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General Introduction to Linux

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Re: Linux

Unread postby Gary R » February 18th, 2016, 5:44 am

What is Linux

Linux or to be more correct Gnu-Linux is a series of Operating Systems based around the Linux Kernel developed by Linus Torvalds.

So what is an Operating System ...

An Operating System is the mediator between your hardware and your software, and allows your programs to interact with your computer. It also gives you a familiar interface, that allows you to launch and control those same programs.

All Operating Systems consist of several parts ...

  • Kernel ... which interfaces with your hardware, schedules tasks and manages memory.
  • Drivers ... which interfaces between hardware peripherals and the Kernel.
  • Graphical User Interface ... which is the Desktop.
  • Applications ... programs that run on the Desktop.

With Windows, the first 3 are a single interdependent package, and you have a single Desktop which is inseparable from the Kernel.

With Linux, there are a number of different Desktops available that will happily interact with the Kernel, or you can even run things without a Desktop if you wish.

Linux Distributions ...

As I said earlier, Linux is not one Operating System, but a series of Operating Systems. Linux comes in various distributions, or distros as they're commonly known.

Each distro will usually contain ...

  • A kernel
  • A desktop
  • A number of pre-installed programs that will run on that platform.

Which one you choose will depend on your own particular needs and/or preferences, and this article will contain links to some of the more popular ones in one of its later posts.


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Re: Linux

Unread postby Gary R » February 18th, 2016, 11:57 am

Why should I want to use Linux

There are a number of reasons why people may want to investigate the possibilities that Linux provides, and these include ...

  • It is Open Source ... so apart from the cost of the hardware that you run it on, Linux is free.
  • You are curious to find out what Linux is like ... you've heard people talk about it, and you want to know what the fuss is all about.
  • You have a Windows Operating System that is no longer supported by Microsoft ... so you want to update to one that is supported, but don't want to be saddled with a lot of extra cost.
  • You've taken a look at Windows 10 and you don't like the direction that Microsoft are taking with their latest OS ... so you want to move to an OS that doesn't spy on you, and that thinks that you own your computer, not the people at Redmond.

Add to this the facts that ...

  • Linux runs well on older hardware.
  • Linux doesn't suffer to anything like the same degree with Malware as Windows does.
  • Linux is easier to maintain.
  • Linux allows much more personal customisation than Windows does.

... and you can see that for many people it is an attractive proposition.


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Re: Linux

Unread postby Gary R » February 19th, 2016, 11:52 am

What can I do with Linux

The answer is ... pretty much anything you can do with Windows ... although for the most part you will not be able to use the same programs as you used in Windows.

Most Linux distros come with a certain amount of software pre-installed, and this will typically include ...

  • A web browser (Firefox, Chrome & Opera all have Linux versions).
  • An e-mail client (Thunderbird is popular).
  • Programs for viewing and editing your photos.
  • Programs for playing and recording your music.
  • A program for viewing videos.
  • A text editor.
  • An "Office Suite" (usually Libre Office).

... so straight "out of the box" you can usually do quite a bit, and needless to say there are Linux programs to accomplish most other tasks, that you can download and install yourself.

So where do I find all these other Linux programs ...

Linux distros come with a Package Manager which you can use to browse a Repository of programs that have been tested to be compatible with the particular distro you are using. These often contain thousands of suitable programs of all types and function.

This is the safest way to install programs, since they have been tested by the distro producer, and found not to cause problems on the distro you are using.

However, it is also possible to add additional repositories, that you may also browse for programs, and also to add PPAs (Personal Package Archives) that are created by other Linux users for your use. These are not as safe, and should be used with caution.

Finally you can download installer packages direct from the Internet, but this is generally the least safe and/or secure method of installing programs, and not one I usually recommend.


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Re: Linux

Unread postby Gary R » February 23rd, 2016, 2:35 am

What about security

Linux has a number of security features built into it ...

  • User accounts do not have Root/Administrator permissions, and any material changes you need to make to your computer (like installing new software) will require you to authenticate (with your password).
  • Only Root users can change system settings.
  • Application software is generally downloaded from a secure repository.
  • Updating updates both your system and your software.

... however, contrary to popular belief, it is not inherently more secure than Windows.

Nonetheless, it is generally not necessary for Linux users to need an Anti-Virus for the following reasons ...

  • Although the majority of Internet infrastructure is Linux based, Linux desktop and laptop users only account for approx 3% of the web using population, so Linux is not generally targeted by Malware writers, who can get a much better pay-off for their efforts by targeting Windows, which accounts for approx 90% of web use.
  • Linux users are not one big homogeneous group, since there are many different distros, so it's more difficult to write a piece of Malware that would be effective on them all.
  • Since most Linux software is free by default, and downloaded from a repository, there are fewer opportunities for Malware peddlars to con people into installing "free" malicious editions of popular utilities.

... this does not mean that you should browse the web without caution, and that there is no security risk when using Linux, and you should ...

  • Ensure the built in Firewall that comes with most Linux distros is enabled.
  • Take precautions to secure your browser (there are useful security add-ons for both Firefox and Chrome) as this is the most popular attack vector for what little Linux Malware there is.


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Re: Linux

Unread postby Gary R » February 23rd, 2016, 11:22 am

How do I install it on my computer

There are 2 basic options for using Linux on your computer ...



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Re: Linux

Unread postby Gary R » February 23rd, 2016, 11:40 am

Running it from a USB drive

The great advantage of running Linux from a USB drive, is that ...

  • It makes no material changes to your computer, so you can ...
    • Find out which distro you like the best.
    • Find out whether it is compatible with your hardware or not.
    • Decide whether you want to install it permanently or not.
  • You can also use a USB copy of Linux to troubleshoot any problems you might have with a permanent Linux install, and/or use it to retrieve your personal files from a problematic Windows install.

To install Linux on a USB drive, you will need ...

  • A USB drive of sufficient capacity ... 16GB is a good workable size for most installs.
  • A copy of the ISO file for the Distro of your choice ... ensure you download the appropriate file (32 bit or 64 bit) for your computer.
  • A USB Installer Utility ... to install the distro on your USB drive, and make it bootable.



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Re: General Introduction to Linux

Unread postby Gary R » October 3rd, 2017, 3:58 am

Solo-Booting or Dual-Booting it from your Hard Drive

Whist "getting to know" Linux, most people will choose to run it from a USB drive, as that makes no material changes to their machine. However, running Linux that way, is slower than running it from your hard drive, so if you decide that you would like to use Linux on a more permanent basis, you will probably want to "install" it on your machine.

Most distros will come with an option to install Linux on your hard drive, and during the installation process there are generally two options for how to do this ...

  • As the sole operating system ... in this case the installer will reformat the hard drive and install Linux as the sole OS. Everything that was previously on the drive will be lost.

  • Alongside any existing OS ... in this case the installer will partition your hard drive, and install Linux on the new partition it creates. The existing OS and everything associated with it will still be accessible. When you next boot up, you will be presented with a boot screen that offers you an option to choose which OS (Windows or Linux) you wish to boot into.

    Caution 1: ... if you are going to convert your machine into dual-boot, please be aware that the process is not without risk. You are re-partitioning your hard drive, and although the default settings used by most "mainstream" Linux installers work without problem on the vast majority of machines, that does not necessarily guarantee that you won't be the exception.

    So be sure to backup to an external drive, anything on your existing OS that you can't afford to lose. Personally I create both a backup and a disk image.

    Caution 2: ... I do not recommend that people dual-boot their computer if they already have Windows 10 installed. Updates in Windows 10 are not optional, so you cannot control what changes may be made to your machine, and it is quite possible/probable that at some future point, your bootloader (or other boot time critical systems), will be "updated" in such a way that your Linux install is no longer accessible at bootup.

    If you want to run Linux on a Windows 10 computer, I recommend you install it in a Virtual Machine (example installs Ubuntu, but other distros can be used).


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Re: General Introduction to Linux

Unread postby Gary R » October 3rd, 2017, 4:58 am

Step by Step installation instructions for a couple of popular Linux Distros



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Re: General Introduction to Linux

Unread postby Gary R » November 23rd, 2017, 9:05 am

ISO downloads for some popular Linux Distros

Most of these can be downloaded conventionally, or by the use of a torrent client.

This forum does not recommend the use of p2p/torrents



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Re: General Introduction to Linux

Unread postby Gary R » November 23rd, 2017, 9:23 am

USB Installer Utilities

These are utilities that allow you to create a bootable USB, using the ISO file for the distro of your choice.



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