to keep only one!) that you prefer. Who would be afraid of that? Go ahead and grab as many as you want, but pay attention: choose the actual final releases. Many people complain that Linux is full of bugs and problems but they don't realize that they have downloaded and installed a test release. If you see the words "alpha," "beta," or the code "RC" plus a number from 1 to 4 (RC2, for example), that is a release still in its developmental stage. Do not install that one unless you want to actually contribute with the development of that Linux distribution.

5. ...I've heard horror stories of how Linux deletes Windows when you install it.

Actually, the Operating System that dislikes to share the hard drive is Windows. Linux does not delete anything unless you choose to install it on top of your Windows install. If you have tried Linux and want to install it, make sure to read the manual first. If you want to keep your other operating system, you must first understand what partitioning hard drives is. However, you can use live CDs indefinitely. I know a person who literally destroyed his Windows system (by himself...Linux had nothing to do with it!) I then gave him a Mepis Linux live CD and he has kept using it without installing it until this very day because he does not want to pay to get his system fixed. And he is neither a computer geek nor a a Linux fan, by the way!


The bottom line is that your computer will not explode for trying Linux. It is safe and stable...more than some would believe or want. As far as you don't start deleting anything yourself, you will not lose your files when trying a live CD and once you turn your computer off, it would be as if nothing had happened. Again, do not forget to read the documentation of your distro if you decide to install: It will save you some trouble and most of the times, it will tell you where to ask in case you have problems. Also, try to get the guidance of a person who uses Linux and you will see that there's lots you can do with this safe and versatile operating system.

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