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Moving to Linux: The Paradigm Shift Explained, Part Two

Novell Cool Solutions: Feature
By Scott M. Morris

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Posted: 13 Sep 2005

There are some adjustments one must make when upgrading from Windows to Linux. In a previous article, we looked through a handful of these ideas. We discussed the differences in installing software, the command prompt, and how to get help when things go awry. I would like to look at a few additional things to keep in mind when migrating to Linux.

One of the many advantages of Linux is that it was built to be a networking operating system. It has since moved into the desktop arena. Almost all proprietary operating systems available today started out as desktop systems. They are now attempting to become network operating systems. Since Linux is based off a codebase that has been tested, used, and debugged for decades. It is a very powerful networking platform. There is a myriad of tools available to you that give you abilities that you may not be used to.

Perhaps the most prominent of these tools for me has been the secure shell. This is generally done through the commandline. It allows one to connect to and administrate a remote machine as though you were sitting in front of it. Awhile back, I wrote an article about remote administration. The article discusses secure shell and vnc. If you'd like a little more info on secure shell, take a look at the article. The secure shell is one of those things that, once you've experienced it, you cannot live without it and wonder how you ever did.

Connections to remote machines are cake when you are using the secure shell (a.k.a. ssh).

When you need to change settings for an application, on Linux this will generally be done in a text file. There is usuall no proprietary format for these settings. It's generally just a plain text file. This makes application configuration quite straightforward once you get used to this concept. In Windows, users generally set preferences from within the application. These preferences are usually saved to the registry. In Linux, you just edit the text file, save it, and restart the process that uses it. This plain-text format also makes it quite easy to edit preferences remotely using the secure shell. Generally, you can just ssh into the remote machine, make the preference changes, and restart the application that uses them.

Many applications are configured through plain-text files.

My next point may sound like an argument for why to use Linux over Windows. While it can certainly be used justifiably as such, my point here is that it is more like icing on the cake. When using Windows, I had to run hardcore antivirus software. I had to run software to clean up all of the adware and spyware that would install itself into my system. I contacted Symantec to see how many viruses ran on Windows, they told me that their database contains 70,000 virus definitions. As a comparison, the total number of viruses that exist for Linux amounts to about 0.7% of that number. I've never run any kind of antivirus software on my Linux machines. I've also never had spyware or adware install itself on them.

System security is inherently more solid on Linux.

In addition to the things we discussed in the last article, here are a few more things to think about that will help new users adjust to Linux when upgrading from Windows. Since Linux was built as a networking platform, it provides excellent tools like the secure shell. Since many files are configured using plain-text files, setting preferences is quite easy whether you are doing it locally or remotely. It's also a breath of fresh air to accustom yourself to the inherent security of Linux. In my next article of this series, we'll explore a few more of the ways to get used to Linux when migrating from Windows.

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