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Linux is a fast, free, highly configurable operating system that runs on many servers and increasingly on desktop systems. See the entry on Wikipedia:Linux for details.
Students running Linux
Pros and Cons of running Linux on your computer
If PC spyware is ruining your life, or if you're serious about doing more with computers--with web pages, with programming, or with scientific computation--Linux is the way to go. BUT--you don't have to be a computer expert to find that Linux is a desirable alternative. You don't even have to commit to it all the way; you can use part of your hard drive to try out Linux, and if you don't like it just keep using Windows.
A few concrete advantages:
- No viruses, spyware, or weather bugs.
- Installing new software is really easy. Like, in many cases it takes about 20 seconds, and you don't even have to visit a web site to download it.
- Linux is open-source, and so a lot of people have built cool extensions to the software that's out there. With the most popular distros, there's frequent updates to ensure security and usability.
- Absolutely essential if you desire any sort of geek cred.
- Many OS's are packaged with practically anything you'll need off the bat.
- There's a slim chance your hardware isn't supported. Really, it's slim. I've installed a half-dozen Linux computers on laptops and desktops and never had a problem.
- It takes time to become familiar with Linux.
- It's not as purty as Mac OS X. However, with a bit of tweaking (and Beryl) it really can look better.
- There are a lot of choices, making it daunting to choose one at first glance. With that are two competing interfaces, KDE and GNOME. GNOME strives for simplicity while KDE is geared towards user customization and control (as well as effects).
- Installations are more involving than a simple double click.
Linux Install Parties
WSO hosts a Linux Install Party every month or so. Like other parties, there is food and drink. Unlike other parties, they take place in the afternoon, and everyone sits around installing stuff on their computer. Here's what you need to know to attend one:
- Back up your important files first.
- Pick a distribution. Members of WSO can help you with Gentoo and Ubuntu. Ubuntu is really easy to install and get going. Gentoo is highly configurable, and is recommended only for masochists.
- Decide if you want to keep a Windows partition so you can boot into Linux or Windows, or if you want to go whole-hog Linux. If you're dual-booting, decide how much of the hard drive that you want to dedicate to Linux, and how much to save for Windows. The number and type of partitions on your hard disk will determine how you exchange data between Windows and Linux. If you store your data on a Windows NTFS partition you will be able to access your Windows files from Linux, but not the other way around. A lot of people leave space for their music on the Windows partition, so they can listen to it from either operating system. However, if you create a separate FAT32 partition for data then both Windows and Linux will be able to read from it and write to it.
. We're here to help if you have problems, and if you're willing to spend time trying to figure them out.