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Migrating to Desktop Linux: What is the Big Deal? Answer: Nothing.

| | Comments (15)

The anti-Linux FUD has been flying thick and fast lately. It's not even interesting fresh FUD, but tired, worn-out old FUD. If you believe the headlines and all the masses of verbiage being emitted by Redmond's tame "tech" "reporter" battalions Linux desktop market share has dropped since 2001; that not having Photoshop, AutoCad, and other specialty, expensive high-end applications are deal-breakers even for people who never use them; and that users are getting stupider and more fearful, and therefore must be protected from frightening things like command-lines, skills, and knowledge.

Now you know it's hogwash, and I know it's hogwash, and the silly people emitting all this nonsense have never even touched a Linux computer, except to poke it with a stick. Rather than wasting time countering this tired, moldy old baloney let's move on to my Common-Sense Easy-Peasy Guide to Adopting Linux.

Whether you're a lone home user or an elite IT professional, the first step is actually getting your hands on a Linux computer. You can buy Linux desktop PCs from excellent independent vendors like System 76 and ZaReason, and Dell has a growing selection of desktop Linux machines as well. (IMO anyone in IT who is not cross-platform-fluent, and not continually learning and expanding their skills is a waste of space.)

You can download and install any number of Linux distributions for free. I recommend choosing Ubuntu because I think that "Ubuntu For Non-Geeks, Third Edition" is one of the all-time best beginniner Linux books, and you'll get up and running with a minimum of frustration. Of course you may prefer to blunder about in ignorance and get mad and frustrated, and then give up; I'll leave that up to you. Because that might open some career options to you as a Pundit, Analyst, or even a Tech Reporter.

Linux, Windows, or Mac?

Your next big decision is which computer should you keep, your Linux, Mac, or Windows PC? Duh-- all of them if you like. The FUDsters try to frame this as an all-or-nothing decision, but back here on Planet Real People, we use whatever we want to when we want to. Maybe you are a genuine Photoshop or AutoCad user, fine, don't get rid of them. Use Linux for other things. A great starting point for Linux is Web surfing and email. Get used to the pleasure of safe surfing without having to invest all kinds of money in marginally-effective anti-malware programs.

By the way, it is a big lie that Linux is not an attractive malware target because it has such small market share. It has a large enough installed base and growth curve to scare the wee out of Microsoft, and it is an unattractive malware target because it is hard to infect. Contrariwise, MS Windows is ridiculously easy, which is evident in its accelerating rates of infection despite Redmond's promises that every Windows release really is more secure.

You say you have a giant horde of documents in Windows file formats and you don't want to hassle with trying to bring them into Linux? Then don't. Keep your Windows PC for that, and use Linux for new documents creation. OpenOffice is a very capable office suite that you will be happy with, as long as you don't try to warp it into an MS Office clone. It's not an MS Office clone, but a powerful, useful office suite with its own particular strengths. Should you wish to proceed from knowledge rather than aimless blundering, Solveig Haugland is the reigning guru of OpenOffice books and howtos; anything written by her is excellent.

Take the long-term view. This is not something that happens overnight. Migrate in small steps. Just like Mac and Windows, there are thousands upon thousands of applications available for Linux. It doesn't bother Mac and Windows users to have a wealth of choices, so don't let it bother you when you try Linux. Installing and removing programs, and keeping your system updated are orders of magnitude easier on Linux than the other two, and best of all you can trust Linux to manage these competently, and not blow itself up. Unlike *ahem* Windows.

Read Linux publications like Linux Today, LinuxPlanet, Linux.com, Linux Magazine, Linux Journal-- you get the idea; they're all online, some have print editions, and they're great for learning about Linux applications and how to use them.

Whatever Linux distribution you choose, stick with it. Don't skip around because you'll never learn anything. Get acquainted with the user forums and mailing lists for your distribution because those are wonderful sources of help, and you'll make friends.

So there you go. Does that sound so hard? Set your own pace, let your curiosity roam, and sooner than you realize you'll be an ace Linux guru and loving it.


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