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Saturday, 24 January 2015

Introduction








Windows 7 has come to the stage whereby the support it receives is minimal.

Windows 7 users therefore have a number of choices:
  • Stick with Windows 7
  • Upgrade to Windows 8.1
  • Buy a new computer with Windows 8.1 pre-installed
  • Wait for Windows 10
  • Switch to Linux Mint
There are pros and cons with all of these options.

Windows 7 is now a second class citizen in the eyes of Microsoft. You will receive security updates but that is about it. Stick with what you know if you like but you are virtually on your own.

Windows 8.1 is still the latest Microsoft operating system and you will be well supported but lets face it, Windows 8.1 is just not intuitive and has caused Microsoft to go back to the drawing board for Windows 10. If it was such a success then Microsoft wouldn't have changed it so heavily for Windows 10. It will also cost you upwards of £80.

If you aren't comfortable installing operating systems you might just choose to buy a new computer with Windows 8.1 on it. This will save you install time but the Windows 8.1 issues remain the same and it will set you back a few hundred quid.

You could wait for Windows 10 and to be fair it looks like it will be much better than the current offering and they do have some exciting looking hololens glasses on the way. There is still a fair amount of time before Windows 10 is released and being an early adopter isn't the best time to jump aboard.

This is a site dedicated to Linux and so I am of course going to recommend the Linux Mint option. The look and feel will be much like the Windows 7 interface you are currently using. You won't need to upgrade your hardware. You will never be out of support. It won't cost you a penny. You won't need to buy extra software such as Microsoft Office. You won't get any viruses.

I have written installation guides before and you might be wondering what is different about this one.

A comment I received a couple of weeks ago asked how to install Linux without overwriting the data that is held in a separate partition on the hard drive.

The user in question had Windows 7 installed in one partition and all his data files were saved in a completely separate partition.

This guide shows how to replace Windows 7 with Linux Mint whilst preserving other partitions such as data partitions and recovery partitions.

The Setup




















This is my setup prior to installing Linux Mint. I have a single hard drive with 700 GB of space.

The drive is split into 3 partitions:
  • Recovery partition - 100 MB 
  • Windows partition - 356 GB
  • Data partition 342 - GB
The recovery partition isn't really a recovery partition. It was a mistake I made whilst installing Windows 7 in the first place but "ssshhh", if we keep quiet nobody will know.

The data partition has some really important files on it.

As you can see I have a photos folder with some pictures from my recent trip to New York.

To prove it here is a picture of the Freedom tower taken from the top of the Empire State Building.



Now of course I might just have downloaded that from Google Images so to prove I didn't....


That photo was taken from my Samsung Galaxy S4 and it has the in shot thingy which can make any photo look ridiculous.

Anyway, now we know I have something to lose if the installation goes wrong.

The Strategy 

In order to install Linux Mint and remove Windows 7 without losing my data partition here is the plan:

  1. Backup all of the partitions
  2. Download Linux Mint
  3. Create a bootable Linux Mint USB drive
  4. Boot into the live Linux Mint image
  5. Run the installer
  6. Choose the something else option when partitioning and set up Linux Mint partitions only in the Windows partition. (and delete that 100mb recovery partition)
  7. Complete the installation
  8. Prove that it worked

Backup All Partitions On A Single Hard Drive

The tool I like to use when backing up the partitions on a hard drive is Macrium Reflect.

Here is a guide I created showing how to backup all of your partitions.

Download Linux Mint

Click here to download Linux Mint

There are a number of versions available. If your computer is running Windows 7 then it should be good enough to run the Cinnamon version. Make sure you choose the version with multimedia support.

If you would prefer to, you can buy a Linux Mint DVD or USB drive. Lots of people choose this option and it means you can skip the next bit where you have to create a bootable USB drive.



Create A Linux Mint USB Drive

In order to create a live Linux Mint USB drive you will of course need a blank USB drive.

Click here to buy one

Make sure you have the blank USB drive connected to your computer before continuing.




The tool that I like to use to create a bootable Linux USB drive is the Universal USB Installer.

Click here to download the Universal USB Installer

The download link is halfway down the page.

Double click on the downloaded executable to run the installer and click "I agree" to get past the license agreement.

In step 1 choose "Linux Mint" from the dropdown list and then in step 2 click the browse button and navigate to the downloaded Linux Mint ISO.

In step 3 select the USB drive from the dropdown list. Check the box to format the drive.

Click "Create" to create the drive.




The process will now begin and a message will appear when the drive has been created.

Click the "Close" button and reboot your computer. (leave the USB drive plugged in).

When the menu appears with options to "Try Linux Mint" or "Install Linux Mint" choose "Try Linux Mint".



Install Linux Mint





















Your screen should now look like the image above.

Click on the "Install Linux Mint" icon.

The first few steps are fairly straight forward.

Choose your installation language from the list.








You now have the option to connect to the internet.

If you have a good internet connection then set up your wireless connection by choosing the "connect to network" option and then select your wireless network.

If you don't have a good connection it is worth staying disconnected otherwise the installation will take a long time.

The third screen shows how prepared you are for installing Linux Mint.

The list checks that you have enough disk space and that you are connected to the internet and a power source.

You can get away without being connected to the internet as updates can be installed post installation and you can get away with not being connected to a power source if your battery is fairly full.

























The installation type screen is the key element of this guide as it will show you how to install Linux Mint over the top of Windows 7 without touching other partitions.

Choose the "Something Else" option.





























The partition editor shows you the drives on your computer and the partitions on the drives.

So the first thing I wanted to do was delete that 100 MB partition. In order to delete a partition you can select it and click the minus button. You will need to do this for the main Windows partition.

Make sure you delete the correct partition(s). 

Make sure you leave the device for boot loader installation as /dev/sda


After deleting the Windows partition you will be left with free space. You will now need to create 3 partitions in the free space left behind.


Click on the free space and then the plus symbol to create the first partition.

As I have plenties of space I created the main Linux Mint partition with 50 GB of space. (50000 MB).

The partition type is set to logical (if you have a standard BIOS you can only have 4 primary partitions).




I chose the EXT4 file system. There are other file systems available but this is fairly standard. I need to write another guide about file systems sometime in the future.

Choose / as the mount point.

Click OK to continue.

Click on the free space and the plus symbol again to create the second partition.

The HOME partition is used to store all of your files within Linux such as pictures, music, videos and configuration settings.

The size should be set to the rest of the free space minus the number of gigabytes of RAM you have.


Choose logical as the partition type and EXT4 again as the file system. Select /home as the mount point.

Click OK to continue.

The final partition you need to create is for swap.

SWAP is used as a place for your operating system to store inactive processes when the amount of memory is getting low.

Choose "Logical" as the type and choose swap area.

Click "OK" to continue.

Pick your location on the map.

This sets your timezone and therefore your system clock within Linux Mint.











Choose the keyboard layout by picking your country in the left pane and the number of keys and language in the right pane.











The final step in the installation process is to create the default user.

Enter your name and a name for your computer.

Enter a username and choose a password for the user. (you will need to repeat the password).

You can now choose whether to login automatically and whether to encrypt your home folder.

Click "Continue".

The files will now be copied to your computer.

When the process is complete reboot your computer and remove the USB drive.

Welcome To Linux Mint





















Linux Mint should now start up and you will need to select your username and enter a password to log in. (Unless you chose to login automatically).

There is a welcome screen on startup. Uncheck the box in the bottom right corner if you don't want this message to appear every time.

The key question of course is did you lose your data partition?

To prove the process worked for me here is my pictures folder:



























I hope you found this guide useful but If you have any questions feel free to use the comments section below.

Thankyou for reading.


Replace Windows 7 With Linux Mint Without Overwriting Other Partitions

Introduction








Windows 7 has come to the stage whereby the support it receives is minimal.

Windows 7 users therefore have a number of choices:
  • Stick with Windows 7
  • Upgrade to Windows 8.1
  • Buy a new computer with Windows 8.1 pre-installed
  • Wait for Windows 10
  • Switch to Linux Mint
There are pros and cons with all of these options.

Windows 7 is now a second class citizen in the eyes of Microsoft. You will receive security updates but that is about it. Stick with what you know if you like but you are virtually on your own.

Windows 8.1 is still the latest Microsoft operating system and you will be well supported but lets face it, Windows 8.1 is just not intuitive and has caused Microsoft to go back to the drawing board for Windows 10. If it was such a success then Microsoft wouldn't have changed it so heavily for Windows 10. It will also cost you upwards of £80.

If you aren't comfortable installing operating systems you might just choose to buy a new computer with Windows 8.1 on it. This will save you install time but the Windows 8.1 issues remain the same and it will set you back a few hundred quid.

You could wait for Windows 10 and to be fair it looks like it will be much better than the current offering and they do have some exciting looking hololens glasses on the way. There is still a fair amount of time before Windows 10 is released and being an early adopter isn't the best time to jump aboard.

This is a site dedicated to Linux and so I am of course going to recommend the Linux Mint option. The look and feel will be much like the Windows 7 interface you are currently using. You won't need to upgrade your hardware. You will never be out of support. It won't cost you a penny. You won't need to buy extra software such as Microsoft Office. You won't get any viruses.

I have written installation guides before and you might be wondering what is different about this one.

A comment I received a couple of weeks ago asked how to install Linux without overwriting the data that is held in a separate partition on the hard drive.

The user in question had Windows 7 installed in one partition and all his data files were saved in a completely separate partition.

This guide shows how to replace Windows 7 with Linux Mint whilst preserving other partitions such as data partitions and recovery partitions.

The Setup




















This is my setup prior to installing Linux Mint. I have a single hard drive with 700 GB of space.

The drive is split into 3 partitions:
  • Recovery partition - 100 MB 
  • Windows partition - 356 GB
  • Data partition 342 - GB
The recovery partition isn't really a recovery partition. It was a mistake I made whilst installing Windows 7 in the first place but "ssshhh", if we keep quiet nobody will know.

The data partition has some really important files on it.

As you can see I have a photos folder with some pictures from my recent trip to New York.

To prove it here is a picture of the Freedom tower taken from the top of the Empire State Building.



Now of course I might just have downloaded that from Google Images so to prove I didn't....


That photo was taken from my Samsung Galaxy S4 and it has the in shot thingy which can make any photo look ridiculous.

Anyway, now we know I have something to lose if the installation goes wrong.

The Strategy 

In order to install Linux Mint and remove Windows 7 without losing my data partition here is the plan:

  1. Backup all of the partitions
  2. Download Linux Mint
  3. Create a bootable Linux Mint USB drive
  4. Boot into the live Linux Mint image
  5. Run the installer
  6. Choose the something else option when partitioning and set up Linux Mint partitions only in the Windows partition. (and delete that 100mb recovery partition)
  7. Complete the installation
  8. Prove that it worked

Backup All Partitions On A Single Hard Drive

The tool I like to use when backing up the partitions on a hard drive is Macrium Reflect.

Here is a guide I created showing how to backup all of your partitions.

Download Linux Mint

Click here to download Linux Mint

There are a number of versions available. If your computer is running Windows 7 then it should be good enough to run the Cinnamon version. Make sure you choose the version with multimedia support.

If you would prefer to, you can buy a Linux Mint DVD or USB drive. Lots of people choose this option and it means you can skip the next bit where you have to create a bootable USB drive.



Create A Linux Mint USB Drive

In order to create a live Linux Mint USB drive you will of course need a blank USB drive.

Click here to buy one

Make sure you have the blank USB drive connected to your computer before continuing.




The tool that I like to use to create a bootable Linux USB drive is the Universal USB Installer.

Click here to download the Universal USB Installer

The download link is halfway down the page.

Double click on the downloaded executable to run the installer and click "I agree" to get past the license agreement.

In step 1 choose "Linux Mint" from the dropdown list and then in step 2 click the browse button and navigate to the downloaded Linux Mint ISO.

In step 3 select the USB drive from the dropdown list. Check the box to format the drive.

Click "Create" to create the drive.




The process will now begin and a message will appear when the drive has been created.

Click the "Close" button and reboot your computer. (leave the USB drive plugged in).

When the menu appears with options to "Try Linux Mint" or "Install Linux Mint" choose "Try Linux Mint".



Install Linux Mint





















Your screen should now look like the image above.

Click on the "Install Linux Mint" icon.

The first few steps are fairly straight forward.

Choose your installation language from the list.








You now have the option to connect to the internet.

If you have a good internet connection then set up your wireless connection by choosing the "connect to network" option and then select your wireless network.

If you don't have a good connection it is worth staying disconnected otherwise the installation will take a long time.

The third screen shows how prepared you are for installing Linux Mint.

The list checks that you have enough disk space and that you are connected to the internet and a power source.

You can get away without being connected to the internet as updates can be installed post installation and you can get away with not being connected to a power source if your battery is fairly full.

























The installation type screen is the key element of this guide as it will show you how to install Linux Mint over the top of Windows 7 without touching other partitions.

Choose the "Something Else" option.





























The partition editor shows you the drives on your computer and the partitions on the drives.

So the first thing I wanted to do was delete that 100 MB partition. In order to delete a partition you can select it and click the minus button. You will need to do this for the main Windows partition.

Make sure you delete the correct partition(s). 

Make sure you leave the device for boot loader installation as /dev/sda


After deleting the Windows partition you will be left with free space. You will now need to create 3 partitions in the free space left behind.


Click on the free space and then the plus symbol to create the first partition.

As I have plenties of space I created the main Linux Mint partition with 50 GB of space. (50000 MB).

The partition type is set to logical (if you have a standard BIOS you can only have 4 primary partitions).




I chose the EXT4 file system. There are other file systems available but this is fairly standard. I need to write another guide about file systems sometime in the future.

Choose / as the mount point.

Click OK to continue.

Click on the free space and the plus symbol again to create the second partition.

The HOME partition is used to store all of your files within Linux such as pictures, music, videos and configuration settings.

The size should be set to the rest of the free space minus the number of gigabytes of RAM you have.


Choose logical as the partition type and EXT4 again as the file system. Select /home as the mount point.

Click OK to continue.

The final partition you need to create is for swap.

SWAP is used as a place for your operating system to store inactive processes when the amount of memory is getting low.

Choose "Logical" as the type and choose swap area.

Click "OK" to continue.

Pick your location on the map.

This sets your timezone and therefore your system clock within Linux Mint.











Choose the keyboard layout by picking your country in the left pane and the number of keys and language in the right pane.











The final step in the installation process is to create the default user.

Enter your name and a name for your computer.

Enter a username and choose a password for the user. (you will need to repeat the password).

You can now choose whether to login automatically and whether to encrypt your home folder.

Click "Continue".

The files will now be copied to your computer.

When the process is complete reboot your computer and remove the USB drive.

Welcome To Linux Mint





















Linux Mint should now start up and you will need to select your username and enter a password to log in. (Unless you chose to login automatically).

There is a welcome screen on startup. Uncheck the box in the bottom right corner if you don't want this message to appear every time.

The key question of course is did you lose your data partition?

To prove the process worked for me here is my pictures folder:



























I hope you found this guide useful but If you have any questions feel free to use the comments section below.

Thankyou for reading.


Posted at 22:48 |  by Gary Newell

Monday, 19 January 2015

Introduction

Last year I wrote an article called "Analysis Of The Top 10 Linux Operating Systems". 

The premise behind that article was to look at the top 10 distributions of 2013, as listed on Distrowatch, in order to define their suitability for the average computer user.

There was a little bit of confusion with that article because in the comments some people thought it was just a list of my favourite distributions:
"I may be a bit fanboy-ish, but, what about Enlightenment DE?"
"I think Gentoo as well deserves few words in this article. Maybe the most complex user experience, the real hard way...I am not using it, maybe never will, but it is there... "
Another complaint that I received was that I called them the "top 10 Linux Operating Systems". I have therefore changed the title this year to say the "top 10 Linux Distributions".

Just to be clear then, this is a list of the top 10 Linux distributions of 2014 as defined by Distrowatch. The point is to show how suitable the distributions are for the Everyday Linux User.

1. Linux Mint




It is quite clear to me why Linux Mint is number one in the list. It is easy to install, provides a very familiar desktop experience and provides access to a massive repository of free software.

Linux Mint takes everything that Ubuntu has to offer and packages it in a non-complicated yet stylish manner.

Everything you need to get you started is ready without having to install codecs, drivers and extra packages.

LibreOffice, GIMP, FireFox, Thunderbird, Banshee and VLC are all included by default and the Mint Installer provides a nicer interface than Ubuntu's Software Centre.

Click here for a full review of Linux Mint 17

2. Ubuntu






















If Linux Mint is the most popular distribution on Distrowatch then Ubuntu is the most well known.

Personally I actually prefer Ubuntu to Linux Mint but I can understand why some users prefer Linux Mint.

The Unity Desktop is great when you get used to it but some people prefer the more traditional offering provided by the Cinnamon or MATE desktops.

Ubuntu is easy to install and comes with a fairly complete set of applications installed by default including LibreOffice and Rhythmbox. 

You can install Fluendo during installation in order to play MP3 files or you can install the Ubuntu Restricted Extras package post installation.

Ubuntu runs better on modern hardware so if you have an older computer you might prefer to use one of the other flavours such as Xubuntu, Lubuntu or Ubuntu MATE.


3. Debian





























Debian is the Linux distribution that many other distributions are based on. Debian has a huge set of repositories and makes itself easy to build upon.

Last year I suggested that Debian was a next step distribution as it is harder to install and doesn't come with all the features of Ubuntu or Mint.

When I tried Debian a few months ago my opinion changed somewhat. It is still easier to install and use Linux Mint and Ubuntu but if you download and use the minimal Debian ISO you are able to choose everything you want as you go along and there are options for installing a desktop with a base set of applications.

The most confusing thing about Debian is the website. For instance here is a link to the downloads page. Pretend that you are a new user and try to find the correct download image to install Debian.

If you are an average computer user you might want to try either Ubuntu or Mint first and then move to Debian later. 


4. openSUSE






















openSUSE is the first distribution in this list that doesn't have any links to Debian. (Other than the fact that they are both Linux distributions).

There are various desktop variations available for openSUSE including Gnome 3 and KDE. 

I tried the KDE version of openSUSE in 2014 and I really liked it. Ubuntu and Mint are in my opinion easier to use but openSUSE is a great alternative.

The KDE desktop provides a level of familiarity for ex-Windows users and the default installation of openSUSE includes LibreOffice, Firefox and Amarok.

Multimedia codecs aren't included by default and you have to connect to an alternative repository in order to install them.

The graphical package installer is called Yast and is a little bit rough and ready compared to the Mint installer and the Ubuntu Software Centre but it is less fussy.


5. Fedora


















I haven't tried Fedora since version 18. Version 21 has just been released. 

Fedora is based on Red Hat Linux and has been used as a place to try out new things. This generally means that Fedora is cutting edge with all the latest features but at the same time some things work well and some things don't.

Last time I tried Fedora the installer was tricky to fathom out and getting things like MP3s to play wasn't as straight forward as it is for other distributions.

I think it is unfair to trust my experiences of an older version of Fedora to help you make up your mind whether it is for you or not.

This review of Fedora 21 by Dedoimedo  states that the installation turned out to be a very difficult task. There were also issues with installing the codecs.

Dedoimedo installed the KDE version and the default applications were Firefox, KMail, Amarok and the Calligra suite.

To get a balanced opinion here is a review of Fedora 21 by Jim Lynch. Jim went for the Gnome desktop environment.

Jim's opinion of the installer is that it is quite good albeit different from the type of installer that many Ubuntu and Mint users will be used to.

The Gnome version of Fedora comes with LibreOffice, Rhythmbox and Firefox.

I think the most important part of either review that Everyday Linux Users should be aware of is in Jim's summing up of Fedora:

Now one question remains: should you use Fedora? You most certainly can use it as your main desktop distribution, but remember that Fedora 21 Workstation is geared toward developers. Casual users can and should check it out, but there are things in it that might have no appeal to non-developers (such as the DevAssistant). If that’s a deal breaker for you then Linux Mint, one of the Ubuntus or some other distribution might be a better option. 

6. Mageia

























Mageia is my "Eleanor". For those of you who haven't seen "Gone In 60 Seconds", "Eleanor" is the term that Nicholas Cage gives to a Ford Mustang which is a beauty of a car that has always managed to get him into trouble.

Mageia is clearly popular and I know of many users who swear by Mageia but I have always found it tricky to use when compared to Ubuntu, Mint, Debian, Fedora, openSUSE, PCLinuxOS and many other distributions.

Mageia is based on what used to be Mandriva (Mandrake) Linux.  

When I last used Mageia I found the installation fairly straight forward and I could play MP3s straight away but I had to install the Flash player so that it worked with Firefox. 

The last version I tried was version 3 and version 4 is now out and therefore it is worth looking at other people's reviews to determine whether it is suitable for the average computer user.

I couldn't find a review of Mageia 4 from Dedoimedo so here is a link to his review of version 3. It is very short. It won't take long to read.

For a more positive review of Mageia, read this one from the "My Linux Explore" website. Arindem Sen rates it 8.7 out of 10.

I rate Mageia's latest release quite high for the additional level of user control it provides in installation and usage. Mageia 4 is perfect for users looking for a stable KDE spin which is aesthetically pleasing and gives reasonably good performance. Personally I rate Mageia KDE as the best among Mandriva forked distros (including ROSA and PCLinuxOS).

I would personally check out PCLinuxOS first but Mageia should be an option for the Everyday Linux User.

7. Arch

There are different types of people who drive cars. For instance there are drivers who get in the car and drive from A to B but have no idea how to put petrol in it. At the other end of the scale there are the drivers who know everything about their car having customised it to within an inch of its life. There are obviously various other groups of driver in between.

The same analogies work for computer users. Some computer users know how to use a web browser but probably don't even know it is called a web browser. These users would definitely be better off using Linux Mint than Arch.

The average computer user might find learning Arch tricky and for many users it would be unnecessary to go down this route.

Bizarrely one of the questions I get asked the most is "Which distribution should I use?". Now that doesn't really sound too bizarre because I review distributions but when that question is backed up as follows it worries me a little bit:

I am thinking of switching to Linux for the first time, which distro would be best? I was thinking either Ubuntu or Arch.

I suspect that some of these users have been on Reddit which has an evangelical Arch following whereby the answer to the "which distro should I use" question is always Arch.

Arch has great documentation and if you decide you wish to go down the Arch route then there is a clear set of guidelines showing how to get where you want to be but there is a learning curve and if you are in the class of casual computer user who likes to surf the web and do a little bit of gaming then it might not be for you.

You know that you are entering unchartered waters when you find it difficult to find reviews of a Linux distribution. I suspect that many reviewers steer clear due to the complexity levels involved.

Click here for a review of Arch Linux.

8. Elementary

























Elementary is the first entry into this list that wasn't in last year's list.

If Arch is one to be wary of then Elementary is certainly a Linux distribution that many Everyday Linux Users would appreciate.

Based on Ubuntu, Elementary provides a really stylish user interface which is clean and lean.

Elementary is more lightweight in nature than Linux Mint or Ubuntu and so works well on older hardware as well as modern computers.

I had issues getting Flash to work when I last tried Elementary but that was some time ago now. MP3s don't work from the outset but the moment you try and play one for the first time you are asked whether you want to install the necessary plugins.

Click here for my review of Elementary OS.

Here is a counter review of Elementary OS by Dedoimedo.

9. CentOS





























I have never used CentOS and it is new to the list for this year. According to Wikipedia, CentOS is a community Linux distribution which aims to be functionally compatible with it's parent distributiion, Red Hat Linux.

If Fedora has been something of a playground for trying out new features then CentOS is more of a stable, secure and user centric distribution.

With that in mind CentOS should be perfect for the Everyday Linux User and I aim to review this distribution this year.

Here is something that doesn't really add up though. Whilst looking for reviews of CentOS I felt the impression was largely negative, for instance:

I feel CentOS 7 has been rushed out to market too early, with less than its flawless and most stringent QA that used to be in the past. It comes with a few glaring problems that do not belong in a serious distro. And since you can't be having any extras, its merit as a desktop candidate is even further reduced. - Dedoimedo
There is a thread at Linuxquestions.org which has a number of disgruntled would be users.

10. Zorin




ZorinOS is definitely a distribution worth checking out if you are an Everyday Linux User. If you come from a Windows background you will appreciate the attention to detail in making the transition as easy as possible.

Multimedia codecs are installed by default meaning you can play Flash videos and listen to MP3 audio without ferreting through software repositories.

The software that comes pre-installed is fairly extensive as well with GIMP, Firefox, LibreOffice and Rhythmbox all available.

Zorin has a lot of desktop gadgets and effects including wobbly windows and desktop cubes. 

Unique tools include the ability to change the desktop to look like Windows 2000, Windows 7, MacOS and Gnome 2.


Summary

For the average desktop computer user I would recommend Linux Mint, Ubuntu, Zorin, Elementary and openSUSE as first choices with Debian, Fedora, Mageia and CentOS as secondary options. I would only choose Arch if you really want to control every aspect of your computer from top to bottom or you have an interest in learning more about the underpinnings of using Linux.

The three distributions that were in the top 10 last year that aren't in this year are PCLinuxOS, Manjaro and Puppy Linux.

They haven't slipped far down the order with Puppy at number 11, PCLinuxOS as 15 and Manjaro at 16. You might want to check out them out. 


Thankyou for reading.










Analysis Of The Top 10 Linux Distributions Of 2014

Introduction

Last year I wrote an article called "Analysis Of The Top 10 Linux Operating Systems". 

The premise behind that article was to look at the top 10 distributions of 2013, as listed on Distrowatch, in order to define their suitability for the average computer user.

There was a little bit of confusion with that article because in the comments some people thought it was just a list of my favourite distributions:
"I may be a bit fanboy-ish, but, what about Enlightenment DE?"
"I think Gentoo as well deserves few words in this article. Maybe the most complex user experience, the real hard way...I am not using it, maybe never will, but it is there... "
Another complaint that I received was that I called them the "top 10 Linux Operating Systems". I have therefore changed the title this year to say the "top 10 Linux Distributions".

Just to be clear then, this is a list of the top 10 Linux distributions of 2014 as defined by Distrowatch. The point is to show how suitable the distributions are for the Everyday Linux User.

1. Linux Mint




It is quite clear to me why Linux Mint is number one in the list. It is easy to install, provides a very familiar desktop experience and provides access to a massive repository of free software.

Linux Mint takes everything that Ubuntu has to offer and packages it in a non-complicated yet stylish manner.

Everything you need to get you started is ready without having to install codecs, drivers and extra packages.

LibreOffice, GIMP, FireFox, Thunderbird, Banshee and VLC are all included by default and the Mint Installer provides a nicer interface than Ubuntu's Software Centre.

Click here for a full review of Linux Mint 17

2. Ubuntu






















If Linux Mint is the most popular distribution on Distrowatch then Ubuntu is the most well known.

Personally I actually prefer Ubuntu to Linux Mint but I can understand why some users prefer Linux Mint.

The Unity Desktop is great when you get used to it but some people prefer the more traditional offering provided by the Cinnamon or MATE desktops.

Ubuntu is easy to install and comes with a fairly complete set of applications installed by default including LibreOffice and Rhythmbox. 

You can install Fluendo during installation in order to play MP3 files or you can install the Ubuntu Restricted Extras package post installation.

Ubuntu runs better on modern hardware so if you have an older computer you might prefer to use one of the other flavours such as Xubuntu, Lubuntu or Ubuntu MATE.


3. Debian





























Debian is the Linux distribution that many other distributions are based on. Debian has a huge set of repositories and makes itself easy to build upon.

Last year I suggested that Debian was a next step distribution as it is harder to install and doesn't come with all the features of Ubuntu or Mint.

When I tried Debian a few months ago my opinion changed somewhat. It is still easier to install and use Linux Mint and Ubuntu but if you download and use the minimal Debian ISO you are able to choose everything you want as you go along and there are options for installing a desktop with a base set of applications.

The most confusing thing about Debian is the website. For instance here is a link to the downloads page. Pretend that you are a new user and try to find the correct download image to install Debian.

If you are an average computer user you might want to try either Ubuntu or Mint first and then move to Debian later. 


4. openSUSE






















openSUSE is the first distribution in this list that doesn't have any links to Debian. (Other than the fact that they are both Linux distributions).

There are various desktop variations available for openSUSE including Gnome 3 and KDE. 

I tried the KDE version of openSUSE in 2014 and I really liked it. Ubuntu and Mint are in my opinion easier to use but openSUSE is a great alternative.

The KDE desktop provides a level of familiarity for ex-Windows users and the default installation of openSUSE includes LibreOffice, Firefox and Amarok.

Multimedia codecs aren't included by default and you have to connect to an alternative repository in order to install them.

The graphical package installer is called Yast and is a little bit rough and ready compared to the Mint installer and the Ubuntu Software Centre but it is less fussy.


5. Fedora


















I haven't tried Fedora since version 18. Version 21 has just been released. 

Fedora is based on Red Hat Linux and has been used as a place to try out new things. This generally means that Fedora is cutting edge with all the latest features but at the same time some things work well and some things don't.

Last time I tried Fedora the installer was tricky to fathom out and getting things like MP3s to play wasn't as straight forward as it is for other distributions.

I think it is unfair to trust my experiences of an older version of Fedora to help you make up your mind whether it is for you or not.

This review of Fedora 21 by Dedoimedo  states that the installation turned out to be a very difficult task. There were also issues with installing the codecs.

Dedoimedo installed the KDE version and the default applications were Firefox, KMail, Amarok and the Calligra suite.

To get a balanced opinion here is a review of Fedora 21 by Jim Lynch. Jim went for the Gnome desktop environment.

Jim's opinion of the installer is that it is quite good albeit different from the type of installer that many Ubuntu and Mint users will be used to.

The Gnome version of Fedora comes with LibreOffice, Rhythmbox and Firefox.

I think the most important part of either review that Everyday Linux Users should be aware of is in Jim's summing up of Fedora:

Now one question remains: should you use Fedora? You most certainly can use it as your main desktop distribution, but remember that Fedora 21 Workstation is geared toward developers. Casual users can and should check it out, but there are things in it that might have no appeal to non-developers (such as the DevAssistant). If that’s a deal breaker for you then Linux Mint, one of the Ubuntus or some other distribution might be a better option. 

6. Mageia

























Mageia is my "Eleanor". For those of you who haven't seen "Gone In 60 Seconds", "Eleanor" is the term that Nicholas Cage gives to a Ford Mustang which is a beauty of a car that has always managed to get him into trouble.

Mageia is clearly popular and I know of many users who swear by Mageia but I have always found it tricky to use when compared to Ubuntu, Mint, Debian, Fedora, openSUSE, PCLinuxOS and many other distributions.

Mageia is based on what used to be Mandriva (Mandrake) Linux.  

When I last used Mageia I found the installation fairly straight forward and I could play MP3s straight away but I had to install the Flash player so that it worked with Firefox. 

The last version I tried was version 3 and version 4 is now out and therefore it is worth looking at other people's reviews to determine whether it is suitable for the average computer user.

I couldn't find a review of Mageia 4 from Dedoimedo so here is a link to his review of version 3. It is very short. It won't take long to read.

For a more positive review of Mageia, read this one from the "My Linux Explore" website. Arindem Sen rates it 8.7 out of 10.

I rate Mageia's latest release quite high for the additional level of user control it provides in installation and usage. Mageia 4 is perfect for users looking for a stable KDE spin which is aesthetically pleasing and gives reasonably good performance. Personally I rate Mageia KDE as the best among Mandriva forked distros (including ROSA and PCLinuxOS).

I would personally check out PCLinuxOS first but Mageia should be an option for the Everyday Linux User.

7. Arch

There are different types of people who drive cars. For instance there are drivers who get in the car and drive from A to B but have no idea how to put petrol in it. At the other end of the scale there are the drivers who know everything about their car having customised it to within an inch of its life. There are obviously various other groups of driver in between.

The same analogies work for computer users. Some computer users know how to use a web browser but probably don't even know it is called a web browser. These users would definitely be better off using Linux Mint than Arch.

The average computer user might find learning Arch tricky and for many users it would be unnecessary to go down this route.

Bizarrely one of the questions I get asked the most is "Which distribution should I use?". Now that doesn't really sound too bizarre because I review distributions but when that question is backed up as follows it worries me a little bit:

I am thinking of switching to Linux for the first time, which distro would be best? I was thinking either Ubuntu or Arch.

I suspect that some of these users have been on Reddit which has an evangelical Arch following whereby the answer to the "which distro should I use" question is always Arch.

Arch has great documentation and if you decide you wish to go down the Arch route then there is a clear set of guidelines showing how to get where you want to be but there is a learning curve and if you are in the class of casual computer user who likes to surf the web and do a little bit of gaming then it might not be for you.

You know that you are entering unchartered waters when you find it difficult to find reviews of a Linux distribution. I suspect that many reviewers steer clear due to the complexity levels involved.

Click here for a review of Arch Linux.

8. Elementary

























Elementary is the first entry into this list that wasn't in last year's list.

If Arch is one to be wary of then Elementary is certainly a Linux distribution that many Everyday Linux Users would appreciate.

Based on Ubuntu, Elementary provides a really stylish user interface which is clean and lean.

Elementary is more lightweight in nature than Linux Mint or Ubuntu and so works well on older hardware as well as modern computers.

I had issues getting Flash to work when I last tried Elementary but that was some time ago now. MP3s don't work from the outset but the moment you try and play one for the first time you are asked whether you want to install the necessary plugins.

Click here for my review of Elementary OS.

Here is a counter review of Elementary OS by Dedoimedo.

9. CentOS





























I have never used CentOS and it is new to the list for this year. According to Wikipedia, CentOS is a community Linux distribution which aims to be functionally compatible with it's parent distributiion, Red Hat Linux.

If Fedora has been something of a playground for trying out new features then CentOS is more of a stable, secure and user centric distribution.

With that in mind CentOS should be perfect for the Everyday Linux User and I aim to review this distribution this year.

Here is something that doesn't really add up though. Whilst looking for reviews of CentOS I felt the impression was largely negative, for instance:

I feel CentOS 7 has been rushed out to market too early, with less than its flawless and most stringent QA that used to be in the past. It comes with a few glaring problems that do not belong in a serious distro. And since you can't be having any extras, its merit as a desktop candidate is even further reduced. - Dedoimedo
There is a thread at Linuxquestions.org which has a number of disgruntled would be users.

10. Zorin




ZorinOS is definitely a distribution worth checking out if you are an Everyday Linux User. If you come from a Windows background you will appreciate the attention to detail in making the transition as easy as possible.

Multimedia codecs are installed by default meaning you can play Flash videos and listen to MP3 audio without ferreting through software repositories.

The software that comes pre-installed is fairly extensive as well with GIMP, Firefox, LibreOffice and Rhythmbox all available.

Zorin has a lot of desktop gadgets and effects including wobbly windows and desktop cubes. 

Unique tools include the ability to change the desktop to look like Windows 2000, Windows 7, MacOS and Gnome 2.


Summary

For the average desktop computer user I would recommend Linux Mint, Ubuntu, Zorin, Elementary and openSUSE as first choices with Debian, Fedora, Mageia and CentOS as secondary options. I would only choose Arch if you really want to control every aspect of your computer from top to bottom or you have an interest in learning more about the underpinnings of using Linux.

The three distributions that were in the top 10 last year that aren't in this year are PCLinuxOS, Manjaro and Puppy Linux.

They haven't slipped far down the order with Puppy at number 11, PCLinuxOS as 15 and Manjaro at 16. You might want to check out them out. 


Thankyou for reading.










Posted at 21:52 |  by Gary Newell

Tuesday, 13 January 2015

Introduction

This is a strange article for me to write as I am normally in a position where I would advocate installing Ubuntu and getting rid of Windows.

What makes writing this article today doubly strange is that I am choosing to write it on the day that Windows 7 mainstream support comes to an end.

So why am I writing this now?

I have been asked on so many occasions now how to remove Ubuntu from a dual booting Windows 7 or a dual booting Windows 8 system and it just makes sense to write the article.

I spent the Christmas period looking through the comments that people have left on articles and it is time to write the posts that are missing and update some of those that have become old and need attention.

I am going to spend the rest of January doing just that. This is the first step. If you have Windows 7 dual booting with Ubuntu and you want Windows 7 back without restoring to factory settings follow this guide. (Note there is a separate guide required for Windows 8)

The Steps Required To Remove Ubuntu

  1. Remove Grub By Fixing The Windows Boot Record
  2. Delete The Ubuntu Partitions
  3. Expand The Windows Partition

Back Up Your System

Before you begin I recommend taking a backup of your system.

I also recommend not leaving this to chance nor Microsoft's own tools. 


If you have any data you wish to save within Ubuntu log into it now and back up the data to external hard drives, USB drives or DVDs.

Step 1 - Remove The Grub Boot Menu

When you boot your system you will see a menu similar to the one in the image.

To remove this menu and boot straight into Windows you have to fix the master boot record.

To do this I am going to show you how to create a system recovery disk, how to boot to the recovery disk and how to fix the master boot record.

























Press the "Start" button and search for "backup and restore". Click the icon that appears.

A window should open as shown in the image above.

Click on "Create a system repair disc".

You will need a blank DVD.

Insert the blank DVD in the drive and select your DVD drive from the dropdown list.

Click "Create Disc".

Restart your computer leaving the disk in and when the message appears to boot from CD press "Enter" on the keyboard.

A set of "Systems Recovery Options" screens will appear.

You will be asked to choose your keyboard layout.

Choose the appropriate options from the lists provided and click "Next".



The next screen lets you choose an operating system to attempt to fix.

Alternatively you can restore your computer using a system image saved earlier.

Leave the top option checked and click "Next".




You will now see a screen with options to repair your disk and restore your system etc.

All you need to do is fix the master boot record and this can be done from the command prompt.

Click "Command Prompt".




Now simply type the following command into the command prompt:

bootrec.exe /fixmbr
A message will appear stating that the operation has completed successfully.

You can now close the command prompt window.

Click the "Restart" button and remove the DVD.

Your computer should boot straight into Windows 7.

Step 2 - Delete The Ubuntu Partitions

















To delete Ubuntu you need to use the "Disk Management" tool from within Windows.

Press "Start" and type "Create and format hard disk partitions" into the search box. A window will appear similar to the image above.

Now my screen above isn't going to be quite the same as yours but it won't be much different. If you look at disk 0 there is 101 MB of unallocated space and then 4 partitions.

The 101 MB of space is a mistake I made when installing Windows 7 in the first place. The C: drive is Windows 7, the next partition (46.57 GB) is Ubuntu's root partition. The 287 GB partition is the /HOME partition and the 8 GB partition is the SWAP space.

The only one we really need for Windows is the C: drive so the rest can be deleted.

Note: Be careful. You may have recovery partitions on the disk. Do not delete the recovery partitions. They should be labelled and will have file systems set to NTFS or FAT32


Right click on one of the partitions you wish to delete (i.e. the root, home and swap partitions) and from the menu click "Delete Volume".

(Do not delete any partitions that have a file system of NTFS or FAT32)

Repeat this process for the other two partitions.

















After the partitions have been deleted you will have a large area of free space. Right click the free space and choose delete.

















Your disk will now contain your C drive and a large amount of unallocated space.

Step 3 - Expand The Windows Partition






















The final step is to expand Windows so that it is one large partition again.

To do this right click on the Windows partition (C: drive) and choose "Extend Volume".

When the Window to the left appears click "Next",









The next screen shows a wizard whereby you can select the disks to expand to and change the size to expand to.

By default the wizard shows the maximum amount of disk space it can claim from unallocated space.

Accept the defaults and click "Next".







The final screen shows the settings that you chose from the previous screen.

Click "Finish" to expand the disk.




























As you can see from the image above my Windows partition now takes up the entire disk (except for the 101 MB that I accidentally created before installing Windows in the first place).

Summary






















That is all folks. A site dedicated to Linux has just shown you how to remove Linux and replace it with Windows 7.

Any questions? Use the comments section below.



How To Recover Windows 7 And Delete Ubuntu In 3 Easy Steps

Introduction

This is a strange article for me to write as I am normally in a position where I would advocate installing Ubuntu and getting rid of Windows.

What makes writing this article today doubly strange is that I am choosing to write it on the day that Windows 7 mainstream support comes to an end.

So why am I writing this now?

I have been asked on so many occasions now how to remove Ubuntu from a dual booting Windows 7 or a dual booting Windows 8 system and it just makes sense to write the article.

I spent the Christmas period looking through the comments that people have left on articles and it is time to write the posts that are missing and update some of those that have become old and need attention.

I am going to spend the rest of January doing just that. This is the first step. If you have Windows 7 dual booting with Ubuntu and you want Windows 7 back without restoring to factory settings follow this guide. (Note there is a separate guide required for Windows 8)

The Steps Required To Remove Ubuntu

  1. Remove Grub By Fixing The Windows Boot Record
  2. Delete The Ubuntu Partitions
  3. Expand The Windows Partition

Back Up Your System

Before you begin I recommend taking a backup of your system.

I also recommend not leaving this to chance nor Microsoft's own tools. 


If you have any data you wish to save within Ubuntu log into it now and back up the data to external hard drives, USB drives or DVDs.

Step 1 - Remove The Grub Boot Menu

When you boot your system you will see a menu similar to the one in the image.

To remove this menu and boot straight into Windows you have to fix the master boot record.

To do this I am going to show you how to create a system recovery disk, how to boot to the recovery disk and how to fix the master boot record.

























Press the "Start" button and search for "backup and restore". Click the icon that appears.

A window should open as shown in the image above.

Click on "Create a system repair disc".

You will need a blank DVD.

Insert the blank DVD in the drive and select your DVD drive from the dropdown list.

Click "Create Disc".

Restart your computer leaving the disk in and when the message appears to boot from CD press "Enter" on the keyboard.

A set of "Systems Recovery Options" screens will appear.

You will be asked to choose your keyboard layout.

Choose the appropriate options from the lists provided and click "Next".



The next screen lets you choose an operating system to attempt to fix.

Alternatively you can restore your computer using a system image saved earlier.

Leave the top option checked and click "Next".




You will now see a screen with options to repair your disk and restore your system etc.

All you need to do is fix the master boot record and this can be done from the command prompt.

Click "Command Prompt".




Now simply type the following command into the command prompt:

bootrec.exe /fixmbr
A message will appear stating that the operation has completed successfully.

You can now close the command prompt window.

Click the "Restart" button and remove the DVD.

Your computer should boot straight into Windows 7.

Step 2 - Delete The Ubuntu Partitions

















To delete Ubuntu you need to use the "Disk Management" tool from within Windows.

Press "Start" and type "Create and format hard disk partitions" into the search box. A window will appear similar to the image above.

Now my screen above isn't going to be quite the same as yours but it won't be much different. If you look at disk 0 there is 101 MB of unallocated space and then 4 partitions.

The 101 MB of space is a mistake I made when installing Windows 7 in the first place. The C: drive is Windows 7, the next partition (46.57 GB) is Ubuntu's root partition. The 287 GB partition is the /HOME partition and the 8 GB partition is the SWAP space.

The only one we really need for Windows is the C: drive so the rest can be deleted.

Note: Be careful. You may have recovery partitions on the disk. Do not delete the recovery partitions. They should be labelled and will have file systems set to NTFS or FAT32


Right click on one of the partitions you wish to delete (i.e. the root, home and swap partitions) and from the menu click "Delete Volume".

(Do not delete any partitions that have a file system of NTFS or FAT32)

Repeat this process for the other two partitions.

















After the partitions have been deleted you will have a large area of free space. Right click the free space and choose delete.

















Your disk will now contain your C drive and a large amount of unallocated space.

Step 3 - Expand The Windows Partition






















The final step is to expand Windows so that it is one large partition again.

To do this right click on the Windows partition (C: drive) and choose "Extend Volume".

When the Window to the left appears click "Next",









The next screen shows a wizard whereby you can select the disks to expand to and change the size to expand to.

By default the wizard shows the maximum amount of disk space it can claim from unallocated space.

Accept the defaults and click "Next".







The final screen shows the settings that you chose from the previous screen.

Click "Finish" to expand the disk.




























As you can see from the image above my Windows partition now takes up the entire disk (except for the 101 MB that I accidentally created before installing Windows in the first place).

Summary






















That is all folks. A site dedicated to Linux has just shown you how to remove Linux and replace it with Windows 7.

Any questions? Use the comments section below.



Posted at 23:34 |  by Gary Newell

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