Quick Guide to Linux OS

Post written by Olive Dove

Linux logo

If you have just read my post on Ubuntu 11.04 launch and wonder what Linux is, you might not be alone.  Linux operating system (OS) for personal computer remains a niche product though Linux OS for server has long reigned the server market segment.  It took an old computer to induce me to to discover and try Linux.  With some trial-and-error process and frustrations, I managed to prolong the life of the old computer.  I am glad Linux works well on the old computer and has saved the environment from electronic trash.  
As non-technical introduction, Linux is:

  • Alternative computer operating system to Windows and Mac OS X.
  • Open-source (read as ‘free’!) OS.   
  • Available for personal computer, server, tablet computer, smartphone (Android OS is based on modified Linux kernel).
  • Small, secure and stable all-in-one OS (like a complete set lunch!) for surfing the Internet, office productivity and games.  Standard distributions like Ubuntu and Fedora are around 690 MB.  Though not all distributions include proprietary third party software, additional drivers and Adobe Flash can be easily download and set up after installation.
  • Free to use, share, customize, and redistribute.  Linux is a great alternative OS for students, small businesses and nonprofit organizations.
  • International collaboration project.  Yes, people do care to share expertise to produce a quality product!
  • Old computer-friendly as it uses less CPU memory and system resources.
  • Multilingual, end user-friendly and highly customizable based on needs and technical level.
  • Supported by huge repository (software center) of free and good quality software from games to education to office productivity.  You can find any imaginable software here!
  • Available in many distributions.  Some are sponsored by notable IT leaders like Canonical Ltd. (Ubuntu) and Red Hat, Inc. (Fedora).  Popular mainstream distributions are Debian, Ubuntu, Fedora, OpenSuse and Linux Mint.  There are other highly specialized distributions like cloud computing-centric Peppermint and small modular Slax (pick and build your desired OS like you would at a supermarket).
  • Available in many official and unofficial derivatives (customized versions) catered for different needs like Fedora Design Suite is packed with open-source multimedia production and publishing tools.  Whereas, lightweight Lubuntu is optimized for netbook and older computer

How to get started? 

  • Identify personal computing needs and technical level.  
  • For easy transition from Windows:  The most use-friendly distributions are Linux Mint (with its Windows-like interface) and Lubuntu or Linux Mint LXDE (simple elegant lightweight OS with Windows-like side panel and very resource-friendly for old computers).
  • For long-term support:  Choose a reputable Linux OS preferably with LTS (long-term supports) like Ubuntu 10.04 LTS (scroll down the ‘Download Options’ list) that provides regular updates for three years from launch date.   
  • Choose a computer.  Customizing Linux OS on an old computer as secondary household computer to surf Internet is a good idea. 

Simple steps for setup (the following video is a good guide though it’s in German):

  1. Download the free Linux software.  
  2. Burn Linux software as bootable ISO image to a CD or download Unetbootin to create a bootable USB stick.
  3. Boot the computer and hit ‘F12’ function key to choose to boot from CD or USB stick.
  4. Check for software integrity for potential defects (one of the options on log in screen).
  5. Setup or trial.  There are several options (always back up important files before proceeding to any option): 
  • Test the Linux OS without installing it.
  • Install it to co-exist with existing Windows.
  • Install it to the entire hard drive.

Like Wikipedia, Linux is an example of successful international community collaboration that has improved quality of life.  As part of Linux community, we can contribute to Linux project via donation, personal expertise e.g. programming and translation for future release, or participation in forums (where Q&A promote product improvements).  Refurnishing old computers with lightweight Lubuntu or Linux Mint LXDE for charities and individuals in need is also a great way to help our community and save the environment from electronic trash. 

Everyone will need some time to get familiar with the free and versatile Linux OS but it will worth the efforts.  We will help ourselves, our community and the environment in the process.

Photo credit: Linux logo by Larry Ewing, via Wikimedia Commons

Video credit:  Ubuntu 10.04: Installation by SemperVideo, via YouTube

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