5 Things You Should Know When Switching to Linux
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Have you decided that you want to use Linux Everything You Need to Migrate Your Home Office to Linux Everything You Need to Migrate Your Home Office to Linux It's for this reason why many users are looking to make the switch to Linux. If you're one of them, you're going to want to read on. We're going to talk about how to move... Read More ? Great! You’re joining a community of people who value sharing software and empowering others to get the most out of their computers. But as with any transition, some parts of your experience will require making an adjustment.

I don’t believe Linux is any harder to use than Windows, but you do have to unlearn some behaviors in order to embrace new ones. Here are some things I’ve learned from years of using Linux that would have been great to know from the beginning.

1. Don’t Install Linux on a Brand New Computer

If you have a new computer running Windows or macOS, you may want to wait a year or two before trying to install Linux. Trying to install Linux on brand new hardware is often more trouble than it’s worth.

Most PC manufacturers don’t bother checking to see if Linux runs on their machines. They’re not selling the computers with Linux, and the overwhelming majority of their customers don’t care. This often means they don’t provide drivers for components that the Linux kernel doesn’t yet support, and it’s up to someone else to reverse engineer a solution. This takes time.

In some cases, you can’t install Linux at all. In others, you may be able to install Linux only to later discover that the Wi-Fi doesn’t work or the sound card isn’t sending any audio through your speakers. Good luck trying to return a PC that you’ve wiped the original operating system from.

To play it safe, buy a PC that has been around for a few years. Check the Ubuntu certified hardware list if you want a glimpse at hardware guaranteed to work (if it works with Ubuntu, it likely works with other versions of Linux too). If you absolutely must have a new computer, buy one that comes with Linux pre-installed. You likely won’t find these in retail stores, but there are plenty of options online 7 Places You Can Buy a Dedicated Linux PC or Laptop Online 7 Places You Can Buy a Dedicated Linux PC or Laptop Online Installing Linux on your desktop or laptop is easy. But can you just buy a Linux machine, straight off the shelf? Here are seven manufacturers doing just that. Read More .

2. Avoid Software From Outside Sources

On Windows, you typically head to a website and download an installer when you want new software. For the most part, Linux doesn’t work this way.

There are too many versions of Linux for a developer to know which one to provide an installer for. Instead, users head to a Linux app store Linux App Stores Compared: Which One Is Right for You? Linux App Stores Compared: Which One Is Right for You? Windows users are being guided to an app store. macOS has had one for a while. Linux, meanwhile, has had an app store-style experience for years. But which one is right for you? Read More (filled with free software) or package manager Which Linux Package Manager (and Distro) Is Right for You? Which Linux Package Manager (and Distro) Is Right for You? A key difference between the main Linux distros is the package manager; the differences are strong enough that it can influence your choice of distro. Let's look at how the various package managers work. Read More to download what they want.

But there comes a time when the app you want isn’t something your chosen Linux distribution provides. At that point, your only way to get that app is to install it from an outside source. Many Linux guides recommend you do this and walk you through the process.

Installing software from outside sources can lead to future problems. Sometimes an app requires a different version of a system component than the one your desktop provides. In order to work, the app comes with the newer version. Unfortunately, other programs on your machine may not yet be ready or compatible, leading to glitches or other hang-ups. Then you’re left wondering why Linux is so buggy 6 Reasons Your Favorite Linux OS Is Plagued by Bugs 6 Reasons Your Favorite Linux OS Is Plagued by Bugs You found a new Linux operating system to try, and you loved it. But then it went wrong. Sometimes Linux gets buggy after a month or two. The question is, why? Read More and are ready to switch to another operating system entirely.

This isn’t guaranteed to happen. You can install quite a few apps from outside sources without incident, such as Google Chrome and Steam. But if things do start to get jittery, it can be very hard to figure out which install introduced problems. Even if you do detect the source, undoing the changes can be a challenge. Having software from a bunch of different sources can also block updates or cause an upgrade from one version of Linux to another to go horribly wrong.

A safer option is keep software from outside sources to an absolute minimum and try to stick to the software your distribution provides.

3. Use Software Made Specifically for Linux

If you’re coming from Windows, you may not have given much thought to which operating systems a program is designed for. It may not have even occurred to you that a particular program can’t run on every computer. Given that most desktop PCs run Windows, most applications are made with Microsoft’s operating system in mind, even if they also support other options such as macOS and Linux.

When you first switch to Linux, you may want to stick to what you know. That means downloading the Linux versions of what you used to use on your old system. Unfortunately, companies often pour fewer resources into developing the Linux version. Skype, for example, until recently provided a Linux client that was years behind the Windows version Is Skype for Linux Finally Good Enough for Windows Switchers? Is Skype for Linux Finally Good Enough for Windows Switchers? Skype for Linux is now available for download, but is it as full featured as its Windows and Mac cousins? Let's take a closer look. Read More .

It’s not just a matter of missing features or bugs. Many people would say that Google Chrome is the best web browser available on Linux, but that doesn’t mean it will integrate with the rest of your Linux desktop all that well. Mozilla Firefox is a free and open-source browser, yet it too looks more at home on Windows than Linux (at least initially). Fortunately, the situation with these two browsers is improving.

It’s not that cross-platform software can’t prioritize Linux or that going cross-platform is inherently bad. VLC is as great on Linux as it is elsewhere. Many free tools started on Linux before going to other platforms, such as GIMP and Pidgin. Software only on Linux isn’t necessarily going to be good either.

But software made for Linux The Best Linux Software The Best Linux Software Awesome apps are available for Linux. Whether you're new to the operating system or you're a seasoned user, you'll always find new and useful Linux software to love. These are our favorites. Read More is likely to provide better experience than apps from developers who view Linux as an afterthought.

4. Be Open to New Experiences

Many Linux apps aren’t the same as what you would encounter on Windows or macOS. They may perform a similar overall function, but they approach the task from a different way. If you insist on having a program that works exactly as the one you left behind, that can stop you from experiencing all that Linux has to offer.

The GNOME desktop environment is what you’re likely to encounter on many of the most popular Linux distributions, and it’s not quite like any other interface. I love the experience, which emphasizes searching for apps and content. Many GNOME apps also place a heavy emphasis on search, such as GNOME Music and GNOME Photos. Both are relatively simple apps, but they present your songs and images in an interesting way.

KDE software can seem complex at first KDE Explained: A Look at Linux's Most Configurable Desktop Interface KDE Explained: A Look at Linux's Most Configurable Desktop Interface What does Linux look like? Sometimes, Unity; other times, GNOME. Oftentimes, though, Linux runs KDE. If you're not using the erstwhile K Desktop Environment on your Linux PC, now is the time to change! Read More , but if you dig around the settings, you can tweak them to look however you want. You may get so accustomed to having this level of control that using any other interface, on Linux or any other operating system, feels too restrictive! But you won’t find this out if you don’t first take the time to explore.

5. What You See May Be All You Ever Get

In the commercial software world, applications often undergo continuous iteration up until the point when a developer loses interest, and then the program goes away Picasa Is Going Away: 5 Reasons You Should Be Disappointed Picasa Is Going Away: 5 Reasons You Should Be Disappointed Picasa will be discontinued on 15th March, and there are good reasons to be disappointed that its long run is ending. Here are five reasons why you should be upset. Read More . With free software, changes often come more slowly.

Since there usually isn’t as much money behind a project Why Linux Is Free: How the Open Source World Makes Money Why Linux Is Free: How the Open Source World Makes Money Just why is Linux and open source software free? Is it safe to trust free software? What do the developers get out of it, and how do they make money to continue development? Read More , developers can only devote so much time. People work when they can, and the contributors may change as different people gain or lose interest. Even when no one’s interested, the code doesn’t go away. Apps available from your Linux distribution can linger around for years without receiving an update.

This means that the app you’ve just discovered for the first time may not go through many changes in the foreseeable future. This is great if you love the interface exactly as it is and the program does everything you need it to. This is not so good if you run into a bug.

This situation isn’t merely an issue of financial resources. The Linux ecosystem is relatively democratic compared to other computing environments. Teams have to build consensus to take things in a new direction, and since the code is open source, developers and users who aren’t happy with a change can typically choose to keep things as they were. App developers have many desktop environments to support, and causing an app to integrate better with one can cause it to feel worse in another. Leaving things as they are may please the maximum number of people.

what to know when switching to linux

That’s not to say that Linux software doesn’t change. The GNOME desktop environment today looks and feels drastically different than it did ten years ago. Elementary OS and the curated software in its app store 10 Elementary OS AppCenter Apps That'll Make You More Productive 10 Elementary OS AppCenter Apps That'll Make You More Productive Having an app store of its own has really brought Elementary OS to life with a great choice of apps. I use these AppCenter tools to improve my productivity -- perhaps you will too. Read More didn’t even exist then. There’s always something new coming. But if you’re waiting for GIMP, Inkscape, or AbiWord to undergo a complete redesign, there’s no guarantee that day will ever come.

Should You Still Use Linux?

Only you can answer that question. As for me, none of the issues above are deal breakers. I’ve adjusted my workflow to utilize apps only available for Linux, and I like knowing that I can install whatever I need from GNOME Software. Now that I bring in income working from my computer, I have even come to appreciate that many of the tools I use don’t undergo regular changes.

When I need to perform a task, certain tools are consistent and dependable as ever. And when I want to try my hand at something different, there’s always new software and themes to keep things fresh.

Are you a new Linux user? What are some of the surprises you’ve encountered? If you’re a long-time user, what are some of the things you’ve learned that you wished you knew when you were first getting started?

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  1. sam
    January 27, 2018 at 1:23 pm

    About using new PCs -
    -If you can try the machine in the store, carry a USB and ask if you can try Linux. Use a Live Boot USB and try it out first.
    -The first thing you should do with any new PC is a backup (I use the system image) of the original garbage in case you need to restore. Then if you need to return the thing, just restore it first. There should be no fear of bricking machines in 2018.
    - If you are too eager to back up and you do hose the system, newer PCs (such as HP) are many times serial number free (the machine internally has the ID). WIN can be restored on-line with built in recovery, although it will not have all of the original bloatware.
    -No mention of dual boot. This is easy if you use Win to shrink its disk space first to make a clean area. Grub (linux boot) is a lot easier to fix (with Boot-repair) than the Win boot. Be careful where you install each time, and you can use dual boot and try a few distros without fear. Every Linux I ever installed has had a dual boot option.
    -Research any device before buying it, even if you intend to keep Win. See if the company is Linux friendly, or at least Mac friendly. Hardware that is "Win only" can be inferior, although not necessarily inexpensive. It can mean they shortcut the hardware and fix it with proprietary software. These devices can quickly become unsupported, even in newer Win.

  2. Jean-Marc
    January 24, 2018 at 6:30 pm

    This is ''déjà vu all over again ''

    Linux user for 10 years, in my late 50 , average computer user .
    Gnu Linux is just great . And free . And fun .
    You just need some work with your brains.

  3. Pedar Bloom
    January 24, 2018 at 6:25 pm

    To me, the negatives of Linux are the learning curve, a slightly different intuition at work for the 'feel' of things, and the biases against Linux in the windows or apple camps.

    But, if you do not have ability in windows there is just as big of a learning curve for that. That is the price of admission to anything new.

    This is not as much of a problem now. I switched my wife's computer from xp to Linux Lite and she thought it was easier than windows. It was certianly faster, and it did everything she needed to do. I switched her laptop from windows 7--forced to 10 (did someone say learning curve), to Ubuntu. Again, it is easy for her and does everything she wants it to.

    The big positive for me is no BSD's, crashes, viruses (not that they don't exist for Linux. I use clam and a few other things, but no viruses have been a problem). No big data losses, no dll problems,... I think of the hours saved by not having those problems and that alone is worth switching.

    I still have xp on one machine and 7 on another. I keep old things around just in case. But for daily use we are always in some flavor of Linux here. We are both seniors and neither has ever taken a computer class, so how hard is this stuff? Not very. You do need to be patient, go a step at a time and use the documentation.

    Maybe that is the difference. No one hands you the Linux documentation, you have to search for it, but it is not hard to find and besides the man pages, help, and developer sites there is youtube. That is more documentation now than windows had 10 years ago (last time I got a new windows product--I don't know the state of their documentation now, but I expect it is at least on par with Linux--EZ).

    Using Linux is just convenience and choice. Did anyone mention most of it is free?

  4. Joe
    January 23, 2018 at 11:56 pm

    Number one in regards to install in a new system is a dated excuse. Linux supports most new hardware out of the box and windows has had the same growing pains with new hardware as Linux. Ryzen was garbage at launch on all os's and is fixed now. Addon cards do require research before purchasing for support. Examples of products to avoid are anything from creative and black magic. Most laptops and desktop hardware sold from mainstream manufacturers like Dell hp Lenovo etc is just going to work.

    • jim
      January 24, 2018 at 11:43 am

      It really depends on the Distro you intend to install and their license policy. I would recommend being ready to use a wired connection to install wireless on some distros. I bought a refurbished HP laptop. Ubuntu Mate installed no problems. Not so with Debian Mate, I had to use a wired connection to download Broadcomm wireless drivers to get my wireless working on Debian.

      • dean.mike@hotmail.comMike
        January 29, 2018 at 6:27 pm

        If you are using "license policy" and linux in the same paragraph you are doing something completely wrong. Getting away from licensing headaches was a big reason for me to switch from windows and OSX. I sut my teeth in DOS/Windows back when linux was very new and unfriendly. I wouldn't buy a new machine today if it didn't run linux AND windows. If that is the way hardware goes then I will get away from intel all together.

        My Macbook pro went belly up on me and it would have cost me $999 to fix so I said goodbye to Apple$ and bought an old Dell Studio i5 from Ebay. I put in a SSD and loaded CentOS on it and never looked back. WiFi, sound, bluetooth, backlit keyboard and everything worked. It had XP on it and it was running pretty fast with a newly restored OS install but linux was just as fast (or faster) and still is today.

        For a laptop I am set. I know I can't run windows programs but that is not an issue for me. I have another PC running VMWare and a Windows VM for that purpose. I use Windows less and less and could not be happier.

        No bloat, no license headaches, no crashes, no viruses/malware/ransomware yet. Life is good

    • Mike Walsh
      February 5, 2018 at 10:55 pm

      'Examples of products to avoid are anything from creative and black magic'.

      Really?

      I have a Creative Live! Sync webcam. It's UVC-compliant, and works OOTB in every Linux OS I've ever tried it in, no matter how new. Reason? Because it's UVC-compliant, you know it'll be supported, from the word go, by the 'uvc' kernel driver module.

      To quote your own phrase, it's a case of doing a wee bit of research.....it's not hard.

      • Joe
        February 6, 2018 at 5:02 am

        Look around about creative soundcard support. They refuse to support there sounds blaster z and other audio platforms on Linux and have actually banned users from there forums for asking for support. They have a very long history of ignoring the community.

  5. Colin
    January 23, 2018 at 9:20 pm

    I find google or your favorite search is a fast way to get answers in installing programs or when you have some other problem. Find often you are not the only one. Google chrome and or earth can be difficult to install depending on the timing.