I have just now installed what I feel is one of the most impressive and simple-to-use Linux OS versions – LinuxMint. Everything works out of the box – network adaptor, Wi-Fi client, Mobile broadband USB based device, printer, MP3 & Flash for audio/video multimedia play back, and pretty much everything else! All this might sound like very normal for Windows users – but for Linux, it is no short of a Renaissance!
Initially, two years back, I tried Fedora Linux (On dual boot mode) – but did not use it much as there were some restrictions in my office and I couldn’t connect to the printer. Then, I happened to take a break for about six months and was determined to use Linux. This time, I installed Ubuntu Linux. Agreed, I had to do some minor configuration changes to play Mp3, Flash and even the Wi-Fi (The wireless adapter did not work and I took help from a colleague who downloaded the driver and made it work), but most other things, including printer, worked. Then I upgraded to the latest version and suddenly found that my display was gone when I booted in to Ubuntu! This is why I always keep Windows in dual-boot along with Linux. Then I inquired and my geek friend asked me to try LinuxMint. It seems LinuxMint uses the same repositories (what ever that is) as Ubuntu but comes with built-in support for most of the hardware drivers. I can testify this – On my Toshiba laptop, pretty much everything worked!
On any laptop or PC, all the components are not manufactured by the same vendor. Your graphics card might come from a different vendor, your DVD drive might come from a different vendor, your Wireless adapter comes from a different vendor. So, each component also includes their own software (device driver) to work with the processor and other components in a Laptop/ PC. But this crucial piece of software is written mostly for Windows. That’s why everything works immediately in Windows. But for Linux, there are thousands of enthusiastic open-source volunteers around the world who keep track of all such devices that are released in the market and write the code for recognizing/ supporting them by themselves – you can guess why this is so difficult. So, getting to use a Linux OS which natively supported all such different components out-of-the-box on my Laptop was such a surprise!
By the way, open source means that all the programming code used to develop an application/ Operating system etc are hosted in the Internet for anyone to see/ test and re-use it to make further improvements/ newer applications. Open-source is nothing short of a new and rising reformist movement – but I will expand on this later, in another post.
Coming to the applications part I seriously fail to understand why one uses a commercial package when an excellent alternative is available in the form of OpenOffice. With OpenOffice, most of the features that we need to create documents, spreadsheets, presentations etc are very much available and simple to use. Of course, initially it might be slightly difficult or rather different, but you can learn things very fast as you explore. You can directly save a document or a spread sheet or even a presentation as a pdf file! And most importantly it doesn’t crash or hang. You can very much open an MS Word Document (In .doc format), edit, and save in .doc format, if you wish to. But the open-standard for saving a document(for example) is .odt and I strongly recommend that everyone save and exchange documents in this format. I have been using OpenOffice for more than a year, and it is my primary office application for both my personal and official use. I have not come across major compatibility problems with Microsoft files except few minor formatting changes, which can be corrected easily. OpenOffice, by the way, has a Windows version also that you can use – so there can be no excuses.
Mozilla Firefox is my favorite browser and it is very much supported both in Windows and Linux. I was even using a WYSIWYG blog post editor which came as a add-on to Firefox. I guess Firefox should be the browser with maximum and very interesting add-on’s. There are other browsers like Opera, which work very well in Linux. I was using Mozilla Thunderbird (but currently use Evolution) as the email client in Linux.
As you would have seen from what I have written, I am no geek. But a little interest and exploration led me in to the wonderful world of Linux / Open-office/ Mozilla. In fact, you have open-source equivalents for almost every paid commercial application developed for windows. Have you heard of the GIMP program, which is an excellent alternative to Photo-Shop in the open-source environment? I even downloaded an open-source DVD writer application for Windows (when trying to install the LinuxMint) which is not only free but does the job perfectly without reminding you that the demo license period is over and you need to pay $ to use the software!
And most importantly Linux loads only the applications that we really need and hence boots very fast and shuts-down equally fast, without really wasting precious minutes. Yeah, the icing on the cake comes last – You don’t have to install an Anti-Virus program which keeps reminding you hundred times in a day that it has caught this or that virus, and still find that your files/ USB devices are infected with so many viruses that the only way to continue to use the computer even for a temporary period is to re-format the whole hard-disk!!
You don’t have to be a Geek to switch over to Linux – you just should not be very dumb!! 😛