Switching from Windows to Linux

In my earlier article I made reference to the potential benefits of using open source software as an alternative to normal commercial software. I have had an interest in Linux systems for a few years now and have always used Linux as the preferred platform for servers, but it has taken some time to take the plunge and try using Linux as a serious alternative to Windows in the desktop environment. Until recently had I played around with Linux desktop systems a few times but had gone no further. A couple of months ago a major change took place.

I decided to have a go at using Linux Mint. This is a derivative of Ubuntu, the popular Linux distribution, and lends itself well with a familiar feel to anyone used to the Windows environment. The system is downloaded from the Internet and made into a bootable DVD. On running the DVD the user is given the option to either run the system in trial mode or to install it permanently onto the computer. What I did was to disconnect the computer’s own hard drive, plug in a blank 16 or 32GB USB flash drive and boot from the Linux CD. I then installed the Linux system telling it to use the whole computer hard drive, which at that point was the plugged in USB drive. Once this was done the main hard drive could then be reconnected so that the computer would be able to run in its conventional mode. By booting from the USB drive however, one had a complete Linux system, which being a full installation would keep any new program installations or changes of user settings. User documents on the original hard drive are fully accessible by this system.

Linux provides good programs to perform all everyday tasks. Ubuntu and Mint come preinstalled with the Firefox web browser and the Thunderbird mail client. They also come with LibreOffice, which is a free open source replacement for Microsoft Office. Other common web browsers such a Chrome and Opera are available to be downloaded and installed. As it happens, all the programs I have mentioned here are available for Windows as well and I was already familiar with them all. Printers may be a concern as many come only with software for Windows and MacOS. In the case of my printer, which is an Oki laser printer, there was a configuration file for Linux available from the manufacturer. As a result it is possible to print basic pages which is all that is needed most of the time, but one loses some of the more detailed configuration options offered by the Windows driver. All is not lost however as the printer is networked and there are still WIndows computers available to perform any specialised tasks.

I finally took the plunge one day and out of total frustration with the way things are going, decided to completely replace Windows with Linux on my main personal computer. I have never looked back. The main issue however is that there are still quite a few programs that I use that need to run under Windows. Looking for and learning to use open source alternatives is a process that is simply going to take too long, and therefore a short term solution is needed.

Linux offers Wine, which is a program designed to run WIndows applications within a Linux environment. Whilst it is a really nice idea, I have never had a great deal of success with it as many programs simply will not run properly under it. There is however an alternative, namely to run Windows inside a virtual machine. This is a program that runs under the main operating system and itself emulates a complete computer, effectively running in a box. An operating system needs to be installed on the virtual machine after which programs can be installed on to that. If you install Windows on a virtual machine, it still needs to be activated, so you will still need a valid Windows licence, which is fair enough. It works well and enables all essential Windows programs to be run on what is otherwise a Linux machine. Users documents etc on the main machine can be accessed from the virtual machine, but this has to be done by network sharing as there are effectively now two computers in operation.

It’s all worth a try!!

Also please click here to see another parallel between mundane things and the Christian life.