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Going linux?

Discussion in 'Café Life' started by AgentPete, Apr 5, 2017.

  1. AgentPete

    AgentPete Capo Famiglia Staff Member

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    I’ve felt increasingly boxed in by commercial operating systems. Windows and macOS are increasingly converging into a something that looks a bit like online totalitarianism – and both are jolly expensive.

    Time for Linux, then? We’ve been experimenting here for the past few months, and have good things to report. First, it’s free, and unlike the other two op systems, won’t make your middle-aged computer feel as if it’s at death’s door. Quite the reverse, in fact – Linux runs extremely well on older machines, and gives them a new lease of life. Next, there’s a (bewildering?) vast choice of customised versions (“distros”) of Linux, one of them is likely to be right for you.

    A highly popular distro is Linux Mint, which we have running here on a ten-year-old laptop without any problems at all. It does all the usual things – word processing, browsing, etc and (the free) LibreOffice is a decent replacement for the increasingly bloated Ms Office.

    The ethos of Linux is something I warm to – it reminds me of the early days of the net, when it was mostly about collaboration and sharing. There’s no denying it is a bit of a wrench to wrest yourself away from the Fisher-Price coloured walled gardens of Microsoft and Apple. But once done, you’ll never look back (and did I mention... it’s free?).
     
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  2. Bernard Stacey

    Bernard Stacey Venerated Member Founding Member

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    Does Linux run on a Mac?
     
  3. AgentPete

    AgentPete Capo Famiglia Staff Member

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    Never done it myself, but a quick Google suggests its possible. And of course, macOS is itself based on Unix.

    My own machine now dual boots, Linux is the default but I can also select Windows at boot time if needed. Gives me a useful hallway house to test the water...
     
  4. Carol Rose

    Carol Rose Venerated Member Founding Member

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    When I listen to the tech folks at work talk about such things, I've always heard good things about Linux, starting with its stability. For me, that and ease of use are top when it comes to an OS.
     
  5. Bernard Stacey

    Bernard Stacey Venerated Member Founding Member

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    Yes - that, and a paucity of saddos who want to write malware, viruses and other nasty software to insinuate into the OS.
     
  6. Carol Rose

    Carol Rose Venerated Member Founding Member

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    It's pathetic, isn't it? Imagine the good they could do if they channeled those coding talents toward helping others, instead of hurting them?
     
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  7. David Newrick

    David Newrick Well-Known Member

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    Having just battled with Windows 10 to try and install Office 2016, then failed. Then tried to re-install Office 2013 on those same two machines, then failed. Rang Microsoft technical support who couldn't provide any member of staff with an answer except to pass me on to no fewer than six different people, only to get cut off in the end. That went well then.

    Undaunted I went on-line to various forums and followed the guidance to try and get either Office 2013 or 2016 to install, followed the guidance to the letter and failed. After spending an entire working day trying to sort this problem out I tried installing Office 2010, which succeeded! So I really I don't blame you Pete. Good luck with the Linux.
     
  8. AgentPete

    AgentPete Capo Famiglia Staff Member

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    Linux encourages you only to install programs from recognized sources, usually called "repositories". It's trivially easy to install from such sources - just one click - and they are safe.
    Or course, this doesn't mean you should drop your defences when reading scam emails, dodgy websites, etc. But the fact remains that most people don't need to install antivirus on Linux.
     
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  9. AgentPete

    AgentPete Capo Famiglia Staff Member

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    That's a hidden cost of running a computer that's rarely mentioned. The time overhead is very real, though.

    Linux is mostly very stable. It runs most of the world's websites. A Linux machine can typically be online and running uninterrupted for months, sometimes years. System updates do come along, of course, but you can usually decide whether to accept "bleeding edge" updates, or to have a more conservative approach and only install updates that are essential/security and known to be stable.
     
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  10. David Newrick

    David Newrick Well-Known Member

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    I like the sound of that Pete. Am I the only one that has sat agog at the fact that Windows has decided to download some enormous update without informing me of the fact (whilst I am wondering why my machine and internet connection is being so slow) then spends anywhere up to 15 minutes installing said update, all of it without me as the paying customer agreeing to any of it or having any control over it? I also wonder about these enormous updates for 'security vulnerabilities' - talk about creating fear...
     
  11. AgentPete

    AgentPete Capo Famiglia Staff Member

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    And then it decides to reboot your machine when you're right in the middle of something important :)

    I was fine with Windows 7. Didn't see the need to put more cash into the pockets of Microsoft et al with operating system upgrades, all of which cost me lots of time and money.

    Incidentally, Microsoft will stop issuing security updates to Win7 in just over two years, so that really is the deadline to decide which way you're going to jump.
     
  12. Marc Joan

    Marc Joan Venerated Member Founding Member

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    Yup. I had intended to switch to Macs at that point, and sod the expense, but this thread may make me reconsider -- until now I'd thought Linux was for hardcore coders only. Obviously not!
     
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  13. Bernard Stacey

    Bernard Stacey Venerated Member Founding Member

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    Agree. I had it down as an 'experts only' platform too.

    I may offer them the IT skills of my wife, who can test these things up to and beyond their natural limits of stability - she being the only person I know who can crash our Mac simply by writing a document or sending an email.
     
  14. AgentPete

    AgentPete Capo Famiglia Staff Member

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    Well worth trying Linux Mint first, to see if you'd get on with it. "Ubuntu seems to take its cues from OS X, while Mint shares more in common with Windows" says Lifehacker. I'd say Mint has the easiest learning curve, esp if you're coming off Windows 7. Most of us just want a system you can install and forget about - it's just a tool to enable the writing to happen, after all. Peggy my partner is very pleased with Mint, and she is not even slightly interested in the geek factor.
     
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  15. Geoff

    Geoff Well-Known Member Founding Member

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    I see my Dell fossil, now superfluous to requirement, becoming 'born again' Linux .
     
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  16. KG Christopher

    KG Christopher Moderator Staff Member

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    I am running Linux Mint on a macbook pro for the last 3 years. Works a dream. Usual safeguards required for any computer - have a backup and make sure you have the Linux distro ISO burned onto a pen drive. Fits on 4Gig plus drive, so not expensive. I keep all my documents in the cloud so its really save. We use Linux all over our house, the children love it and if you are into programming (which I am), its got everything you need. Libra office is just as good as any commercial product.
     
  17. Paul Whybrow

    Paul Whybrow Venerated Member

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    I’ve installed Linux on my ancient laptop and am pleased with the results. My Acer Aspire 5735z is in its eighth year of operation, and I use it every day, often for sixteen hours. I’ve looked after it, utilising a cooling cradle and blasting it with extra cooling air from a large electric fan in summer; heat is a computer killer.

    Microsoft ended ‘support’ (I never noticed it) for the Vista operating system on 11th April, which was another reason for me to try Linux after reading Agent Pete’s posting about it. I’ve been aware of the Ubuntu/Linux way of doing things for about ten years, and have a friend who’s been using it since 2005. He possesses more geek genes than me, and I was put off by the need for coding skills to make it operate. Things have got a lot simpler in recent years, and installing and using Linux is surprisingly easy to do and to learn how to operate.

    As I connect to the internet using a mobile broadband dongle, which struggles to reach speeds of 1Mbps, I was concerned about how long it would take to download the Linux operating system, which is a hefty 1.32GB. Having a rare brainwave, I used my local library’s wi-fi connected computers, downloading the Linux OS to a memory stick, along with a couple of other apps...of which, more later.

    I chose the Linux Mint 18.1 OS in the Cinnamon edition, as this is reckoned to be the best for beginners. There are loads of alternative distributions (or distros) of Linux, some more experimental and tunable than others. I wanted something that worked straight out of the box.

    Linux Mint 18.1 "Serena" - Cinnamon (32-bit) - Linux Mint

    Researching procedures beforehand raised several fears and much confusion. The main concern was that several online experts reckoned that installing Linux on a memory stick/flash drive/USB drive would erase all of the other files. As the stick I was going to use already had 4,000 photographs and all of my writing stored on it, I was a bit worried, though other experts said that Linux Mint offers you the choice of erasing them, or not.

    Part of the confusion, for me at least, is the way that the memory stick can be turned into what is called a ‘live USB’. This means that the Linux OS stored on the stick can be used to boot from, without the need to add it to the hard disk of your computer...handy for trying it out, or if you regularly use lots of different computers.

    Whatever you choose to do, it’s necessary to also download an app to make the Linux OS bootable. There are several of these, and the process of installing is discussed here:

    How to Install Linux Mint from a USB Flash Drive | Techwalla.com

    I was further concerned when I read advice that I might need to partition the hard drive on my laptop, to allow space for Linux Mint to be installed. I toyed with the idea of installing it on the D-drive, as MS Windows is on the C-drive, but I have thousands of documents on D, so would have faced the same dilemma of partitioning. As it turned out, the installation software did the partitioning for me, offering me the choice of altering their decision, which I happily left as it was.

    I used the Universal USB Installer: https://universal-usb-installer.en.softonic.com/

    I added it to my laptop from the memory stick. To do this, I had to enter the BIOS to change the boot order, making my laptop bootable from the memory stick. On my machine, this means pressing Control and the F2 key repeatedly, to enter and change the boot order.

    I set the installer running and it imported the Linux Mint software from my memory stick. Installation took about ten minutes. I made the sensible choice of installing Linux Mint alongside the existing Windows Vista OS on my D-drive, though it is possible to overwrite making your laptop Microsoft free! As much as I detest Microsoft, this would have been a colossal mistake, as I’ve needed to access loads of information stored over the last eight years, transferring it over to Linux Mint.

    With two operating systems on my laptop, I have to do a dual boot. An on-screen list offers me the choice of booting to MS Windows or Linux Mint.

    I’ve been using Linux for three days, and overall I’m very impressed with it. The main advantage, is that my ageing arthritic laptop, which was taking a minute to open some pages, is now leaping around like a spring lamb! It’s almost as swift as a new machine, despite the slow connection speed via a dongle.

    There are drawbacks, the main one being practical things like transferring information from Windows. Microsoft and Linux don’t play well with one another, so many of the apps I’ve been used to using to make life easier don’t work on Linux. I’m accustomed to using LastPass password manager, an on-screen Caps Lock Warning, Windows Media Player and Google Chrome.

    Linux Mint has Mozilla Firefox installed, though it is possible to install Chrome. I saved a utility called WINE to my memory stick, which fools the computer into thinking it’s running MS allowing Windows specific programmes to run.

    Wine Download Linux

    I was going to use it to install Windows Media Player, but for the moment I’m going to use the VLC media player which came installed on Mint.

    The biggest pain for me, was finding a way to transfer hundreds of saved passwords. I couldn’t find an easy way of doing so, and spent several joyless hours writing them out manually. Using a password manager makes life convenient, but it meant that I couldn’t remember what passwords I’d used...so I needed to access them in LastPass while in Windows, note them down, then reboot into Linux to add them to Firefox. Linux doesn’t support LastPass, though there are alternatives which I’m checking out, including KeePassX

    One convenient service Mint offers is a repository with 54,470 free app packages to choose from, which saves a lot of hunting around online. These are vetted as being OK for Linux. Chromium is offered as a browser, which I may try instead of downloading Chrome.

    Although I’m finding Linux Mint fairly intuitive to use, there are idiosyncrasies that need much pondering to rationalise. Getting some apps installed means using the Command Line, typing in code...which it doesn’t always accept. This prompts entering a Linux forum (there are many!) to discuss the issue with other similarly confused users. It’s Wild West town territory for some things, rather than the ordered, but obtuse, world of corporate Microsoft.

    One curiosity, after using MS-equipped computers for eighteen years, is the lack of security measures. Linux is similar to Apple Macs in that it hasn’t attracted the attention of hackers. It is possible to install firewalls and anti-virus software, but most Linux users don’t bother. Microsoft is so complacent about its security, that I had a dozen extra defence apps installed, regularly running sweeps. Being in Linux Mint feels oddly safe. It may be the Wild West, but there are no bandits!

    It also feels like I’m part of a community that cares about improving things and making the online experience as pleasurable and fuss-free as possible. Using Windows was endlessly frustrating with its inefficiency and indifference to users.

    If you’re similarly pissed-off with Windows, I recommend trying Linux Mint.
     
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  18. AgentPete

    AgentPete Capo Famiglia Staff Member

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    Very pleased it's generally positive for you! Dual-boot is definitely the way to go since you get the best of both worlds.

    LastPass... has had some security issues. I use KeePass (not KeePassX, which is slightly different) and it's brilliant. Windows and Linux versions use the same database, i.e.no need for a horrific data transfer of hundreds of passwords. It's in your Linux Mint repository.
    My advice is to stick to programs that are in the Linux Mint repository, at least to begin with. They are all so well-tested that security concerns with them are almost irrelevant.
     
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  19. Paul Whybrow

    Paul Whybrow Venerated Member

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    I'm currently wrestling with VLC Media Player, trying to get it to store music files that are stored on my hard drive. There is so much poorly written and contradictory advice on the net, that it feels like trying to find a way through a jungle using slash marks left on trees. I'm developing a passionate hatred for geeks who can't write accurate step-by-step guides in plain English...instead they talk in geek and nerdish!

    One useful utility that I found in the repository is Psensor Temperature Monitor, which displays the temperature of the CPU and other components. My aged laptop runs hot in summer, so I give it a blast with a fan when it reaches 80C.

    Microsoft gave me a laugh this morning, when I searched for an answer to the problem with transferring files to VLC, as one of the pages on the MS site mournfully declared 'You're using Linux, so we can't provide full information.'
     
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  20. AgentPete

    AgentPete Capo Famiglia Staff Member

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    What's the issue with VLC? Just accessing the drive?

    Heat can be a computer killer. Suggest stripping the machine down as far as you can, and cleaning it intimately. Pay particular attention to the fan. If it's not working, a new one can be had for very little. Also, well worth doing - reapply heat sink paste to the cpu. This made all the difference to a ten year old laptop we have, it now runs very cool.
     
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  21. Marc Joan

    Marc Joan Venerated Member Founding Member

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    I think we have just seen the geeky underbelly of AgentP. :D
     
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  22. AgentPete

    AgentPete Capo Famiglia Staff Member

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    True dat! :)
     
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  23. Paul Whybrow

    Paul Whybrow Venerated Member

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    No problem with accessing the drive on the VLC media player. It's more an issue of finding a way to make the 400 albums I've stored in the library playable. Clicking on them, or trying to move them to the playlist produces a confusing message about how the file is not accessible--even though it's sitting right there. I managed to get it playing this morning, though I'm not quite sure how. I'll learn its idiosyncracies in time.

    As for dissecting a laptop, it's great fun, though it really pays to make copious notes and to take photographs as you take things apart. I repaired by very first laptop, the notorious Dell Inspiron 5150, which suffered with major overheating issues leading to a class action lawsuit in the American courts. Sure enough, the hard drive on mine disintegrated, but this was easily replaced as it's accessible via a panel. Top Tip: never buy components from the computer manufacturer, as they charge a huge mark-up on the price asked by vendors selling the hardware which is manufactured by other factories. Dell wanted twice the amount that I bought a new Fujitsu hard drive off Ebay for; peeling the Dell sticker off my burnt-out drive showed the Fujitsu label.

    Having done that simple repair, the connection jack for the mains lead/power inverter promptly failed! This thimble-sized component must be the first part installed on the production line, as I had to remove everything to get to it, before desoldering the connection leads and soldering new one in place. This cost a couple of pounds on eBay. There are times when I'm glad that I grew up in a mend-and-make-do household, as it's given me skills that many lack these days. I was quoted 125 quid by a repair shop to do this simple but intimidating task.
     
  24. Paul Whybrow

    Paul Whybrow Venerated Member

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    I’m getting used to using Linux Mint Cinnamon (sounds like a mouth wash!), and have made adjusting to a new way of doing things easier by installing the Chromium browser from the handy repository of apps.

    Chromium serves as the open source code base for Google Chrome and its derivatives like Opera, Vivaldi and others. Its user interface is very similar to Chrome and though it lacks some features like Flash and PDF support out-of-the-box, this hasn’t bothered me yet; apparently they can be added.

    It supports all Chrome extensions, which is useful as it let me install apps I’ve grown accustomed to using in the last eight years—LastPass password manager, AdRemover, Ghostery, The Great Suspender, Grammarly, Hover Over, Poper Blocker and two useful writing aids, a thesaurus and a dictionary.

    As standard, Linux Mint uses the Mozilla Firefox browser, which is effectively Yahoo Search when you look for something—not my favourite search engine. Chromium gives more accurate results.

    Another advantage of Linux, apart from it being virus-free, is that it doesn’t need defragging—something that I did most days when using Vista.

    I also managed to install an onscreen Caps Lock warning, which meant inputting a string of code to Linux’s version of a command line, which they call a terminal. I didn’t expect it to work, as I sat typing a long line of gobbledegook, but to my surprise the utility appeared onscreen.

    It works well, dropping a black oblong box onto the top right hand corner of the screen, which stays there as long as the Caps Lock key is depressed.

    It’s this aspect of Linux that probably puts many potential users off trying it. Issuing commands by code is tiresome and worrying. Hopefully, most of the useful apps will soon be available from the repository as a simple download.

    Overall, everything works quicker and my knackered laptop feels more sprightly. The bare bones construction and appearance of Linux may not appeal to some, but I briefly went back onto Microsoft Vista to access some documents, and was appalled at how cluttered the OS was compared to Linux.

    Linux Mint feels like strolling through a charming open air market with friendly stall-holders, while Microsoft is more like entering a crowded supermarket staffed by uncommunicative employees.
     
  25. AgentPete

    AgentPete Capo Famiglia Staff Member

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    I’m wondering why VLC isn’t seeing those files...? Are they held on a network disk? Maybe search repositories for something that is more of a media player? Amarok has a good reputation, haven’t used it myself tho.

    Yeah, command-line isn’t something most people want to get into. I love it myself, because you are relating to the machine quite directly, without someone else’s idea of an interface getting in the way. But if you just want to use your machine as a word process / email / browser, you never need worry about command line.

    Big fan on Mint for most Windows refugees. Have heard good things about Zorin, too as a very user-friendly Windows replacement, but haven’t’ tried it.
     
  26. Bernard Stacey

    Bernard Stacey Venerated Member Founding Member

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    ** Scratches head **

    What does the big button at the front do?
     
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  27. Paul Whybrow

    Paul Whybrow Venerated Member

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    I’ve managed to get VLC Media Player to work, though the method feels Heath Robinson in construction. Basically, I have to open my Data, the D-drive, to display the music files before VLC joins in the party and actually plays them.

    To sort out various Linux issues, I’ve been using Techwalla which has well-written articles.

    I also get newsletters from F.O.S.S. about Linux, and today’s had an article on how to reduce overheating in a laptop running Linux. I’ve been keeping an eye on the temperature of mine with the Psensor Temperature Monitor, as I know from experience that as soon as in reaches 70F in my room the CPU rockets up to 90C! This happens despite using a cooling cradle which raises the laptop off the work surface at an angle and blasts air into the casing by a fan. I also use a powerful floor fan in summer, which helps to keep the writer cool.

    All the same, I was glad to read that there are ways of cooling the CPU with apps, something that isn’t available in Windows.

    All of the posts I’ve added to this thread are about as geeky as I’ve ever been! It’s astonishing how many technical skills we’ve all had to learn by using computers over the last twenty years. It’s all a very long way from me, as a ten-year-old, soldering a crystal radio together, so that I could secretly listen to Radio Luxembourg under the blankets!
     
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  28. AgentPete

    AgentPete Capo Famiglia Staff Member

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    Heath Robinson translated into American is almost exactly Rube Goldberg.

    I spent a magical - truly - day with Norman Hunter, author of the Professor Branestawm series of my youth. Unbelievable stories to tell about his illustrator, Heath Robinson. Then he took me back to his house, the upper floor of which had been painstakingly converted into a scale model of the Theatre Royal, Dury Lane. Had a command performance of The Pirates of Penzance. The very best of English eccentricity. Just amazing.
     
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  29. Marc Joan

    Marc Joan Venerated Member Founding Member

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    Ha! Love it. We need more such people today. They're out there somewhere, I bet.
     
  30. AgentPete

    AgentPete Capo Famiglia Staff Member

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    We really do. I hope they are.
     

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