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The Linux survival guide

With Windows 8 on the horizon many of you are completely confused with the new operating system and will be looking to alternatives. Most of you will be upgrading from Windows XP to a new operating system and OSX won’t be in your price range. Many of you will stick to Windows 7, but some of you will be moving to something else or looking for a new cheap alternative.

Although Windows 8 brings to the forefront a huge array of innovation in how we use our computers, many people think that the new UI is obstructing them from doing their own work. Some people hate it simply because some guy sat in a corner chewing his keyboard going over in his head about how terrible his life had become after using Windows 8 for five minutes and the resulting document was posted online. Many of you just don’t like it and you want something that you’re used to.

This is Linux

Ubuntu is a fast, extremely safe and pretty impressive piece of software that almost anyone can get into. The problem with Linux (any distro) is that you need to be extremely computer literate and you need to at least know a bit about troubleshooting certain issues if you’re not helped by your son in the basement.

I read recently that a blogger dumped Ubuntu on his 80 year old mother and she could get into it. I pretty much believe that because everything was set up for her, thus the only thing she needed to do is click some icon. But what about the rest of us? I could get into it easily because I’m used to tinkering with OS’s and before Windows Vista I hated any version of Windows and preferred to use Command Prompt. For the average layman out there downloading it for the first time it will be a really confusing experience. But I have a few pointers:

So how do I get Linux?

Installing Ubuntu is the easiest part. Head on to their website and download the rather small ISO file, and burn it onto a DVD. After the lengthy install you’ll be ready to go. If you’re not familiar with the entire process then grab some thick rimmed glasses geek that’s wandering aimlessly in the street to do it and he’ll be in heaven.

Where is my Office?

Unfortunately Office will not be available on Linux and there are plenty of options on Linux. LibreOffice comes pre-installed on Ubuntu, but if that is a bit limiting then grab OpenOffice from the Ubuntu Software Center. It’s uncertain when Office will arrive on Linux, but I for one hope that this happens soon. I have used several open source Office products in the past and my experience is that they do get the job done. If you’re an average Word user churning out a few documents a week then you’ll have no problem.

Running Applications

This is the most annoying feature I have come across on any version of Linux. In the interest of security Ubuntu keeps certain files from automatically running when you double click them unless you expressly give them permissions. When you download a certain application it might also not work right away. It’s quite easy the get into and you’ll be running all your favorite applications in no time. Firstly when you download an application (for instance Minecraft) the file will be saved in the Downloads folder, or for easier access in the Dash. Right click this file and click on ‘Open with other Application’. Click on ‘Find Applications Online’. After it searched a few options will be shown and download them. Once that is done you can close all the windows and then go back to the application file. Right click and go to ‘Properties’, once there you can go to ‘Permissions’ and choose the ‘Run this as Application’ check box. Now whenever you double click the file it will automatically run in the selected application (i.e. JAVA)

Playing music and videos

Unlike Windows and OSX (for those who don’t know yet) that come out of the box with support for files like AVI, Mp3 and a range of others, Linux does not. But don’t fear, it’s a few steps away when you just installed the new OS. By now you’ve already copied all your files from your backups and everything seems great. When you double click any file (be it music or Video) it will open the relevant media player. The media player will automatically search online for plug-ins. Install them and you’ll be enjoying your favorite music in no time. Remember there are several options to go for if the Rhythm box player aren’t for you. Check out the Ubuntu Software center for players which will give you a slightly better experience.


Well most people confuse the Internet being the Internet Explorer button. For Linux users there are two options, Firefox and Chrome. Chrome is at the moment the second most popular browser in the world with users on Windows, OSX and Linux. Firefox is most Linux users favorite. Firefox comes standard on Ubuntu and even on my Windows 8 machine, Firefox remains my favorite alternative. If you have a physical wired network in your house then Linux should pick up the network settings automatically and you’ll be surfing in no time. If you’re on a Wireless network then look at the top right corner for a ‘Network connections’ icon. Choose the edit connections option and add your Wireless connection from there if it didn’t find it automatically.

What is this Ubuntu One?

If you’re an OSX or Windows user you’re probably familiar with Skydrive and iCloud. Ubuntu One is a cloud storage product that lets you store and access your most used documents from anywhere with nothing but a password. No more carrying around 2TB hard drives and USB dongles. Setting it up is easy enough by clicking the Ubuntu One icon in the dock. It will automatically back up all your files as well so that you don’t need to worry about the day when your Pentium 4 decides to give in.

How do I change the background?

Well this is the easiest part. Just like in Windows it’s a right click away. Under Appearance in the Settings menu. You can change everything here from the display size, appearance settings, printers et al.

Keeping up to date

As with all software, it is extremely important to download updates. OSX and Linux need to be updated regularly to ensure malware and hackers can’t break in….easily. If you’re moving from Windows because you hated the software updates then you’ll be hugely disappointed. But it’s really not such a big deal. Click on the Dash and double click the ‘Software Update’ icon and download and install the latest updates. Ubuntu comes with a lot of updates and I recommend doing this weekly. Unfortunately I didn’t see an Automatic option so it still remains manual for now.

Will I have to write my own drivers?

This is probably the silliest thing I’ve heard. Ubuntu and any other Linux distro had years of development and community assistance so you’ll pretty much find any driver for almost any item you will plug into your computer. I didn’t have problems with my printers and displays and they all worked. If you’re into writing and debugging things then Linux is a great platform for that.

Gaming is somewhat limited on Linux I have to agree, but Steam is rushing its way to the platform since they feel threatened (for some reason) by Windows 8. Steam is a great place to download games, chat with friends and other awesome stuff. Until then you’ll be stuck with whatever breakout games they have in the Software Center, and unless you’re really feeling adventurous you can always try to run your favorite game under WINE. It’s pretty much the same procedure as running any other application.

The overall experience on Ubuntu is somewhat jarring but once you’ve broken out of your normal everyday shell and made yourself comfortable with the new OS you’ll have fun. Yes if you’re heavily invested in your collection of Windows apps then I would strongly suggest staying with Windows. But if you’re really tired of ye olde Start button, and confused by the lack there of in Windows 8 then Ubuntu should work fine.

If you want to try it but feel intimidated by the process you can grab the guy in the corner, give him a sandwich to chew on and he’ll be more than happy to help you.

[Image credit]

Author Bio

Dreyer Smit
By day he seems like a normal everyday person, going about his chores working like a good little bee. But at night he changes into the Tech Guru Dreyer Smit. Testing every cool gadget he can get his hands on. Biggest Microsoft fan, but will always recommend the best... More
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  • 2 options for the internet? I guess so if you don’t count the other minor browsers available like Midori, rekonq, Konqueror, and a few others. As far as major browsers you fail to mention opera who have 270 million users worldwide. Compare that to the approximately 142 million members of the Russian population or the 311 million Members of the United States Population.

  • Lanser

    Very poorly researched article ” LibreOffice comes pre-installed on Ubuntu, but if that is a bit limiting then grab OpenOffice”
    limiting? they have almost identical functionality and in fact Libre is ahead of Open.

    “It’s uncertain when Office will arrive on Linux, but I for one hope that this happens soon”
    If you think M$ will port Office to Linux you are seriously deluded

    “This is the most annoying feature … In the interest of security Ubuntu keeps certain files from
    automatically running … unless you expressly
    give them permissions”
    Thats part of the reason Linux is inherently more secure than Windows

    The internet has already been addressed but one more point W3Counter says Chrome has more market share than IE, firefox is not far behind and if you add Opera then those 3 (Chrome+FF=Opera) have more than 53%

  • I can see why Ubuntu would appeal to ex-windows users…. but if you want to get serious about GNU/Linux then Ubuntu is not the one. Many long-term users of GNU/Linux wouldn’t even mention Ubuntu in the same breath has GNU/Linux.
    The common factor in Microsoft and Ubuntu is crapware….

  • Ken Ash

    This guy must think all aternatives revole around ubuntu. With this kind of mentality linux as a hole is doomed. Its time to wake up bud and stop walking with blinders on.

  • no more gearburn ffor me

    This is one of the worst articles I’ve read about Linux as it givers any Linux newcomer incorrect observations.

    I could list all the errors but others who have replied have covered most of it

  • 2eurocents

    You should mention that *drivers* come *plugged in* the actual kernel. The poor windows folk will think they’ll have to hunt them down and download them from the internet…
    Anyway somebody escaping from the unfamiliarity of “windows 8” and its price will find an odd home in Ubuntu… which also has a weird interface nowadays. I would recommend Kubuntu, or some version of Mint to new users.

  • Fabrice

    Downloading apps from the net?!!?? Where is this guy coming from??? Ever heard of the build-in Software Center with over 23000 apps to install?!?? This article should be removed. It’s an insult to our intelligence!

  • BW

    Garbage, written by a no-know ….

  • conor rynne

    the average user does not care… the point is it just works

  • conor rynne

    actually he does have a point…how many others are gunning for desktop acceptance as much as Canonical?

  • conor rynne

    this article isn’t about getting serious about GNU/Linux…its about having an alternative setup that lets the average user get things done. To most people, a computer is a tool and nothing more.

    As for crapware, a usable desktop and stable platform should not fall into that category. It allows for others to build on what Canonical got right, and work on what could be improved. Example, I’d take Pantheon over Unity any day, but i dont see large support for either on anything but Ubuntu

  • Robert Zimbardo

    Jeses, someone didn’t get his facts right. The comments re office, re the browsers, and other things are just plain misleading.,

  • Neticis

    You lost me at the “..LibreOffice comes pre-installed on Ubuntu, but if that is a bit limiting then grab OpenOffice..” because LibreOffice is one which has more features than other one: http://people.gnome.org/~michael/blog/2012-04-26-ooo-comparison.html

  • Jymm

    I agree that the article is poorly written, but maybe he is trying to keep it simple for Windows users. Not a great idea to win fans. Actually though if I was to recommend a LinuxOS to someone coming from Windows, it would be the Zorin. Based on Ubuntu, but with a look changer that can give you a Windows look, it comes with the codecs needed to play MP3’s and movies. It has everything the average user needs for web browsing, e-mail, chat and social media. Zorin uses the Ubuntu installer so is easy to install. It is also good at finding peripherals and most things will work right out of the box. The other advice for any window migrant is join the forum. You will need some advice sooner than later with Linux.

  • eco2geek

    many of you are completely confused with the new operating system

    Maybe insulting the intelligence of your readers isn’t the best way to start off an article. And if someone’s confused by Windows, it’s more than a bit doubtful they”re going to find Linux (in general) and Ubuntu’s Unity interface (in particular) a model of simplicity.

    I think it’s important for Linux newbies to know that switching to Linux from Windows is somewhat analogous to moving to a new country, where they still speak English, but with a different accent, and where there are different customs. Truth in advertising.

    That being said, probably the best way to jump into Ubuntu is to buy an introductory book about it that includes Ubuntu on CD or DVD.

  • BobK54

    What about all that compiling and dependency hell stuff? You missed all that too!

    Wow, total waste of time reading this. This, folks, is a perfect example of pure M$ FUD. Please do more research before writing……PLEASE.

  • ZX80Man

    +1 on very poorly researched!
    It’s like playing the Bob game, only you count all the BS instead.
    Writer is clearly convinced that all that $ and time spent/wasted on M$ was not in vane. Linux has something for anyone, that is not locked inside the M$ box.

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  • Jason

    This is why we don’t need any new “Introductions” to Linux. There has to be millions of these articles floating around the internet. Please come up with an original idea, this is just lazy.

  • Carlos

    Hey, the only way an 80 year old lady will get something done with Windows is if everything is set up for her.

  • bronkish

    Worst article about GNU/Linux ever.

  • The author is a total linux noob, check his other posts! same ignorance
    Besides he introduces himself as a microsoft fan..