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Basics: Help me understand why and how to migrate to Linux.

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By Stomfi

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Posted: 15 Apr 2005

Question: Antivirus, Hardware compatibility, Familiarity

  1. I am very new to Linux, but I do love how stable the operating system is. If I choose Linux to be my operating system do I have to install a antivirus software? If I do which one? Most vendors out there support Microsoft OS's. Which antivirus software works with Linux.
  2. Does Linux have drivers for all hardware from any vendor like Windows does? If yes, where might one acquire them? Does Linux support any type of system from a low end computer to the newer computers out now? Like 64-bit and 32-bit applications and hardware? I installed Linux once and had some problems as far as hardware drivers. Is Linux making it easier for end users to migrate from Windows to Linux?
  3. Does Linux have guide books or files that are downloadable to help one like myself that is not familiar with how linux works that can teach me and show me the ins and outs of linux?
  4. I am a systems builder, and I have had customers ask me about Linux operating system, and what's the advantage of using it compared to Windows and if there is support out there, and if it is compatible with all hardware brands? I couldn't answer because I have little knowledge myself with the operating system.
  5. In my personal opinion, if Linux had a self-taught program to show end users how user friendly it is just like Windows, more folks would switch over to Linux.

Answer: For SUSE

This is multiple questions, but they really are about the same thing, which is migrating.

I'll answer them one at a time, but first I'll highlight the major differences between Linux and Windows.

  • Linux has security as its number one priority, whereas Windows has ease of use. This make some things like networking and installing software harder in Linux. But it means that one user cannot access the files of another without explicit permission, and cannot delete or write to files or applications owned by the system.
  • Peripheral chips are manufactured for the Windows OS, not for Linux and many chip manufacturers have not recognised Linux as a viable market, even though peripheral manufacturers are doing there best to encourage them.
  • Linux has always been a true multi user networking OS, whereas Windows is a johnny come lately in this aspect. This means that one Linux box can be used by as many users as can plug into it through dumb terminals or Graphical X terminals, each with their own network address and secure user space.
  • Linux has always been a multitasking OS, whereas Windows is playing catch up. Linux has a rich set of multitasking tools allowing a high degree of automation at both the administrative and the user level.
  • Linux runs on multiple platforms, whereas Windows is primarily an Intel platform system concerned with office applications and games, which gives Linux access to many vertical market applications from robotics to graphics to films to servers to science to supercomputing.
  • Linux is modular whereas Windows is monolithic. When you get Windows you get all or nothing. When you get Linux you get a system that can be as small as needed to run the applications you want, or large enough to fill 5 or 6 CDs of zipped up applications. The kernel or real OS is also modular so that it only takes up a couple of Mbytes of RAM. Drivers and programs are loaded when needed and unloaded when finished with.

Now on to the questions:

  1. Linux is very resistant to viruses. This is because each user has a home directory and can only create and delete files within it and any global folders. I use an open source program called Clam Virus about once a month, and haven't discovered one yet.
  2. The driver situation gets better all the time. Manufacturers like Intel. NVidia and ATI release Linux drivers as binaries which are installed with special wrapper programs. There is also a lot of reverse engineering projects some one which are actively supported by peripheral manufacturers. Also standards like USB and digital camera formats help Linux use the latest hardware. This all means that you should have a good look before buying peripherals for Linux, or make sure you can take them back without penalty. One thing to note is that apart from networking hardware that can be used with the ndiswrapper, you can't use the drivers that come with your hardware. Most Desktops and Laptops work. Lots of older hardware does. Some really old stuff doesn't. 64bit has been supported on Linux for quite some time.
  3. There is more documentation for Linux than for any other operating system. Partly this is because UNIX was well documented, and the practice was continued for Linux. Most applications have web site support as well. Ask a question about Linux on the web and you will usually get at least 20 good references. Even if there is no immediate answer, I have found the community will help within 24 hours. has hundreds of books on Linux and its applications, and many sites like this one are dedicated to helping newbies and tech heads alike. There are courses you can take for Linux certification. Novell has one. The documentation that come with SUSE 9.2 is some of the best I have seen.
  4. Linux is compatible with all the major PC suppliers and most of the clones. 32bit, 64bit... it's all there mainly because of the server market which buys huge quantities. A Linux distribution like SUSE 9.2 also contains hundreds of application programs for all sorts of disciplines. If you need to run Windows applications you can purchase a program like Win4Lin which lets you load the program onto the Linux partition and run it exactly as you would in Windows, except if it crashes the OS, it only crashes the Win4Lin window. Linux is still running all those other mission critical tasks. You can always impress customers with the Mars Rover which is still going after a year in a hostile environment, without any possible on site maintenance. Do you think Windows could have gotten that far?
  5. Does Windows have a self-taught program? I've not seen it. The problem with Linux is that it isn't Windows, its a huge lot more, and can do many, many things that Windows can't, so when you talk about a self-taught program, you probably want one for a minute part of Linux to suit your own special needs. I think the best way around this problem is for you to get an old P4, put SUSE 9.2 on it, and start playing with the things you want to use. When you get stuck, look up your local Linux user group and go play with them. It'll take 3 months minimum, but you'll be ahead of the competition who won't spare the time.

This Newbie answer has covered:

How to understand and migrate to Linux.

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