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How to make the switch to Linux December 21, 2007

Posted by rm42 in Computers, Linux, Uncategorized, Windows.

If one takes a look at Linux Distribution’s forums, it becomes very evident that there is a large swell of people switching to Linux due to frustration with Vista or XP. All these people are trying to install Linux on their existing hardware and hoping that it goes well for them. And that is a good thing. Thankfully, Linux hardware support has improved tremendously with the latest kernels. So, in most cases, the experience for these people is going to be a rewarding one. Nevertheless, for a good number of them, this switch is going to be frustrating. You see, that is not the best way to switch to Linux.

Switching over to Linux should be a planned, premeditated act. Once one knows what advantages Linux provides and decides that those advantages are desirable, one should begin investigating the best way to go about making the switch. Once a clear strategy is formulated one can start taking the steps necessary to make the switch a smooth transition. The most important factors to consider are going to be hardware compatibility and software requirements.

Taking hardware compatibility in mind means that one will only buy hardware known to work well with Linux. That is why I bought a Lenovo Thinkpad with Intel’s new integrated graphics cards. There are no closed source drivers needed at all to run the machine. This is also why I bought an HP printer instead of a Canon. Installation was a breeze and all the features are supported with a nice graphical interface. And so on and so forth. If one does a little homework before buying (and now that everyone has access to Google there is no excuse for not doing this) using Linux is a piece of cake. See here for a bit more on this:


One should also decide before hand how one is going to fill one’s software requirements. Does one of the native Linux programs provide the functionality that you need or are accustomed to from your Windows program?


If not, will your Windows program run well in Wine?


If not, would running your program in a virtual machine like VMware or Virtualbox be acceptable?

Once you have the answer to those questions finding a distro is simply a matter of finding one that fits your taste, level of expertise, and personality. Don’t just follow the herd and install the one with more marketing money. For example, Ubuntu is a great distro for some, but, in my opinion, it is not the easiest to use for someone just coming over from Windows. I prefer to recommend Mandriva, PCLinuxOS, or MEPIS. You will likely never need the command line with those. Of course if you are in IT, or are interested in tweaking, others may be better.

The day will likely come when switching to Linux will be a no-brainer. Right now, it still requires a little advanced thought. But, in behalf of most of us that have made the switch I would say that it is well worth it!



1. Alan - December 21, 2007

Correction: there is no such distro as Mephis. It should be “MEPIS” (the dev prefers it in all caps, even though it’s not an acronym. Don’t ask why).

I agree with your comments, so many people get fed up with MS, then expect Linux to be a drop in replacement. They don’t understand the concept of what an OS even is, and why Windows software doesn’t run on Linux, then start bashing Linux because it didn’t stand up and dance the minute they installed it.

2. rm42 - December 21, 2007

Thanks for the correction. I am hopping that when people become more aware of these issues the hardware manufacturers will begin to feel more inclined to support Linux. This is already happening, but it needs to get bigger.

3. Phillip - December 21, 2007

Great site. i enjoyed the material. I hope that people will read it and switch to Linux.

4. paul - December 21, 2007

I absolutely agree. I spent time looking for expected performance for my particular hardware set (ie, processor, memory limit, wireless network or not, bus speed and type, video, audio). This is also an issue re cost (eg, you’re salvaging old equipment and need memory). If you’re the adventurous type like me and are going to install on a machine more than 4 or 5 years old (and please correct me on this estimate because it’s only a gut feeling), you’ll need to look to distros that are meant to run on older hardware.

I have to echo the Ubuntu experience. I’ve had machines that just fail from the git-go trying to install. I take that as a pre-cursor to a bad experience and with all the distros to choose from why should I spend time trying to figure some special boot command or tweak to make it work. Ubuntu is NOT the ‘one size fits all’ solution and they aren’t saying that it is. BUT, the extensive amount of PR that it gets begins to imply that it is the perfect distro for any machine. Again, let me say, that it’s not. It’s okay in many ways, but I believe that you can do better by putting in a little research time.

And with that excellent segue, let me say that PCLinuxOS and CentOS have been excellent experiences for me in almost all my recent installs (AMD, AMD64, and the usual Intel fare). PCLinuxOS is my favorite desktop solution. It has given me enough confidence to start installing for friends and relatives without the fear that I’ll be getting a lot of support calls. CentOS is more the server solution for me and is easily updated and stable.

But please spend time learning a bit about the hardware on which you will install. That effort will pay you back as a pleasant and successful computer experience. Then you will understand why people are becoming more aware of and enthusiastic about GNU/Linux (one for you Richard) and Open Source Software.

5. Kurt - December 23, 2007

Great article.

I have been a linux user for years now. And your points on the hardware support is just as true now as it was when it got started. ( Around 1996 )

There is better support now, and it gets better all the time. Hopefully more and more company’s will opensource their drivers so GNU/Linux gets even better. Even software company’s will come around.

Again, great article.


6. Steve - February 15, 2008

Excelent article.
Looks at the fundamentals really well. I’m switching to Linux (Note that this is a work in progress… who knows how long it will take for me to be able to say “I now run Linux”?) That’s why people won’t abandon Windows!
You can walk into a store, buy a PC with Windows, with a sticker that says “Designed for Microsoft Windows XP”, get some peripherals, take it home, plug it in, switch it on, and it works. Connect to an ISP, get the modem, gateway router, or whatever, run the installation CD, and you’re googling.
That just doesn’t happen with Linux.
Too many distros, too many versions (every 6 months with Ubuntu), too many forums (with way too many dodgy, incomplete or patronising answers), not enough drivers, not enough documentation.. shall I go on?
The average Joe wants to be productive. Who’s got the time to mess with stuff to make it work.
I’ve only been trying to make Linux work so that it’s fully usable for four weeks, but many hours have been invested. I’m starting to get some bad vibes about that from my wife. I don’t need that kind of heartache.
On the side, the “too many versions”: I guess for developers it’s great to be working on a new version, distro, or whatever. It’s sexy. Working on bug fixes isn’t sexy, so people don’t invest the time. Writing drivers for some poor soul that just can’t afford to by a new printer to make it work with Linux isn’t sexy, so people would rather be working on something that is.
Oh, and what about all the bugs in Windows that so many people say is a good reason for switching to Linux? Well, what about all the bugs in Linux distros? Yep, there are heaps of them. That’s why there are bug fixes. At least if you are running Windows, you have a one-stop-shop for all your needs in terms of bug fixes, security updates, etc. For Linux? Hundreds of repositories, some of which sometimes conflict with others. You may have guessed. I’ve not had a positive experience with Linux. But I will persist, because it’s a challenge. However, I’ll give up as soon as it starts to affect my family relationships, which I suspect is going to be fairly soon.


7. rm42 - February 15, 2008


Thanks for your comment. Unfortunately, as I wrote in the post, moving to Linux right now implies some premeditated planning for it to be smooth. Even then, a willingness, ability, and motivation to learn will be required. Of these, the motivation is probably the most important. On another post I explain what motivates me to use Linux:


See if it rings a bell within you. 😉

8. How to Get Six Pack Fast - April 15, 2009

Not that I’m impressed a lot, but this is a lot more than I expected when I stumpled upon a link on SU telling that the info is quite decent. Thanks.

rm42 - April 15, 2009

Thanks. I am glad you found something you like.

9. Ira - May 1, 2009

I agree, it is taking me a long time to get switched over to Linux. I have a 2 desktops 1 with Xp Pro and 1 with Fedora, my Laptop is a Dual boot XP Pro/Fedora. Between learning Linux and certain software requirements I have it has been challenging. but overall making me a far better “geek”(for lack of a better term). A perfect example is I was laid off back in January and the resume I made on my Linux box looked all goofy when opened up in MS office. It took some tweaking and additional fonts and such but now I am confident documents I create on my Linux box will open in MS office and look exactly as I intended them.

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