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Changing from Windows to Linux
... a newbies tale
4eyes




msg:911862
 1:30 am on Jun 26, 2002 (gmt 0)

I have recently jumped over to Linux from Windows, after putting it off for far too long, and thought it might be worth sharing my experience in order to encourage others in the same boat.

For reference, I was a complete Linux newbie when I started the process.

I am now running Madrake 8.2, I did a test install on an old P200 box, which worked OK, so I decided to 'go for broke' and install on my main PC.

As with the test installation, it installed easily and picked up all of my hardware OK. The installation took me through the partitioning procedure without confusing me too much, and I was left with a fully working dual boot system - Linux and Windows XP.

Linux picked up my Cable connection OK, and I was live on the internet almost immediately.

My home network works OK as well.

I should point out that I didn't really know what I was doing here, I just clicked a few obvious things and to my surprise it worked first time. I haven't tried file sharing yet, but the network is sharing the Internet OK

After playing around with the various options, I decided that XFCE was the windows manager for me. can't explain why exactly, it just 'felt' right. Littlemans post here [webmasterworld.com]helped enormously when weeding out the alternatives.

The real problem, and the reason I hesitated so long, was finding suitable replacements for 'the essentials' which I relied on in Windows. For me these were:

  • Excel
  • Word
  • The Bat (e-mail)
  • Dreamweaver
  • U-Lead Photo Impact
  • Topdog
  • Spiderwriter (HTML editor with wysiwyg)
  • Topstyle
  • Mozilla
  • Internet Explorer (for checking pages only, obviously)

I need these to earn my daily bread - gotta have as good or better on Linux if it is to work for me.

After a week dredging the net (starting with our own forum here, of course), I have Good and Bad news to report.

The Good News

  • Gnumeric replaces Excel well enough for me
  • OpenOffice replaces Word (and Excel to a lesser extent - prefer Gnumeric)
  • Evolution replaces The Bat (extremely well - less features, but all the important ones are there and working smoothly so far)
  • Galeon replaces Mozilla (I know Moz is available on Linux - but Galeon is nicer and uses the same engine)

The Bad News

  • Dreamweaver and Spiderwriter cannot be replaced as easily - good html editors are available (Quanta, Bluefish and Screem all seem pretty good) but offer less in the WYSIWYG stakes. The nearest option is IBM Homepage Builder, but this runs under its own version of WINE (a windows emulator), and in the short time I tried it had a few crashes - I might give it another try, cos it looks quite nice, but not safe enough for serious work IMO.
  • U-Lead PhotoImpact can only be partly replaced by The Gimp. I couldn't find anything for Linux that could slice my graphics into nice CSS pages.
  • Topdog - nothing on Linux to replace this.
  • Topstyle - there are a few css editors for Linux - but sadly, nothing as good as topstyle.
  • Internet Explorer can be run using WINE - but I didn't try.

Now these 'bad news' problems would normally be enough to send me running back to Windows, but in the short time I have been using Linux, it has seduced me.

I can't go back now, this thing works 'nicer' than windows. Nevermind the technical issues in its favour - it just feels more responsive and can be made to work the way I feel comfortable.

Obviously, I needed to run Linux and still have access to some Windows software, so next I checked out the Windows emulation options.

There was the option of installing and running WINE, but this does not support Dreamweaver yet - so I didn't pursue that option.

Of the other options available, Win4Lin seemed the best for my needs, as it runs a genuine copy of Windows within Linux.

So Win4Lin was bought and installed. Surprisingly, it installed easily enough (you need a valid Windows 98 CD and licence).

I am now running Topdog, ULead, Dreamweaver MX and all the others I need, but inside a Windows installation running in a Linux Window. So far nothing of concequence has refused to run.

Unbelievably, it is nicer than running Windows under its own steam. Once Linux is running, Windows boots in about 9 seconds. It closes down in 5 seconds. Recovering from a Windows crash is now quick enough to be a minor irritation rather than a 15 minute Coffee break.

It runs a little slower on some tasks, but not in a way that presents a problem and some applications seem to run faster - seems to be much less disk thrashing going on.

I am now a 'happy chappy' with best of both Worlds. Of course, I am looking forward to the day when I can drop Win4Lin and go 'clean', but until then, at least I can get some work done and buy my food:)

 

Duckula




msg:911863
 1:49 am on Jun 26, 2002 (gmt 0)

For a good HTML editor, have you tried the Mozilla built-in editor? I specially like the DOM inspector.

What is all that about slicing graphics into nice CSS pages? Maybe some plugin or script could do what you need, I don't understand well what do you mean.

David




msg:911864
 1:57 am on Jun 26, 2002 (gmt 0)

Good Post 4eyes;

>> it just feels more responsive and can be made to work the way I feel comfortable. >>

Absolutly, Its like the machine just breaths better.

littleman




msg:911865
 2:23 am on Jun 26, 2002 (gmt 0)

Wow, another great post about real world Linux experiences.

Could you do me a favor and post a shot of Win4Lin running within XFCE? If you don't have a place to host it, I'll throw it up on my hypermart account.

Air




msg:911866
 3:37 am on Jun 26, 2002 (gmt 0)

That's a nice account of your conversion 4eyes, and yeah, I'd like to see a few screenshots of win-4-lin too ...

bill




msg:911867
 4:49 am on Jun 26, 2002 (gmt 0)

4eyes thanks for the informative post. This one gets a flag for future reference.

One of the things that always gets in the way of a big change like this is the amount of time involved. I know you've been working on this switchover for quite some time now...from a newbie standpoint just how long did it take you to mull this over, get your courage up, test the waters, get used to *nix, and finally make the actual change?

Obviously you think of this switchover as time well spent...do you find you are more productive than you were on Windows?

4eyes




msg:911868
 10:57 am on Jun 26, 2002 (gmt 0)
Screenshots:

[url=http://www.academy-internet.net/images/normal.jpg]running almost full screen[/url]

[url=http://www.academy-internet.net/images/smaller.jpg]running in resized window[/url]

These are of Internet Explorer running in Windows 98 on XFCE desktop at 1024x768 (resized the graphics to 800x600 for ease of viewing)

Windows resizes itself automatically within the Win4Lin window, which is pretty cool.

Duckula,
Yes I tried Mozilla Composer and really liked it. There is a cool css editor add-on which I couldn't get working on linux yet (although fine on Windows). When I get a little more time, this may be the path I take.

CSS slicing is an alternative to slicing graphics for html tables. The graphic is sliced the same, but the positioning is done using a style sheet instead of the tables. ULead and Imageready can do this automatically.

Bill,
Yup, started a few weeks ago with the trial install, but then left it because I couldn't find the web design tools I needed. The next time Windows started 'playing up' again was the catalyst. I was spending too much time cursing Windows and rebooting (yes even XP, which started so well eventually seemed to get 'clogged')

I probably took a weekend getting to the stage where I could use it a little - and then most of my evenings for the next week checking out the options.

I am not yet as productive using pure Linux as I was with Windows - but am getting there. With Win4Lin I can drop back to Windows as and when I need - so overall 'hybrid' productivity is high.

BTW I had a Laptop running Windows with all my important stuff mirrored on it 'just in case'.

luma




msg:911869
 10:58 am on Jun 26, 2002 (gmt 0)

Nice post! Have you tried Opera for Linux [opera.com]? It's my favorite browser. :)

NetGrease




msg:911870
 11:28 am on Jun 26, 2002 (gmt 0)

Great 'heads-up' 4eyes.

This is something I've been looking into quite seriously myself, on and off for the last 12 months or so. I was worried too about losing the applications I'm familiar with, and rely on every day, in the Windows environment.

But with the details you've given here (especially regarding Win4Lin "saving your Windows bacon") I'm much more optimistic, and hopefully I'll migrate in the very near future too.

Air




msg:911871
 11:31 am on Jun 26, 2002 (gmt 0)

Very nice, it's windows in a window, thanks for posting the pics.

budterm




msg:911872
 5:32 pm on Jun 26, 2002 (gmt 0)

Nice post 4eyes!

Oh man, I am getting very tempted on this one. It's good to know that I have some options.

Your post has been a great service to us all!

JayCee




msg:911873
 3:30 pm on Jun 27, 2002 (gmt 0)

IMO a practical alternative to Windows is great for us all, as competition will improve both Windows and Linux and may stop some of the terrible licensing practices that are stating to come from software manufacturers.

But for those who may think that all versions of Windows are always unreliable, I'd like to point out that my Windows 2000 Pro has not crashed once in the 2.5 years I've been running it. That's on a 3 PC LAN with 2 Win2K systems and one Win98 laptop, where my main PC is Win2k.

When one of my applications does have the rare lockup, Win2K can tame it and put it back in its cage without a restart.

I spend some of my time as a very experienced PC consultant and have not seen XP crashing on any of my client's PCs either. Since XP is built on top of Windows 2K, I expect it to be reliable also (and it seems to be - so far). I have read rumors that the WinXP autoupdates have caused some problems on laptops, but have no real evidence yet.

The most common mistake with Win2k and WinXP seems to be upgrading older versions of Windows after they are broken. You should always install a new version of Windows to a newly partitioned hard drive, rather than upgrade between versions. The new install can "inherit" problems from the old system (actually, can have trouble installing correctly with the damaged files).

Of course, knowing the tek stuff so you can buy the best hardware, turn off all the "features" you don't need in the BIOS and in the OS, having lot's of free hard drive space, large amounts of memory, extra cooling fans and doing some routine software maintenance, etc., etc. add a lot to reliability.

So, my point is that newer versions of Windows CAN be reliable.

4eyes




msg:911874
 3:43 pm on Jun 27, 2002 (gmt 0)

JayCee

I totally agree with you.

Windows XP is very stable compared to previous versions.

My XP was a clean install on a 800hz machine with 512M memory. Crashing wasn't really a problem. It just felt 'choked' and less responsive than Linux.

I still have a dual boot system, but haven't been back into Windows for a week now.

I just find the total 'user experience' of Linux better - others will certainly be better off with Windows - horses for courses etc.

physics




msg:911875
 7:41 pm on Jun 27, 2002 (gmt 0)

Anyone have an opinion on whether running win4lin better than running vmware? I don't know anything about win4lin but I use vmware. If win4lin runs programs from the normal linux file system rather from a windows partition or virtual disk I would prefer that (obviously)

evinrude




msg:911876
 7:56 pm on Jun 27, 2002 (gmt 0)

There's a pretty good look into Win4Lin [osnews.com] at OS News.

I'd love to try Win4Lin, but it doesn't seem to support Win2K or WinXP. :P Maybe soon...

JayCee




msg:911877
 5:19 am on Jun 28, 2002 (gmt 0)

Yes, thanks for a very instructive topic 4eyes!

I read a rave review of the new $75 "Star Office" suite for Linux in InfoWorld - their not usually given to raving :).

Anyone tried it yet? They wrote that there was practically no learning curve for MS-Office users.

physics




msg:911878
 6:16 am on Jun 28, 2002 (gmt 0)

Star Office, also called Open Office, is free. It's available at:
OpenOffice.org [openoffice.org]
and I highly recommend it also :)

See also
What is your favorite freeware [webmasterworld.com]

littleman




msg:911879
 7:04 am on Jun 28, 2002 (gmt 0)

Star Office and Open Office are very close, but they are not 100% identical. I know they have a different spell check routine. SO has a small bit of proprietary code in it including a SOL database of some sort. Function wise, they are about the same.

toadhall




msg:911880
 7:20 am on Jun 28, 2002 (gmt 0)

> SOL database of some sort

hehe - A db with a one-size-fits-all, up front error message: "Sorry buddy, you're S-O-L". "But, but I, ..."

lazerzubb




msg:911881
 10:47 am on Oct 21, 2002 (gmt 0)

Good post.

I need help i have been running Linux before (redhat 5), but all of the commandos is lost somewhere in my head, and i don't think they will return.

I have a 800mhz, 128mb ram, 10gb, nothing much.

I want to install a Linux version which is the easiest to use, and the most similar to Windows 2000. Any suggestions?

Everything should be as easy as possible, because i don't have time to learn all the commandos and look up error problems etc.

stlouislouis




msg:911882
 2:36 pm on Oct 22, 2002 (gmt 0)

Thanks for sharing, 4eyes! Great thread and topic.

If you would, can you share how you went about learning
Linux; i.e. what sources you used to learn what you needed
to get to the point where you are comforatable using it as
your daily OS to earn your daily bread?

Thanks,

Louis

caine




msg:911883
 3:02 pm on Oct 22, 2002 (gmt 0)

Lazer,

Redhat 7.2, is quite good, also Mandrake's latest offering, and SUSE 8.0, which my father is trying out, though i have'nt been told much about it yet.

As 4eyes points out, and as i am sure that you are aware using redhat5, that obviously its not windows. but its plus points are hard to negate.

for me Office based functions are via StarOffice. Browser via Mozilla & Opera, which covers email. IBMs Homesite builder ain't bad but certainly ain't dreamwearver, if you done alot of work on the app.

Certainly from your hardware point of view, linux is no problems.

lazerzubb




msg:911884
 3:08 pm on Oct 22, 2002 (gmt 0)

Caine

Downloading Mandrake 9.0 (about 1,6 gb :) ) now.

4eyes




msg:911885
 11:43 pm on Oct 22, 2002 (gmt 0)

The big breakthrough for me was installing Win4Lin to run Windows 98 within Linux.

I need 2 or 3 Windows packages that cannot easily be replaced and Win4Lin solves this for me.

Otherwise Mandrake 8.2 does most of what I want without any problems, and is Windows-enough to make adapting fairly easy.

I wasted a lot of time finding the desktop/windows manager that worked for me - settling on Gnome and ICEwm - but XFCE was a close second.

As Windows is still involved, I guess I am not a pure convert, but if they ever release Dreamweaver for Linux I will be:)

4eyes




msg:911886
 11:57 am on Oct 23, 2002 (gmt 0)

Stlouislouis

The learing thing was a problem. Like most here, I need to work long hours just to keep on top of things.

I really didn't have time to learn a whole load of new stuff (plus, there is the Homer Simpson problem of "every time I learn a new thing, one of the old things drops out my head":))

My advice is to try it out an old box first (I had a 233mx lying around). I was able to to check out obstacles without losing my normal machine.

Once I was up and running on my main machine, the learning curve was not as bad as I had thought, and the time lost in learning was partly balanced by increased efficiency.

I am not an expert on Linux by any means, still learing every day. However, I could do all the basic stuff I needed within a couple of days.

Best place to learn stuff? - this forum:)

stlouislouis




msg:911887
 2:39 pm on Oct 23, 2002 (gmt 0)

Thanks for sharing, 4eyes!

Best wishes and thanks again,

Louis

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