Linux Frequently Asked Questions


Pinoy Techie
What is Linux?
Simply put, Linux is a clone of Unix, but better than Unix. It's the perfect operating system. It retains the efficiency and flexibility of Unix while learning from its mistakes. It's superior to mainstream OSes like Windows and Mac OS X in every way. It can do everything from run a supercomputer to make decade-old PCs useful again. Okay, calling Linux an operating system by itself is inaccurate. Linux is actually just the kernel. Technically, since just about every Linux distribution out there (except Android) uses the GNU userland, it's really called GNU/Linux. But the users simply call it Linux for short, much to Richard Stallman's discontent.

Who should use Linux?
Well, everyone with a working PC and a brain. If you're capable of reading and following simple instructions, Linux is for you. If you're on an old PC and you keep having to reinstall Windows every few months because it becomes unusably slow, Linux is the answer. If you're on a good PC but you can't stand the thought of your OS wasting resources for no reason (cough...Windows...cough), you should consider making the switch.

Who shouldn't use Linux?
If you don't know the difference between x86 and x64, you're intimidated by the command line, you're incapable of following the simplest instructions, or you're otherwise mentally retarded, just stick to Macroshaft Wangblows or Clusterfuck OS X like every other spoon-fed peasant. Your experience with Linux won't be very good.

Why should I bother with Linux?
Ahh, where do I start. So many reasons. I'll list them off!

1. It's faster than Winblows and OSX. Linux uses far fewer system resources than Windows. On 64-bit Windows 7, you're looking at 1.1GB of RAM being used immediately on startup – wasted by the OS. And that's not counting the 2GB of shit it has swapped out. Swapping is the process of writing pages from RAM to a special area of the hard disk reserved for this purpose. It can save your ass from a crash if you use all your RAM at once – but if it comes to this, expect your system to come to a screeching halt. My fully-functional 64-bit OpenSUSE system uses about 350MB of RAM on a cold boot. And it's running KDE 5 so I have ten times the eye candy of any Windows OS. On Linux, you probably will never need swap space if you have 8GB of RAM or more. So there is no excuse for Windows needing to swap out with nothing running but itself.

2. Just about everything is free. Most Windows programs are (poorly) written by greedy fucks who advertise their software as if it were the best thing since sliced bread, but leave you to find out upon installation that the software is either on a timer, filled with ads, or heavily crippled unless you pay. So your options are to pay for software that might not even work the way you wanted, or pirate the software and risk catching malware. Meanwhile in Linux-land, about 99% of the software you'll install and use is free and open source. Free as in freedom. What you see is what you get, and you don't have to pay anyone a damn thing to use, modify or redistribute the software.

3. It's not bloated. Let's say you have ten programs installed on your Windows PC that use the Qt libraries for their

interfaces. Chances are they're not all using the same versions of Qt. Which means that you have 10 copies of the same libraries installed on your system. This scenario was purely hypothetical, of course. In reality, the problem is much worse. Either the executables for your application will be statically-linked (meaning the libraries are crammed into the executable itself), or you'll have potentially HUNDREDS of copies of potentially THOUSANDS of different libraries scattered throughout your hard drive. But this doesn't just waste disk space. This wastes valuable RAM and CPU cycles. You'll end up with multiple copies of the same library loaded into different locations in RAM. That adds up. On Linux, however, the vast majority of executables are dynamically-linked. Meaning that if ten programs depend on, they're all using the same copy. This leads to less RAM being wasted and a generally faster system.

4. It's more secure. Windows didn't see any root-user separation at all until Vista. Even now, it's half-assed and slow. When a program requests elevated privileges in Windows, all you get is a simple confirmation dialog, to which the majority of users mindlessly answer “yes” and act surprised when they find themselves with malware. This also means that if you happen to leave your laptop unattended, someone else can easily stop by your unattended laptop/desktop/whatever and install malware or spyware on your system. It is possible to make UAC ask for credentials, but it requires that you dig through local group policy. Which is a pain in the ass. On the contrary, Linux has VERY clear root-user separation. The ONLY places a normal user has readwrite access to are their home folder and /tmp. Permission management is also much more comprehensive. Users can be placed in multiple groups that allow them to different things, such as run virtual machines and use sudo for privilege escalation. Files and folders can have permissions set that allow and deny access to certain users and groups. Overall it's much less of a headache than on Windows.

5. It's not a clusterfuck. On Windows, application data and leftover garbage files are hidden in possibly hundreds of hidden folders. This is a massive waste of hard drive space and quite honestly there is no excuse for this. On Linux, you know where everything is because it's more organized. Your temporary files are in /tmp. Your configuration files are in ~/.config. Your cache files are in ~/.cache. If an application does not store its external files in one of those places, you at least know it's in your home folder, which narrows it down by a lot. Usually software that stores external files this way will have a hidden folder with a name related to the software, easily shown by hitting Ctrl+H in most file managers.

6. It's easier to maintain. As a Windows user, you probably have a third-party defragger, a registry cleaner and a junk file scanner. You can forget about those on Linux. You don't need them. Linux doesn't even have a registry. Junk files are usually cleaned by the applications that leave them. And last but not least, Extended filesystems (such as Ext4) rarely fragment. You might have to defrag a Linux machine once every few years, as opposed to once every few days on Windows. On top of this, you don't have a million and a half programs with update checkers running constantly. All of your updates are handled by your package manager. For example, all I have to do on Arch is “pacman -Syu” and my system and installed applications are all updated at once, usually in under a minute.

What distro should I use?
Ahh. This question is almost as old as Linux itself, and is bound to cause a flame war if asked in a diverse group of Linux users. The most sensible answer is this. Pick the one that works for
you the best. I use OpenSUSE Tumbleweed and think it's the most god-tier OS ever created. It works for me. Ask another Linux user and he might tell you Debian is the best. It works for him. Also Debian really isn't half bad. Anyway! I'll just give you a (heavily opinionated) rundown of the most popular distros.
Ubuntu A distro for Linux newbies and advanced users alike (which is why it's the most popular Linux distro). Installation is easy as fuck, even for someone who's never touched Linux a day in his life. Actually it was my first dive into Linux. But I digress. Ubuntu is made to be really easy to use. Easier than Windows in a lot of ways. And if you spend five minutes reading and customizing it, Ubuntu can look really nice. This is the distro that says “Linux isn't rocket science”.

OpenSUSE A fairly easy RPM-based distribution. This is a very good distro for beginners that want to get their hands dirty right off the bat. It includes the very powerful YaST, which is an all-in-one settings manager that allows you to do everything from change your password to fine-tune kernel settings to fit your workload. On top of this, the Tumbleweed branch (and Leap I think) give you the option to use KDE 5, which is the prettiest desktop environment available on Linux (and nothing else). See the screenshot below, it's my desktop. It's really really nice. In my not so humble opinion, it's the perfect operating system. This distro says “Linux can be easier than Windows and better looking than OSX”

Debian Commonly referred to as the “elder god” distro, Debian is a rock-solid distro whose maintainers place higher value on stability than bleeding-edge software. Ubuntu is actually a Debianbased distro. It's possible to turn Debian into whatever the hell you need it to be; be it a lightweight OS for your Minecraft server or a workstation platform. This distro says “Stability is more important than new software”.

Mint Basically Ubuntu, but with the Cinnamon desktop instead of Unity and Sysvinit instead of Systemd. This distro is quite literally “baby's first Linux” and is an affront to all things Linux. It appeals to neckbeards because it doesn't use Systemd. And it appeals to noobs because everything is included, even things you don't want (like an outdated version of Java). You don't have to learn a damn thing to use Mint. The UI is very similar to Windows, and even nonfree components such as media codecs are included. On top of this, Mint uses modified versions of certain packages, which can lead to instability. Only use this if you're profoundly stupid and you're incapable of using anything else. This distro says “HURR DURR LET'S CLONE WINDOWS XDDDDD”

Fedora Red Hat's free community distro. And in my opinion, the worst Linux distro ever created. Upon install, you're greeted with the fairly nice looking and very smooth Gnome interface. Everything goes great – until you want to play an mp3. So you look up the package names for the GStreamer codecs and find that they're NOT in the official Fedora repositories. Nothing that isn't free and open source is there. You have to go through the extra trouble of adding a repository just to install simple media codecs. Not cool. Anyway! So you have your favorite browser installed, you can play all your media files, then it quits working for no reason. That's the Fedora way of doing things. More trouble than its worth. This distro says “Playing your media files should be rocket science”.

Arch Linux If you like doing literally everything yourself, you might want to use Arch. It allows you to basically piece together your own system from the ground up. It's the pinnacle of freedom and flexibility. You (the user) decide what to use and how and when. In addition to being given this much control, Arch also features the Arch User Repository. The AUR contains just about every single piece of Linux software imaginable. If it wasn't for the potential breakage (as it is bleeding edge), it would be higher on the list. However, if you don't know exactly what you're doing or you can't be bothered to Google it before crying on the forums, this is not the distro for you. This distro says “Linux doesn't have to be rocket science. But we made it so”.

Now what?
So you've picked a distro and you're learning your way around. Congratulations, you're now a part of the glorious Linux Master Race. But! Keep in mind that the applications you normally used on Windows aren't 100% guaranteed to be available on Linux. You'll probably have to find alternatives that may actually work BETTER than what you normally used. Here are some of your choices. This is very short and sweet so it's FAR from complete. Web browser: Google Chrome, Chromium, Firefox, Midori, Vivaldi, Opera Media player: Banshee, VLC, Cmus, JuK, Amarok, Clementine File manager: PcmanFM, Thunar, Nautilus, Midnight Commander

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