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TuxCan Linux replace Windows on the desktop?

My tests and trials, ideas, advice

TuxCan Linux replace Windows on the desktop? (archives)

WINE at last in Beta status: WINE, the Windows emulator for Linux (it allows the execution of Windows software directly in the GNU/Linux environement), finally leaves its previous alpha status (purely under development) to present itself to the Internet masses. It is probably worth testing again this tool which has an enormous potential for all those who are willing to leave Microsoft without abandonning all their software applications behind them.

Previous tests were not satisfying, but now is the time to try again.

Shutdown Windows - Reboot Linux

OpenOfficeOpen Office - how to accelerate its load-time start speed: Since the availability of the version 2.0, there is a weird little background talk about load times and speed ot this version et it is often heard that Microsoft Office loads quite significantly faster. As a matter of fact, a couple of ideas can improve this significantly:

OpenOfficeOpen Office v2.0 is available: We have been waiting long, but here is the newest release of the free desktop suite in direct competition with Microsft MS-Office. I tell you, and I'll tell it again, if you use Word, Excel and PowerPoint, you ought to check this one. It is a fully professional solution with extended compatibility and it is free.

Many new features. The most striking ones are:

I keep recommending heartily this desktop software suite that I have been using in the last few years without any of my correspondents noticing any difference (for me the desktop software budget simply vanished in thin air - it's even better than getting an illegal copy of the latest Microsoft release/version).

Tux Soft-toy Linux® penguin: For the true computer enthusiast and the Linux lover, it is now possible to freely (Open Source under GPL license) manufacture a Linux animal (the penguin known as Tux) out of soft material. For this, you'll need a sewing pattern as offered freely on the www.free-penguin.org web site. Ok, some computer geeks are made of a weird stuff. But why not try this stuffed soft toy?

NVUNVU to replace FrontPage: Obviously FrontPage is really the minimalist soution to edit a web site (DreamWeaver is more powerful, easier to use and produces a better HTML code). But, today there is a real alternative from Open Source. Actively sponsored by Linspire (previously Lindows), I advise you to get in touch with NVU. It is written for Linux, Macintosh, Windows and FreeBSD. It is real reaplcement for FrontPage, but it still lacks a few important features like the DreamWeaver-like templates. Undoubtedly, as soon as these templates arrive (there is already a rudimentary set of templates), I could abandon DreamWeaver (presently my prefered HTML editor).

TuxLinux Tip #11 (Fast OS comparison): With the coming of the new Windows version (You still have to wait until 2006), I tried to prepare a summary decision sheet of possible solutions for the owner of a personal computer. A fast comparison, but useful to keep things clear:

 

Operating System Pros Cons

Windows 98/98se

  • Not too expensive
  • Starts to be seriously old (in technical terms, too)
  • Already abandonned by Microsoft

Windows 2000

  • Technically not too old
  • Soon to be abandonned by Microsoft

Windows XP

  • Perfectly up-to-date
  • Expensive

Windows Vista

  • Modern graphical interface
  • New hard drive management
  • Expensive
  • May well bring only minor new features cmpared to WinXP
  • Might contain restrictive technology to handle copyright (DRM)

Mac OS X

  • Modern graphical interface
  • May become available on non-Apple PCs
  • A large number of good commercial software applications
  • Expensive
  • Not always compatible with the existing base of Windows applications

TuxLinux (toutes distributions)

  • Free or low-cost
  • Still difficult to use by the average Joe (but it mary vary with each distribution)

NetBSD

  • Free or low-cost
  • Works on a number of different machines
  • Reserved to the specialist (heavy use of the command line)

OpenBSD

  • Free or low-cost
  • Very serious when it comes to security issues
  • Reserved to the specialist (and compulsory documentation reading)

FreeBSD

  • Free or low-cost
  • Very good compatibility with PC hardware
  • Reserved to the specialist

TuxLinux test #4 (Lycoris): Another GNU/Linux I checked in my search for a replacement to Microsoft Windows: Lycoris/LX. But I was quickly disappointed. Despite the nice web site and set of features, it does not really answer to my own needs.

Some of the pros are:

But my use of the Operating System implies some real difficulties:

As a matter of fact, I feel the developers spend a significant time choosing simple and reliable solutions instead of sophisticated ones even if this may not adapted to some needs. The result is a product that should attract novice users that may be frightened by more complex Operating Systems. Reasonable price of 45€. Evaluation: 8/20.

TuxLinux test #3 (Linspire): Among the many potential competitors to Microsoft coming from the Linux world, one instantly built itself a name a few years ago: Lindows. Of course, this being a Linux distribution willing to bridge the gap between open source distribution and the Windows interface, Microsoft sent its lawyers to stop this name and the company is now named Linspire. It survived and distributes an Operating System (OS) relatively cheap (20-40$) willing to be particularly welcoming to users already experienced with Windows. I had recently the pleasure to take advantage of a one-day promotional offer for free licenses. Again, this is a LiveCD (you can merely boot from the CD-ROM without needing a full installation on your hard drive - no formatting, no partitionning, no such dangerous operation but you still keep the option for a later full installation as usual).

The test shows one thing difficult to evaluate in mathematical figures, but it is nonetheless perceptible that the Windows user is immediately at ease with this system. Menus and dialog boxes are different but, believe it or not, everything falls neatly into place and you easily find what you look for (more or less in the place you epxect it to be). Very pleasant indeed. Default interesting applications are:

Pros :

But some cons, too:

Anyway, the user is astonishingly well received and it is very confortable. No doubt this is a voluntary effort of the whole Linspire development team. Starting with Linspire seems a good idea, but migrating from Windows is still questionable. Note 14/20.

TrustonmeTrustOnMe: French-speaking people provide tutorials for using Linux. An excellent source of information, aptly written and correctly organized (in French).

TuxLinux test #2 (Kanotix): Still looking for a replacement coming from the Linux world for MS-Windows, I checked a German distribution named KANOTIX. Again, this is a LiveCD (you can merely boot off the CD-ROM without requiring to install anything on the hard drive - no disk formatting, no dangerous repartitionning).

I'm less easilty convinced (somehow, I found the bundled games very nice; I know that Minesweeper is often the more important application of Windows, but...). The default bundle of applications seems quite nice for a desktop replacement:

As a matter of fact, I had a few good surprises:

But there were also a few issues:

Overall feeling is fuzzy. Missing/incomplete support for languages not German or English may be a real problem for a rather good product. Maybe later. Evaluation: 13/20.

TuxLinux test #1 (SLAX): Looking for a replacement coming from the Linux world for MS-Windows, I tested a distribution named SLAX. This is a LiveCD (you can merely boot off the CD-ROM without requiring to install anything on the hard drive - no disk formatting, no dangerous repartitionning).

A good product, simple and reliable. With only 188 Mo, the Kill Bill edition contains all the elements needed to build desktop PC:

I had a few good surprises during this test:

But there were also a few issues:

This was a very pleasant experience but, as it is, I would not recommend jumping into SLAX without additional thinking. Evaluation: 12/20.

TuxLinux Tip #10 (ucLinux): A very complete article in EDN-Europe about using the ucLinux distribution, very specialized in building small embedded systems. And, furthermore, David Marsch gives all the details about using it and good advice about writing device drivers.

There are 10 types of people in the world. Those who understand binary and those who don't.

LinuxISOLinux Tip #9 (LinuxISO): The single location where you will find all big GNU/Linux distros.

Ultimate Boot CDLinux Tip #8 (Ultimate Boot CD): 100% specialized in maintenance and repair of PC, here is a great GNU/Linux distro with plenty of useful tools immediately useful. But only for system adminstrators.

Internet Explorer competiton is out for you: While FireFox is just officially out (already 5% markey share), I have still a preference for Opera.

Get FireFox  Download Opera

TheOpenCD: is a web site offering a collection of high quality Free and Open Source Software. The programs run in Windows and cover the most common tasks such as word processing, presentations, e-mail, web browsing, web design, and image manipulation. Continuously evolving, but already very worth downloading.

Linux Tip #7 (TheOpenCD) : Many people look for an easy solution in order to start working on a GNU/Linux desktop. Once you've got the right distribution, you still have to collect many end-user applications . TheOpenCD provides exactly that: A CD-ROM shock-full of excellent freeware applications for GNU/Linux.

Linux Tip #6 (Debian) : The installation of GNU/Linux on an Asus A7N8X-deluxe motherboard is not always easy (drivers are not always immediately available in your standard GNU/Linux distribution and you have to go and collect them on the Asus web site); Thus, you may appreciate a precise guide in plain English like: Debian GNU/Linux, an ASUS A7N8X, a Radeon 9100 and an AMD Barton.

Linux Tip #5 (Knoppix) : Sometimes it is difficult (or even impossible) to boot right off a CD-ROM on onlder PC machines (like you can find in my home). It is simply a matter of using RAWRITE from the KNOPPIX directory to make a boot diskette. Of course, this works for a lot of other Linux distributions.

TuxCan Linux replace Windows on the desktop?

MemTest86: seems to be the best memory test/diagnostic tool for a PC or a Linux machine. Exceptionally useful if your unsure about your memory.

Linux Tip #4 (MoviX2) : This excellent configuration to play DivX movies contains a couple of little bugs on some ATI graphic cards. Sometimes, it produces a pink screen instead of a movie image and it is impossible to change the size of the image on an old Radeon DDR (bye bye full screen on this antique card).

Linux Tip #3 (kernel) : A small unexpected detail for some AMD motherboards using an IDE interface. Sometimes, you get this message:

AMD_IDE: Bios didn't set cable bits correctly. Enabling workaround.

It seems to come from a bug in the kernel v2.4 that has been discreetly corrected in the latest v2.6. The effects (hard to describe at the moment and for me) seem to be a reduced performance of your hard disk and/or CD-ROM.

Linux Tip #2 (Live CD) : I found a few interesting distributions for those who do not wish to go and play the game of double boot, disk partitioning, installation and other weird technical thingies: Live CD (or a bootable CD-ROM with everything on it to start without any installation). Today, my preferred versions are:

Of course, with these Linux disks you do not need to pay royalties to Microsoft (or anybody else).

Linux Tip #1 (Debian) : when you install/re-install a <p> package (with apt-get install <p> , then apt-get remove <p>, then apt-get install <p>), it happens that it stops with an error message like:

xserver-svga failed to preconfigure, with exit state 1

This is caused by an uninstall problem in apt-get.It stuck me a long time before I finally found that the (infamous) solution is to properly clean after the uninstallation with something like:

dpkg --purge xserver-svga
apt-get install xserver-svga

Opera 7.10: I have long been a fan of Netscape because I believe that Microsoft should not be the only player on the browser market. But I should have been looking at Opera. Interestingly, they seem to be the only innovator on the browser market, these days. Opera 7.10 is now available and it is fast, and it has features.

 


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Latest update: 30-oct-08

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