| This 35 message thread spans 2 pages: 35 (  2 ) > > || |
|Thinking about switching to linux - need advice|
concerned about software/hardware issues
Hi! For some time now I have been seriously considering replacing my current computer with a laptop with linux when my machine dies - which could be soon as it's over 4 years old and starting to have some serious problems. Plus, I now have a family member with a serious health problem and I may need to spend a few days a week helping out with them. They don't have a computer and I don't know if I can afford to miss getting that much work done. I had been hoping to be able to take my time with getting a new computer set up, but because of this I may have to speed up the process.
Since I'm not at all familiar with linux, except the little I've read here I have many concerns about software and hardware issues.
1) I will need Photoshop and Flash so I will have to have a windows emulator software, which I've heard of, but have no idea how they work. I'm under the impression that I still need to have a version of Windows on the computer. If so, does it matter which one? And will that make me just as vunerable (sp?) as a regular windows computer to viruses, etc.?
I would also like to run other windows software such as IE, now and then for PR, etc. Plus I have other software I use sometimes that I don't think they make linux versions either. Can any software that runs on windows machines run on linux with the emulator software?
2) Music capabilities
This is a minor one really. I would like to be able to play mp3's, but I suppose that if I have a windows emulator I could still use winamp on it and Music Match software. We recently got a digital piano though and it can be hooked up to a PC or Mac, doesn't say anything about linux though. I might would never use this feature though, but thought I would ask. Basically, is there anything about linux that makes it difficult to use music related software on?
1) Printers and scanners - would the ones I have now likely be compatible with linux, or would I have to buy new ones?
2) Cirque touchpad - instead of a mouse I use a Cirque touchpad for ergonomic reasons. I guess I will really have to check the cirque site for this information, if it is compatible with linux. Even though the laptop will, obviously have a touchpad, I'm concerned that if I use it for extended periods of time it will further damage my wrists because of the angle I will have to have my wrist in to use it.
3) Digital camera software and printers.
I don't even have a digital camera yet, but would like to get one soon. Does anyone know if the software for these is compatible with linux? Those fancy color printers they make now too.
I apologize if this email doesn't seem well thought out. I get in a panic mode now and then because I don't know how much or how soon I may have to spend several days out of town at a time. And I don't know if I can afford to go that long without getting any work done.
I already have another question to add to this, forgive me is this sounds stupid.
Does it matter what computer I actually buy, to install linux on? I'm asking because right now I'm looking at Dell's site and the laptops they have. Would any of them be ok or are there any issues I should be aware of when choosing processors, ports, etc?
|I will need Photoshop and Flash |
There are several ways to do it, with different degrees of sucess. I'll just let you know they exist and wait until the real experts come in; look in this site archives, there has been some talk about it before. Keywords: wine, vmware.
|I would like to be able to play... |
Already possible to play anything (I mean anything). I haven't found yet a file I can't play either with xmms (for sound files) or mplayer (for video).
|Hardware issues |
Does it matter what computer I actually buy, to install linux on?
This is the "canonical" reference.
For scanners compatibility see [sane-project.org...]
|We recently got a digital piano... |
Sorry, I've never had one of these.
If it is useful in any way there's just been a piece of hardware I've been not able to make work in Linux (an old parallel port scanner).
Photoshop apparently runs under CodeWeaver's Crossover Office. We also have GIMP, which is a photoshop wannabe. Not sure about the flash designer... There is a free demo you can download and try from their web site.
If you really need particular proprietary apps that don't have Linux versions, I'd reccomend checking whether they are supported in Crossover Office. Other than that, you can use Wine for Windows programs, but it can be a headache even if you do have a copy of Windows. For some idea of what is/can be involved in getting things to work under Linux and Wine, try searching this forum for discussion of Wine and IE. We had a lot of discussion about it a few months ago, and I posted about the process in a lot of detail then.
If you can do with work-alike software, a lot of it is very good. I'd never waste the money or effort to run Office in an emulator, for example, and The Gimp can open PSD files. I've never used Photoshop, though, and I haven't forced any of my designers to use The Gimp yet, so I can't personally compare their functionality. Music deffinitely falls in this category. There are far too many excellent music programs for there to be any reason to worry. Personally, I like Zinf.
The canonical reference for Linux printer compatability is linuxprinting.org [linuxprinting.org]. It's worth checking there before you buy a printer, but chances are good that it will work. Another strong indicator would be if the printer claims Mac OS X compatability, since Macs use the same Cups printing system as modern Linux distributions.
Cameras are more likely to work than not, but I can't point to a single reliable reference point. As a rule, though, digital cameras now use USB mass storage interfaces, and just look like a small USB hard drive full of images to your computer. Linux can handle those, and one or two of the other protocols cameras use.
Having just looked at the Cirque web site, I'd almost be willing to promise that your touch pad will work. In all likihood, it acts just like a USB or PS/2 mouse.
As far as the computer itself is concerned, you do need to be a little careful when you are shopping for a machine to run Linux on, especially if it is a laptop. Centrino processors, for example, are probably a bad choice because drivers for the built in wifi interface aren't available for Linux. There's been some noise about changing that, but as far as I know, no action. There are also issues with some graphics and sound cards that are likely to come up. Several web sites exist where various people keep track of which models various people have gotten to work to what degree. However, they tend to lag behind the market enough that it's hard to use them as a buying guide.
Since you're specifically considering Dells, I will say that I know their Precision 650n tower with Linux pre-installed runs like a dream. (I'm typing this on one of them, and my department has a total of three.) I *think* that the Precision M60 laptop looks promising, too, but I haven't actually tried it. Maybe I'll go pop Knoppix in one while I wait for this backup to complete.
Modems can also be a bit tricky, Most modems that you buy aren' proper modems at all. They are in fact winmodems. Some distros allow for this others are a little behind. In most cases a true modem will solve the issue.
DVD's can also be a problem. Due to liscence fees on the DVD codecs I don't know of a distro capable of playing DVD.
>Modems can also be a bit tricky
A very common problem.
Also, you might consider getting a large hard drive that you can partition. Linux is great, but you probably want to view all your pages on various browsers and platforms, and it does take a while to learn how to get around in Unix/Linux.
|I don't know of a distro capable of playing DVD. |
True enough, on the face of it, but also easy to circumvent. For about a year, my wife and I watched all our rented movies on my Debian Linux box because it had the only DVD drive in the house. No distro will ship 'libdvdcss' by default, but it's easy to find and install. Last time I looked, there was a link to it from the Xine web site. Once it's there, several movie players (that *are* included in almost every distro) are happy to use it.
Oh, and Knoppix runs perfectly well on the Dell Precision M60. Sound, video, network. I'm not sure about the 802.11, since we don't have a wirelss network here to test it with. I haven't plugged anything into the firewire ports, either, but it isn't something I've heard of people having much trouble with, and I think the controller is the same on that's in my 650n - which is sold with Linux pre-installed.
<edit reason="stupid one-word error" />
Wow! Lots of information here. I will have to read through this and come back and I'm sure I will have more followup questions! Thanks!
So with Wine I can run almost any windows software but I need a copy of windows also? Does it matter which one? What I'm seeing on the Dell site is only XP, either professional or home.
I'll use Open Office for office like software, its just the other stuff,like photoshop, flash and a few other smaller things.
I'll probably wait a while before I buy a printer or scanner for it. Meanwhile, I'll just save files to a floppy and then put them on my old computer to print if I need to. Same with a digital camera.
I can avoid the centrino stuff, but I'll have to check and see if the graphics cards for the two Dells I'm looking at will be compatible or not. Dell doesn't even say what sound card they use so I guess I will have to call and ask about that.
I could check into the Precision line, but didn't even see them on Dells site, or in a catalog I have.
the Modem thing, that sounds bad. So I might have to buy the one that comes with the computer and it may not work and still have to buy another one.
I'm starting to feel pretty pessimistic about this whole thing though. At the very least, since I may only have a couple days a week to deal with this at all, it could take at least 6-8 weeks before I can really be up and running with a linux laptop. Which means either I won't be able to spend as much time with my family or I won't be able to get very much work done, and I don't know if we can afford that.
>At the very least, since I may only have a couple days a week to deal with this at all, it could take at least 6-8 weeks before I can really be up and running with a linux laptop.
That's the whole idea behind partitioning a hard drive. If you have Linux and Windows XP on the same drive, you can boot either OS. This way there's no need to learn everything Linux all at once. You can make the transition at a relaxed pace. I'd be willing to bet that even some of the Senior members around here use Windows at times.
|That's the whole idea behind partitioning a hard drive. If you have Linux and Windows XP on the same drive, you can boot either OS. This way there's no need to learn everything Linux all at once. You can make the transition at a relaxed pace. |
That would be a nice way to do it. How difficult is it to do? Could I start out with just Windows XP, as a Dell would come and then later add Linux?
At this point I'm seriously considering just buying a really cheap laptop that can do the minimum stuff I need to do, so I can be up and running right away. Then later spend more money and get what I really want.
SlowMove - I missed it the first time you mentioned partitioning the hard drive, how big of one do you think I would need to have both xp and linux? The ones I've been looking at are 60 G at 7200 rpm. It seems the larger ones dell sells are slower.
60 Gigs would be enough for me. I used Partition Magic [symantec.com] on a new drive with no problems. I think PM has an option to create a new partition on unused space if there's already data on the drive, but it's probably easier to partition first and then install the operating systems. Included with PM is Boot Magic which lets you decide what OS you want to boot up.
Trisha, dingman mentioned knoppix - look it up on a SE, it's just as good as rumor has it and then some. There's a "knopper" domain and a "knoppix" one - be sure to visit both.
The trick is: Burn a knoppix CD, put it into a drive on any PC and boot right into linux off it - no need to install anything. That way you will instantly know how much of your hardware is recognized and supported. My best guess is all of it as knoppix is superior in detection imho.
If you want a permanent install, knoppix has an install feature that will let you get up and running with Debian linux in five minutes if everything goes smooth, and it probably does. You can install on top of XP and there's a disk partitioning thingy in the install routine as well, so there's no need to buy software for that. It's as easy as this:
Open a terminal (the linux equivalent of a dos prompt) and enter:
sudo knoppix-installer - then just follow the messages on the screen. You will want to install "lilo" four dual boot, and that's done for you as well.
Regarding software, the Gimp is just as powerful as Photoshop afaik and imho. There's a learning curve, though, as it definitely doesn't operate the same way although it can do the same things. Otherwise, put this searchstring into the Google searchbox and follow it to the .ru site:
"analogs of Windows software in Linux"
(i'm not affiliated with any domains or products mentioned here)
Edit: Changed the command
sudo knx-hdinstall to
sudo knoppix-installer. The latter is the new version that runs smooth, the first one is no longer recommended.
[edited by: claus at 2:30 am (utc) on Mar. 21, 2004]
Good, 60 sounds good then. I don't want to try installing XP myself, so I would have to do the partioning later.
As far as installing OS goes, I really don't want to try installing linux myself either. I thought I might try finding someone from a local linux users group to pay to do it.
dingman mentioned "There are also issues with some graphics and sound cards that are likely to come up. " It seems all the Dells I've been looking at have integrated sounds cards - they are built into the motherboard. The guy at Dell I talked to didn't think that would be a problem with linux. Is that a good idea though, to have a sound card built into the motherboard? What if you wanted a different or better one?
Claus - just saw your post - sounds good, but its going to take me a while to digest all of this!
>> take me a while to digest
*lol* no worries, just get a CD with knoppix on it and you're up and running before you even think about installing anything. Just put the CD in the drive and boot the computer, that's it. Really, just do it :)
I almost hate to post this (not trying to start a holy war here) but... if you want a *nix system that runs all the software you mentioned and works seamlessly with all the hardware you mentioned why don't you take a look at Apple's laptops. Sounds exactly what you're looking for. Feature for feature they're priced very competitvely. Runs all the *nix software; does DVDs, Photoshop etc.; decent Windows emulation is possible with addt'l software; the hardware is awesome.
That being said, you could use Gimp in place of Photoshop on Linux. I'd be really surprised if there wasn't any MP3 players available on Linux. Same with print drivers (thinking cups and/or gimpprint). Not sure about Flash and digital cameras, though.
It's your choice. Some people have more fun under the hood than on the road (ducking :p)
I have nothing against macs, but I didn't know Windows emulation was possible - can you run IE with the toolbar on it to check PR?
Yea, there's software called Virtual PC (now owned by Microsoft and is actually bundled with the MS Office suite for Mac I think). What Virtual PC does is boot the whole Windows operating in a window, or fullscreen if you prefer. So you have the Start menu, the desktop - everything. Yes, there's a performance hit so forget running games and other processor intensive stuff. But on modern Macs you won't notice any difference in performance with IE and programs like that.
Just be sure to factor in the cost of the software if you go that way.
That's interesting to know, but I will probably go with the PC and the dual partition thing for now. In part because I would have to rebuy the Mac versions of a lot of my software. I may already have to upgrade some anything, I'm using a really old version of Photoshop and flash 5, and I don't know if they will run under XP.
I'll be leaving in a few hours now to stay with my family for a few days, so I will have to continue this around the end of next week when I have access to a computer again.
If I can get a Dell with a windows preinstalled and then later partition the drive to put linux on part of it so that I can gradually transition to linux, that would be great and I will probably go that route.
At first I will just need a few basic applications functioning on it anyway to get some work done when I am away. I can always worry about the other stuff later.
I think the only immediate issues are whether or not the graphics card is compatible and the sound card. These sound cards are integrated into the motherboard though, so hopefully that will be ok.
Thanks for all the help so far - I may have more questions when I get back!
|So with Wine I can run almost any windows software but I need a copy of windows also? Does it matter which one? What I'm seeing on the Dell site is only XP, either professional or home. |
You don't necessarily need a copy of Windows. Last time I looked, if you wanted Wine to emulate 95, 98, or ME, you got better results with a copy of windows on the same machine, but no improvement when emulating NT/2k/XP. Things might have changed, though. The only Windows app I've ever needed was IE for testing my sites, and my new job doesn't require me to do that.
|I could check into the Precision line, but didn't even see them on Dells site, or in a catalog I have. |
It's possible that the Precision isn't available except through the business version of the site. I only ever shop in the "medium and large business" category. It's a nice machine, though. I'm a little jealous of the guys I just bought them for. ;)
|It seems all the Dells I've been looking at have integrated sounds cards - they are built into the motherboard. The guy at Dell I talked to didn't think that would be a problem with linux. |
I gave a few of the Dell laptops in the other lines a look before I bought M60s, and didn't see anything that immediately told be they wouldn't work. I do tend to look at the details of what chipsets are used on what machines, so there's a decent chance I would have noticed. They also seem to pretty much use ATI and nVidia graphics chips, which tend to work. If you get serious about a particular model, feel free to sticky mail me and I'll take a closer look.
As for whether integrated cards are a good idea, well, in a laptop you don't get much choice. It's either integrated or it's a PCMCIA card. Off the top of my head, I don't even know if there still *are* PCMCIA sound cards.
|Virtual PC (now owned by Microsoft and is actually bundled with the MS Office suite for Mac I think). |
Yup - but only included in the more expensive premium version of the suite. It's available standalone as well, though.
|3) Digital camera software and printers. |
I don't even have a digital camera yet, but would like to get one soon. Does anyone know if the software for these is compatible with linux? Those fancy color printers they make now too.
As far as digital cameras. One way to get around compatibility issue is to use a card reader. I just use a USB SanDisk CF card reader so I can pull pictures directly off the cards.
Reagarding parttioning your drive, you may want to look at PatitionStar rather than PartitionMagic. PartitionStar is far less expensive ($10 compared to about $60 or $70 for PartitionMagic) and I've read good reviews about it.
Well, I was just starting to feel all optimistic about this again, but now I'm about ready to give up on it again.
I had pretty much settled on getting a Dell Inspiron 5150, partitioning the drive with Knoppix and installing Linux on part of it. Then getting a copy of Win98 to use Win4Lin for the other software I need. Then I read these threads:
Don't know what to do, I really don't want to have to settle for a MS OS again, but I may have to.
Or, before I give up, what's the next easiest way to partition the hard drive and install linux other than knoppix? I guess I can get Partition Magic or PartitionStar for the partitioning. From what I've read, knoppix sounded like it would be easy enough that I could do it myself, but I'm not sure if I could install other versions myself or not. 4eyes used Mandrake in the thread: [webmasterworld.com...] maybe I can try that if it is not too difficult to install.
FWIW I found the the RedHat installer so easy (and the documentation good enough) that I'd *almost* turn grandma loose on it. I used XP to partition the drive (this was on a Compaq), installed XP first and then RedHat (as per the documentation). The RedHat installer handled the dual boot setup.
Older Windows installers don't give you the option to partition the drive, apparently, so RedHat comes bundled with a free program called parted to handle that. I didn't need to go that route, obviously, but maybe that'll work for you.
Ok, it seems that that particular dell model comes in a variety of configurations regarding bios, video cards, etc. (i tried following the links you provided).
One problem is with a feature called SMP - it seems to be a technique that enables one processor to pretend it's two of them. The solution here seems to be to find a distibution (a linux version - there's a lot of them) with a kernel that is not SMP enabled.
In the dell forum thread, there's a pointer to such a modified version of knoppix - it might just do what you need (haven't tested, i don't run that machine myself).
Although the threads are filled with problems, a few people do report that they have installed knoppix on the dell 5150 w/o problems. This might be due to the many varieties of "dell 5150". Some have installed SuSe or RedHat in stead, applying some minor hacks in the process. Also, some report that Mandrake can install nicely. I did not see Debian mentioned, but i suspect that it will install also (although Debian is what is "under the hood" in knoppix). But these are full packages...
Regarding Live CD's [google.com] (google search) there's also a distribution called gentoo that can run off a disk just like knoppix. Other Live CD's include Slackware Live CD and Gnoppix, but there's more. You should try these as well as knoppix, because the "live CD" approach has the advantage that you don't have to modify your system until after that linux thing is working for you. You just boot it right off the CD, and if it works and you like it, then you can install it. Some of these flavours allows modifications to the way it boots, so that you will be able to fix the most common problems instantly (for knoppix, it's called "cheat codes")
It might sound confusing with all these versions, but don't let it scare you. It's really just like chewing gum - there's many brands and flavours, but all of them are chewing gum, and your favorite is out there somewhere. There's not such a thing as a "better" distribution (version) they're just different. The best one is always the one that suits you (and your machine of course). Just pick one - if you like it, stick to it and spread the gospel, otherwise just grab another.
You might also want to check out the site "linux on laptops" (http://www.linux-laptop.net/) - choose dell at the right side of the screen, there's currently four reports to read on the 5150. Also Tuxmobil (http://tuxmobil.org/) has four pages of info on that model (note for mods: I'm not affiliated in any way)
So, it is possible to get linux running on that model, but it might require a little research. Before you start to partition hard drives etc., do get windows up and running first, so that you can search through the relevant forums.
Also, since you haven't purchased the model yet, you could consider buying another one - a linux power workstation is more modest in demands than a windows one - you'll simply get more bang for the buck, figuratively speaking.
Maybe I should get something other than a Dell, are there any other laptop brands that are good enough to eventually be a desktop replacement that either come preinstalled with linux or are easier to install it on?
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