CHOICE membership

Linux: how to get started

Here’s an easy guide on getting started with Linux.

Do we have any Linux users in the Community? If so, we’d love to hear why you choose this OS.

3 Likes

There are some risks associated with Linux that have not been specifically addressed in the guide.

  1. Drivers. This is semi-mentioned, but applies to everything you plug into your computer. It needs a driver, and Windows has most of them while Linux is wanting in some areas.
  2. Security. While Linux is considered more secure, it won’t be if you are logged in as Root. Additionally, you need to be aware of potential supply chain attacks on any software you install. This is where a malicious actor gets into the supply chain and inserts malicious code into a software update, is is more likely when using less high profile/popular software (such as many of the applications that are written for Linux).

I must admit that for the last twenty years or so I have been planning to try Linux, but just never get around to it and have no compelling reason.

7 Likes

For anyone wanting to play without playing.

4 Likes

I’m a long time Linux user by preference/in personal use, but Windows user by those I have to support.

Sadly drivers can still be a gremlin in much of the Linux world even today - particularly in the realm of printer/scanners.

Supply chain attacks are as likely in 3rd party Windows or other applications, and as unlikely in Windows or other OS updates.

Out of the box nowadays Windows does cover you better for antivirus (I suppose it could be argued that you need more such protection using Windows than Linux).

5 Likes

I would suggest that given the popularity of Windows, unless you are using reasonably specific applications the supplier generally has a decent handle on its supply chain.

That said, even some large companies that should know better have been victims of supply chain attacks.

Generally, the more specialised/less popular your software, the less likely the supplier is to have strict supply chain controls in place and the more likely it is that something nasty could be injected. As Windows is the dominant OS, it is targeted more in malware, phishing and similar attacks but most suppliers of popular Windows software are big enough to have control over their supply chains.

5 Likes

Since ~'92, before v1.0. Over the years have run it on half a dozen or so CPU architectures, including Intel/AMD, but these days that and Rapberry Pi (ARM) and my phone/tablet are the only platforms I bother with …

I was supporting various flavours of ‘UNIX’ for a living so running the same at home was ‘fun’. It was line ball for me with 386BSD from Jolitz, but Alan Cox added some specific protocol support to the Linux kernel (which meant I could ditch a couple ‘dos’ systems I had running flakey TSR’s, QEMM and Desqview etc) and it was game over for 386BSD (and subsequently any xxxBSD for that purpose) …

5 Likes

Good point - Android is based upon Linux.

5 Likes

And I believe Apple’s MacOS is or at least started, based on BSD, which is in many ways more similar to Linux than Windows.

5 Likes

I tried to turn an old working PC into a Linux media box…but gave up as I couldn’t find necessary drivers to run all the old hardware. I also found it at the time not as polished or user friendly as Windows which I was very familiar .

I ended up reinstalling Windows 98 and giving the box away as it was too slow doing what I wanted it to do.

5 Likes

Very early on, MacOS version 10 (X) was based on parts of BSD fed through the mincer at NeXT, founded by Jobs when he left Apple, allowing him to recycle himself back into Apple then they bought NeXT and create arguably the first useable UNIX-like OS running on Apple hardware - version 10 - every release of MacOS since has been 10.something. Their previous (and I’d contend, disastrous) attempt at UNIX was A/UX in the 80’s, which was nothing short of a horror story.

The previous 9 versions of MacOS had their beginnings in Lisa OS, which in turn had its beginnings in the Apple 3 SOS. None of these were remotely UNIX …

Doesn’t seem that long ago … (ahem) but we probably digress somewhat.

You could say it is similar in the sense that it is classed as ‘UNIX-like’, same as Linux.

7 Likes

If you are using Linux, you need to be focused on drivers when buying peripherals such as printers and scanners. That is the sole reason why I continue to use Windows. 99% of the time.

5 Likes

The comments on drivers are still relevant. I still have issues with WiFi devices built into laptops or add on cards in the beige box.

I used to rely on Linux distros, most recently Ubuntu. Installed as the only OS, or dual booted after initial trials booting from a USB. The decisions were partly cost saving, given the extortionist cost of software in the 90’s and 00’s. In comparison today the software costs are less significant, unless it is high end CAD, graphics editing, project management etc.

I also went down the path of using FreeNas with RAID to repurpose an older PC after my previous commercially sourced NAS failed. Today the commercial products are many and offer significant built in features at very reasonable cost.

The greater issue with Linux has been compatibility with commercial productivity software, specifically MS office. For basic home use not a problem, although genealogy, video editing of HD content, and shared docs was/is best served by windows products.

For all the good things Linux versions and different desktops offered it was a more intense setup experience than most would accept. I reverted to relying on cabled ethernet or a local WAP for coms.

Once a year I try new or the latest Linux distros. I was impressed by the early desktops with initially 4 easily switchable desktops, and the responsiveness pre main stream solid state drives.

For the future it is readily apparent an everyday tablet device can now fulfil 90+%. More if you come to rely on cloud based services.

6 Likes

Yes

More secure, more freedom, more trustworthy, I like to tinker.

Everything that other commenters have said about hardware is right. Once you commit to Linux, your first question before buying any hardware is “does it work with Linux?” and you have to do your research on the internet before buying.

(Also, technically “work” is not a black and white answer. Sometimes it will mostly work but some more advanced function might not work.)

That said, I have a mass of hardware and I currently only have one thing that did not work out-of-the-box despite my preliminary reading on the internet (and I have not spent the time trying to make it work).

Obviously, almost noone runs Windows on the Raspberry Pi. So if you have Pi, or two, you probably have already started on your Linux journey. :slight_smile:

I don’t think that’s “real” Linux. If you want to try Linux before “buying” then some flavours of Linux provide a bootable version that you can use without installing. That way, you can assess what worked and what didn’t work, and decide whether that’s a problem - before going to the trouble of installing.

This can be a mixed bag.

Linux tends to be more supportive of old hardware (no commercial incentive to force you to upgrade to the latest and greatest) and perform better on old hardware than certain other operating systems (less bloated, particularly given the choice of more lightweight flavours for older hardware).

Really old stuff - like 32-bit computers - you might have to pick your distro carefully.

Linux may not do so well on really new stuff because manufacturers don’t provide the software support for Linux and it takes a while for some keen Linux user to reverse engineer what needs to happen.

And probably run Linux under the hood anyway. :wink:

5 Likes

An added complication in Australia is that the original supplier may itself be the source of the supply chain attack, via Australia’s “backdoor legislation” - supply chain self-harm, if you like.

If you use something from Microsoft or Apple or Google etc., they may have been forced to add a backdoor, and to keep that fact a secret from you, and you will of course have no practical way of verifying whether that is the case. However you can draw your own conclusions about whether Australia would have bothered to pass such legislation and then not use it.

5 Likes

In what way is it not ‘real’ Linux? What defines whether Linux is ‘real’ or ‘not real’?

There was some fear a few years ago that Linux would be unable to run on new Intel hardware that had advanced security onboard, but I gather that has been overcome?

I suspect that those are three companies you can probably trust to keep your secrets from the Australian government. Given the way they are fighting every inch of the way against similar potential encroachments from the US government, why would they break their own security for a country of 26 million? It would be easier and better PR to just walk away - leaving those 26 million to get rid of a government that was so idiotic as to cut the country off from technology.

3 Likes

Any Linux users here?

Absolutely, for the past decade and a half at least on my own computer.

Why?

Golly, where to start? Security primarily I think. For starters, we’ve had Linux (mainly Ubuntu) on all computers in our household for the past decade at least and have never had to have an antivirus program installed on any of them. Over the same period I’ve helped numerous friends/neighbours/colleagues to recover from virus/trojan attacks on their Windows systems, often despite having antivirus programs installed.

Also, each new version of Windoze seems to “protect” the user more and more from the nuts and bolts, making it harder to diagnose problems. I agree that you should research your hardware before you buy it to ensure it is compatible with your chosen Linux variant. And if you already have the hardware, just install Linux on a USB stick, reboot your computer and try everything out. Try doing that with Windoze.

I’d never go back!

3 Likes

That is contrary to capitalism where every dollar in a pocket is a good dollar. They cater to China, obviously a potentially ‘yuge’ market but also one where local talent has created alternatives so it is ‘play’ and play, or walk. Companies have learned from experience if they are found to be doing ‘bad things’ in Australia it will be a week of their local net or likely less, sometimes an apology, and their promise not to do it again until next time they do it again.

2 Likes

using Mint with cinnamon. But also using Windows 7 and 10, IOS 10, iPhone and iPad OS 12 and 13 and some Android too (no wonder my head hurts sometimes). I have been using Linux for about 20 years. I don’t have any problems with drivers and then realized I only purchase stuff that is Linux compatible. My reason for using this mix of OS is that I teach/lecture computer systems and need to keep up to date with what is happening.

2 Likes

Linux isn’t immune to malicious codes such as viruses, malware etc and you are possibly lucky nothing unfortunate has happened to you. This website provides a good summary of the risks…

There are also a range of antivirus/malware programs available for use on Linux…

3 Likes

The original WSL is no more real Linux than WINE (a program that runs under Linux in order to allow you to run that one unfortunately unavoidable Windows program) is real Windows.

WSL2 is closer to real Linux but as Windows is a blackbox, you have no way of knowing exactly what it is. You also have to ask exactly how much financial incentive Microsoft has in promoting Linux.

WSL2 may well be a legitimate way to “get started in Linux” but there is no need for it. Most computers will at least boot Linux in their own right, rather than running it inside a Microsoftian virtual environment.

More or less.

The concern remains - and it still makes it harder to “get started in Linux” because the first thing you have to do in order to get started in Linux on such a computer is to turn that stupid stuff off in BIOS - and for many people that by itself is a sufficient barrier that they never get started.

The concern remains also because all it would take is for some company to start using a BIOS where you can’t turn that stupid stuff off and then you won’t be able to run Linux at all. (There is a range of consumer hardware, not necessarily mainstream general purpose computers though, that really does work like this. Totally locked in. The government should make this illegal.)

I always find it funny that people say that Linux is difficult to install … when a) they probably couldn’t install Windows either and b) they didn’t have to. But for sure this is one thing that makes Linux more difficult to install than Windows.

A good question. The problem remains: you have no practical way of verifying whether that is the case.

Any computer that is attached to a network is not immune to viruses.

You don’t even have to be attached to any network. Just ask the Iranians. :wink:

I can only add to the practical real world experience … 8 years full time Linux, no anti-virus software, no malware (unless they were so good that I didn’t notice :wink: )

Of course there are and have been software defects in Linux or associated software and some of those are being and have been used for exploits, whether unauthenticated remote attacker or authenticated local attacker.

I think the theoretical difference in security level between Windows and Linux has narrowed over the years, and both of them are more secure than they respectively used to be.

The practical difference is still stark. Malicious parties who are e.g. motivated by money, don’t bother to target Linux because the payoff is not there.

3 Likes