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Linux is different. I don’t blame people who find it confusing, especially those who come from a Windows background. It’s completely normal to feel overwhelmed when making the switch. That’s what happens when you step from one world into another.

But rest assured: that sense of being overwhelmed won’t last long.

Every new Linux user always goes through a similar sequence of questions as they try to wrap their heads around the new environment. Fortunately, the answers to these questions are straightforward and easy to grasp, and once grasped, Linux becomes as intuitive as – or more so than – other operating systems.

linux-newbie-questions-what-is-linux

Q. What is Linux And Why Should I Use it?

Linux has the kind of wild and bumpy history Penguin Origins: The History of Linux [Geek History] Penguin Origins: The History of Linux [Geek History] There's virtually no place you can go without being in contact with Linux - it powers everything from regular computers to the most powerful servers to our handheld mobile devices. Most people who aren't techies... Read More that comes inherent when a system encourages constant forking Open Source Software and Forking: The Good, The Great and The Ugly Open Source Software and Forking: The Good, The Great and The Ugly Sometimes, the end-user benefits greatly from forks. Sometimes, the fork is done under a shroud of anger, hatred and animosity. Let's look at some examples. Read More , but you don’t need to understand the history of Linux to appreciate the simultaneous simplicity and complexity of this operating system.

Long story short, Linux is an open source operating system with hundreds of different flavors, each one unique in its goals and design. Whereas Windows aims to accommodate the masses and Mac aims to be trendy and experiential, Linux can be molded in every which way.

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Summed up in one word, Linux is customizable.

There are so many reasons to use Linux 7 Key Differences Between Windows & Linux You Should Know About Before Switching 7 Key Differences Between Windows & Linux You Should Know About Before Switching Read More that I can’t fit them all in one paragraph. Of course, there are also reasons not to use Linux Why Linux Isn't As Good As Everyone Makes It Out To Be [Opinion] Why Linux Isn't As Good As Everyone Makes It Out To Be [Opinion] Linux is a highly developed, stable and advanced operating system - this, I will never question. It comes in every conceivable flavour - from server solutions that simply work (again, this cannot be argued with)... Read More . Just know that there are several myths about Linux 5 Lies Linux-Haters Like To Tell 5 Lies Linux-Haters Like To Tell Linux may have been a scary operating system before, but all of that has changed in recent years. These myths, which are more accurately called lies, are now dead. Read More that keep being circulated but aren’t true anymore. Here’s how to check if Linux is right for you The Ultimate "Should I Use Linux?" Checklist The Ultimate "Should I Use Linux?" Checklist Deciding whether switching to Linux isn't so easy, because Linux isn't perfect and sadly not for everyone -- although we'd like to think that. Is it for you? Read More .

linux-newbie-questions-distro-mosaic

Q. Why do I Keep Hearing About “Distros”?

I mentioned that Linux comes in different flavors. These flavors are called distributions – or distros – and they each have their own name. Have you ever heard of Ubuntu, Mint, or Red Hat? Yup, those are all distros.

You can think of them like car models. A fictional automotive company might produce a line of sedans, a line of sportsters, and a line of SUVs. They’re all cars, but each model is designed for a different purpose: some are economical, some are flashy, and some are all about toughing it through harsh terrain.

In the same way, each Linux distro is built with a specific kind of user in mind. Some are graphically impressive while others don’t have any graphics at all. Some are all about speed and performance while others focus on usability and convenience.

With hundreds of distros out there What's The Difference Between Linux Distributions If They're All Linux? [MakeUseOf Explains] What's The Difference Between Linux Distributions If They're All Linux? [MakeUseOf Explains] When a user is first introduced to Linux, they might be told they're using Linux, but they'll quickly learn that it's called something else. Yes, Ubuntu, Fedora, Linux Mint, Debian, openSUSE, and so many others... Read More , you can be sure that there’s at least one distro that will work well for you.

linux-newbie-questions-distro-distribution

Q. Which Linux Distro Should I Choose?

It’s nice that there’s such a wide selection available, but nobody wants to sift through all those distros to find the right one. It takes too much time and, frankly, it’s overwhelming 6 Mind-Blowing TED Talks About Psychology & Human Behavior 6 Mind-Blowing TED Talks About Psychology & Human Behavior The human brain is complex and confusing, which explains why human behavior is so complex and confusing. People have a tendency to act one way when they feel something completely different. Here are a few... Read More . We can help you with that.

If you’re switching from Windows, you’ll want to start with a distro that’s specifically built to ease the process of learning Linux The Best Linux Distributions For Windows XP Refugees The Best Linux Distributions For Windows XP Refugees Read More . Ubuntu is the biggest name in this category, but I personally recommend ElementaryOS. Other choices include Linux Mint, OpenSUSE, and ZorinOS.

If you’re installing on an old machine, a lightweight performance distro 6 Lightweight Linux Distributions to Give Your Old PC a New Lease of Life 6 Lightweight Linux Distributions to Give Your Old PC a New Lease of Life Read More like Lubuntu or Puppy Linux might fare best. These aren’t the most aesthetically pleasing, but at least they’re more than just a command line.

If you’re worried about security, you shouldn’t be. Linux is known to be quite secure as long as you practice good security habits Change Your Bad Habits & Your Data Will Be More Secure Change Your Bad Habits & Your Data Will Be More Secure Read More . That being said, if you absolutely need every last ounce of safety and privacy, here are some of the most secure Linux distros Linux Distros For The Paranoid: What Are The Most Secure Distros? Linux Distros For The Paranoid: What Are The Most Secure Distros? If you're a Linux user, security was probably one of the benefits that made you switch from whatever operating system you were using before. Linux has a great reputation for being one tough nut to... Read More .

Still confused? That’s okay! Here’s a step-by-step guide to picking the right distro Switching To Linux? Here's How To Choose The Right Distro Switching To Linux? Here's How To Choose The Right Distro Your first Linux distribution can sweeten or sour your future Linux experience. That's why it's important to get that debut choice right. Read More .

linux-newbie-questions-dual-boot

Q. Dual Boot or Virtual Machine?

Now that you have a distro in mind, how do you go about giving it a try? Most modern distros offer a Live CD of some kind that you can insert and run in a temporary fashion to get a feel for the environment.

If you want something more committed than that, you can either dual boot or use a virtual machine.

Virtual machines are certainly the easier option. In essence, you install a new operating system within your existing operating system, e.g. you can run Linux in a window within Windows. It’s both convenient and safe, which is why you should always use a virtual machine Testing A New Operating System? Stay Secure With A Virtual Machine Testing A New Operating System? Stay Secure With A Virtual Machine Read More when testing out new operating systems.

Dual booting takes a bit more work and is slightly riskier, but not by much. With this kind of setup, you can choose whether to boot into Windows or Linux whenever you start your computer. Setting up a dual boot How To Dual-Boot The Windows & Linux OS's On Your Computer How To Dual-Boot The Windows & Linux OS's On Your Computer It's like having two computers in one - start your system up and choose between Windows and Linux. It's called dual-booting, and it gives you access to two of the best operating systems on the... Read More is pretty straightforward these days, so don’t be afraid of it.

If neither of these sound good to you but you still want to try Linux, there are a few other risk-free Linux setups Curious About Linux? 5 Easy & No Risk Ways To Try Linux On Your Windows PC Curious About Linux? 5 Easy & No Risk Ways To Try Linux On Your Windows PC Want to check out Linux, but fear you might wreck your existing Windows installation? Don't. There are plenty of risk-free ways to try Linux, from live CDs to USB keys to virtual machines. Whether you're... Read More available.

linux-newbie-questions-desktop-environment

Q. What are GNOME, KDE, and Unity?

Linux is unique in that the actual operating system (kernel) is separate from how it’s actually displayed to the user (desktop environment). GNOME, KDE, and Unity are different ways to “graphicalize” the internal system, and they aren’t the only ones.

In fact, there are so many to choose from that we’ve compiled a list of the top Linux desktop environments It's Your Choice: The Top 10 Linux Desktop Environments It's Your Choice: The Top 10 Linux Desktop Environments From Gnome to KDE, from MATE to Unity, there's a lot of choice out there. Where should you start? Overwhelmed? Start here. Read More to help you choose the one that best fits your needs.

GNOME, KDE, and Unity are certainly the three most popular ones, so newbies should probably stick to those until they’ve earned a reasonable amount of Linux experience.

linux-newbie-questions-file-system

Q. Where are “My Documents”?

Perhaps the most jarring change between Windows and Linux is the file system. On Windows, you have a local drive (usually the “C:” drive) that contains a handful of directories like Users, Program Files, and Windows. It’s all you know and you’re used to it.

On Linux, everything starts in the root directory (usually called “/”), which is the absolute base directory that contains everything else. From there, you have dozens of branching directories that contain different parts of the system.

As a new user, the most important things you should know are:

  • /home is similar to My Documents. This is where you can store user-specific data like downloads, music, projects, etc.
  • /usr is where user-specific applications and configuration files are kept. When you install new software, this is likely where it’ll appear.
  • /media is where you’ll find mounted removable media, such as USB thumb drives or CD-ROMs.
  • /etc is where you can find system-wide configuration files, which you can open up and edit if you want (assuming you have the proper permissions) but you most likely won’t need to.

This is just a brief glimpse. If you want to explore the file system a little further, HowToGeek has a great article that explains the Linux directory structure.

linux-newbie-questions-software-center

Q. How do I Find And Install Software?

On Windows, installing software isn’t very complicated: you find the relevant websites, download the installation files, and run them. It seems fine because we’ve all grown up on Windows, but Linux proves that there might be a better way.

What if you could access all software installers at a central location? Instead of hunting from website to website, wouldn’t it be nice if you could bring up a “Software Center” window and browse through all the software available for your system?

Most Linux distros have something called a package manager, which fulfills this exact role. The one on your system will depend on the distro – e.g. Ubuntu uses Synaptic Package Manager – but the concept is all the same. Here’s our guide to package management and software repositories Your Guide to Ubuntu Repositories and Package Management Your Guide to Ubuntu Repositories and Package Management Read More .

In fact, it’s such a smart system that Microsoft is adopting it. Yup, Windows is getting a package manager Windows Gets A Package Manager - Download Software Centrally Via OneGet Windows Gets A Package Manager - Download Software Centrally Via OneGet Microsoft is adding yet another Linux feature to Windows. Package management can seriously boost productivity, increase security, and ultimately save you a lot of headache. We show you how it will work. Read More .

linux-newbie-questions-command-line

Q. Do I Need The Command Line?

The terminal is a common sore spot for people switching over. Do you need to know how to use the command line in order to use Linux? Not at all. Will it come in handy? Absolutely.

Learning even just the basics can ease the learning curve dramatically. Start with our introductory command line guide A Quick Guide To Get Started With The Linux Command Line A Quick Guide To Get Started With The Linux Command Line You can do lots of amazing stuff with commands in Linux and it's really not difficult to learn. Read More , then take a look at these essential Linux commands An A-Z of Linux - 40 Essential Commands You Should Know An A-Z of Linux - 40 Essential Commands You Should Know Linux is the oft-ignored third wheel to Windows and Mac. Yes, over the past decade, the open source operating system has gained a lot of traction, but it’s still a far cry from being considered... Read More that everyone should know. Lastly, here are some dangerous Linux commands 9 Lethal Linux Commands You Should Never Run 9 Lethal Linux Commands You Should Never Run You should never run a Linux command unless you know exactly what it does. Here are some of the deadliest Linux commands that you'll, for the most part, want to avoid. Read More that you should avoid.

Don’t try to memorize it all! It’s better that you don’t, at least for now. Most Linux users continue to reference websites and guides long after they’ve grown comfortable with the operating system.

That being said, I don’t deny that it can be scary. Maybe it feels too technical and out of your depth, but here’s the good news: it’s not as complicated as you think. Take a few minutes to overcome your fear of Linux How to Get Over Your Fear of Failing at Linux How to Get Over Your Fear of Failing at Linux Do you have questions about switching to the world of Linux? If you read this from start to finish, you'll have plenty of answers and tips to succeed at Linux. Read More and you’ll be good to go, I promise.

linux-newbie-questions-native-gaming

Q. How do I Play Games on Linux?

This is a common question that should actually be broken into two separate, more specific questions. First, is it plausible to expect to play games natively on Linux? And second, how do I play my Windows games on Linux?

Unfortunately, Linux still lags behind in terms of native gaming. It’s certainly in a better state today than it was years ago, but most developers don’t care enough to port their games to Linux. That being said, most web games will work just fine, plus Steam is now available natively on Linux Is SteamOS a Good Choice for a Gaming System? Is SteamOS a Good Choice for a Gaming System? Can you rely solely on SteamOS with good performance, or should you still keep that dual-boot with Windows? Let's take a look. Read More . (Not all Steam games are compatible, though.)

When that isn’t enough, you can play your Windows games using PlayOnLinuxPlayOnLinux is based on Wine, which is an emulator that makes it possible to install and run Windows programs directly on Linux Linux Gaming, an Overview: What You Can And Can't Expect Linux Gaming, an Overview: What You Can And Can't Expect While desktop Linux may be a tempting platform, there's one thing stopping a lot of people from making the plunge: PC gaming. Like it or not, Windows is the de facto platform for PC gaming.... Read More at the cost of some performance. Not all Windows games are supported, but enough to conclude that PlayOnLinux is both impressive and useful.

linux-newbie-questions-windows-shutdown

Don’t Fret, Linux Takes Time

I’m fully aware that Linux is not the best operating system for everyone. Some people just don’t like it and that’s fine. However, I recommend giving it at least two to three weeks of daily use before deciding whether you like it or not. You may find that it grows on you.

To accelerate your learning, check out these Linux learning shortcuts 11 Shortcuts For Learning Linux In Record Time 11 Shortcuts For Learning Linux In Record Time If you'd like to learn Linux, but want some ways to speed up the process, here are ten shortcuts you can use to learn as fast as possible. Read More as well as these Linux website resources The Linux Advantage: 5 Websites You Should Head to for Learning Linux The Linux Advantage: 5 Websites You Should Head to for Learning Linux Whether you've been putting off Linux for years or you're just hearing about it, there are ample reasons to start today. Want to try now? These resources will get you started. Read More . With an ounce of effort, you’ll be comfortable in no time at all.

Still confused about something? What are the most common questions you’ve heard from Linux newbies? Share with us below!

Image Credits: Arch Linux Desktop Via Flickr, Linux Mosaic Via TechieStuffs, Distro Distribution Via ConstantMayhem

  1. Spam Hater
    April 11, 2015 at 5:44 am

    When I first started with Linux (I believe around RedHat 6 maybe I think?) I dual booted with Windows XP to support my gaming habit, and never really had any issue with it once I learned that you *MUST* install Windows FIRST if you didn't want it replacing your Linux boot loader with the (non-anything-else-friendly) Windows one. Bit by bit as I found Linux native equivalents to the softwares I used, and ways to run the various games under Linux, I started shrinking the Windows partition using GParted, until eventually there was only one game and Windows. At that point I kinda thought to myself, "Why am I keeping Windows around for just this ONE game?" and started seeking ways to run the game in WINE. Turned out to be easy-peasy to get EverQuest to run in WINE, and at that point Windows became obsolete for me. While I no longer play EverQuest, I do still occasionally game (on Linux, natively these days, thanks to Steam and Humble Bundle, GoG.com and many other nifty game sources). I also do many other things that the typical Windows gamer delight in telling me are impossible on Linux. I edit video, create 3D graphics (in Blender), build virtual worlds, edit images in GIMP, create MS Office compatible documents, and so forth and so on. The list goes on, and I've honestly not yet found something I need to do on my computer that Linux has been unable to do at least tolerably, and many things I do, I can do more easily than I ever could on Windows. (Yes, I have since tried Windows 7, and 8, and found them both rather lacking, although 7 is honestly a MAJOR improvement over XP in many ways.) While I do honestly recommend everyone give Linux an HONEST TRY, I also do agree with those who suggest EASING into it "safely". At least dual-boot for a while, and try to spend more time in the new operating system than in the old one for a while until you're comfortable with both. Also, http://alternativeto.net/ can be MASSIVELY useful when trying to find an alternative for any software you happen know the name of for pretty much every platform in common use today.

    • fcd76218
      December 23, 2015 at 3:30 pm

      "I’ve honestly not yet found something I need to do on my computer that Linux has been unable to do at least tolerably"
      One type of software that is not available in Linux is some sort of a native equivalent to TurboTax or TaxAct. There is a program called Open Tax Solver but to call it rudimentary is to be kind. It works but has a long way to go to be like TaxAct, let alone TurboTax.

      Other than tax prep software, in close to 10 years of using Linux, like you, I have not found any Windows program that I need to run.

  2. jymm
    April 10, 2015 at 8:51 pm

    As a newbie I thought the biggest problem was figuring out the file system. I still don't understand it all, but I can now make my own application launcher if the menu does not automatically install. I can also find applications if I want them to start automatically when the system starts. I do still have trouble installing from tar files, I am not good at the cd command and don't always know where the application should go.

  3. Pan
    March 21, 2015 at 12:29 am

    All good comments! I strongly agree that package manager, while wonderful, often fall short in practice I recentlytried an older release of Ultimate linux, found it completely delightful, and so started to upgrade and install the latest release. That was three weeks ago. I am still trying to get a full, functional installation. And I will.

    • Joel
      March 22, 2015 at 9:30 pm

      Now that I think about it, that's really when Linux gets a bit frustrating to use: if you don't start out with the latest version and keep updating as you go, you're going to end up in a mess when trying to catch up. I'm kind of feeling the same with ElementaryOS as I'm on 0.2 and dreading the time when I'll need to upgrade to 0.3 or 0.4.

  4. MallePietje
    March 17, 2015 at 9:40 am

    I almost stopped reading after you refer to an article from 2011 for reasons why not to use Linux. Linux distros and software today is nothing like then anymore and some of the info in those articles is downright wrong.
    Other than than, great introduction for the newbees

    • Joel
      March 20, 2015 at 11:16 pm

      Thanks. Maybe we should revisit some of those older posts with fresh opinions!

  5. John P
    March 17, 2015 at 7:39 am

    Which Distro or environment is displayed in the opening shot of the article? I could get used to working with something like that (currently testing ElementaryOS).

  6. Pan
    March 17, 2015 at 2:47 am

    As a perrinial OS newbie, I have found that that all of the comments and techniques mentioned in the posts will work- most of the time. Which brings me to my main comment. I fell that you left out one of the most exciting and fun reasons to use the *nix based systems. They bring the life and learning back to computing! With each flavor and distro, one can encounter whole new ways to to trash there system, and then get the fun (and knowledge) that comes fom fixing it! DOS 5 was the last MS os I really liked, even if I ran Windows on top of it. If you dug deep enough , it, lke linux , was almost infintely configurable. Linux has kept the ability to make a machine dance, if you care about such thngs, while the various distros and OE's have given it an ease of use and (if configured by a competent person) unscrewupability to please the most brain dead of corporate drones. While personally, three quarters of my home machines are always in a state of unusabilty, it's just because, as a fomer employer put it succnctly "you just have to play, don't you ". One major advantage that rarely gets mentioned is that Linux keeps you young and excited, something that is becoming important as I get up in years. Long live the Pengun!

    • Aventerine
      March 17, 2015 at 6:40 am

      I agree with you. When I first started using linux I had no clue what I was doing. It's been a constant learning experience and a lot of fun.

    • Joel
      March 20, 2015 at 11:13 pm

      Yeah, the "constant learning experience" is the real separation point between those who love Linux and those who hate it. If you aren't self-driven with a desire to figure out how things work and to explore numerous options and to troubleshoot issues as they pop up, Linux will likely be a headache. But for me (and you), that's why Linux is great. :)

  7. Gene Ricky Shaw
    March 17, 2015 at 2:44 am

    I love Linux but this article is a little too optimistic on package installers. What they fail to mention is that package installers do often fail to install software because library versions don't match so installs can fail. This is particularly true with Ubuntu and its "we're-going-to-upgrade-the-OS-every-six-months" motto. I can't tell you how many times I've upgraded to a new version of Ubuntu and several programs stop working because half of the libraries have been updated and the other half aren't.

    Windows is boring as hell but it's nice that most packages come with all required libraries. Bloated, yes, but also functional.

    • Joel
      March 20, 2015 at 11:11 pm

      Thanks Gene, you've made a good point. The concept of a package manager is great but the execution can be a bit troublesome at times for the reasons you've stated. I guess that's an inherent problem with an ecosystem that isn't tightly controlled. In that sense, individual Windows installers can be more convenient at times.

  8. Silverlokk
    March 16, 2015 at 7:57 am

    <quote>
    As a new user, the most important things you should know are:

    /home is similar to My Documents. This is where you can store user-specific data like downloads, music, projects, etc.

    </quote>

    Uhm, no. /home is more like c:Users<Windows User Name>, just as / is closer to c:

    Also, I suggest that newbies stay away from /usr, /etc, and /media for the meantime. Except that /usr sometimes contains the home directory.

    Navigating to /media is not needed since file managers usually list their mount points (i.e., more user-friendly names) under Devices.

    • Joel
      March 20, 2015 at 11:09 pm

      My bad, thanks for clearing that up. I've personally run into some trouble with external media and mounting, but hopefully I'm just an outlier. Automatic detection and handling would be such a convenience!

  9. Farhan
    March 13, 2015 at 4:51 pm

    Excellent article. One of the best of MUO. Might have missed the #10 - regarding partitioning while installing a Linux e.g. what's ext3? Which partitioning scheme/filesystem should I choose? what's Grub, mounting? etc. Some stuffs that always confuse a newbie and many a times messes with their data.

    • jimvandamme
      March 16, 2015 at 10:33 pm

      Yes, sometimes you don't get a straight answer on partitioning. Look at a few recent YouTube videos and tutorials on what you see when installing the distro you've picked. I multi-boot, and first clean up my Windows by uninstalling all useless programs and data, running CCleaner, defrag. Then I make 4 partitions (the maximum allowed). Windows gets its own, not much bigger than it needs. Then I make a 60-80 GB partition for my Linux, maybe another for another distro. These are ext4 (not readable by Windows). The rest of the disk is a data partition; ext4 if not to be used by Windows. The spare partition can be a trial distro or an old one for backup. When i install a distro, the partition I've selected gets formatted "/" which means the OS goes there. The data partition gets flagged "/home" but I don't format it. That means all my data is there, readable from that OS (or the one in my other OS partition) and I don't have to worry about it getting deleted when I reinstall.

    • Joel
      March 20, 2015 at 11:07 pm

      Wow, thanks! That's high praise indeed. Installation questions are a good catch and I should've mentioned something like that. Things like ext3 and disk partitions and grub can be troublesome for newbies. Maybe we should cover that in a separate article!

  10. jymm
    March 13, 2015 at 10:48 am

    Joel - The dual boot works fine for me. I am not sure why, but I have tried and don't like the Virtual Box. Seems weird to me. I have big enough hard drives it is no problem to dual boot, I have not had a problem with Grub dual booting. Years ago I had tried Xandros and XP dual booting and using LILO and that was a problem. It made me give up on Linux for years as I had to reinstall XP all the time, it would just disappear from the bootloader. I am now a Linux convert for life.

    • Joel
      March 13, 2015 at 12:34 pm

      I see, okay! If it's working for you, there's no reason to switch it up. Thanks for sharing! :D

    • dragonmouth
      March 13, 2015 at 1:30 pm

      The one, immutable rule about dual or multi-booting when one of the O/Ss is Windows is to always install Windows first. GRUB/GRUB 2 will recognize and adapt to any pre-existing O/Ss and create entries for them in the boot menu. Windows, OTOH, insists on being the one and only O/S on the drive and will overwrite anything in the MBR.

  11. jymm
    March 12, 2015 at 10:15 pm

    I am pretty much a newbie. I dual boot. Not because I really want to, I almost never use Windows except to update Windoze. The problem is there are sites that don't support Linux. I run derivatives of Debian and Ubuntu. My employer only supports Windows and Linux Redhat.
    I also use Magic Jack Plus, which does not support Linux. So while dual booting may not be the best of both worlds, it does work. I use Startup-Manager on Point Linux and Grub Customizer on Zorin. No real problems with either, though I don't believe either is under current development. Pretty much a GUI guy, except for update and upgrade. To old to change that!

    • Joel
      March 13, 2015 at 2:15 am

      Ouch, that sounds annoying! If it's mostly an issue with website support, have you considered running Windows in a VM instead Linux? That sounds like it would be more convenient than dual-booting just to use another website. But if you're happy with your current workflow, I suppose there's no harm in keeping with it. :)

  12. dragonmouth
    March 12, 2015 at 1:06 pm

    "Linux is different. I don’t blame people who find it confusing, especially those who come from a Windows background."
    After using Linux for the past 10 years or so, I find Windows confusing.

    • Michael J. Tobias
      March 12, 2015 at 1:38 pm

      Confusing and extraordinarily frustrating. Updating software in the biggest PITA in Windows. In Linux, two commands and it's done in 30 seconds or less.

    • likefunbutnot
      March 12, 2015 at 1:55 pm

      @dragonmouth,

      I move between FreeBSD, OpenIndiana (Solaris), Fedora and OpenSuSE (and to a lesser extent OSX, given the way I use it). My user environment is essentially the same on all of the above, but even with a history that goes all the way back to Microsoft UNIX in the mid 80s (yes, really. It became Xenix and then SCO UNIX), I have a hard time remembering all the goofy differences between them. Occasionally I'll run across something where I'm more familiar with a GNU tool's options vs. the BSD-style one or try to put a script in the wrong place.
      The level of irritation is more or less identical to missing Win-X on a Windows 7 machine or having to remember that user files are someplace different on XP than Vista.

      As much as I'd rather deal with *nix for a lot of things, it's not like any of the above have a monopoly on consistency.

    • dragonmouth
      March 12, 2015 at 2:18 pm

      "As much as I’d rather deal with *nix for a lot of things, it’s not like any of the above have a monopoly on consistency."
      I was just commenting on the gratuitous assumption that switching to Windows from another O/S is easy. After having learned and used at least ten distinct O/Ss, all I can say is that they all have their quirks and idiosyncrasies. No O/S is significantly harder or easier.

    • Joel
      March 13, 2015 at 2:13 am

      @dragonmouth: I didn't mean to imply that it was a one-way street. Switching from any OS to another OS is always going to be confusing since there are tons of quirks and paradigms to learn (or relearn). I worded it that way in the article because most Linux newbies who'd be reading this are indeed coming from a Windows background.

      So yeah, you're absolutely correct. Sorry about that.

    • primetime
      March 13, 2015 at 10:23 pm

      @Joel

      Actually I use something like this:

      http://www.amazon.com/DuoSwap-MB971SP-B-Drive-Caddy-Docking/dp/B007Q4EZEA/ref=sr_1_12?s=electronics&ie=UTF8&qid=1426285173&sr=1-12&keywords=5.25+inch+hot+swap+drive

      It's a hot swap drive bay. I use the 3.5 inch drive as my storage drive and the 2.5 inch drive is my main boot drive.

      I have two 2.5 inch SSDs one with Windows and one with Linux. I just choose which OS I want to use and I I put that SSD in before I turn on the computer.

      Because of this the boot times and access times are fast enough. It is literally having a full Linux install on my computer.

    • Fatfinger
      March 17, 2015 at 12:44 am

      Not USB; esata docks....hot swaps.....

    • Aventerine
      March 17, 2015 at 6:43 am

      So do I. My kids just got a new desktop last year and I have no idea what is going on half the time.

    • Yochanon
      March 17, 2015 at 12:52 pm

      I too find windows not just confusing, but downright difficult, unintuitive and still very buggy since my days of using it from Windows 3.1 through W98SE.

      Also, to the author of the article - it isn't that dual-booting is difficult, it's that the PoS OS Microshaft doesn't make it easy! If all you want to run on a hdd is *only* linux distros, then dual (triple, quadruple, ad nausea)-booting is as simple as pie. M$ is the thing screwing it all up and making life difficult to try 'other stuff'.

  13. primetime
    March 12, 2015 at 1:05 pm

    About the dual boot thing.

    A few years ago I decided on getting my feet way with linux. I tried Linux a variety of ways, ranging from running Linux on VM, Live CDs and bootable USB. But I always had my main Windows drive as I could never bring myself to installing Linux and Windows side by side.

    What I eventually did was get those external hot swappable HDD trays. I have a drive for Windows and a drive for Linux and I just swap out the drive that has the OS.

    You could be asking how I share files between the two OSes? I have a large HDD where I save all my documents and pics. The setup works well for me because I find myself changing distros a lot and it saves me the trouble of configuring Windows drive for dual boot.

    • likefunbutnot
      March 12, 2015 at 2:17 pm

      I always advise against dual booting, especially for newbies. Messing with boot loaders is scary and can leave your PC in a state where you're not sure how to start either OS. You'll also find yourself choosing to go back to the more comfortable OS more often than the new one.
      For those reasons, I think you're better off working in a VM. Unfortunately, a lot of PCs, especially low end laptops, don't have full virtualization support or enough RAM to make the pretend computer run as well as a real one could. Even so, it's probably best to get your feet wet in the environment where no permanent changes will be made if something gets messed up. Users just have to be aware that virtualized Linux isn't quite the same experience as running it on bare hardware.

    • Joel
      March 13, 2015 at 2:09 am

      @primetime: Wow, hot swappable hard drives... that thought never even crossed my mind. Very neat idea! Just to clarify, these are *external* drives that are connected via USB? If so, do they run slow for you? Do you have any internal drives then?

      @likefunbutnot: I agree absolutely. For a newbie, I would always recommend Live CD > VM > Dual-Boot in that order. Minimizing risk when you're learning a new environment should be top priority!

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