Friday, 5 June 2015

First Impressions of Linux: Preliminary Comments

(This is part 4 of a multi part thread. For part one click here).

I’m going to freely admit that with my attempt to install Ubuntu to my media PC I gave the OS next to no time, and I’m not in any position to make any statements about how good or bad Linux is compared to Windows. I’m also aware that many of the problems I have discussed in this post are due, at least in part, to the nature of community driven open source development rather than problems with Linux itself. And that I could have solved all these issues had I given the OS more time. I’m also going to admit that a media PC / DVR was perhaps not the ideal learning environment.

That said I've got a couple of observations that I think are relevant to any newbies going into Linux from Windows;

Going into Linux as a Newbie

- Do your research first. Knowing the benefits and limitations of the system before going in will save a lot of troubles.

- Look into the distros. Linux comes in a variety of flavours, each with different setups. If you need a system with proprietary drivers, WINE or a DVR it may be easier to install a distro that has those things pre-installed and configured. Finding the distro that best suits your needs first may mean you spend less time and frustration trying to setup the system in the long run.

- Understand hardware limitations. If all you want is a basic word processing and internet machine then any hardware will probably be fine. But if you want something a bit more specialised, perhaps a gaming rig or DVR, repurposing an old Windows PC may not be the best idea. Make sure your hardware is fully supported before you start. In some cases it may be better to build a new system that is better supported by Linux to get the best performance.

- Understand that Linux is largely developed and supported by hobbyists and enthusiasts. Things are not always as streamlined or polished as they are on Windows, and oftentimes instructions are written with the assumption that the reader already has a level of Linux experience. There is not always a ‘correct way’ of doing things, and advice can often be fragmentary. Be prepared to get your hands dirty to solve problems.

Going Forward

So, have I finished with Linux now? No, not at all. I’m still very interested in trying out Linux properly. I’ve got a couple of options. Installing onto my laptop might be the best for an actual sit-down-and-use-it setup. Otherwise I could install Linux onto my gaming PC. This would probably be best for trying out Linux as a gaming OS. The question then is do I split my current SSD into a Windows partition and a Linux partition and run games from a conventional HDD - or do I pick up a second SSD to run Linux?

I also still have my Raspberry Pi B+ that I’m pretty keen to set up as a basic media PC / Kodi machine for the bedroom.

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