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Sunday, 23 September 2012

Introduction

There are probably thousands of Windows users out there who have looked at LINUX and thought "I'd like to try that".

Sometimes though fear and lethargy take over and with so much fear mongering spread by the mainstream press (You know who you are Sky television) it is amazing that any of us ever made the move.

The truth is that people switch to Linux everyday and once they realise the benefits they don't go back. In fact a large number of those Linux users become evangelical about the wonders of Linux.

This article is for those Windows users who just want to try Linux without making a firm commitment. Lets call it distro dating.

Without further ado here are 5 ways to try Linux without messing up Windows.

1. Live CDs / DVDs

There are a lot of LINUX distributions that provide a live CD or DVD installation.

Using live disks you can try out a large number of different distributions to see which one works the best for you.

This is obviously a very safe way of trying out a Linux distribution without breaking Windows.

If you are running from a CD or DVD then any software you install will be lost the next time you reboot.

Another downside is that not all distributions provide live versions. You will also not get the performance from a live CD that you would get from a full install and there may be bugs in the live version that are not present in the full install.

2. Live USB with persistence

Some distributions provide a live USB version of Linux with persistence which means your settings are saved and you can install additional software.

This provides an extra level of useability that the live CD/DVD does not bring.

A live CD and/or live USB is very useful as a rescue device if your Windows becomes corrupted at any time.

Here is a link to the Ubuntu wiki which provides details of how to install Ubuntu to a live USB drive with persistence. (https://wiki.ubuntu.com/LiveUsbPendrivePersistent)

3. Puppy Linux

Puppy Linux is a fully fledged Linux distribution. It is about 130mb to download and can be installed straight to a USB drive.

The difference between Puppy Linux and a live USB drive with persistence is that Puppy Linux is a fully fledged operating system.

With a live CD or live USB you will get a better experience when you fully install the operating system to your hard drive. Puppy Linux is optimised to run from the USB drive.

Any applications you install are saved to your hard drive under a single file with an SFS extension.

Puppy will not affect your Windows in any way whatsoever so you do not have to worry about the SFS file damaging Windows. The SFS file is just another file in much the same way a PDF, DOC or XLS file is.

4. WUBI

Ubuntu Linux provides what is known as a WUBI install.

The WUBI install works like any other installer within Windows. You enter a few parameters such as the username and password you will use when running Ubuntu and the installer will do the rest.

You specify how much disk space is given over to Ubuntu and it creates an area for use when installing and running Ubuntu.

When you reboot the Ubuntu installer will use the space that you gave permission for and install the Ubuntu operating system in that space. When you install any further applications for Ubuntu they are also installed in the space provided.

If you want to use Windows then when you boot your PC choose Windows. If you want to use Ubuntu choose Ubuntu.

This provides the full Ubuntu operating system without the limitations of the live CDs and persistent USB drives.

Whether you would prefer to use Ubuntu or Puppy Linux is a personal choice that only you can make. Reading my reviews of Puppy Linux and Ubuntu Linux may help though.

5. Side by Side Installation

Not all distributions provide a WUBI install. A large number of Linux distributions provide a way to install the operating system side by side.

Before trying this option I would recommend trying the live CD/DVD first because you will be able to see how well your hardware is supported with the distribution of choice.

The installation process is usually fairly easy and if it is a Ubuntu based distribution you will be given a choice to install the version of Linux you chose alongside Windows.

By choosing this option you will split your hard drive in two with one half used for Windows and the other half for the Linux distribution of choice.

Now you can try Linux out in its entirety and when you realise that you are using it more and more and Windows less and less you can then choose to do a full install and remove the Windows partition completely.

Summary

This article provides a simple list of 5 ways to install Linux without destroying Windows.

In future articles I will be going more in depth with each option to show you how to actually do it.

Thanks for reading.

5 Ways to try LINUX without messing up Windows

Introduction

There are probably thousands of Windows users out there who have looked at LINUX and thought "I'd like to try that".

Sometimes though fear and lethargy take over and with so much fear mongering spread by the mainstream press (You know who you are Sky television) it is amazing that any of us ever made the move.

The truth is that people switch to Linux everyday and once they realise the benefits they don't go back. In fact a large number of those Linux users become evangelical about the wonders of Linux.

This article is for those Windows users who just want to try Linux without making a firm commitment. Lets call it distro dating.

Without further ado here are 5 ways to try Linux without messing up Windows.

1. Live CDs / DVDs

There are a lot of LINUX distributions that provide a live CD or DVD installation.

Using live disks you can try out a large number of different distributions to see which one works the best for you.

This is obviously a very safe way of trying out a Linux distribution without breaking Windows.

If you are running from a CD or DVD then any software you install will be lost the next time you reboot.

Another downside is that not all distributions provide live versions. You will also not get the performance from a live CD that you would get from a full install and there may be bugs in the live version that are not present in the full install.

2. Live USB with persistence

Some distributions provide a live USB version of Linux with persistence which means your settings are saved and you can install additional software.

This provides an extra level of useability that the live CD/DVD does not bring.

A live CD and/or live USB is very useful as a rescue device if your Windows becomes corrupted at any time.

Here is a link to the Ubuntu wiki which provides details of how to install Ubuntu to a live USB drive with persistence. (https://wiki.ubuntu.com/LiveUsbPendrivePersistent)

3. Puppy Linux

Puppy Linux is a fully fledged Linux distribution. It is about 130mb to download and can be installed straight to a USB drive.

The difference between Puppy Linux and a live USB drive with persistence is that Puppy Linux is a fully fledged operating system.

With a live CD or live USB you will get a better experience when you fully install the operating system to your hard drive. Puppy Linux is optimised to run from the USB drive.

Any applications you install are saved to your hard drive under a single file with an SFS extension.

Puppy will not affect your Windows in any way whatsoever so you do not have to worry about the SFS file damaging Windows. The SFS file is just another file in much the same way a PDF, DOC or XLS file is.

4. WUBI

Ubuntu Linux provides what is known as a WUBI install.

The WUBI install works like any other installer within Windows. You enter a few parameters such as the username and password you will use when running Ubuntu and the installer will do the rest.

You specify how much disk space is given over to Ubuntu and it creates an area for use when installing and running Ubuntu.

When you reboot the Ubuntu installer will use the space that you gave permission for and install the Ubuntu operating system in that space. When you install any further applications for Ubuntu they are also installed in the space provided.

If you want to use Windows then when you boot your PC choose Windows. If you want to use Ubuntu choose Ubuntu.

This provides the full Ubuntu operating system without the limitations of the live CDs and persistent USB drives.

Whether you would prefer to use Ubuntu or Puppy Linux is a personal choice that only you can make. Reading my reviews of Puppy Linux and Ubuntu Linux may help though.

5. Side by Side Installation

Not all distributions provide a WUBI install. A large number of Linux distributions provide a way to install the operating system side by side.

Before trying this option I would recommend trying the live CD/DVD first because you will be able to see how well your hardware is supported with the distribution of choice.

The installation process is usually fairly easy and if it is a Ubuntu based distribution you will be given a choice to install the version of Linux you chose alongside Windows.

By choosing this option you will split your hard drive in two with one half used for Windows and the other half for the Linux distribution of choice.

Now you can try Linux out in its entirety and when you realise that you are using it more and more and Windows less and less you can then choose to do a full install and remove the Windows partition completely.

Summary

This article provides a simple list of 5 ways to install Linux without destroying Windows.

In future articles I will be going more in depth with each option to show you how to actually do it.

Thanks for reading.

Posted at 23:37 |  by Gary Newell

11 comments:

Feel free to comment on any of the blog posts. Please try to be constructive.

Offensive messages will be removed as will blatant adverts for misleading products and sites.

Thanks for visiting my blog

Thursday, 20 September 2012

Introduction

I have been running Bodhi Linux on my Acer Aspire One Netbook for most of this year but today I finally decided to upgrade to the latest version.

The screenshots of Bodhi 2.10 that I had seen looked great and the version I had previously been running was just brilliant.

I was well aware that for version 1 of Bodhi I had gone through a fair amount of setting up to get it where I wanted but it was worth the effort because Bodhi is slick. 

Personally I think Bodhi is the perfect operating system for a Netbook. So what about version 2.10? Read on.

Download and Installation

To download Bodhi visit (http://www.bodhilinux.com/) and click on either the 32 bit, 64 bit or ARM link depending on the hardware you are installing on.

I used Unetbootin to create a bootable USB drive and when I rebooted I was given the option to start in Live mode.

Once in Live mode there is an icon on the desktop that enables you to install Bodhi so I clicked that icon and the installer started.

The installer is the same installer that is in Ubuntu, Mint, Zorin and Peppermint. 

Basically choose whether you want to install Bodhi alongside or in place of the current operating systems on the disk and then choose your location, keyboard layouts, timezone and then setup a username and the installer will do the rest.

It takes between 5 and 10 minutes on the Acer Aspire One and once it has finished a message appears asking you whether you want to continue playing in Live mode or restart into the installed operating system.


Boot Time

The boot time for Bodhi is quick at around 30 to 45 seconds. 

The first screen is a log in screen and then when you log in you are given the choice of the theme that you wish to use. Bodhi provides themes for various setups including laptops, netbooks and desktops. I chose the laptops/netbooks option.

The desktop



I chose the default theme which I think is really bright and clean looking. 

Bodhi uses E17 and the netbook theme comes with 2 shelves. 



The top shelf is like your traditional task bar with tasks, virtual windows, the wireless setup icon, audio icon and clock.


The bottom shelf provides icons to load applications.

Further shelves can be added and the existing shelves can be moved to various other locations on the screen.

Internet

Setting up the internet connection was easy. Clicking the wireless icon on the top shelf brought up a menu that included both my home broadband connection and my Three mobile broadband connection.

To connect to the internet all I had to do was click the relevant broadband provider and enter the security key.

Bodhi comes pre-installed with the Midori browser. Midori is a lightweight browser but it works very well. I prefer to use Chromium for all my browsing so I installed it using Synaptic.

Flash/Java

Flash and Java are not installed by default but they are both available via Synaptic.

They are also available from the Bodhi App Centre but I will come to that later.

To test Flash I always go to You Tube and as you can see from the image below I was able to view Portsmouth's FA Cup winning goal against Cardiff City in 2008.


Music

I installed Rhythmbox from Synaptic in order to play music and as with the previous version of Bodhi I had a few problems getting Rhythmbox to play MP3 files.

I decided to try Banshee instead and this gave me the answer as it told me that I needed to install GStreamer plugins. The plugins that GStreamer installed however did not fix the problem within Banshee and it wasn't until I went into Synaptic and installed the GStreamer Bad plugin that I was able to listen to music. I should note that after doing this both Banshee and Rhythmbox worked.

There is one issue however. When exiting either Banshee or Rhythmbox I get  the message shown by the following screenshot.


Installing Applications

One of the really good things about Bodhi is the ability to install groups of applications.


You can see from the image above that there are different sets of applications including audio, development, icons, themes, images, education etc.

There are also links for different categories of application such as internet tools, games, office etc.

When you click on a link it provides you with the option to install or download the application.

I had issues with both the "Install" and "Download" links. Sometimes there were broken links and other times the Install would just open Chromium without doing anything. The download link would download a .bod file but I was unsure how to load that as double clicking did nothing. After a quick search on Google I found the answer to the problem which was to make the .bod file executable. With the executable flag set it is then possible to double click and install the package.

UPDATE: Jeff Hoogland has notified me in the comments below this post that the install link works if you use the default browser that was installed with Bodhi which is Midori. I felt that this information is important enough to move up into the main article.

At this point I found another little quirk which was to do with the file manager.


As you can see from the image above the file manager goes off the edge of the screen on my netbook and there is no way of resizing it to fit the screen (as far as I know).

UPDATE: In the comments below Jeff Hoogland has stated that the file manager issue is to do with E17 dialogs being optimised for screen resolutions at least 768 pixels high. My netbook only has a height of 600 pixels. Again I think this information is important enough to put into the main article.

Run everything


The top shelf has a menu on it which is easy to navigate with an applications sub menu that obviously contains applications, a navigate sub menu which enable you to view navigate the file and folder structure.

Then you come to a menu option which says "Run Everything". Now my instant thought was "Surely not". Surely there is not a menu option that runs every single application installed on the computer. I was right to think that because "Run Everything" doesn't run everything at all.


When you click "Run Everything" a small application appears that lets you search through the applications, windows and settings for the whole operating system. Simply start typing the name of the application you wish to find and it will appear in the window and you can launch it.

To load "Run Everything" you don't just have to choose it from the menu. You can also load it by pressing "Alt" and "Escape".

On a netbook this function is invaluable. The small dock bar at the bottom only has applications that I use regularly on it. The top shelf is usually hidden behind other applications that are open. To open an application that isn't on the bottom dock I have to minimise the open applications until the top shelf appears and then navigate through the menu. However by using "Run Everything" I can just use a simple key press and start typing the name of the application I require. For me this is what stands Bodhi out from other Linux distributions on a netbook.

Using a netbook is all about maximising the screen's real estate and so the less clutter you have the better. Therefore having shelves that hide and an application that can be called upon using a key combination to launch applications is perfect.

Desktop Themes


There are a number of different themes to choose from. I like the default theme that comes with Bodhi but I also like the darker theme shown above.

Unfortunately another little quirk comes into play when choosing a theme. On a number of theme selections I lost half the screen and it wasn't until I turned various plug-ins on and off that I managed to get the whole screen back.

Summary

I am a fan of Bodhi having used it for a reasonably long time now. This version is not without it's quirks and issues that have to be resolved.

Due to the quirks that I have found I'm not sure it is for everyone, especially beginners.

On a netbook Bodhi is fast and responsive and it gives you the full screen to work with. 

Have you used Bodhi Linux? What are your views? Feel free to comment on this post or any of my other posts.

Other Linux Distribution Reviews

Bodhi 2.10 - Quick but quirky

Introduction

I have been running Bodhi Linux on my Acer Aspire One Netbook for most of this year but today I finally decided to upgrade to the latest version.

The screenshots of Bodhi 2.10 that I had seen looked great and the version I had previously been running was just brilliant.

I was well aware that for version 1 of Bodhi I had gone through a fair amount of setting up to get it where I wanted but it was worth the effort because Bodhi is slick. 

Personally I think Bodhi is the perfect operating system for a Netbook. So what about version 2.10? Read on.

Download and Installation

To download Bodhi visit (http://www.bodhilinux.com/) and click on either the 32 bit, 64 bit or ARM link depending on the hardware you are installing on.

I used Unetbootin to create a bootable USB drive and when I rebooted I was given the option to start in Live mode.

Once in Live mode there is an icon on the desktop that enables you to install Bodhi so I clicked that icon and the installer started.

The installer is the same installer that is in Ubuntu, Mint, Zorin and Peppermint. 

Basically choose whether you want to install Bodhi alongside or in place of the current operating systems on the disk and then choose your location, keyboard layouts, timezone and then setup a username and the installer will do the rest.

It takes between 5 and 10 minutes on the Acer Aspire One and once it has finished a message appears asking you whether you want to continue playing in Live mode or restart into the installed operating system.


Boot Time

The boot time for Bodhi is quick at around 30 to 45 seconds. 

The first screen is a log in screen and then when you log in you are given the choice of the theme that you wish to use. Bodhi provides themes for various setups including laptops, netbooks and desktops. I chose the laptops/netbooks option.

The desktop



I chose the default theme which I think is really bright and clean looking. 

Bodhi uses E17 and the netbook theme comes with 2 shelves. 



The top shelf is like your traditional task bar with tasks, virtual windows, the wireless setup icon, audio icon and clock.


The bottom shelf provides icons to load applications.

Further shelves can be added and the existing shelves can be moved to various other locations on the screen.

Internet

Setting up the internet connection was easy. Clicking the wireless icon on the top shelf brought up a menu that included both my home broadband connection and my Three mobile broadband connection.

To connect to the internet all I had to do was click the relevant broadband provider and enter the security key.

Bodhi comes pre-installed with the Midori browser. Midori is a lightweight browser but it works very well. I prefer to use Chromium for all my browsing so I installed it using Synaptic.

Flash/Java

Flash and Java are not installed by default but they are both available via Synaptic.

They are also available from the Bodhi App Centre but I will come to that later.

To test Flash I always go to You Tube and as you can see from the image below I was able to view Portsmouth's FA Cup winning goal against Cardiff City in 2008.


Music

I installed Rhythmbox from Synaptic in order to play music and as with the previous version of Bodhi I had a few problems getting Rhythmbox to play MP3 files.

I decided to try Banshee instead and this gave me the answer as it told me that I needed to install GStreamer plugins. The plugins that GStreamer installed however did not fix the problem within Banshee and it wasn't until I went into Synaptic and installed the GStreamer Bad plugin that I was able to listen to music. I should note that after doing this both Banshee and Rhythmbox worked.

There is one issue however. When exiting either Banshee or Rhythmbox I get  the message shown by the following screenshot.


Installing Applications

One of the really good things about Bodhi is the ability to install groups of applications.


You can see from the image above that there are different sets of applications including audio, development, icons, themes, images, education etc.

There are also links for different categories of application such as internet tools, games, office etc.

When you click on a link it provides you with the option to install or download the application.

I had issues with both the "Install" and "Download" links. Sometimes there were broken links and other times the Install would just open Chromium without doing anything. The download link would download a .bod file but I was unsure how to load that as double clicking did nothing. After a quick search on Google I found the answer to the problem which was to make the .bod file executable. With the executable flag set it is then possible to double click and install the package.

UPDATE: Jeff Hoogland has notified me in the comments below this post that the install link works if you use the default browser that was installed with Bodhi which is Midori. I felt that this information is important enough to move up into the main article.

At this point I found another little quirk which was to do with the file manager.


As you can see from the image above the file manager goes off the edge of the screen on my netbook and there is no way of resizing it to fit the screen (as far as I know).

UPDATE: In the comments below Jeff Hoogland has stated that the file manager issue is to do with E17 dialogs being optimised for screen resolutions at least 768 pixels high. My netbook only has a height of 600 pixels. Again I think this information is important enough to put into the main article.

Run everything


The top shelf has a menu on it which is easy to navigate with an applications sub menu that obviously contains applications, a navigate sub menu which enable you to view navigate the file and folder structure.

Then you come to a menu option which says "Run Everything". Now my instant thought was "Surely not". Surely there is not a menu option that runs every single application installed on the computer. I was right to think that because "Run Everything" doesn't run everything at all.


When you click "Run Everything" a small application appears that lets you search through the applications, windows and settings for the whole operating system. Simply start typing the name of the application you wish to find and it will appear in the window and you can launch it.

To load "Run Everything" you don't just have to choose it from the menu. You can also load it by pressing "Alt" and "Escape".

On a netbook this function is invaluable. The small dock bar at the bottom only has applications that I use regularly on it. The top shelf is usually hidden behind other applications that are open. To open an application that isn't on the bottom dock I have to minimise the open applications until the top shelf appears and then navigate through the menu. However by using "Run Everything" I can just use a simple key press and start typing the name of the application I require. For me this is what stands Bodhi out from other Linux distributions on a netbook.

Using a netbook is all about maximising the screen's real estate and so the less clutter you have the better. Therefore having shelves that hide and an application that can be called upon using a key combination to launch applications is perfect.

Desktop Themes


There are a number of different themes to choose from. I like the default theme that comes with Bodhi but I also like the darker theme shown above.

Unfortunately another little quirk comes into play when choosing a theme. On a number of theme selections I lost half the screen and it wasn't until I turned various plug-ins on and off that I managed to get the whole screen back.

Summary

I am a fan of Bodhi having used it for a reasonably long time now. This version is not without it's quirks and issues that have to be resolved.

Due to the quirks that I have found I'm not sure it is for everyone, especially beginners.

On a netbook Bodhi is fast and responsive and it gives you the full screen to work with. 

Have you used Bodhi Linux? What are your views? Feel free to comment on this post or any of my other posts.

Other Linux Distribution Reviews

Posted at 21:21 |  by Gary Newell

16 comments:

Feel free to comment on any of the blog posts. Please try to be constructive.

Offensive messages will be removed as will blatant adverts for misleading products and sites.

Thanks for visiting my blog

Sunday, 16 September 2012

Introduction

From time to time we all have issues that we just don't know how to solve. As an example my son wanted to use Tekkit with Minecraft and he asked me to install it for him.

It took a while to get Tekkit working on his laptop and each step of the way I used various resources to solve the problems that came my way. 

The problems I experienced included the fact that his laptop needed a different java runtime version installed, then the launcher would not load because despite having java installed the Tekkit launcher could not find it and then when it did load it became stuck at the splash screen because Zonealarm was blocking access to the Tekkit servers and even when Tekkit loaded the connection to Minecraft would not work because Zonealarm blocked access to the Minecraft site as well. 

If you are trying to install Tekkit/Minecraft read this http://www.everydaylinuxuser.com/2012/09/how-to-resolve-tekkit-launcher-freeze.html.

The point of this article is to highlight the best ways to get support for not just Linux problems but all sorts of other PC issues.

1. Google

As a software developer this is the most important resource on Earth. If Google decided to charge for searching I would go bankrupt. (or use DuckDuckGo). Personally I'd rather go bankrupt than try Bing.

Googling is a skill and as much as Google tries to think for you, sometimes you don't get the results you were hoping for.

For me there is one rule about Googling and that is if you don't find the answer to your question then either there isn't an answer or more than likely you are asking the wrong question.

Simply the best way to use Google though is to type the subject area and then the issue you are getting.
As an example I have just installed XFCE within Peppermint Linux. The only issue I have is with the audio settings. If I click the speaker icon I get the following message
"GStreamer was unable to detect any sound devices. Some sound system specific GStreamer packages may be missing. It may also be a permissions problem."
Now when I am searching Google for an answer I will type "XFCE " and then paste in the error message.

Instantly I am given access to a list of results which I know will provide me the answer to my issue.

The 2nd item on the list actually gave me the clue to what I needed to do. All I had to do was run the following command:

sudo apt-get install gstreamer0.10-plugins

Google is first on my list because it really is the first place to look. The only criticism of Google is that there is as much misleading information as there is good information. (for instance one of the links within my search for Tekkit help genuinely suggested that I turn off the firewall software whilst running Tekkit).

2. Linux Support Forums

Google will probably lead you in this direction anyway but you should be aware of the forum that you need to visit for answering queries.

Now there are really some rules you should follow when using the forums. 

  1. Search the forum - It is highly likely that the question you are about to ask has been asked before. Searching the forum is not only polite because it saves the forum administrators constantly redirecting users to the post that answers the question but it means you get the answer to your problem sooner.
  2. Find the right section of the forum to post your question - Posting your question in the wrong section of the forum will delay the response and it will again mean a moderator has to move the question to the correct forum.
  3. Only ask your question in one section of the forum - Asking your question in multiple places within the same forum will just annoy the moderators and it will not get you an answer any quicker.
  4. Be patient - People who post answers on forums are usually doing it for nothing. If you post a question and then refresh your browser 2 minutes later, find no answers and then buzz to see why nobody answered is considered bad form.
Forums are a great resource but unless your question has been asked before it can be some time before your question is answered. If you are looking for a more immediate answer then read on.

3. IRC Chatrooms

If it doesn't come pre-installed on your system install XChat. XChat is an IRC chat client and provides you access to chatrooms for all the major Linux distributions and most of the minor ones as well.

If you are using a more popular version of Linux you are more likely to find a chat room with more members and so you are more likely to get an answer to your issue straight away.

If you are using a smaller, less popular distribution and you find the chat room barely populated then consider the base system on which your distribution is derived and then visit that chat room as it is likely that you will get the answer to your question there.

IRC chat rooms are real time and the likelihood of getting help is very good. Every IRC chat room I have been to for support has been brilliant. There is always one person willing to bend over backwards to help you resolve an issue. As with forums it is good form to be polite and be patient. The contributers to the chat room are probably not being paid to help you.

4. You Tube

You Tube is not just there for watching parodies of Internet Explorer adverts (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r8dtlEeLaBM) or Hitler hating Microsoft (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q59_h_dJdnU).

You Tube has thousands of videos on nearly every subject that demonstrates how to solve issues. As a software developer I have used this to learn new techniques. You Tube provides the best free training you can get.

Imagine you wanted to install Compiz within Peppermint Linux. Just watch this video (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LkXRdv7BNDo).

You Tube is great for watching how to resolve a problem visually. 

5. Yahoo Answers

I would generally recommend visiting the forums first and the chat rooms on IRC first because you are more likely to find a dedicated Linux person to answer your Linux queries using these methods.

If you are really stuck and the previous 4 options have been exhausted give Yahoo Answers a try.

Post your question and wait for the replies to appear. 

The thing I have found is that the answers are a mix of flippant remarks  (For example "I have an issue with Ubuntu that...." would be answered with "Use Windows" or "Use Slackware". Not helpful), misleading answers (One guy recently asked a programming question and all 4 answers provided up to that point were simply wrong) or correct answers.

As it is so hit and miss this is my least favourite place to find an answer to a question but I do answer questions on the site.

Summary

Linux is very well supported and help is easily accessible. Feel free to add comments with other methods for getting support for Linux.

Forums








The 5 best sources of support for Linux

Introduction

From time to time we all have issues that we just don't know how to solve. As an example my son wanted to use Tekkit with Minecraft and he asked me to install it for him.

It took a while to get Tekkit working on his laptop and each step of the way I used various resources to solve the problems that came my way. 

The problems I experienced included the fact that his laptop needed a different java runtime version installed, then the launcher would not load because despite having java installed the Tekkit launcher could not find it and then when it did load it became stuck at the splash screen because Zonealarm was blocking access to the Tekkit servers and even when Tekkit loaded the connection to Minecraft would not work because Zonealarm blocked access to the Minecraft site as well. 

If you are trying to install Tekkit/Minecraft read this http://www.everydaylinuxuser.com/2012/09/how-to-resolve-tekkit-launcher-freeze.html.

The point of this article is to highlight the best ways to get support for not just Linux problems but all sorts of other PC issues.

1. Google

As a software developer this is the most important resource on Earth. If Google decided to charge for searching I would go bankrupt. (or use DuckDuckGo). Personally I'd rather go bankrupt than try Bing.

Googling is a skill and as much as Google tries to think for you, sometimes you don't get the results you were hoping for.

For me there is one rule about Googling and that is if you don't find the answer to your question then either there isn't an answer or more than likely you are asking the wrong question.

Simply the best way to use Google though is to type the subject area and then the issue you are getting.
As an example I have just installed XFCE within Peppermint Linux. The only issue I have is with the audio settings. If I click the speaker icon I get the following message
"GStreamer was unable to detect any sound devices. Some sound system specific GStreamer packages may be missing. It may also be a permissions problem."
Now when I am searching Google for an answer I will type "XFCE " and then paste in the error message.

Instantly I am given access to a list of results which I know will provide me the answer to my issue.

The 2nd item on the list actually gave me the clue to what I needed to do. All I had to do was run the following command:

sudo apt-get install gstreamer0.10-plugins

Google is first on my list because it really is the first place to look. The only criticism of Google is that there is as much misleading information as there is good information. (for instance one of the links within my search for Tekkit help genuinely suggested that I turn off the firewall software whilst running Tekkit).

2. Linux Support Forums

Google will probably lead you in this direction anyway but you should be aware of the forum that you need to visit for answering queries.

Now there are really some rules you should follow when using the forums. 

  1. Search the forum - It is highly likely that the question you are about to ask has been asked before. Searching the forum is not only polite because it saves the forum administrators constantly redirecting users to the post that answers the question but it means you get the answer to your problem sooner.
  2. Find the right section of the forum to post your question - Posting your question in the wrong section of the forum will delay the response and it will again mean a moderator has to move the question to the correct forum.
  3. Only ask your question in one section of the forum - Asking your question in multiple places within the same forum will just annoy the moderators and it will not get you an answer any quicker.
  4. Be patient - People who post answers on forums are usually doing it for nothing. If you post a question and then refresh your browser 2 minutes later, find no answers and then buzz to see why nobody answered is considered bad form.
Forums are a great resource but unless your question has been asked before it can be some time before your question is answered. If you are looking for a more immediate answer then read on.

3. IRC Chatrooms

If it doesn't come pre-installed on your system install XChat. XChat is an IRC chat client and provides you access to chatrooms for all the major Linux distributions and most of the minor ones as well.

If you are using a more popular version of Linux you are more likely to find a chat room with more members and so you are more likely to get an answer to your issue straight away.

If you are using a smaller, less popular distribution and you find the chat room barely populated then consider the base system on which your distribution is derived and then visit that chat room as it is likely that you will get the answer to your question there.

IRC chat rooms are real time and the likelihood of getting help is very good. Every IRC chat room I have been to for support has been brilliant. There is always one person willing to bend over backwards to help you resolve an issue. As with forums it is good form to be polite and be patient. The contributers to the chat room are probably not being paid to help you.

4. You Tube

You Tube is not just there for watching parodies of Internet Explorer adverts (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r8dtlEeLaBM) or Hitler hating Microsoft (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q59_h_dJdnU).

You Tube has thousands of videos on nearly every subject that demonstrates how to solve issues. As a software developer I have used this to learn new techniques. You Tube provides the best free training you can get.

Imagine you wanted to install Compiz within Peppermint Linux. Just watch this video (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LkXRdv7BNDo).

You Tube is great for watching how to resolve a problem visually. 

5. Yahoo Answers

I would generally recommend visiting the forums first and the chat rooms on IRC first because you are more likely to find a dedicated Linux person to answer your Linux queries using these methods.

If you are really stuck and the previous 4 options have been exhausted give Yahoo Answers a try.

Post your question and wait for the replies to appear. 

The thing I have found is that the answers are a mix of flippant remarks  (For example "I have an issue with Ubuntu that...." would be answered with "Use Windows" or "Use Slackware". Not helpful), misleading answers (One guy recently asked a programming question and all 4 answers provided up to that point were simply wrong) or correct answers.

As it is so hit and miss this is my least favourite place to find an answer to a question but I do answer questions on the site.

Summary

Linux is very well supported and help is easily accessible. Feel free to add comments with other methods for getting support for Linux.

Forums








Posted at 01:29 |  by Gary Newell

8 comments:

Feel free to comment on any of the blog posts. Please try to be constructive.

Offensive messages will be removed as will blatant adverts for misleading products and sites.

Thanks for visiting my blog

I have recently helped my son install Tekkit to work with Minecraft and along the way I encountered issues with both the Java version and with the launcher itself.

The symptoms of the launcher failing include the Tekkit Launcher freezing at the splash screen and after getting past this issue failing to log in to Minecraft.

Here is how I resolved the problem:
  1. Install Java from the Oracle site (http://www.oracle.com/technetwork/java/javase/downloads/jre-6u26-download-400751.html)
  2. Select the runtime for your system. 
  3. Download the Tekkit launcher (http://www.technicpack.net/tekkit/). On the right hand side of the web page there are two download links. Click the link that says "Download the Technic Launcher".
  4. Running the launcher might come up with a "Cannot find java error". To run the launcher click start and type %appdata% (from windows, not tried in Linux).
  5. From within the roaming folder find the tekkit launcher folder and right click Tekkit Launcher and choose open with Java.
  6. If you get the splash screen and nothing else (because you have Zonealarm as your firewall), open Zonealarm and click on the icon for computer settings. Now click the link to view blocked requests.
  7. In the blocked requests click clear.
  8. Now run the launcher again and then click refresh in zonealarm. A new line should have appeared.
  9. Click the link and click to add to the trusted zone. 
  10. Now run the Tekkit Launcher again and this time you should see the application load.
  11. When you try to connect to Minecraft it might fail. If it does it is because Zonealarm is blocking another ip address. Go the list of blocked requests and refresh the list. Add the latest one to the trusted sites.
  12. Run the launcher again and log in to Minecraft and it should now work.

How to resolve Tekkit launcher freeze issue

I have recently helped my son install Tekkit to work with Minecraft and along the way I encountered issues with both the Java version and with the launcher itself.

The symptoms of the launcher failing include the Tekkit Launcher freezing at the splash screen and after getting past this issue failing to log in to Minecraft.

Here is how I resolved the problem:
  1. Install Java from the Oracle site (http://www.oracle.com/technetwork/java/javase/downloads/jre-6u26-download-400751.html)
  2. Select the runtime for your system. 
  3. Download the Tekkit launcher (http://www.technicpack.net/tekkit/). On the right hand side of the web page there are two download links. Click the link that says "Download the Technic Launcher".
  4. Running the launcher might come up with a "Cannot find java error". To run the launcher click start and type %appdata% (from windows, not tried in Linux).
  5. From within the roaming folder find the tekkit launcher folder and right click Tekkit Launcher and choose open with Java.
  6. If you get the splash screen and nothing else (because you have Zonealarm as your firewall), open Zonealarm and click on the icon for computer settings. Now click the link to view blocked requests.
  7. In the blocked requests click clear.
  8. Now run the launcher again and then click refresh in zonealarm. A new line should have appeared.
  9. Click the link and click to add to the trusted zone. 
  10. Now run the Tekkit Launcher again and this time you should see the application load.
  11. When you try to connect to Minecraft it might fail. If it does it is because Zonealarm is blocking another ip address. Go the list of blocked requests and refresh the list. Add the latest one to the trusted sites.
  12. Run the launcher again and log in to Minecraft and it should now work.

Posted at 00:19 |  by Gary Newell

3 comments:

Feel free to comment on any of the blog posts. Please try to be constructive.

Offensive messages will be removed as will blatant adverts for misleading products and sites.

Thanks for visiting my blog

Monday, 10 September 2012

Introduction

Before I start I would like to point out that this is not another review of Peppermint Linux 3 because I have already reviewed Peppermint Linux 3 (http://www.everydaylinuxuser.com/2012/08/peppermint-linux-3-mint-with-no-holes.html).

Peppermint Linux 3 has introduced the concept of the "Site Specific Browser" (SSB). This enables you to run web applications as if they are normal desktop applications. To turn a web application into a desktop application simply run the ICE program and enter the web address and the name of the web application and choose a suitable icon and application menu to hang the application from.

This article looks at whether it is possible to run your whole computing life from "The Cloud". I have taken steps to find suitable web applications to replace the desktop applications that the average computer user might use on a daily basis.

I'm not going to pretend to be an expert on each of the applications because in a lot of cases I have just had a cursory look and there may be other web applications that are better than the applications I have selected. The point of the article is just to see whether there is a suitable web application to replace a desktop application.

You might think that this article has very little to do with Linux as the SSB is just a web browser running a web application and you may well be right but read on anyway because if nothing else you might find a great web site you didn't know existed.

Most people reading this article will already be aware of Google Mail, Google Docs and Google Calendar and therefore I would recommend skipping to Section 4.

Section 1 - Email

Peppermint 3 already comes with a site specific browser version of GMAIL which is of course Google's own free to use email service.

Now there are literally hundreds of free email providers out there so finding a replacement for Outlook and Thunderbird was easy.

The main issue with the online email providers is that you can't easily see when new messages are sent through. Google provide the GMAIL notifier but this is breaking the rules slightly because you have to download it.

Section 2 - Office Software

As with email, Peppermint 3 already comes with a site specific browser version of GWOffice which is the Google Office suite.

GWOffice gives you the ability to create presentations, documents and spreadsheets all with a fairly decent level of complexity.

Section 3 - Calendar

Peppermint 3 has a site specific browser version of Google Calendar which enables you to create appointments using contacts from GMail and with the ability to set reminders and to repeat as often as you require.

So if you want to set up a regular coffee morning meeting with your friends then this works just fine.

Section 4 - Games

If there is one thing the web isn't short of it is games. Whilst the games will rarely excite the more hardened gamer there are plenties of good games for the casual gamer and for people wishing to waste a bit of time.

I have picked three of my favourite online games to demonstrate Peppermint 3's implementation of them within site specific browsers.

Funky Pool 


This site gives the best online pool action anywhere with variations of 9 ball pool, 8 ball pool and killer pool.

You can play in competitions or play ranked games against other online players to try and become the ultimate funky pool player.




There are very active chatrooms available.

The game play is very good and each table type plays differently with the pockets smaller on the 8 ball tables.

The site specific browser works perfectly fine within Peppermint 3. 

The site is ad supported which means it is free to use otherwise. The adverts are fairly unobtrusive.

Stick Cricket


Now cricket isn't everyone's cup of tea but this is a really fun game. There are various formats that you can play with different competitions.

You play the batsman and you have to make the target set by the opposition in the number of balls specified. There are just 4 strokes possible using the arrow keys on the keyboard. Fairly basic but surprisingly addictive.


The site is ad supported and apart from the initial start up screen which takes a while to disappear the adverts are fairly unobtrusive.

Stick Football


Hot on the heels of stick cricket is stick football. This is a bit like a cross between Dino's goal and Sensible Soccer.

You can choose to play in loads of different tournament types from the English Premier League to Major League Soccer.




Use the arrow keys to move your players and press the shift to pass and ctrl to shoot. Pressing the left and right button after shooting swerves the ball.

As with Stick Cricket the site is ad supported with a fairly annoying advert which you have to wait for a minute to play before you can play the game but it is actually worth it.

Section 5 - Music

Peppermint 3 already comes pre-installed with Guayadeque which is a desktop application.

If you want a cloud based music option then there are a number of choices available but my favourite is Grooveshark.


Grooveshark is an online service which enables you to listen to music online.

There are paid options but you can also listen for free as long as you are willing to put up with the adverts.

There is a huge catalogue of songs to choose from.

If you sign up for an account you can create playlists which can be saved and played at any point in the future.

If you cannot find the song you like then you can upload it yourself if you have it on a CD. This would of course rely on a CD Ripper program and possibly an MP3 converter.

Section 6 - CD Ripper

FAIL 

Somebody is going to have to help me out with this category. There is nothing easy to find online that will enable you to take the music from your CD and upload it straight to the web. 

This is fairly unsurprising and I would be wary of the credentials of any site that let you do this as the owner of such an application could find themselves in a Kim Dotcom predicament.

Section 7 - MP3 Converter

Whilst finding an online CD Ripping tool was unproductive, finding an MP3 converter was actually quite easy.


The online-convert site enables you to convert music to various different formats.

Simply upload the music file to convert or provide a URL to the file to convert.

Then choose a file type to convert to and a bit rate and the file will be converted and made available for download.


This site provides other converters including video converters, eBook converters, image converters, archive converters and document converters.

The site is mainly ad supported but you can also subscribe to a premium service. 

I've not really used this site in any anger but the few files I tried to convert all worked correctly. If you use Grooveshark you probably won't need to upload any files because every song title I searched for already existed in the archive.

Section 8 - TV/Radio

I am from the UK so this section is largely geared towards the British readers but I am sure there are online TV players and Radio stations that can be found for people from other countries.


Now if you are in the UK you have to pay about £13 a month to watch TV and that money is used to pay for the BBC.

Some people are complaining about this fee as they think it is extortionate.

For the £13 you get 4 tv stations that are completely advert free (BBC1, 2, 3 and 4). You also get the children's channels (CBeebies and CBBC).
On top of that you get 7 radio stations and a host of local radio stations also completely advert free.

Best of all though you get the BBC website with the BBC iPlayer which lets you watch live television as well as a selection of other programs that have been on during the week.

The BBC has been responsible for some of the best television programs there has ever been. £13 well spent.

This leads us on rather sadly to.... http://www.itv.com/itvplayer/

ITV is completely ad supported. You get 4 ITV stations as well as a +1 station which plays the same programs just one hour later.

There are very few programs on ITV that are worth watching and for you poor souls in America it is the station responsible for the X Factor.

There are very few programs on ITV that I would watch, Harry Hill and Benidorm would be about it.

They do seem to show at least one of the Die Hard films at least once a week.

If you want to get a complete idea of television in the UK then there is http://www.channel4.com/programmes/4odhttp://www.channel5.com/demand5 and http://go.sky.com/vod/page/default/home.do.

Channel 4 is another ad supported set of TV stations and unlike ITV they produce some real gems. The Inbetweeners, IT Crowd, Father Ted and Misfits to name just a few.

Channel 5 is a poor man's version of Channel 4. If you see a breaking news flash on Channel 5 you immediately switch to the BBC or Sky News to make sure it is real (and to get better coverage). There is one real nugget though and that is the brilliant Gadget Show. Channel 5 is completely ad supported.

Finally there is Sky TV. Provided by satellite this is both subscription based and ad supported. Sky TV has it's flagship Sky 1 channel which has a mixed bag. There are a few decent programs and a few naff ones. They tend to get the best US programs and pay top whack for them. 24 was screened on Sky as was Lost (stolen from Channel 4). Sky also has the rights to the live football, formula 1 and best sporting action as well as a monopoly on films. The internet is beginning to break their stranglehold of sport and movies but the Sky Player is a great tool for any Sky subscriber allowing you to watch sky from anywhere. (Why do people bother paying for Sky multiroom anymore?).


All the BBC radio stations are available through the iPlayer. 

Generally I like to listen to sport radio as well and so the talksport online radio player is perfect.

The radio station is completely ad supported as is the player which of course you can minimise and still listen to.

If you want to search for a decent online radio station then an honourable shout out has to go to http://www.live365.com. Using this site you can search for the radio station of your choice from multiple countries and multiple music styles and talk radio.

Section 9 - Social Media / Chat


All the social media sites were born for the web anyway so if you enjoy using Facebook and Twitter then you can simply visit their homepages.

The Site Specific Browser in Peppermint 3 handles them all perfectly well so it gives the impression that you are running a desktop application.


If you use Windows Messenger then you can use a live version of the site within a site specific browser to make it look like the installed version.

Section 10 - Image Editing


Peppermint 3 comes with Pixlr already set up as a site specific browser.

Whilst no replacement for Photoshop or GIMP, Pixlr enables you to create and enhance images.

Pixlr provides a decent set of filters and all the things you would expect from an image editor such as the ability to crop, change brightness and contrast and resize images.

Pixlr also provides layers in a similar way to GIMP.

I am not very artistic and so many of the features of GIMP pass me by.

For an easy to use image editor Pixlr really works very well. 




As an alternate to Pixlr there is Fotoflexer.

Fotoflexer has a simpler looking interface. Choose your photo and a number of tabs appear at the top of the screen.

The controls available are very similar to the ones available in Pixlr.



As with Pixlr there is the ability to add layers to make it easier to edit the image.

My favourite function was the morph which can make some very amusing photos.

If you are looking for a simple image converter then visit http://image.online-convert.com.



Section 11 - Programming

https://c9.io/

I have to admit to thinking that the IDE provided with Visual Studio is the best one there is.

I have tried Eclipse and Net Beans and Mono but nothing has the features that Visual Studio provides.

I was expecting not to like the online IDEs but I have to admit to being impressed with what I found.

Cloud 9 provides a way to create web projects online and edit the code direct within your browser window.

You can share the project so that there are multiple collaborators. You are able to step through and debug the code and preview the output of the project.

With Cloud 9 I found it to be a bit clunky and it took quite a while to get going to a point where I was comfortable with it.

It is still no replacement for Visual Studio but does provide an option if you decided to live your computing life totally in the cloud.

If you just want to try code out visit http://www.ideone.com. I have found this useful when answering the odd programming question on Yahoo answers where I haven't been on a machine with a compiler available.

www.coderun.com

My favourite online IDE is the Coderun IDE.

It is by far the easiest and most intuitive to use and it provides a wide array of project types including ASP.NET, C#, VB and PHP.

There is a very good debugger.




Section 13 - Creating Music


Now I am not much of a musician but I had great fun with this site.

You basically choose instruments and then lay out the music in a tab style.

Then you can play back your creations. 

You need to create an account to save your tunes though.

Summary

The term "The cloud" is just marketing speak. It simply stands for anything that has any sort of interactive nature online.

If you store files on the web, use an online email account, manage your banking online or edit photos online you are already utilising "The cloud".

I don't think that we are at the point yet where we need to give up on the desktop and desktop applications.

I do think that web applications are getting better and better and sooner or later we will not need to download applications as we will be able to use them straight from the authors sites either on an ad supported or subscription basis.

Now obviously this sort of future provides issues. If Megaupload has taught us anything then it is the dangers of storing files within "The Cloud". If the company you store files with turns out to be a criminal enterprise or goes bust then you stand to lose all your data. 

I like Peppermint Linux 3 and I like the fact I can turn any web site into a mini desktop application even  though if you remove the smoke and mirrors it is the clever use of flags within the Chromium browser.

Thanks for reading.




Peppermint 3 - A cloudy future?

Introduction

Before I start I would like to point out that this is not another review of Peppermint Linux 3 because I have already reviewed Peppermint Linux 3 (http://www.everydaylinuxuser.com/2012/08/peppermint-linux-3-mint-with-no-holes.html).

Peppermint Linux 3 has introduced the concept of the "Site Specific Browser" (SSB). This enables you to run web applications as if they are normal desktop applications. To turn a web application into a desktop application simply run the ICE program and enter the web address and the name of the web application and choose a suitable icon and application menu to hang the application from.

This article looks at whether it is possible to run your whole computing life from "The Cloud". I have taken steps to find suitable web applications to replace the desktop applications that the average computer user might use on a daily basis.

I'm not going to pretend to be an expert on each of the applications because in a lot of cases I have just had a cursory look and there may be other web applications that are better than the applications I have selected. The point of the article is just to see whether there is a suitable web application to replace a desktop application.

You might think that this article has very little to do with Linux as the SSB is just a web browser running a web application and you may well be right but read on anyway because if nothing else you might find a great web site you didn't know existed.

Most people reading this article will already be aware of Google Mail, Google Docs and Google Calendar and therefore I would recommend skipping to Section 4.

Section 1 - Email

Peppermint 3 already comes with a site specific browser version of GMAIL which is of course Google's own free to use email service.

Now there are literally hundreds of free email providers out there so finding a replacement for Outlook and Thunderbird was easy.

The main issue with the online email providers is that you can't easily see when new messages are sent through. Google provide the GMAIL notifier but this is breaking the rules slightly because you have to download it.

Section 2 - Office Software

As with email, Peppermint 3 already comes with a site specific browser version of GWOffice which is the Google Office suite.

GWOffice gives you the ability to create presentations, documents and spreadsheets all with a fairly decent level of complexity.

Section 3 - Calendar

Peppermint 3 has a site specific browser version of Google Calendar which enables you to create appointments using contacts from GMail and with the ability to set reminders and to repeat as often as you require.

So if you want to set up a regular coffee morning meeting with your friends then this works just fine.

Section 4 - Games

If there is one thing the web isn't short of it is games. Whilst the games will rarely excite the more hardened gamer there are plenties of good games for the casual gamer and for people wishing to waste a bit of time.

I have picked three of my favourite online games to demonstrate Peppermint 3's implementation of them within site specific browsers.

Funky Pool 


This site gives the best online pool action anywhere with variations of 9 ball pool, 8 ball pool and killer pool.

You can play in competitions or play ranked games against other online players to try and become the ultimate funky pool player.




There are very active chatrooms available.

The game play is very good and each table type plays differently with the pockets smaller on the 8 ball tables.

The site specific browser works perfectly fine within Peppermint 3. 

The site is ad supported which means it is free to use otherwise. The adverts are fairly unobtrusive.

Stick Cricket


Now cricket isn't everyone's cup of tea but this is a really fun game. There are various formats that you can play with different competitions.

You play the batsman and you have to make the target set by the opposition in the number of balls specified. There are just 4 strokes possible using the arrow keys on the keyboard. Fairly basic but surprisingly addictive.


The site is ad supported and apart from the initial start up screen which takes a while to disappear the adverts are fairly unobtrusive.

Stick Football


Hot on the heels of stick cricket is stick football. This is a bit like a cross between Dino's goal and Sensible Soccer.

You can choose to play in loads of different tournament types from the English Premier League to Major League Soccer.




Use the arrow keys to move your players and press the shift to pass and ctrl to shoot. Pressing the left and right button after shooting swerves the ball.

As with Stick Cricket the site is ad supported with a fairly annoying advert which you have to wait for a minute to play before you can play the game but it is actually worth it.

Section 5 - Music

Peppermint 3 already comes pre-installed with Guayadeque which is a desktop application.

If you want a cloud based music option then there are a number of choices available but my favourite is Grooveshark.


Grooveshark is an online service which enables you to listen to music online.

There are paid options but you can also listen for free as long as you are willing to put up with the adverts.

There is a huge catalogue of songs to choose from.

If you sign up for an account you can create playlists which can be saved and played at any point in the future.

If you cannot find the song you like then you can upload it yourself if you have it on a CD. This would of course rely on a CD Ripper program and possibly an MP3 converter.

Section 6 - CD Ripper

FAIL 

Somebody is going to have to help me out with this category. There is nothing easy to find online that will enable you to take the music from your CD and upload it straight to the web. 

This is fairly unsurprising and I would be wary of the credentials of any site that let you do this as the owner of such an application could find themselves in a Kim Dotcom predicament.

Section 7 - MP3 Converter

Whilst finding an online CD Ripping tool was unproductive, finding an MP3 converter was actually quite easy.


The online-convert site enables you to convert music to various different formats.

Simply upload the music file to convert or provide a URL to the file to convert.

Then choose a file type to convert to and a bit rate and the file will be converted and made available for download.


This site provides other converters including video converters, eBook converters, image converters, archive converters and document converters.

The site is mainly ad supported but you can also subscribe to a premium service. 

I've not really used this site in any anger but the few files I tried to convert all worked correctly. If you use Grooveshark you probably won't need to upload any files because every song title I searched for already existed in the archive.

Section 8 - TV/Radio

I am from the UK so this section is largely geared towards the British readers but I am sure there are online TV players and Radio stations that can be found for people from other countries.


Now if you are in the UK you have to pay about £13 a month to watch TV and that money is used to pay for the BBC.

Some people are complaining about this fee as they think it is extortionate.

For the £13 you get 4 tv stations that are completely advert free (BBC1, 2, 3 and 4). You also get the children's channels (CBeebies and CBBC).
On top of that you get 7 radio stations and a host of local radio stations also completely advert free.

Best of all though you get the BBC website with the BBC iPlayer which lets you watch live television as well as a selection of other programs that have been on during the week.

The BBC has been responsible for some of the best television programs there has ever been. £13 well spent.

This leads us on rather sadly to.... http://www.itv.com/itvplayer/

ITV is completely ad supported. You get 4 ITV stations as well as a +1 station which plays the same programs just one hour later.

There are very few programs on ITV that are worth watching and for you poor souls in America it is the station responsible for the X Factor.

There are very few programs on ITV that I would watch, Harry Hill and Benidorm would be about it.

They do seem to show at least one of the Die Hard films at least once a week.

If you want to get a complete idea of television in the UK then there is http://www.channel4.com/programmes/4odhttp://www.channel5.com/demand5 and http://go.sky.com/vod/page/default/home.do.

Channel 4 is another ad supported set of TV stations and unlike ITV they produce some real gems. The Inbetweeners, IT Crowd, Father Ted and Misfits to name just a few.

Channel 5 is a poor man's version of Channel 4. If you see a breaking news flash on Channel 5 you immediately switch to the BBC or Sky News to make sure it is real (and to get better coverage). There is one real nugget though and that is the brilliant Gadget Show. Channel 5 is completely ad supported.

Finally there is Sky TV. Provided by satellite this is both subscription based and ad supported. Sky TV has it's flagship Sky 1 channel which has a mixed bag. There are a few decent programs and a few naff ones. They tend to get the best US programs and pay top whack for them. 24 was screened on Sky as was Lost (stolen from Channel 4). Sky also has the rights to the live football, formula 1 and best sporting action as well as a monopoly on films. The internet is beginning to break their stranglehold of sport and movies but the Sky Player is a great tool for any Sky subscriber allowing you to watch sky from anywhere. (Why do people bother paying for Sky multiroom anymore?).


All the BBC radio stations are available through the iPlayer. 

Generally I like to listen to sport radio as well and so the talksport online radio player is perfect.

The radio station is completely ad supported as is the player which of course you can minimise and still listen to.

If you want to search for a decent online radio station then an honourable shout out has to go to http://www.live365.com. Using this site you can search for the radio station of your choice from multiple countries and multiple music styles and talk radio.

Section 9 - Social Media / Chat


All the social media sites were born for the web anyway so if you enjoy using Facebook and Twitter then you can simply visit their homepages.

The Site Specific Browser in Peppermint 3 handles them all perfectly well so it gives the impression that you are running a desktop application.


If you use Windows Messenger then you can use a live version of the site within a site specific browser to make it look like the installed version.

Section 10 - Image Editing


Peppermint 3 comes with Pixlr already set up as a site specific browser.

Whilst no replacement for Photoshop or GIMP, Pixlr enables you to create and enhance images.

Pixlr provides a decent set of filters and all the things you would expect from an image editor such as the ability to crop, change brightness and contrast and resize images.

Pixlr also provides layers in a similar way to GIMP.

I am not very artistic and so many of the features of GIMP pass me by.

For an easy to use image editor Pixlr really works very well. 




As an alternate to Pixlr there is Fotoflexer.

Fotoflexer has a simpler looking interface. Choose your photo and a number of tabs appear at the top of the screen.

The controls available are very similar to the ones available in Pixlr.



As with Pixlr there is the ability to add layers to make it easier to edit the image.

My favourite function was the morph which can make some very amusing photos.

If you are looking for a simple image converter then visit http://image.online-convert.com.



Section 11 - Programming

https://c9.io/

I have to admit to thinking that the IDE provided with Visual Studio is the best one there is.

I have tried Eclipse and Net Beans and Mono but nothing has the features that Visual Studio provides.

I was expecting not to like the online IDEs but I have to admit to being impressed with what I found.

Cloud 9 provides a way to create web projects online and edit the code direct within your browser window.

You can share the project so that there are multiple collaborators. You are able to step through and debug the code and preview the output of the project.

With Cloud 9 I found it to be a bit clunky and it took quite a while to get going to a point where I was comfortable with it.

It is still no replacement for Visual Studio but does provide an option if you decided to live your computing life totally in the cloud.

If you just want to try code out visit http://www.ideone.com. I have found this useful when answering the odd programming question on Yahoo answers where I haven't been on a machine with a compiler available.

www.coderun.com

My favourite online IDE is the Coderun IDE.

It is by far the easiest and most intuitive to use and it provides a wide array of project types including ASP.NET, C#, VB and PHP.

There is a very good debugger.




Section 13 - Creating Music


Now I am not much of a musician but I had great fun with this site.

You basically choose instruments and then lay out the music in a tab style.

Then you can play back your creations. 

You need to create an account to save your tunes though.

Summary

The term "The cloud" is just marketing speak. It simply stands for anything that has any sort of interactive nature online.

If you store files on the web, use an online email account, manage your banking online or edit photos online you are already utilising "The cloud".

I don't think that we are at the point yet where we need to give up on the desktop and desktop applications.

I do think that web applications are getting better and better and sooner or later we will not need to download applications as we will be able to use them straight from the authors sites either on an ad supported or subscription basis.

Now obviously this sort of future provides issues. If Megaupload has taught us anything then it is the dangers of storing files within "The Cloud". If the company you store files with turns out to be a criminal enterprise or goes bust then you stand to lose all your data. 

I like Peppermint Linux 3 and I like the fact I can turn any web site into a mini desktop application even  though if you remove the smoke and mirrors it is the clever use of flags within the Chromium browser.

Thanks for reading.




Posted at 23:27 |  by Gary Newell

1 comments:

Feel free to comment on any of the blog posts. Please try to be constructive.

Offensive messages will be removed as will blatant adverts for misleading products and sites.

Thanks for visiting my blog

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Introduction

Last night my son was trying to install something called Tekkit which has something to do with Minecraft.
I am not really savvy when it comes to Minecraft and I had no idea what Tekkit was. My son asked whether he could download and run the Tekkit Launcher and if so could I help him install it.
The first thing I noticed when visiting the site is that there is a download button on the right hand side for both a launcher and a server. What is lacking however is any real information about what Tekkit is, how to install it and how it works.
This got me thinking about the average computer user. How easy is it for someone to become familiar with Linux? Is there enough information to get started?
This article is therefore written for people that have heard the term Linux and wants to know a bit more but doesn’t know where to begin.

1. What is Linux?

Lots of people have chosen to make the move from Windows to Linux but how many other people have given up long before even understanding what Linux is.
You may have seen the term Linux used in the media or on television. You may also have seen Linux highlighted in big bold letters on the magazine shelves. What you may not know is what Linux is or you may have a skewed view believing it to be the plaything of geeks and nerds.
Reading Wikipedia may not help you. The first paragraph alone would be enough to make a lot of people’s brains explode.

Linux ( i/ˈlɪnəks/ LIN-əks[5][6] or /ˈlɪnʊks/ LIN-uuks)[7][8][9] is a Unix-like computer operating system assembled under the model of free and open source software development and distribution. The defining component of Linux is the Linux kernel, an operating system kernel first released 5 October 1991 by Linus Torvalds.[10][11]

I will therefore try and define Linux as simply as I can.
On your computer at the moment you will probably have the Windows operating system. There have been a number of versions of Windows over the years starting at version 1 and going all the way up to Windows 7 (with 8 on its way).
Windows as you may know is an operating system. What is means to you though is that using a series of menus, icons, windows and applications you can do things like browse the internet, watch videos, play games and create documents. Lurking within Windows is something called the Windows Kernel or the Windows NT Kernel. I dare you to search for the Windows NT Kernel on Wikipedia.

The architecture of Windows NT, a line of operating systems produced and sold by Microsoft, is a layered design that consists of two main components, user mode and kernel mode. It is a preemptive, reentrant operating system, which has been designed to work with uniprocessor and symmetrical multi processor (SMP)-based computers. To process input/output (I/O) requests, they use packet-driven I/O, which utilizes I/O request packets (IRPs) and asynchronous I/O. Starting with Windows 2000, Microsoft began making 64-bit versions of Windows available—before this, these operating systems only existed in 32-bit versions.

Without going to deeply into what the Kernel is it is basically the engine for your operating system. From the Windows NT Kernel multiple versions of Windows are formed including the home, professional, ultimate editions. All of these are different versions of the same operating system running off the same Kernel.
There is a common misconception that Linux is an operating system. Linux is the engine that spawns a whole host of different operating systems known as distributions.

2. What is a distribution (distro)?

When browsing the computing magazine section at your local news agent or supermarket you may have seen the Linux magazines. On the front of the magazines there are often free disks attached to the front.
In big bold writing on the front of the magazine it will say “Ubuntu 12.04 reviewed” or “What’s new in Linux Mint 13?”.
Linux Format magazine is currently giving away 2 disks with 15 distributions on it. People new to the Linux world may not have a clue what a distribution even is.
The distribution is the actual operating system. So you could look at it like this. There are various Windows distributions including Windows Home Starter, Windows Home Premium, Windows Professional and Windows Server. Each distribution of Windows has a different target audience.
Linux is the same. There are multiple distributions each aimed at a different target audience. The difference between Linux and Windows is that there are hundreds if not thousands of choices of Linux distributions.
The other big difference between Windows and Linux is that the majority of Linux distributions are free.

3. How do I know which distribution is right for me?

There is no easy answer to know which Linux distribution is right for you. It basically comes down to personal preference.
The best way to find out is to dive right in and try a few of them out. The great thing is that a lot of distributions provide live CDs which makes it possible to insert the CD into you CD drive and restart your computer and it will boot straight into the Linux distribution. You do not have to worry about messing up your Windows installation. Simply try out all the functions the Live CD has to offer and if you like it you can then install it. If you don’t like it take the CD out and restart your PC and boot back into Windows.
Now blindly downloading distributions is a bit of a scattergun approach to finding out whether Linux is right for you. If you are completely new to Linux then you probably would not want to face the daunting task of installing Slackware.
Fortunately help is at hand. Visit www.distrowatch.org. This site is an invaluable resource.
First of all there is a list down the right hand side showing the top 100 distributions. There is also a fantastic search facility. You can use the search tool to search on the distribution type. For example if you are new to Linux you might want your first foray into the world of Linux to be with the easier to use distributions. The plus side of these distributions is that most things work straight away and the menus are easy to navigate.
If you have an older computer then it makes sense to run a distribution that is kind to resources. In this instance searching on “older computers” provides a list of distributions that run well on older computers.
If you are heavily into gaming there are distributions for gamers. If you want a distribution for educating your children you can search on education.
Even after running a search you may still find that there is a list of about 20 distributions to choose from so how do you then know which one to try first. Each distribution listing on distrowatch has a description which states the major goals of the projects. You can also see screenshots and read reviews.
Each Linux distribution will come with different desktop environments and choice of installed software. Ultimately as you become more accustomed to using Linux you will know which desktop environment suits you best and which applications you prefer to use.
For people wishing to use Linux for the first time I personally would recommend Ubuntu, Linux Mint or Zorin OS.

4. What is a desktop environment?


In graphical computing, a desktop environment (DE) commonly refers to a particular implementation of graphical user interface (GUI) derived from the desktop metaphor that is seen on most modern personal computers.[1] These GUIs help the user in easily accessing, configuring, and modifying many important and frequently accessed specific operating system (OS) features. The GUI usually does not afford access to all the many features found in an OS. Instead, the traditional command-line interface (CLI) is still used when full control over the OS is required in such cases.

Wow! That paragraph was taken straight from Wikipedia.
Think of the desktop environment as the series of menus, taskbars, windows and keyboard shortcuts that you use to start and run applications.
If you look at Windows 7 the desktop environment consists of a taskbar at the bottom. The taskbar is split between the Start icon, quick launch icons, opens applications (tasks) and the system tray which includes the clock. When you click the start button a menu appears and you can search for programs or you can use the menus to navigate for the programs you wish to run.
In addition to the menus and taskbars there is the desktop itself which has icons, a background, context menus that can be pulled up by pressing the right mouse button and of course you can add widgets to display things like the weather.
The one thing you will quickly learn about Linux is that there are lots of choices for everything and there is an abundant choice of desktop environments. The main desktop environments in use are Unity, Cinnamon, Mate, Gnome, KDE, XFCE and LXDE. If I started a debate as to which is the best one then I would have pages upon pages of comments declaring allegiances to one or another. At the end of the day it is down to choice. Really the only way to decide is to try a few out and best way to try a few out is to try different distributions that implement different desktop environments.

5. Where can I get Linux distributions?

First of all you can get most distributions for free. Visit distrowatch.org and search for the distribution you are interested in and click the download link.
Some distributions make it more complicated than others when choosing what to download. For example visiting the Linux Mint site you will see a table showing all the possible downloads and what they consist of. This is fairly simple. Ubuntu is even easier because there is only one desktop choice (Unity) and so you simply get the choice to download a 32 bit version or a 64 bit version.
Other distributions make it a little bit more complicated. PCLinuxOS for instance has a load of text with some small links at the bottom of the page. They should put the links at the top and the text underneath. They are not the worst though. For some distributions you will get to a folder with 20 or 30 links showing different versions some with source code, some with documentation and it will say x86, x64, i386 etc and it just isn’t clear which version it is you should download.
Of course if you have read this entire article thus far you will also realise that you can buy Linux magazines which often have a variety of different distributions on the cover disk to the magazine. Along with the cover disk there will be a review of the distribution in the magazine so you can make an informed decision as to which one is best for you.
Now whilst Linux is free you might not want the hassle of downloading the ISO image to burn to CD/DVD and you might not want to spend £5.99 on a magazine just for one disk that you may or may not like.
In this instance you can visit a site like http://buylinuxcds.co.uk where you can choose the version of Linux you would like to try and it will be sent to you on a CD or DVD for just a small fee.

6. How do I install Linux but keep Windows?

Most people when they first look at using Linux aren’t ready to give up Windows.
Firstly I would recommend trying out the live CD first.
Some Linux distributions can run from inside Windows or as well as Windows without affecting the Windows install at all.
Ubuntu has the Wubi installer which runs Ubuntu from inside Windows. Now you can try all the features of Ubuntu and use it in its entirety without worrying about losing your Windows data.
Puppy Linux on the other hand runs from a CD or USB drive and the save file is stored as a file on your Windows drive. It is basically a file like any other file and so again does not affect your Windows operating system.
Other distributions whilst not running from within Windows enable you to install the Linux distribution alongside Windows so that when you boot your PC you can choose whether to use Windows or whether to use the Linux distribution. All the major Linux distributions make this part of the installation process. It really is a case of checking boxes.
If you have ever installed Windows by yourself then in the majority of cases you will be able to install Linux. Most distributions have a graphical installer which provide a series of questions to answer such as where you are located, which users you want to create and which applications to install.

7. Can I still run my Windows applications?

There are two answers to this question. The simple answer is yes you can. The real answer though asks another question why?
If you want to run Windows software there are multiple ways to do it. One way is to install a program called WINE. This software enables you to install Windows applications within the Linux operating system and run them straight from within Linux. Now this software is very good and works incredibly well but there are some Windows programs that just won’t run properly using WINE. The other option is to install VirtualBox. This enables you to install a copy of Windows within a virtual machine whereby you can install the Windows applications you wish to use.
As mentioned previously Linux gives you choice and an incredible amount of it. To this end there are thousands upon thousands of applications that can be installed and in the majority of cases you will find an application that does exactly the same as the Windows application you currently use.
As an example of this if you want to read your emails in an Outlook style application there is an email client called Thunderbird. (http://www.mozilla.org/en-GB/thunderbird/). If you are not sure it meets your needs then there is a Windows version that you can try first.
For office tasks such as word processing, spreadsheets and presentations there is LibreOffice. Again you can download a Windows version of this software from www.libreoffice.org/download
For watching videos there is VLC player (again there is a Windows version). For music Rhythmbox or Banshee can be used. They are both similar to Windows Media Player.

8. Is my hardware supported by Linux?

Yet another common misconception in Windows land and by the media is that Linux doesn’t support hardware very well.
Whilst this used to be true support for hardware has come on leaps and bounds over the past 5 years and I haven’t got one device that doesn’t work fully under Linux.
For instance I have a Sony Walkman and Rhythmbox and Banshee both pick up the Walkman as a device and make it easy to synchronise my laptop with the Walkman.
My printer and scanner both work very well and I have a blaze ultimate portable game console which I can connect with Linux to copy games to and from the device. You can even use an XBOX controller as a joypad for playing games.
The best thing to do is to try the live version of a distribution out first and test all your hardware.

9. How do I get support for Linux?

This is a very important topic. Everyone knows a guy that can help them when their Windows goes wrong. Not many people would know a Linux guy that can help if Linux doesn’t work.
Again there are two main points to make here. When Windows goes wrong it usually goes spectacularly wrong.
The most common reasons for Windows to go wrong are:
  • Viruses/Malware
  • Forgotten Windows passwords on a single user machine
  • Corrupt registry
  • Cannot connect to the internet
Yes I get asked questions about other things that happen on Windows but 99% of the people that ask me for help are for these four things.
Linux nearly never goes wrong for me. Most of the time I need Linux support for things that I want to try out but just don’t know how to.
Help is not far away. The major distributions have forums that you can go to for help. Most of the people are friendly and will do their utmost to help. If the forums don’t work then there are the ICQ chat rooms. Now the Ubuntu guys bend over backwards to help people. I sat with a window open to the ICQ chat room and watched as a Ubuntu expert dedicated 3 hours of his life sorting out a troublesome router problem for a new user.
If you cannot get help in the forums then there is of course Google. My view of Google is that if you cannot find the answer to a problem then you probably just haven’t used the right search term yet.
The best site for help however has to be Youtube. Often seen as a place for watching jackass type videos or kids playing pranks this is the one platform that has helped me the most in the past few years. People dedicate a large amount of time recording video tutorials showing you how to achieve what it is you want to achieve. It was Youtube that helped me solve my son’s Tekkit problem. Currently Youtube is the most educational tool on the internet.

10. Why would I want to use Linux instead of Windows?

You know the answer to this question might be that you wouldn’t You might be perfectly happy working away in Windows land and if that is how you choose to use your computer then that is fine.
You might consider leaving Windows for the following reasons however:
  • You need a new computer and you don’t like the look and feel of Windows 8
  • You are using Windows 7 but keep getting viruses
  • Your machine is running very slowly running Windows
  • You are fed up with constant updates for not just Windows but Antivirus software, firewalls, java, adobe products etc
  • Your machine is getting older and can’t upgrade from XP to Vista/7 or 8.

It may be that when you buy your next PC it comes with Windows 8. (This will depend upon when you read this article, at the moment it hasn’t been released). You might not like Windows 8 at all. If you have an XBOX or a Windows phone then the interface will probably be familiar to you but it is a personal preference as to whether you like it or not. You might consider at this point trying Linux to see if it works better for you.
If you keep getting viruses then I would consider a number of things. Firstly update your anti-virus software and firewall. Secondly be more cautious when downloading files from the internet and also be careful about which websites you visit. Moving to Linux will give you a level of protection against getting viruses and you will feel more secure. However, of course this does not mean you should throw caution to the wind. There has been the odd isolated incident within Linux regarding viruses.
If your machine is running slowly or it is getting older then you might not be able to upgrade to a later version of Windows. Staying on the current version of Windows is an option but support will be faded out and there is every chance that security holes will be found and not plugged. Moving to a version of Linux that is designed for older computers will give you peace of mind that you are running on an operating system designed for you. It will be actively supported by the developers. You will not be considered a second class citizen running on an old version of an operating system but as a key user for a currently supported and developed operating system.
Finally you might move to Linux because you gave it a go and because like many before realised that Linux is brilliant and not just for geeks after all.

10 things the “Average Joe” won’t know about Linux

Introduction

Last night my son was trying to install something called Tekkit which has something to do with Minecraft.
I am not really savvy when it comes to Minecraft and I had no idea what Tekkit was. My son asked whether he could download and run the Tekkit Launcher and if so could I help him install it.
The first thing I noticed when visiting the site is that there is a download button on the right hand side for both a launcher and a server. What is lacking however is any real information about what Tekkit is, how to install it and how it works.
This got me thinking about the average computer user. How easy is it for someone to become familiar with Linux? Is there enough information to get started?
This article is therefore written for people that have heard the term Linux and wants to know a bit more but doesn’t know where to begin.

1. What is Linux?

Lots of people have chosen to make the move from Windows to Linux but how many other people have given up long before even understanding what Linux is.
You may have seen the term Linux used in the media or on television. You may also have seen Linux highlighted in big bold letters on the magazine shelves. What you may not know is what Linux is or you may have a skewed view believing it to be the plaything of geeks and nerds.
Reading Wikipedia may not help you. The first paragraph alone would be enough to make a lot of people’s brains explode.

Linux ( i/ˈlɪnəks/ LIN-əks[5][6] or /ˈlɪnʊks/ LIN-uuks)[7][8][9] is a Unix-like computer operating system assembled under the model of free and open source software development and distribution. The defining component of Linux is the Linux kernel, an operating system kernel first released 5 October 1991 by Linus Torvalds.[10][11]

I will therefore try and define Linux as simply as I can.
On your computer at the moment you will probably have the Windows operating system. There have been a number of versions of Windows over the years starting at version 1 and going all the way up to Windows 7 (with 8 on its way).
Windows as you may know is an operating system. What is means to you though is that using a series of menus, icons, windows and applications you can do things like browse the internet, watch videos, play games and create documents. Lurking within Windows is something called the Windows Kernel or the Windows NT Kernel. I dare you to search for the Windows NT Kernel on Wikipedia.

The architecture of Windows NT, a line of operating systems produced and sold by Microsoft, is a layered design that consists of two main components, user mode and kernel mode. It is a preemptive, reentrant operating system, which has been designed to work with uniprocessor and symmetrical multi processor (SMP)-based computers. To process input/output (I/O) requests, they use packet-driven I/O, which utilizes I/O request packets (IRPs) and asynchronous I/O. Starting with Windows 2000, Microsoft began making 64-bit versions of Windows available—before this, these operating systems only existed in 32-bit versions.

Without going to deeply into what the Kernel is it is basically the engine for your operating system. From the Windows NT Kernel multiple versions of Windows are formed including the home, professional, ultimate editions. All of these are different versions of the same operating system running off the same Kernel.
There is a common misconception that Linux is an operating system. Linux is the engine that spawns a whole host of different operating systems known as distributions.

2. What is a distribution (distro)?

When browsing the computing magazine section at your local news agent or supermarket you may have seen the Linux magazines. On the front of the magazines there are often free disks attached to the front.
In big bold writing on the front of the magazine it will say “Ubuntu 12.04 reviewed” or “What’s new in Linux Mint 13?”.
Linux Format magazine is currently giving away 2 disks with 15 distributions on it. People new to the Linux world may not have a clue what a distribution even is.
The distribution is the actual operating system. So you could look at it like this. There are various Windows distributions including Windows Home Starter, Windows Home Premium, Windows Professional and Windows Server. Each distribution of Windows has a different target audience.
Linux is the same. There are multiple distributions each aimed at a different target audience. The difference between Linux and Windows is that there are hundreds if not thousands of choices of Linux distributions.
The other big difference between Windows and Linux is that the majority of Linux distributions are free.

3. How do I know which distribution is right for me?

There is no easy answer to know which Linux distribution is right for you. It basically comes down to personal preference.
The best way to find out is to dive right in and try a few of them out. The great thing is that a lot of distributions provide live CDs which makes it possible to insert the CD into you CD drive and restart your computer and it will boot straight into the Linux distribution. You do not have to worry about messing up your Windows installation. Simply try out all the functions the Live CD has to offer and if you like it you can then install it. If you don’t like it take the CD out and restart your PC and boot back into Windows.
Now blindly downloading distributions is a bit of a scattergun approach to finding out whether Linux is right for you. If you are completely new to Linux then you probably would not want to face the daunting task of installing Slackware.
Fortunately help is at hand. Visit www.distrowatch.org. This site is an invaluable resource.
First of all there is a list down the right hand side showing the top 100 distributions. There is also a fantastic search facility. You can use the search tool to search on the distribution type. For example if you are new to Linux you might want your first foray into the world of Linux to be with the easier to use distributions. The plus side of these distributions is that most things work straight away and the menus are easy to navigate.
If you have an older computer then it makes sense to run a distribution that is kind to resources. In this instance searching on “older computers” provides a list of distributions that run well on older computers.
If you are heavily into gaming there are distributions for gamers. If you want a distribution for educating your children you can search on education.
Even after running a search you may still find that there is a list of about 20 distributions to choose from so how do you then know which one to try first. Each distribution listing on distrowatch has a description which states the major goals of the projects. You can also see screenshots and read reviews.
Each Linux distribution will come with different desktop environments and choice of installed software. Ultimately as you become more accustomed to using Linux you will know which desktop environment suits you best and which applications you prefer to use.
For people wishing to use Linux for the first time I personally would recommend Ubuntu, Linux Mint or Zorin OS.

4. What is a desktop environment?


In graphical computing, a desktop environment (DE) commonly refers to a particular implementation of graphical user interface (GUI) derived from the desktop metaphor that is seen on most modern personal computers.[1] These GUIs help the user in easily accessing, configuring, and modifying many important and frequently accessed specific operating system (OS) features. The GUI usually does not afford access to all the many features found in an OS. Instead, the traditional command-line interface (CLI) is still used when full control over the OS is required in such cases.

Wow! That paragraph was taken straight from Wikipedia.
Think of the desktop environment as the series of menus, taskbars, windows and keyboard shortcuts that you use to start and run applications.
If you look at Windows 7 the desktop environment consists of a taskbar at the bottom. The taskbar is split between the Start icon, quick launch icons, opens applications (tasks) and the system tray which includes the clock. When you click the start button a menu appears and you can search for programs or you can use the menus to navigate for the programs you wish to run.
In addition to the menus and taskbars there is the desktop itself which has icons, a background, context menus that can be pulled up by pressing the right mouse button and of course you can add widgets to display things like the weather.
The one thing you will quickly learn about Linux is that there are lots of choices for everything and there is an abundant choice of desktop environments. The main desktop environments in use are Unity, Cinnamon, Mate, Gnome, KDE, XFCE and LXDE. If I started a debate as to which is the best one then I would have pages upon pages of comments declaring allegiances to one or another. At the end of the day it is down to choice. Really the only way to decide is to try a few out and best way to try a few out is to try different distributions that implement different desktop environments.

5. Where can I get Linux distributions?

First of all you can get most distributions for free. Visit distrowatch.org and search for the distribution you are interested in and click the download link.
Some distributions make it more complicated than others when choosing what to download. For example visiting the Linux Mint site you will see a table showing all the possible downloads and what they consist of. This is fairly simple. Ubuntu is even easier because there is only one desktop choice (Unity) and so you simply get the choice to download a 32 bit version or a 64 bit version.
Other distributions make it a little bit more complicated. PCLinuxOS for instance has a load of text with some small links at the bottom of the page. They should put the links at the top and the text underneath. They are not the worst though. For some distributions you will get to a folder with 20 or 30 links showing different versions some with source code, some with documentation and it will say x86, x64, i386 etc and it just isn’t clear which version it is you should download.
Of course if you have read this entire article thus far you will also realise that you can buy Linux magazines which often have a variety of different distributions on the cover disk to the magazine. Along with the cover disk there will be a review of the distribution in the magazine so you can make an informed decision as to which one is best for you.
Now whilst Linux is free you might not want the hassle of downloading the ISO image to burn to CD/DVD and you might not want to spend £5.99 on a magazine just for one disk that you may or may not like.
In this instance you can visit a site like http://buylinuxcds.co.uk where you can choose the version of Linux you would like to try and it will be sent to you on a CD or DVD for just a small fee.

6. How do I install Linux but keep Windows?

Most people when they first look at using Linux aren’t ready to give up Windows.
Firstly I would recommend trying out the live CD first.
Some Linux distributions can run from inside Windows or as well as Windows without affecting the Windows install at all.
Ubuntu has the Wubi installer which runs Ubuntu from inside Windows. Now you can try all the features of Ubuntu and use it in its entirety without worrying about losing your Windows data.
Puppy Linux on the other hand runs from a CD or USB drive and the save file is stored as a file on your Windows drive. It is basically a file like any other file and so again does not affect your Windows operating system.
Other distributions whilst not running from within Windows enable you to install the Linux distribution alongside Windows so that when you boot your PC you can choose whether to use Windows or whether to use the Linux distribution. All the major Linux distributions make this part of the installation process. It really is a case of checking boxes.
If you have ever installed Windows by yourself then in the majority of cases you will be able to install Linux. Most distributions have a graphical installer which provide a series of questions to answer such as where you are located, which users you want to create and which applications to install.

7. Can I still run my Windows applications?

There are two answers to this question. The simple answer is yes you can. The real answer though asks another question why?
If you want to run Windows software there are multiple ways to do it. One way is to install a program called WINE. This software enables you to install Windows applications within the Linux operating system and run them straight from within Linux. Now this software is very good and works incredibly well but there are some Windows programs that just won’t run properly using WINE. The other option is to install VirtualBox. This enables you to install a copy of Windows within a virtual machine whereby you can install the Windows applications you wish to use.
As mentioned previously Linux gives you choice and an incredible amount of it. To this end there are thousands upon thousands of applications that can be installed and in the majority of cases you will find an application that does exactly the same as the Windows application you currently use.
As an example of this if you want to read your emails in an Outlook style application there is an email client called Thunderbird. (http://www.mozilla.org/en-GB/thunderbird/). If you are not sure it meets your needs then there is a Windows version that you can try first.
For office tasks such as word processing, spreadsheets and presentations there is LibreOffice. Again you can download a Windows version of this software from www.libreoffice.org/download
For watching videos there is VLC player (again there is a Windows version). For music Rhythmbox or Banshee can be used. They are both similar to Windows Media Player.

8. Is my hardware supported by Linux?

Yet another common misconception in Windows land and by the media is that Linux doesn’t support hardware very well.
Whilst this used to be true support for hardware has come on leaps and bounds over the past 5 years and I haven’t got one device that doesn’t work fully under Linux.
For instance I have a Sony Walkman and Rhythmbox and Banshee both pick up the Walkman as a device and make it easy to synchronise my laptop with the Walkman.
My printer and scanner both work very well and I have a blaze ultimate portable game console which I can connect with Linux to copy games to and from the device. You can even use an XBOX controller as a joypad for playing games.
The best thing to do is to try the live version of a distribution out first and test all your hardware.

9. How do I get support for Linux?

This is a very important topic. Everyone knows a guy that can help them when their Windows goes wrong. Not many people would know a Linux guy that can help if Linux doesn’t work.
Again there are two main points to make here. When Windows goes wrong it usually goes spectacularly wrong.
The most common reasons for Windows to go wrong are:
  • Viruses/Malware
  • Forgotten Windows passwords on a single user machine
  • Corrupt registry
  • Cannot connect to the internet
Yes I get asked questions about other things that happen on Windows but 99% of the people that ask me for help are for these four things.
Linux nearly never goes wrong for me. Most of the time I need Linux support for things that I want to try out but just don’t know how to.
Help is not far away. The major distributions have forums that you can go to for help. Most of the people are friendly and will do their utmost to help. If the forums don’t work then there are the ICQ chat rooms. Now the Ubuntu guys bend over backwards to help people. I sat with a window open to the ICQ chat room and watched as a Ubuntu expert dedicated 3 hours of his life sorting out a troublesome router problem for a new user.
If you cannot get help in the forums then there is of course Google. My view of Google is that if you cannot find the answer to a problem then you probably just haven’t used the right search term yet.
The best site for help however has to be Youtube. Often seen as a place for watching jackass type videos or kids playing pranks this is the one platform that has helped me the most in the past few years. People dedicate a large amount of time recording video tutorials showing you how to achieve what it is you want to achieve. It was Youtube that helped me solve my son’s Tekkit problem. Currently Youtube is the most educational tool on the internet.

10. Why would I want to use Linux instead of Windows?

You know the answer to this question might be that you wouldn’t You might be perfectly happy working away in Windows land and if that is how you choose to use your computer then that is fine.
You might consider leaving Windows for the following reasons however:
  • You need a new computer and you don’t like the look and feel of Windows 8
  • You are using Windows 7 but keep getting viruses
  • Your machine is running very slowly running Windows
  • You are fed up with constant updates for not just Windows but Antivirus software, firewalls, java, adobe products etc
  • Your machine is getting older and can’t upgrade from XP to Vista/7 or 8.

It may be that when you buy your next PC it comes with Windows 8. (This will depend upon when you read this article, at the moment it hasn’t been released). You might not like Windows 8 at all. If you have an XBOX or a Windows phone then the interface will probably be familiar to you but it is a personal preference as to whether you like it or not. You might consider at this point trying Linux to see if it works better for you.
If you keep getting viruses then I would consider a number of things. Firstly update your anti-virus software and firewall. Secondly be more cautious when downloading files from the internet and also be careful about which websites you visit. Moving to Linux will give you a level of protection against getting viruses and you will feel more secure. However, of course this does not mean you should throw caution to the wind. There has been the odd isolated incident within Linux regarding viruses.
If your machine is running slowly or it is getting older then you might not be able to upgrade to a later version of Windows. Staying on the current version of Windows is an option but support will be faded out and there is every chance that security holes will be found and not plugged. Moving to a version of Linux that is designed for older computers will give you peace of mind that you are running on an operating system designed for you. It will be actively supported by the developers. You will not be considered a second class citizen running on an old version of an operating system but as a key user for a currently supported and developed operating system.
Finally you might move to Linux because you gave it a go and because like many before realised that Linux is brilliant and not just for geeks after all.

Posted at 13:06 |  by Gary Newell

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