Open Source Computer Operating Systems

Discussion in 'Life After Brown' started by wkmac, Aug 18, 2012.

  1. wkmac

    wkmac Well-Known Member

    About to built a new computer box instead of buying off the shelf but want to abandon proprietary software and go completely open source. Been using Firefox for example and love it. Any open source operating system users out there, what are you using and how are you liking it? Pros? Cons? Just tired of Bill Gates always looking over my shoulder and routinely picking my pocket and Apple just hurts the wallet altogether.

    In doing some research I came across this 2008' piece and also this Linux based open source O/S.

    Thanks in advance for your ideas and experiences.
  2. curiousbrain

    curiousbrain Well-Known Member

    The "popular" Linux brand these days is Ubuntu; it's user-friendly enough (read: GUI interface, configuration, etc) that most people can get by with it, but not shackled with some of the proprietary restrictions of Microsoft products. Although, it should be said that Linux, at it's heart, runs on configuration files, most of which are human-readable ... if you get into enough trouble, you will be forced into the position of having to edit these by hand; Windows isn't too different in that respect, but it is much less concealed with any Linux operating system than it is with Windows.

    Also, be aware that there is no "official" support mechanism for Ubuntu/Linux like there is for Windows; there are support mechanisms, but not in the traditional sense; something to be aware of.

    On a more technical note, it is also worth noting that what you are used to running on Windows does not work on Linux; yes, there are usually open-source alternatives, but be clear about that word: alternatives. They are not compatible. The classic example is the ubiquitous *.exe file on Windows; these file types mean nothing on Linux, and any Linux (or *nix, to be more specific)-based OS will not run them - at least, not without help (e.g. WINE). So, that favorite game you want to play? Probably won't work, because it is built specifically for Windows. Do your research into this, and be absolutely clear about what it means when .exe files won't run on Linux.

    Another issue is the driver support for new(er) hardware; because Microsoft dominates the OS market, hardware vendors always release Windows drivers first ... and then, only maybe, after thinking about it for several months, do they release Linux versions. Granted, it is a lot better these days than it used to be, but if you live on the bleeding edge of hardware releases, any Linux-based OS may turn out to be your worst nightmare. And, on that note ...

    Graphics manufacturers, such as NVidia & ATI (or AMD, whatever they call themselves these days), generally release closed source video drivers that will install binary versions of their drivers, which goes against the open-source philosophy. However, most Linux users view this as a tradeoff - the ability to use a newer graphics card, against the privilege of having open-source graphics drivers. Sound drivers are slightly less shackled, but not by much.

    Also, note that Microsoft Office has alternatives on Linux, but that does not mean that they are fully compatible; code you write for an Access application, for example, will probably not translate 100% to an OpenOffice (or OpenLibre) application without help. That is not just applicable to Office, but to many, many of the "classic" Windows applications.

    All that being said, if you do any sort of "real" programming (C, C++, Perl, Java, Python, basically any real programming language), Linux will actually make your life easier; the GNU toolchain is practically built right into any Linux OS (by virtue of the kernel, and various other required components), which means that you can program in several languages "out of the box", in a much more intuitive way - as opposed to Windows, which seems very abstracted from any sort of "native" programming element(s).

    Finally, familiarize yourself with what a "Linux operating system" really is: two components, one of which rarely changes, and the other of which is arbitrary. It is always the Linux kernel (version may vary), and then it is a layer of programs (scripts, shells, etc) which build up an environment that the user interacts with (almost always including the X window system). So, what I am trying to say here, is that depending on how far you "drill down", you will be in that top layer of the Linux "flavor" that you run, or you will be in the guts of the Linux kernel and it's associated components. That is an important distinction to make when you start tinkering with your system.

    And, more finally, the X Window system; I could write an essay on that, just by itself. Read about it, and learn about window managers - specifically, KDE and GTK, which are the most commonly seen. However, there are many people who offer their own flavor of Window manager. You'll have to experiment and find out which you prefer.

    And, absolutely finally: historically, Linux (and any *nix system) has had a huge problem with library inter-dependencies; Microsoft has this problem a little, but because the development is coordinated by a single company, the reality of the situation is somewhat opaque. To crystallize the situation a little more, let's say you wanted to install a library that enhanced your desktop a little bit (say, by adding Googly Eyes to your taskbar) - well, maybe that depends on a library released by MIT, which depends on a library released by Berkeley, which depends on a library released by Joe S, which depends on .... so on and so forth. Ubuntu (and other "newish") Linux distro's include software managers that simplify this issue into a "point and click" interface, but occasionally, they will foul up, and you will wind up with a broken system because a library got removed that was embedded in some fundamental dependency chain. This is when that problem of no "official" support mechanism becomes important; however, you can usually find an answer on a forum somewhere - assuming your system still boots, that is.
  3. menotyou

    menotyou bella amicizia

    BB, why are you working as a pt sup, as I am assuming your intelligence is being wasted in that position? I say this with the utmost respect and deference.
  4. curiousbrain

    curiousbrain Well-Known Member

    When I sit with a prospective employer, I can tell them all the things I know (or think I know) ... but if I don't have this certain piece of paper, they are not impressed. As to my current employer ... ask them.

    edit: And, thank you.
  5. menotyou

    menotyou bella amicizia

    I think they can wipe something with some of those pieces of paper. An hr girl in our area(don't get me wrong she is a sweetheart) has one in English. Was told by the DM that it didn't matter what the paper was for, as long as you had one. (this was when they were sniffing around hard for me to take the plunge, but I don't have either.)

    You certainly have the ability to run the place better than most of the ones I've interacted with.
  6. curiousbrain

    curiousbrain Well-Known Member

    I've heard this, as well; in all fairness, maybe I could quit buying beer and steak, and save money so I could finish school. It's not just what you know, but what you do, I suppose.
  7. menotyou

    menotyou bella amicizia

    Beer and steak are yummy. ;)
  8. curiousbrain

    curiousbrain Well-Known Member

    "The road to my heart is paved with beer and steak." -Brownbaggin, 2012.
  9. texan

    texan Well-Known Member

    I agree. 100 per cent BB. May you move up to your potential.
  10. DS

    DS Fenderbender

    If not anything else BB,you could definitely qualify as an apple genius at any apple store.
    wkmac, I have no confidence whatsoever in my abilities as a technician.
    I bit the bullet and bought a macbook.$1800,15" with the smaller hard drive.
    So far I love it.
  11. Jones

    Jones fILE A GRIEVE! Staff Member

    I have Ubuntu installed on a netbook, I keep windows on my main rig mainly because I play a lot of games and Linux isn't very good at that. If you're not into computer games and mainly use your computer for websurfing and email linux should do you just fine. My advice would be to run them side by side for a while until you get used to all the little quirks and differences and then decide which suits you better. Ubuntu comes with Firefox btw so you'll already be set as far as that goes.
  12. wkmac

    wkmac Well-Known Member

    I'm about in your league DS and I always go off shelf but the computer guru that handles the computers at my wife's law office is offering to build me a new box but he'll let me do it and just hold my hand when it's needed. Thought it might be a great opportunity not only to learn this but even all the steps in loading all the necessary software and the boot up process. To Jones' point, I'm not into games so that was why I was thinking of going all open source. I have several other computers (PC's) so I've got plenty of backup so I'm not left stranded so to speak.

    Good advice everyone and thanks also to BB for some great info. Good stuff. Also BB you might find the annual CCC hacker conference (Chaos Communication Congress) YouTube channel of interest. Some you may not care for and I've not watched some myself but the ideas in technology and creating a truly open source world including free wifi globally is pretty amazing stuff. Their Youtube channel is "28c3" (here's their wiki website) so just search and check some of the stuff out. In fact, anyone into technology will find something to enjoy there.