What is this Linux thing anyway?

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What is this Linux thing anyway?

Postby MoodyBlue » Mon Dec 07, 2015 12:32 am

If you hang around the chat room long enough you will notice that there are some people here are very enthusiastic about Linux.

Yes, I am one of them, and I will try to explain this whole thing. However, I do not want to over-complicate the explanation. I will speak in general terms here.

Linux is a free operating system that comes with a huge selection of free software. The way it is given to you is in the form of a distribution or "Distro".

There are many different distros out there, but basically you get the operating system and a collection of software that most people would use or need. Each distro has a system for installing additional software that you may want.

You download a distro and burn it to a DVD from which you can often boot from and test Linux out without installing it on your computer, or you can use the DVD to to install it on a computer.

There are some magazines that are devoted to Linux and they often come with a DVD that you can boot with. There are also detailed instructions that will explain more than I am going to go into here.

Look for these magazines on the top shelf of the magazine rack.

Why would you not do this?

There is an application that only comes in a Windows version, and you can't live or make a living without it.

So why would you do this?

Linux is free. There is no cost to use it.
Linux is free. As in speech, you can do anything you want with it.

Linux does not need anti-virus software.

If your computer is running an old version of Windows that is no longer supported, you can install Linux on that computer. There is a version of Linux that will run on your old computer but generally your computer should have at least a gigabyte of RAM to run Linux.

Your computer is over five years old, and is running very slow. You are willing try anything before buying a new computer. Linux can make an old computer run like greased lightning.

You feel that you have thrown enough money at electronic gizmos.

I could go on, but then this would turn into a rant and I do not want to do that. Suffice to say that there are social and political reasons for using free software.

There are at least three chat room members who are willing to help you find a Linux distro. Each one of us has a favourite distro, but we all agree on one thing, once you use Linux, and get use to it, you will never want to go back to Macs or Windows. It is not that hard to learn. Can you use a mouse? you can run Linux.
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Re: What is this Linux thing anyway?

Postby Sunbeam » Mon Dec 07, 2015 3:27 am

Excellent thread-starter post, MoodyBlue! :)

I'd love to contribute some content to this, and immediately identified several sub-topics I'd like to expand upon:

1: Other advantages of running linux: freedom from Windows device-driver hell, for the most part.

2: You'd be surprised how many of those "essential" Windows apps will run successfully under Wine or Dosbox or PlayonLinux... tips, tricks and caveats.

3. 90% of the time there is a better free app available from your linux repository anyway.

4. A hopefully unbiased comparison of a select few of the best linux distros for Windows refugees.

5. A case study of a Windows refugee who discovered Linux in the late 90's (me) , who became a distro-hopper, looking for usability, and ultimately abandoned Windows completely about the same time Micro$oft support for XP ended.

The wonderful thing about linux, is that most every distro is downloadable as a "live CD" or "live DVD", so you can download it, burn a CD or DVD, boot from that, and test-drive the operating system a bit without having to install anything on your hard drive.

It's late, bed-time, but I'll try to expand on that framework a bit as days pass. I'm sure you will too. :)

Cheers!
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Re: What is this Linux thing anyway?

Postby Sunbeam » Tue Dec 22, 2015 5:56 am

Here's a cartoon that just speaks volumes:
Image
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Re: What is this Linux thing anyway?

Postby Sunbeam » Fri Jan 01, 2016 5:09 am

Important Notice: There's a Free Upgrade available for Windows 7, 8 , 9 or 10.

It's called Linux. Either Ubuntu/Kubuntu or PCLinuxOS are tested, well-supported Linux distributions for people who are sick and tired of the Windows spyware/fake virusware/patronize-me-ware/slave-ware/pay-ware traps inherent in the Micro$oft and Apple platforms.

Get Linux and Get Free. Jump out of the squirrel-cage, and make your computer work for *you*.

Your Office suite is a free download, and is compatible with MS-Office (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, etc.) . Use apps you are familiar with: Firefox for web browsing (What? you were using something else?? Huh?) CAD/CAM work, Audio/Video recording/playback/editing/production. Cross-platform programming: what language do you work in? It's all there.

If you have an old favourite Windows or DOS app you just have to use, chances are good that it will run just fine under WINE, DOSBOX, or in a virtual Windows machine under VirtualBox.

If you need help with trying this out, or making things work, just ask, I know John (MoodyBlue) or myself would be happy to hold your hand thru making things work for you.

Now, all of this might sound like I'm a paid shill for linux operating system "sales". Hint: there's no such thing. I'm just a happy user. It's free. Get free.
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Re: What is this Linux thing anyway?

Postby Sunbeam » Sun Jan 03, 2016 2:55 am

So, the next logical question, is "Why, and How Can Linux be Free?" or "If it's Free, how can it be any good?" You get what you pay for, right?

There are very good reasons. Linux kernel was written by Linus Torvalds, as an undergraduate project at the University of Helsinki, to provide a from-scratch functional equivalence of the UNIX operating system. See Wikipedia

Since then, Linux has become the operating system of the Internet backbone, Huge Corporations, Universities, and Governments. There are companies that put billions into Linux software development and maintenance. Red Hat, for example, provides Enterprise-level software support to corporate Linux users, for a lofty price.

Torvalds, however, always, by design and licensing principle, insisted that the Linux kernel itself always be freely available to the world, under the GNU General Public License. Anyone developing non-proprietary improvements to the Linux kernel must make their efforts freely available to the community.

Chances are, the next web page you click on will be delivered to you from a Linux server. Google runs Linux servers, and Linux software. Android is Linux. The U.S. Department of Defence runs Linux. Windows is just too flakey for this mission-critical stuff.

But, I kinda skipped a step. About 6 years before the time Linus released the first version of Linux, Richard Stallman launched the GNU Project, founded the Free Software Foundation, developed the GNU Compiler Collection and GNU Emacs, and wrote the GNU General Public License. Linus used the GNU development tools to create Linux around 1991.
See Wikipedia

The GNU General Public License is why we have so much fabulous free software to run under Linux. Much of it written as dissertations by Ph.D. candidates, undergraduate projects, or simply by dedicated and talented code-hackers. And some written by hugely funded corporate programming teams, so a mega-corp could have the software it needed/wanted, knowing that it had to be released freely to the public under the GPL..

Much of it better than the software written by Micro$oft employees in office cubicles in Redmond, Wa. for sale to the gullible public and small business.

For more background, there are some very informative talks by both Linus Torvalds and Richard Stallman on YouTube.

The above article was written "off the top of my head", late at night, without a lot of rigorous fact checking, so there may be minor factual/historical errors. It also contains subjective personal opinion which should be interpreted as such. That is left as an exercise for the student. :)

*Edited to correct a major historical error in the original post.
*Second edit, to correct another embarrassing factual error. :)

Up next: a discussion about trying out a "Linux Distribution"
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Re: What is this Linux thing anyway?

Postby MoodyBlue » Tue Jan 05, 2016 1:21 am

Distributions & Desktops

Distributions
I touched on what a Distribution is in my first post. A distribution is a collection of software that runs off of the Linux kernel. The kernel is what facilitates the interaction of a computer's hardware with all of the pieces of software that you use to get your work done. All operating systems have their own kernel, Windows has a kernel, OSx has a kernel, Unix has a kernel, and so does Linux. All of the kernels are different.

What makes a distribution unique is the method by which you install software. There are about two main methods of installation of which there are various varieties. The two main methods are Debian (.deb) and Red Hat (.rpm).

As a user, You do not have to care about any of the above. Really. Because you will either just pick a distro on your own or you will take the advice of someone who may be able to tell you what is the best distro for you. Bottom line is that it is all Linux.

Desktops are another kettle of fish.
There are many desktops, and they are created for different reasons. You will choose a desktop that looks good to you, and or is matched to your hardware. Different distributions offer one or more desktops for you to pick from Debian has 22. (http://distrowatch.com/table.php?distribution=debian)

Are you totally confused yet? Relax, all will be revealed when the Linux geeks blather on about their favourite distributions and desktops. In the meantime take a few minutes to bop around the Distrowatch website: http://distrowatch.com/ and you will get the hang of distros and desktops.
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Re: What is this Linux thing anyway?

Postby mg_admin » Sun Jan 17, 2016 8:36 pm

Great post MoodyBlue.

A lot of people may have a misconception that Linux is a command line OS suitable only for advanced users. Which of course is no longer true. I think a GUI version such as Ubuntu Desktop would be a much better option for most users. It's absolutely amazing how much information Microsoft is stealing in their latest Win 10.

The last usable Microsoft OS was Windows 7 - which I'm still using (and will not be upgrading). As you correctly pointed out there are specialized programs that can only be run on Windows. However - for normal tasks like email/web - a linux GUI distro is a much better choice.

Also linux is truly free (i.e. open source - which does have it's own set of drawbacks) operating system ... compared to "free" Windows 10 - where the unspoken cost is your privacy.
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Re: What is this Linux thing anyway?

Postby Sunbeam » Mon Jan 18, 2016 2:26 am

All excellent points, mg_admin. There was a time when you had to be a computer geek, with at least some programming chops, and comfort with command-line operation, to make linux work for you. Linux was for programmers, administrators, and servers, not for the User Desktop. Not any more.

The progress in development of intuitive graphical desktop environments, smart installation programs, and automatic support for hardware devices has been exponential over the past decade. To the point where ease of installation and use has far surpassed the Micro$oft Windows model.

Anyone who is comfortable using Windows XP and up, would be comfortable using a modern Linux GUI desktop, after the initial shock over how "well, this is just like Windows, only better, once I explore a bit".

MoodyBlue, Distrowatch is a great resource, I've been "shopping" there for years :) But, it can be a bit overwhelming for a Windows refugee trying to figure out what to try out first.

I think my personal case study has to be next up here, there are several distros/desktops suitable for the M$ refugee. I'll try to provide an objective overview of my top 5 or so...

It really depends on the type of computer you're using i.e. New/High-end desktop/laptop, Older desktop/laptop, or mini/netbook. Understanding that will save the new adventurer some time and frustration.

My case was a pathological one, back in 2004, with a top-of-line Dell XPS laptop. Finding hardware support for (at the time) cutting-edge video, sound, and wi-fi was a challenge. After touring the Distrowatch top 20, I found it, and have been smiling ever since.

Oh, and, mg_admin, your point about privacy is spot-on. If you run Windows 10, your every move on your computer is being watched by Big Brother. All part of Big Data for Micro$oft targeted marketing, social profiling, and the NSA. I remember an interview with Linus Torvalds, where he was asked if the NSA ever approached him about incorporating security/data mining back-doors into the Linux kernel. His reply, as I recall, was "Yes. And I told them to F*ck *ff."

More to follow.
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Re: What is this Linux thing anyway?

Postby Sunbeam » Mon Jan 18, 2016 3:16 am

OK, I'm going to make an offer right now:

Please wait til I post my promised distro/desktop overview, sometime in the next week or so. This thread has grown legs (Thanks, MoodyBlue!)

Not everyone has unlimited internet bandwidth. I do. So I can download to my heart's content without data caps, or overage charges.

If any reader of this forum wants to try out any Linux distro in the overview, PM me and I will snail-mail you bootable CD's or DVD's to try out, gratis. Free, as in free beer. It's what GNU do.

Keep an eye here
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Re: What is this Linux thing anyway?

Postby Contact » Mon Jan 18, 2016 10:41 pm

Sunbeam wrote:wait til I post my promised distro/desktop overview

K. Waiting.
I tried an Ubuntu distro back in the PIII era. It felt slick and easy to use while i was trying it out, but i couldn't even get as far as connecting the modem to the net.

So I'll wait and download a recommended distro and give her another go on an old laptop.
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Re: What is this Linux thing anyway?

Postby Sunbeam » Sun Jan 24, 2016 3:14 am

OK, Contact, cut to the chase, right? 8-)

Just download this:

http://pclosusers.com/communityiso/LXDE ... 201512.iso

Burn the ISO to CD, boot from it, explore and use the Install wizard.

To look at various current offerings,
http://pclosusers.com/
including installation tips, different desktops, system requirements, etc.

For more info, magazines, user support forums, etc. go to
http://www.pclinuxos.com/

The ISOs posted under getpclinuxos on the main pclinuxos website are just over a year old, so your first system update would be an overnight marathon. Getting your ISO from the communityiso site will reduce that to under a half-hour effort, since they're only a month old.

My best advice is just download and try the link at the top.

If everything works ok, there are some extras from the repository you will want... like WindowsCodecs, Task_Multimedia, WINE, and probably Task_KDE or Task_KDE_Minimal, so you can have the option to run a KDE desktop and use Dolphin File Manager. My favourite graphical file manager ever, when run in split-view mode.

The LXDE desktop is your best starting point. Go from there.

With all respect to Ubuntu users, PCLinuxOS has a better installer, and better hardware support "out-of-the-box" than any other Linux distro. Period.

Check it out, and let me know what you think.

Disclaimer: This posting contains strong personal opinion, based on fact and experience.
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Re: What is this Linux thing anyway?

Postby Contact » Sun Jan 24, 2016 6:10 am

It's as easy as burning the iso at your link to a CD, booting to it, typing in my net password after clicking an icon and then opening Firefox to this address and typing this response.
I'm gonna go ahead and install on an old Thinkpad and give it a go.

Thanks!
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Re: What is this Linux thing anyway?

Postby makaturing » Sun Jan 24, 2016 5:41 pm

Sunbeam wrote:With all respect to Ubuntu users, PCLinuxOS has a better installer, and better hardware support "out-of-the-box" than any other Linux distro. Period.

Two other distros that are presented as "Windows replacements" are Elementary OS and Zorin. Are you familiar with these, and can you explain what makes PCL OS superior?

I have looked (very) briefly at Zorin, and have the .iso for the other two. Way back in the mid 90s I built a FreeBSD box, and had a shell account on io.org, but that's how long it's been since I fooled around with *nix.

The outrageous privacy issues with Windows 10 are what has me considering Linux after all these years.

Thanks...
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Re: What is this Linux thing anyway?

Postby Sunbeam » Sun Jan 24, 2016 6:59 pm

makaturing wrote:Two other distros that are presented as "Windows replacements" are Elementary OS and Zorin. Are you familiar with these, and can you explain what makes PCL OS superior?


I am not familiar with either one, so can't really comment. Back in the 2004-2008 period, I tried Debian, Mint, openSUSE, Slackware, Ubuntu, Kubuntu, Fedora, CentOS, Mandriva, FreeBSD, Gentoo, and probably a few others, all on my Dell XPS.

Without exception, all had problems with hardware drivers-- screwed up video, no sound, no wi-fi, no specific printer support, in some combination or another.

The thing is, a lot of Linux distros, on principle, do not/will not provide any "non-free" code, such as proprietary device-drivers for things like wi-fi cards, which the manufacturer only provides Windows support for.

PCLinuxOS makes liberal use of non-free code to make life easy for people who want things to "just work". For example, the ndiswrapper package, adapts Windows drivers to provide support for most wi-fi chips. The PCLinuxOS installer has excellent hardware detection/recognition, and a comprehensive library of device drivers to make most systems "just work".

I've installed it on many desktops, laptops, and netbooks for friends, and never have heard a complaint about "my wi-fi/webcam/printer/scanner/other gizmo doesn't work"

PCLinuxOS made #1 on the Distrowatch list back in 2007, and has remained in the top 20 ever since. Some newer distros may have reached this level of usability for the "Windows refugee", but I stopped looking when I found repeatable success.
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Re: What is this Linux thing anyway?

Postby Sunbeam » Sun Jan 24, 2016 7:07 pm

Contact wrote:It's as easy as burning the iso at your link to a CD, booting to it, typing in my net password after clicking an icon and then opening Firefox to this address and typing this response.
I'm gonna go ahead and install on an old Thinkpad and give it a go.

Thanks!


:) Ok, so what comes next?

You've just installed PCLinuxOS to your old Thinkpad, done your first post-install reboot, and created root and user accounts. You've logged in as <username>, and you're looking at your brand-new desktop.

The very first thing you need to do is a system update. Since PCLinuxOS uses a running release model, new updated versions of system and application software files are added to the repositories on a daily basis. I personally update my system weekly, this keeps download/update times reasonable, and the system up to date and secure.

On your Application Launcher Menu ("Start Menu" in Windows lingo) you will find, under "Software Center", "Synaptic Package Manager". Click on that.

You will be prompted to enter the root password before the program starts.
Synaptic will take a few seconds to read in the package lists, and their dependencies, and display a list of software. You need to follow 3 simple steps:

1. Click the "Reload" button in the upper left corner. This will download the latest software list from the repository. Wait for the list to update (less than a minute).

2. Click the "Mark All Upgrades" button at the top. A dialog will appear, showing a list of available upgrades. Just Click Mark.

3. Click the "Apply" button at the top. A dialog will appear, showing a list of files to download and install. Click Apply. Synaptic will now download and install all updates. This may take anywhere from a couple minutes to a half-hour, depending on the number of upgrades to be installed. Let it finish!

Your system is now up-to-date, and you can safely add any new software packages you like from the repository. More on that in my next posting.
Last edited by Sunbeam on Sat Jan 30, 2016 5:12 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: What is this Linux thing anyway?

Postby Sunbeam » Mon Jan 25, 2016 4:06 am

I need to point out, maybe, that my evaluation of Linux distros is strictly from the perspective of a Windows Refugee, who wants an operating system alternative that installs trouble-free on their computer, gives a usable, familiar graphical interface, and does not require a lot of command-line script-writing or tweaking or troubleshooting.

All the distros I mentioned in the "I tried" list certainly have their place in the world.
Debian is one of the grandaddy distros, has spawned many forks, and is manna to programmers. Who couldn't give a crap if they had hi-res video or wi-fi, or Windows media compatibility, because, they're writing serious software, dammit, and a text editor and a compiler is all that matters. If we need that other stuff, we'll program our own.
Ok if I exaggerate a bit?

Similarly CentOS- treasured for it's stability and security, powers web-servers around the world. It is a fixed distribution (Fixed release dates, nothing changes in between). They ridicule the running-release model as a haven for non-uniformity of problem-resolution, since there's no control over when users update what parts of their systems. It's like, you're running "This Version", period. That is also a valid policy. If you're running a server, you don't need fancy GUI and multimedia support. Just something that securely runs scripts and serves data.

So, my focus is on distros that provide an effortless, usable "User Desktop".
Something that installs on your computer quickly and almost automatically, and gives you a pretty GUI interface that is not totally alien to the Windows user.

It should provide support for viewing/listening to the latest multimedia, know when you hook up a new printer and say "Ok, found and automatically installed <new printer>. Would you like to print a test page?" ... Rather than the Windows approach: "Found new unknown device. Please insert driver disc, and wait for blue screen of death." Or the old puritanical Linux approach: "You don't really need that."

That perspective, with much trial and error along the way, explains why I will recommend PCLinuxOS without hesitation to the hesitant Windows Refugee.
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Re: What is this Linux thing anyway?

Postby makaturing » Tue Jan 26, 2016 3:09 pm

Sunbeam wrote:I stopped looking when I found repeatable success.

That's a reasonable thing to do. I suppose I could say the same thing about Windows... I became pretty proficient and comfortable with it, so why look elsewhere?

But the ship began to list with 8.0, and Windows 10 just iced it for me. When your operating system is putting advertising on your screen when all you're trying to do is play Solitaire, there's a problem.

I won't even get into the spyware aspect. I just refuse to run it, period.

I have a bunch of blank SSDs here, so I'm going to put one of them in a desktop machine and install PC Linux OS on it, and we'll see how it looks. Thanks for the tip... 8-)
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Re: What is this Linux thing anyway?

Postby Sunbeam » Sat Jan 30, 2016 3:43 am

makaturing wrote:
Sunbeam wrote:I stopped looking when I found repeatable success.

That's a reasonable thing to do. I suppose I could say the same thing about Windows... I became pretty proficient and comfortable with it, so why look elsewhere?

But the ship began to list with 8.0, and Windows 10 just iced it for me.


I was totally happy with Windows for a long time. I loved XP. But I saw the writing on the wall, and as an inquisitive contrarian, decided to explore. I immediately noticed the much faster boot time, and absence of inexplicable system lockups and crashes with Linux.

I suggested the LXDE desktop to Contact as a starting point. It is very undemanding of system resources, and will run on just about any computer, even with as little as 384MB of RAM. If you like a lean, light desktop, or have an older laptop or a netbook, it's good.

If you like a more full-featured desktop with more configurability, bells, whistles, and widgets, and you have at least 1Gb of RAM, it's hard to beat the KDE Plasma desktop. If you want to skip LXDE and just install a full KDE environment, you can try installing this ISO:
http://pclosusers.com/communityiso/KDEa ... -12.15.iso
or, for the 64-bit version:
http://pclosusers.com/communityiso/KDEa ... -12.15.iso

Of course, once you install any version, you can try different desktop environments at any time. You can install them with Synaptic, and select the desktop you want when you log in.
More on this in the next installment, where I'll discuss installing new software after the first system upgrade.

Here's an overview of Linux desktops for 2016 that's worth a look:
http://www.linux.com/news/software/appl ... s-for-2016
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Re: What is this Linux thing anyway?

Postby Sunbeam » Sat Jan 30, 2016 6:31 am

<SIDEBAR>

I'm going to side-track the whole thread for a moment with an overview of essential differences between computer operating system design philosophies. Ok, this is for "geeks only", sort of, but anyone might gain some basic insight from this.

The Micro$oft Window$ operating system uses what we could call the "Distributed Kernel/Unified Registry" model.

This means that the kernel (the central core of the operating system, which tells the processor how to deal with the user-software environment and the peripheral hardware interface) is broken up into numerous sections, or modules, each of which handle different aspects of the system operation. It is contained in many different files on your computer, the relationships of which are ill-defined, and re-defined on an ad-hoc basis.

The Windows Registry, which defines how all the user-installed software and peripheral hardware interacts with different file-types and system operations, is contained in one huge, fragile, nearly inscrutable file. If this file becomes corrupted, your entire system is unusable.

By contrast, Linux uses what we could call the "Unified Kernel/Distributed Registry" model.

This means the Linux kernel is one file. Yes, Linux also has various "kernel modules" which provide support for specific hardware, but the kernel itself is a single file, which encompasses the definition of how the user software, and peripheral hardware talks to the processor. Thus, it is maintained and updated as a single entity. If this file becomes corrupted, it is easily replaced, without loss of user data.

The Linux "Registry" is non-existant as a single entity. Every single piece of user-installed software or peripheral hardware in a Linux system has it's own "registry" file, a small text file which defines how that item interacts with the whole system. So, if you screw up when editing a "registry" file in a Linux system, all you can screw up is that one piece of software or hardware which it relates to.

If you screw up editing a registry file in Window$, your whole system just went to blue screen of death. This basic difference in operating system architecture is part of the reason that Linux users don't look back.
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Re: What is this Linux thing anyway?

Postby Sunbeam » Sun Feb 07, 2016 3:36 am

Continuing the theme from 4 posts back:

You've installed PCLinuxOS on your computer, and you've completed your first System Update. What next? There's software you need/want, which was not included in the distro release package.

These fall into several categories:
1. Windows multimedia codecs- play those DVD/Blu-ray/wmv/realplayer/quicktime/etc. files
2. Alternative Desktop Environments
3. Windows program support- how do I install and run Windows programs?
4. Productivity software- What Office Suite to load/save/edit my Word/Excel/Powerpoint files?
5. I have favourite CAD/CAM//Gaming/Programming Language/Multimedia Apps I can't live without, what now?

Like Radio Shack, You have Questions, We have Answers.

This posting is (more or less) to organize my thoughts and provide a framework for the continuing saga of the Windows Refugee.

If you're already ahead of me, and have questions, please post them. I'll try to respond as quickly as my cantankerous, over-committed nature permits. Otherwise, this series will continue at an earthly pace.
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