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Christopher Carr

Christopher Carr does stuff and writes about stuff.

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31 Responses

  1. Avatar greginak says:

    I’ve used different linux variants for years. It works great for most things. Installation is pretty easy even on a W8 computer. All my comps run faster with linux installed. I even have 12 year old comp that runs on coal that i can use for streaming video and irc chat. Is it speedy:no, but it stopped being usable with W a few years ago.

    For the internet and streaming music ( I’ve used spotify, pandora and couple of smaller streaming sites, Jazz.com and Soma without issue) it is more about the browser then the OS. L is just as good or better than W. Pix and video is fine in L. There are plenty of pic viewers. If you want a pic/vid management program there are several. Standardized tests:??? hmm hard to say. Some programs require a windows computer. I can’t really say. For example i need to boot over into W for uploading data on my GPS watch and downloading audiobooks, neither of which i can do in linux. Not a big deal.

    Yeah firefox is a PITA sometimes. Recently they have done something to slow it down. HOwver if you choose a good L distro you likely wont’ have the same kind of problems. There are many L distro’s some of which are proudly experiential/cutting edge or require you to be pretty geeky and want to fiddle wiht it. There are plenty of others that aim to just work well for everybody. A good general Linux distro does need anymore computer knowledge then windows unless you want to do some odd stuff, fiddle with it or need a lot of extra applications. There is also a thriving linux community where you can get help easily. When I’ve had a problem I’ve almost always been able to solve it with a few minutes of googling, which is often how most IT people deal with things.

    I’d recommend Linux Mint. It’s very solid and well maintained. It had the standard very helpful community and forums. It’s been around for years. It is the most commonly recommend distro for new users nowadays i think. I use it on all my computers.Report

    • Avatar Road Scholar says:


      Hmm… I was gonna caution Christopher that Linux can be dicey on new hardware, particularly laptops. It takes some time for the open source community to hack the hardware and write the drivers, and even then you often end up with somewhat reduced functionality. The motherboard, core chipset, and drives were usually fine. The real problems tended to be with the video and audio. I also found wireless to be a real PITA, to the point where I just could never get it to work and gave up on the project.

      Admittedly, my experiences with that were maybe ten years ago. Has the situation improved since then?Report

      • Avatar Will Truman says:

        I can’t remember the last time I had driver problems… except WiFi (and even then, it tended to be desktop environment related).

        I haven’t tried it on a new laptop model, though. I would feel relatively confident. Linux driver support has actually become pretty amazing in the overall.

        Chances are, though, Chris should be able to google and find out if there are problems with his particular model.Report

      • Avatar greginak says:

        @road-scholar Yes the situation has improved. No its not perfect at all. Drivers can be a pita in some cases but i’ve had few issues. Laptops can be a bit trickier, but i’ve installed Linux on two different laptops and one laptop and one desktop with W8. W8 is actually the biggest problem. Installation was simpler on the previous W’s. Video and audio aren’t a problem in my experience. There are drivers or programs that deal with that no prob. Wireless is the only thing where drivers are much an issue now. They aren’t a problem on my wife asus and my old laptop. My new Dell works fine.Report

      • Avatar Lyle says:

        Actually it appears that linux in general works with wired internet connections. For wireless you may have to buy a usb wireless adapter as there is such a great variety of built in wireless adapters.

        Actually if you are just starting get a copy of virtual box and load your favorite distribution on it. Then you can run linux as a guest on windows assuming you have sufficient memory. (Linux in general has smaller memory requirements than Windows 7 &8)Report

  2. Avatar Will Truman says:

    Unlike what you describe with Firefox, my experience with Linux has been that it has been an ongoing improvement. Sometimes there’s not much of a step forward, but there’s rarely a step back. Only one I can think of, and it’s better now (unlike with Windows, where lost things tend to be Lost Forever).

    I’m not at the point where I am extremely comfortable using it for secondary machines. I’m not quite at the point where I can use it for a primary one. But that’s me. A lot of people can and do. The problems I have mostly relate to having a mapped network drive and having it reliably work.

    It’s either easy to try or really easy to try. If it’s the latter, just download a Live CD and play around or install it. However, some computers have a lock in place. You can get around the lock (and it’s not like having to root/jailbreak your phone – you’re allowed and it doesn’t break anything if you want to install Windows again).

    Like @greginak I recommend Linux Mint or Ubuntu. (which are siblings). I used Mint for the longest time, though I found I was having WiFi problems that I didn’t have with Ubuntu. Both are great, though. Try Linux Mint first because that’s more straightforward. After that, you need to choose a desktop environment. You can get a feel for them using the various LiveCDs. Mate and Cinnamon are pretty basic and familiar, KDE is prettier with a few more bells and whistles (I like the Aero-like capabilities), XFCE is best for light machines. If you do end up needing to go with Ubuntu, don’t go with Ubuntu proper but go with Kubuntu (KDE) or the Mate or Gnome versions.

    Though it’s sometimes discouraged, you can install the different desktop environments on the same machine. KDE sometimes doesn’t play well with the others, however. Especially for Mint (which is one of the main reasons I am presently using Ubuntu.Report

    • Avatar Will Truman says:

      One other thing… you may or may not be able to use Chrome, I am sorry to say. They do have a Linux version, but I had enough difficulty with it that I gave up (and on some older laptops, it wouldn’t install at all).Report

  3. Avatar Murali says:

    If you can handle waiting a few more months, windows 10 will be coming out and apparently it undoes much if not all of the sucky bullshit in Windows 8.

    Here is a review


    • Avatar Richard Hershberger says:

      What happened to Windows 9?Report

      • Avatar Brandon Berg says:

        There’s a rumor going around that they skipped it because a lot of legacy Windows programs check the version of Windows by getting the OS name, and identified Windows 95/98 by checking to see whether it started with “Windows 9”.

        This is too good to check, so I haven’t.Report

        • Avatar Kim says:

          Not a rumor. I know the guy who wrote that code. (It’s only in one spot, but everyone’s using that library).

          Windows insisted that he write compatibility code, when (in 2000) the code he was writing wouldn’t work at all on Windows 95 or 98 (too resource intensive). So, yeah, he used “Windows 9*”, which pattern matches to Windows 9, of course. And the way the code is written, it kinda runs amok and breaks the operating system if it figures out that someone was running Windows 9* (because that would be just Stupid — did you not read the required os??).

          So, um, windows 10. (Which this same friend is betatesting, because he uses RAM drives… and windows 7 isn’t too good at that…)Report

    • Avatar Brandon Berg says:

      No need to wait. It’s a free upgrade from 7 or 8.Report

    • Avatar ian351c says:

      You can still (I think) sign up for the Windows 10 Technical Preview and run it today. It’s a much better experience than Windows 8.x IMHO.

      If you want to try Linux, I’d start with Ubuntu or Mint. They are more “consumer” focused, rather than server (RedHat/CentOS) or “techie” (Debian) focused.Report

  4. Avatar James K says:

    Luckily, when I replaced my computer recently I was able to get Windows 7 installed on it.Report

  5. Avatar Michael Cain says:

    I’ve had some sort of Linux box in my house for more than 20 years now, although seldom as my primary desktop. The device driver and install situation has gotten enormously better over that time. IMO, there are three major application “gotchas” to think about a bunch before committing: IE, Word, and Excel. IE is much better about standards compliance than it used to be, and has fewer IE-specific hacks, but there are still some browser-based things that only run properly on IE. Fortunately, not nearly so many as there used to be. Word processors like OpenOffice have gotten much better, but if you have to exchange Word documents with people/firms and need a guarantee that they will see the formatting, versioning, or exotic features properly, you need Word. Excel is even worse, especially if VBA or Solver are used. There are spreadsheets that run fine on Excel/Windows, but won’t run properly on Excel/Mac, let alone on one of the open source spreadsheet programs.

    Of course, if your machine has the resources (memory is the usual issue) and you have the cash, it’s easy to have a Windows virtual machine with Office that can be fired up when necessary. I had to run that kind of setup on my Mac for years when I worked for the state because they were dependent on some Windows-only software.Report

    • Avatar Will Truman says:

      Aren’t there plugins, addons, and extensions that allow you to render in IE within Firefox or Chrome? Or does that only work if IE is installed? (I used to install a plugin along those lines, but at some point I realized that none of the sites I use require IE.Report

      • Avatar Michael Cain says:

        Yeah, I’ve seen references to extensions that allow you to use IE as the rendering engine for a Firefox tab, but only for Windows with IE installed. The problems I’m thinking about were places where IE used to require (or at least allow) HTML elements that were syntactically “wrong enough” that other browsers discarded the element. I remember a timesheet application with a browser front-end where two critical buttons only showed up in IE (although that turned out to be a server-side bug that failed to generate those elements in the HTML unless the browser identified itself as IE). Much of that kind of crap has gone away, although I’m sure CK can give us examples to the contrary.Report

  6. Avatar Doctor Jay says:

    I have Ubuntu installed on my media computer. The computer itself is kind of old and slow, but it works just fine for playing DVDs and streaming Netflix and Hulu. It has a browser called Chromium, which is a forked version of Chrome. However, it doesn’t support Netflix or Hulu. For that, I have a download I got from Google of a Chrome build, which works for me.

    Will this work on a really new laptop? I don’t know. For everything else, that doesn’t include playing the latest videogames, Ubuntu Linux would be fine.Report

    • Avatar Jaybird says:

      Yeah, we use Ubuntu as well and the irritation difference between that and Windows 8 is palpable. The only reason I’d argue that you might need a Windows box anymore is for gaming (and even that is becoming less of an issue anymore).

      Microsoft *REALLY* screwed up with Windows 8. They have no idea.Report

    • Avatar Alan Scott says:

      Doctor Jay:
      It has a browser called Chromium, which is a forked version of Chrome.However, it doesn’t support Netflix or Hulu.For that, I have a download I got from Google of a Chrome build, which works for me.

      Where does one find that? My boyfriend uses Chromium, and keeps stealing my laptop so he can use netflix. I’d love to point him in the direction of something that will actually work on his computer.Report

    • And if you have *really* old, slow hardware, install Lubuntu, which I swear would just about run on an abacus.Report

  7. Avatar DavidTC says:

    Chris, almost every single distro of Linux can be run off a boot CD. Or even a boot flash drive, if you don’t want to waste CDs.

    So download a few of them and try them out.

    A lot of them can be virtualized within Windows, which lets you play with the OS without doing anything. So you can do that first…but still try the boot CD path to make sure it has drivers for all your hardware.Report

    • Avatar dragonfrog says:

      I think many of the bigger desktop oriented distros require a DVD or equivalent-sized thumb drive now.

      But yes – if you try the OS out from removable media, there’s no commitment, as you haven’t touched the hard disk. Then you can scout it out for driver issues and similar headaches; if any arise you know what questions to ask on user forums and such.Report

  8. Avatar dragonfrog says:

    I used Ubuntu Linux on my last two computers (with the XFCE desktop environment on the first one, then Unity on the second), and Linux Mint on my current one (with XFCE).

    I really haven’t looked into keyboard navigation – maybe XFCE isn’t the best for that, I don’t really use it much.

    For Netflix, there was a bit of jiggery-pokery involved (installing a package called pipelight that lets you run the Windows Silverlight plugin inside a Linux browser; configuring Firefox to claim in its user-agent string that it’s running on Windows, at least when visiting Netflix.com).

    The thing I most like about any Linux distro I’ve used is that you’re not wasting your time on software updates from a dozen different sources – install everything from the distro’s package manager, and the updates all show up via one mechanism.Report

  9. Avatar Joe Sal says:

    I would recommend trying Lubuntu on a USB drive and see how you get along with it.

    Use LinuxLive USB Creator and a formatted 4 gig USB drive. Make sure your on a reasonably fast connection that can run long enough to download several hundred meg (if you don’t have the .iso file handy). Keep in mind the test device will need to have a USB boot option at start up.

    Lubuntu is considerably smaller than a full Ubuntu install and it is clean and intuitive(wi-fi friendly). The few tweaks I had to make were for non-open source drivers. After months of running on USB, I just went ahead and installed on both my laptop and desktop. It auto updates perfectly, which is a huge plus compared to how badly windows could die on a OS update.

    dragonfrog has a point though, Netflix has that Silverlight problem and that damn location thing. I closed my account with them because they offered no reasonable interface to linux.

    (FTR, it’s fun having a USB drive with Android x86 to boot on a laptop)Report