Archive for the ‘Demystify Linux’ Category

Screenshot of Ubuntu 9.10 "Karmic Koala"

Image via Wikipedia

This is a guide for users who are familliar with Windows, who have heard of Ubuntu and wish to use it. Ubuntu is new and unfamiliar territory to all  Windows users alike. Like every software Ubuntu has its pitfalls and peaks. It is essential we take an unbiased look at it.  I hope this guide will be useful to those newcomers.

1. Always use the newer versions of Ubuntu.

Many users who wish to try out Ubuntu usually find an old version of Ubuntu from old magazines or from pals and well wishers. Though this can  seem easy at first glance, nevertheless this method has its pitfalls. Older Ubuntu versions have many driver issues and are less compliant with newer web standards. The software present in the system will also be outdated. Morover Ubuntu does not support the software repositories of its old version.

Overall newer versions of Ubuntu are much better in all respects for the new user. Each successive release presents a much more polished interface which is more pleasing to the eye and contain more in terms of eye-candy and are uptodate with respect to bug fixes when compared to their predecessors. Newer versions of Ubuntu also have a larger number of software than their predecessors not to mention the improved method of adding Software and programs and the newer versions of all software and much better support.

We can see the level of visual improvement between Ubuntu version 9.10 ( Karmic Koala)  and Ubuntu version 10.04 ( Maverick Meerkat)   at a glance from the screenshots.

2. Ubuntu is not Windows!

The is probably the most important or the most popular issue faced by newcomers from Windows.  They miss the familiar Start Menu, The My Computer Icon , the C drive and the local disks. This homesickness  as I would like to call it  (I too have experienced it.) leads to the impression that Ubuntu or Linux as a whole is not very user friendly. The interface as a whole looks like very unfamiliar territory. But lets get the facts right, Ubuntu/Linux is very different from Windows both in feel and usage.

However thers is no other way around it other than using it. It will take  some time to become familiar with it. Hey it took me a whole week. Two years later, I know it like the back of my hand (literally). It is only a question of familiarity.  If you are facing this problem or think you need to prepare to face this issue, they are two things you can do.

Firstly I would recommend a dual boot. (Install Ubuntu and Windows side by side on the same machine). It is not at all difficult and Ubuntu recommends it. You just need to reserve space for Ubuntu. Take care to install Ubuntu after Windows is installed and not the other way around. The next best thing is to install Windows themes for Ubuntu. There is one particular theme I really admire, which makes the Gnome desktop environment look just like Windows XP.  In that way you can get familiar with Ubuntu without losing touch of  the former.

Ubuntu also has a Windows installer called Wubi which allows you to install Ubuntu inside Windows. However I havent tried it yet and I don’t think I will anyway. But you can try it without altering your system. You can install Virtual Box emulator on Windows and then install Ubuntu inside it.

Of course I did these things initially. There was no limit to what I did to make my Ubuntu look like XP or as  a matter of fact like Vista. Today it is a different story. Since I am so familiar with Ubuntu I have tried to make my XP install look like Ubuntu, however I failed in the attempt since it had got corrupt a long time ago.

3. Double clicking the .exe file wont do you any good.

In the windows world you can install a program by downloading an exe/setup file of a program and then install it by double clicking on it. It cant get easier than that! (You have to give kudos to Microsoft for that!).This one of the reason why I think Windows is so popular. However it doesn’t  happen that way in Ubuntu, infact it is not supposed to happen that way!  I am not going to the technical details of that.

Though this method seems easy , there are some inherent security risks while doing that. It is the chief method that viruses and malware spread through the connected web and especially in the Windows world. Ubuntu or Linux does away with this in general. It uses a concept called software repositories from which you can download software for any practical need. The repos as they are commonly known are servers which can be accessed by  the package manager resident to the OS which in the case of Ubuntu is called Synaptic- The Synaptic Package Manager. The servers hold the softwre (.debs) and are tested by the community members to make sure that they are free from any malware. There are a number of such servers throughout the world hosted by trusted community members free of charge, which vary in speed depending on their connection.

4. You favourite programs wont work  in Ubuntu/Linux!

If you depend a lot on a number of programs like Photoshop,Auto Cad or CorelDram that run on top of Windows, then you are out of luck friend. There is little chance of them running in Ubuntu or Linux. This is due to point NO.3 I mentioned before. However it is not because that Ubuntu/Linux is incapable of handlling them but due to the simple fact of economics. They are few Linux users in the world when compared to Windows. The developers of the software know this small fact and  are not willing to spend time and resources to write their programs to run on an OS which few people know about let alone use!

So if your livelihood depends on these software then you are better of using Windows than Ubuntu/Linux. The same is the case with popular games like Counter Strike, Half Life or Call of Duty etc. But if you really want the best of both worlds then the better solution is to go for a dual boot. In that way you won’t miss out your favourite programs and get to know Ubuntu a little bit better.

5.Ubuntu uses the command line a little bit more than Windows.

If you are a Windows user then you might never have used the command line or shell as many people would like to call it. The shell, found in all Operating Systems including Windows known as the Command promopt is reserved for mostly experienced users of that particular OS.

The unfortunate fact is that in Ubuntu or any other Linux distro the shell is more tightly coupled with the  rest of the OS. This literally translates to the user reaching out for  the shell or command line a little more than usual. This over the top usage of the command line  has led to the impression among many newcomers that Linux is rocket science.

Of course Linux is used in rocket science, but of late Ubuntu has been claiming new ground in increasing the user friendliness of Linux as a whole. From old Grannies to young kiddies  use Ubuntu with no issues at all. That is why Ubuntu is called Linux for human beings.

But still some hard core stuff is relegated to the command line. There is a command line alternative to everything in the Linux world even playing music. You will see that in the Ubuntu/Linxu forums. So be a little prepared for this scenario!

6. Ditch that exotic Tv Tuner!

I know that sounds a bit too far off. Driver issues are the bane of the Linux world and Ubuntu is no exception. However I am not referring to the more commonly used devices. They work fine in Ubuntu. Actually you need need not install the drivers from an extra CD as it is commonly done for Windows after a format or a new installation. Most tuners and sound/graphic cards work out of the box.

The problem lies with those rare, one of a kind machines you find in those rare one of a kind fancy electronic stores and nowhere else. Usually these things are designed with Windows in mind(Economics…!) and accompany themselves with a driver CD. They have little chance of working properly in Ubuntu. This issue is more common with Tv Tuners than any other hardware that is why I specifically mentioned them.

7. Linux will run on any old machine!

This is a common statement that is found lurking on the internet. This has lead people to install Ubuntu on many old machines leading to dissapointment. People like to believe in facts rather than the truth. Before I start to dissect the facts from the truth I should say there is truth in that statement which sparked of the propoganda.

That statement should have been rewritten as “The Linux kernel will run on any old hardware”. Ubuntu/Linux will not run on any old machine. Its requirements are pretty decent but still it will not run properly on old machines. If you need good performance you need to have a system which meets the necessary requirements of Ubuntu.

Linux forms the core of Ubuntu, but Ubuntu is more than Linux. Ubuntu has a relatively good looking desktop environment called Gnome, a well known browser called Firefox, fancy desktop effects called Compiz and so on. Their system requirements are much more higher than the Linux kernel. So there is relatively little chance of these programs working on low hardware.

If you want to see the truth of the earlier statement try ‘Puppy Linux’. This one can run on most old hardware.

8. Throw away you Antivirus, Anitspyware and Defragmenter.

Now comes the good part. You don’t really need an antivirus or an antispyware in Ubuntu or any version of Linux as a matter of fact. The first thing I did after installing Ubuntu for the first time was to look for a good antivirus software. An antivirus is not an important part of using a computer but merely a necessary evil. I am  not stating that Ubuntu/Linux is invincible to malware. I don’t believe such an Operating System can be developed. But you know a Tank is much more secure than a Family car although it will fail to a more powerful weapon.

The same is the case with a Defragmenter. Linux uses a superior journalling files system and does away with such things.

So what is the verdict. Ubuntu is a great operating system which is brought to you free of cost and whose philosophy revolves around Free and Open Source Software. It can seem a bit intimidating at first but believe me its worth every effort. Its also wise to go for a dual boot with your other favorite operating system till you become comfortable with. Good Luck!!!!

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Yep the title says it all! I like to think that what I am going to write about is the future of Linux Gaming atleast what it will look like if things go that way.

I have been a fan of the Age of Empires series published by Microsoft. I remember losing any sense of reality or time while playing as the guiding light of those ancient civilizations. Playing them cultivated an interest in ancient history in me. I remember the countless hours I spent on my PC glued to the screen as these games were mesmerizing.

Now some cool dudes who share my passion for open source and the age of empires series have created an open source version of the game and due to that fact it runs natively on Linux. When I saw the screen shots on their official website I was blown away by the quality of the game. A picture speaks a thousand words. So from the shots I posted below which are from the game you can see for yourself if they have done a very good job or not.

The game is called 0 A.D. The game is developed by wildfire games. See their official website for more info!

Visit http://www.wildfiregames.com/0ad/

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The first thing to catch my eye is the water. It so well done that you feel like you want to swim it. I have to give kudos to the wildfire team for that.

The one particular thing I like about this game and that is going to be groundbreaking about is that you can zoom in real close to your village and people. Yes! you can also get the view from the first person perspective. Just imagine how those battles will look from the first person perspective! Its going to be up, close and personal.

However the game is far from complete. There are no campaigns as of yet. There is an AI opponent, but there is a multiplayer option (I haven’t tried that one yet). If you accidentally built your dock on the land, the ships that are produced will simply sit there on the land.

The game is designed to be similar to the first game in the age of empires series. However I must say that the game has a slight identity crisis. Some features of the game look like they are from the former, but there are elements of AOE 2, Rise of Nations, Age of Mythology and AOE 3 in it.

The game looks very promising and I believe that it will be a huge hit if the developers continue with this same momentum.
Best of luck guys and Great Job!!!

Click to get Linux CD’s

Posted: August 14, 2010 in Demystify Linux

I have been fortunate to get  a job in an Open Source Company quite near my house.  We like to associate with Linux and everything Open Source. In that spirit we are promoting the use of  Free and Open Source Software especially Linux. So if you live anywhere within India you can order a Linux CD of your favorite  distro at very nominal rates and we will send it you by post.

Request free software CD's /DVD's

We do not have an option of selling Cd’s  outside of India but we do plan to implement  it soon.

Workspaces in Linux!

Posted: July 6, 2010 in Demystify Linux

Linux has a concept called workspace. A workspace is simply equivalent to a desktop. Of course there can only be one desktop on a system therefore a workspace is a virtual desktop.I like to compare it with the opening a new web page using a new tab in a web browser.

Workspaces help to categorize our tasks.Consider a system with only one desktop. Suppose we are editing a text file and suddenly we require a search on the web with a browser. Normally we proceed to open the web browser in a new window. Although this is simple it leads to a more cluttered desktop and less screen real estate. Now if we want to open a file or folder on the hard-disk we need to open a new window leading to a further decrease in screen real estate. and more cluttering. This is where the conceot of workspaces starts being useful.

We can create any no of workspace as we want but I think 4 will be sufficient. Now we can improve the above scenario by delegating each of the three tasks to each workspace. This will make it look like that there is only one open window on each workspace leading to less clutter.

Workspace in Linux

Workspace in Linux

The above screenshot was taken while I was creating this blog. It shows the current no of workspaces and their current status on the gnome panel. In the leftmost workspace I have opened the Firefox browser for editing this blog. Moving to the right the second column shows that I have opened an office document for editing and the third one shows that I have opened my hard-disk for saving the screenshot :). The fourth one was used for editing the screenshot using Gimp but it naturally won’t come into the picture 🙂

Workspaces also have lead to some amazing Desktop effects in Linux namely the Cube Desktop Effects.

Linux Mint Review

Posted: June 5, 2010 in Demystify Linux

I fell in love with Linux after using Ubuntu 7.10. It felt it was much better to use than other Linuxes out there. I just wanted to try it  out just because it was  free and not because I was addicted to the open source philosophy(I hadn’t hear about that yet) or because I hated Microsoft’s monopolistic practices (I mean why should I care? I would have loved to get a job there anyway.)

When I became used to Ubuntu I naturally began to notice its flaws or what seemed like flaws to me. First of all I didnt like its default theme or colour. Brown was  my most unfavourite colour! Of course I could change that after a little tweaks and it would never resemble the initial version. But still it was a flaw to me.

I couldn’t play any mp3 files or videos immediately or browse Youtube either because the media codecs had to be downloaded separately as Ubuntu was distributed by the Canonical Corporation and there are legal issues for doing that. The Eye Candy of Ubuntu  like the Cube effects was to difficult to setup initially as the Compiz settings manager had to be downloaded separately. I tried other distros but I always seemed to fall-back to Ubuntu even though they were better looking because I was more used to it.

Thats when I started  hearing about Linux Mint.  Its yet another Linux distro and a pretty new one, you might say its ‘The new kid on the block’. The good thing about Linux Mint or Mint is that it is based on Ubuntu, so it has all the good aspects of Ubuntu. The developers just took the Ubuntu system and remastered it according to their taste and it seems they have done a pretty good job. To put it simple they just took Ubuntu and smoothened the rough edges.

Now the first area where Mint overtakes Ubuntu is in the naming convention used. I don’t mean to offend anyone but the name Mint is a much better name than Ubuntu(Strictly personal opinion)! The second one is the looks. Mint looks way cooler than the former. It has a default green theme to it compared to Ubuntu’s brown. There  is  a wider selection of  default wallpapers  to choose from which are not at all bad looking. The compiz settings manager is installed by default and there is even a Simple compiz configuration manger for those who are new and who wish to try Linux just for trying out  the cool desktop cube videos in Youtube.

Mint also has a start menu similar to Windows and a a start button which will help users that are more familiar with Windows. All these things can be done in Ubuntu also and we should not forget the fact that it is Ubuntu running behind all the eyecandy.

The best thing like about Mint is that I can install  it on a HDD and then put  all my mp3 files on it and it will play immediately without me having to do any  extra work. I can browse any website with flash content and those that use Java with my eyes closed as the codecs are provided along with it immediately  after installation or from the live cd. Post installation work is greatly reduced!

Mint in all its glory

When I first got in touch with computers which I used exclusively for playing games I realised that the computer would become slow after a few months of use due to a large no of useless software leaving their remnants in the registry. Also their is a chance that  the disk would become fragmented  resulting in sluggish performance and  disk wear and tear. Besides viruses would creep in from out of the blue causing more irritation than damage.  So the only choice was to perform a format of the C drive in XP. This was what everyone was telling me and so I did not think otherwise.

It  was time consuming requiring atleast 2 hours for careful backing up of data , then followed by  an hour of actual partitioning  and installing  the OS  and  an another  hour  for finding and running the correct drivers.  Then I would have to reinstall all  my favourite programs including the anti virus software which was more of a necessity.

Finally I would have to restart the cycle again after 3 or 5 months depending on use. I accepted formatting as a necessary  evil and a mandatory one since I wanted to keep my pc up and running without any glitches and due to fact that I  considered myself a pc geek and  due to the fact  that  I was learning to be a computer engineer.(A bit of arrogance!). And true to the header of this  post it was becoming a kind of festival.

Well that’s all in the past now. Its been about 6 months since I have done any formatting. Its been a year and a half  since I moved to Linux and the only reason I did any formatting during that  time was to try out new Linux distros that were coming out every  5 months. Yeah trying them out can be very addictive and you get  a better one after each install absolutely free!

So to put things in perspective a Linux user doesn’t have to do a format  of the system every now and then.  The reason could be that it doesn’t use a  registry system as Windows and maybe it helps to have a superior journalling filesystem that doesn’t  cause  fragmentation and its robustnesses against  viruses or maybe because it is just my plain luck.

What is Grub?

Posted: May 15, 2010 in Demystify Linux

Linux has lots of programs and software with strange names. Grub is one of them.

Grub stand for GRand Unified Bootloader. Grub is a Bootloader,  a program which loads the OS onto the main memory aka ram when the computer boots up. Hence the name bootloader.

Suppose you have more than one OS  installed in your hardrive. How will you choose which OS you want to use. Grub  solves this problem by giving us an option at boot time to select the OS of our preference.

Okay Linux is such  a great OS, so then why is windows so popular?  Apart from good marketing tactics the No 1 reason for windows succes is that it is so incredibly easy to use.

For users who are new to computers, stability isn’t an issue,neither is the fact that the OS is proprietary or Free software, nor is security an issue. The only thing they have in mind is to learn to use the computer in the most easiest way and in the shortest possible time.  Using the computer in Windows is so easy. No need to even use the Keyboard. Everything is just a couple of mouse clicks away. They even have named the class of their OS after the main feature of a GUI – Windows!. In  one word Windows is user friendly.

Windows was built with the customer… I mean the user in mind. Linux was built with the system in mind as most people using Unix was usually an engineer at MIT or a computer science student. Thats why Linux is so successful in the server market where stability and security are relevant whereas the same criteria makes it unsuccessful in the desktop world.

However the scenario is changing fast. Linux has become a lot more user friendly than in the past while still maintaining its strengths.

If you have been reading through my posts you might get the idea that I am a Linux fanboy. I am today, but four years ago it was a different story.

My first experience with Linux was anything but positive. Actually I hated it in the beginning.

I had a spare HDD about  10 Gb  and decided to install Linux on it. The HDD had a few problems and a few bad sectors so what better place to install Linux!! The distro  I  used was called Open Suse. (I thought  it had a pretty strange name). I successfully installed it as it was a full install and there was no need for partitioning it. I didn’t like the look of the OS. it had a crude feeling  about it. I decided to install some programs on it but lo and behold I couldn’t even begin installing it as those program only ran on windows. The only software that was familiar to me was Firefox and thankfully I could browse the web with it.  Well that was it. After that I sold the drive to one of my friends.

Well afterwards I never seriously thought about using it again let alone waste my time blogging  for it.

The fundamental difference of Linux from other Operating systems is.

  • Linux is licensed under the revolutionary GNU General Public License.
  • It is maintained by a team of developers from all parts of the world, some are volunteers others are paid programmers working together over the internet. Nobody really owns it, but everyone is part of it.

Linux is also has other features that make it special.

  • Multiuser
  • Multiplatform
  • Interoperable
  • Scalable
  • Portable
  • Flexible
  • Stable
  • Efficient
  • Free. (Free as in Freedom of Speech and as in Free Lunch)