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Going to Linux from Windows have advantages and disadvantages. Also there are things that we can do in Windows that are so difficult on Linux and vice-versa.

Which things I have to consider when going from windows to linux? Which pros and cons of using windows and using linux.

This don't want to be another windows-linux war but an objective windows-linux pros cons. For instance, linux have free upgrades, windows have more software, and so on...

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so what is your question? :) –  John T Jul 16 '09 at 8:58
    
Indeed, wondering that myself. –  Stefan Thyberg Jul 16 '09 at 8:59
    
Windows has free updates too... –  Jonathan Sampson Jul 16 '09 at 10:25
    
@Jonathan: it's true that Windows (the os) and some programs used with Windows offer free updates (generally only within versions). It's also true that some Linux flavors charge money for the os. However, the default position in each world is clear: Windows -> software costs money; Linux -> software is free. (Yes, there are counter-examples, but these are the clear default positions.) –  Telemachus Jul 16 '09 at 12:30
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@JOnathan, I meant upgrades instead of updates. –  FerranB Jul 16 '09 at 15:02

14 Answers 14

As a Linux aficionado I can only say: Give it a try, you will see what specific advantages and disadvantages it has for you.

That said: You don't primarily use an operating system, what you use is your applications. You can make a list with the applications you use most often and then decide which operating system fits your needs.

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Very true, you should give it a try and decide for yourself. There will definitely be a learning curve involved... but that's what Google is there for. (and Superuser - of course.) –  Gerrit Wessels Jul 16 '09 at 9:15
    
+1 for using applications and not the OS. After all, that's the main reason most people are still using Windows in the first place. ;) –  Sasha Chedygov Aug 28 '09 at 7:32

I love Linux, but the only time that I will advise against it is when your are very heavily dependent on the software you use.

  • Highly specialized CAD software and other specialty software are sometimes only available on Windows.
  • If you love Adobe products rather stick to Windows / Mac.

Won't list any other products here, but I'm sure you get the point. Linux usually has alternatives to these products, some of them are actually VERY well maintained, but I would rather stick with the Windows alternative - sadly.

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+1: Indeed, Adobe in particular is guilty of singling out Linux. Also, most mainstream games only work on Windows, but there are plenty of indie and casual games that'll work on Linux. –  Nikhil Chelliah Jul 16 '09 at 9:23
    
CAD is not necessarily a good example as AutoCAD is certainly not the be-all and end-all of this type of software. Most high-end CAD systems (such as CATIA) started out on mainframe or workstation platforms and Linux is typically a major market segment for these systems. However, really specialised stuff such as pattern layout systems often does only come in Windows versions. Also, there are quite a lot of third-party extensions for AutoCAD that only run on Windows. –  ConcernedOfTunbridgeWells Jul 16 '09 at 12:48
    
I think the idea behind my examples were more focused towards the bigger picture of Linux software vs Windows software opposed to the detail of the software I mentioned (CAD). But thanks non the less. –  Gerrit Wessels Jul 16 '09 at 12:58

There is no general answer to your question, that covers all aspects of such a switch.

The best way to get an overview of what to consider and prepare for such a switch, is to

  1. Install applications that are available on both Windows and Linux, on your current Windows system, and try using them, and/or...
  2. Get a Linux live CD, or install a separate Linux test environment on your hardware as a dual install, and try it.
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+1 for mentioning the Live CD! –  Ivo Flipse Jul 16 '09 at 10:11
    
Live CDs, and Persistent USBs are where it's at, if you're not sure, just boot up in Linux and see what you think. –  salmonmoose Aug 28 '09 at 4:55

One advantage of linux that I especially like, is that the applications become "part of" the system, as the system itself essentially consists of different applications (or packages, rather). That is, at least as long as the applications are installed through the system package manager. The advantage is, that everything is updated via the same system.

Coming from World of Windows where each application is a separate entity, distinct from the system itself, this took a while getting used to. I wanted my applications to go in some "Programs" folder and stay there. But after a few system updates that not only updated my system, but all of my applications as well, I realized that there's going to be no more quirky auto-updaters for each application, no need to run a "check for updates" from some menu, no more downloading and installing patches manually. They just update. Just like that. You do get a tiny taste of this in Windows these days as Office updates itself via Microsoft update. Now just think of that for every application.

The downside is that you might have to mess with packet repositories, which still has some quirks. You can ignore this as long as you use applications that are available in the general distribution repositories - and most are, really - but if the application isn't there, you'll need to add it's repository for it to become available. Also, at least with Ubuntu, there's quite a huge delay before completely new versions of applications, like OpenOffice 3, become available unless you add their own repositories. I hope that adding repositories some day becomes as easy as adding applications, and we can forget all the mess about manually downloading and adding authorization keys and all that.

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A fairly big gotcha is it's media capabilities. Many Linux distros don't include proprietary codecs for playing back MP3's, DVDs, etc. While you can obtain these and install them, this involves messing with your repositories, and some distros go to annoying lengths to prevent you from installing these.

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I've just begun using Linux. I found that for instance Ubuntu is very helpful with installing the codecs that you need, when you need them. If it can't play the file you just opened, it will download the exact bits needed, and then it works. I wish Windows was that easy... –  Torben Gundtofte-Bruun Nov 14 '09 at 17:31

If you are thinking of making the switch from Windows to Linux my biggest piece of advice I can give you is this:

consider your hardware

Modern Linux distros have come a LONG way to make the user experience as easy and fun to use as you may consider Windows, but the major speed bump for most first time adopters is hardware problems. The Linux kernel has had a lot of work go into driver management, and new drivers are being worked on and added every day, but there are still so many pieces of hardware out there that it wouldn't be too surprising for you to get at least one piece that isn't out of the box Linux ready.

i.e. on my Toshiba Satellite I have an Intel Graphics card that does work out of the box, but has some issues with showing video and doing the new UI stuff that comes with apps like Compiz, but there are a few hacks I've learned to apply to get around those. The notebook also as a Realtek 8187b built-in wireless card, which isn't completely functional without having to install the linux-backports-modules, but then it works without any problems.

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Linux, particularly user friendly builds like Ubuntu is getting better day by day.

Jaunty is an excellent OS easily as good as it's commercial rivals.

My biggest beef with Linux is the hardware support is a bit behind Windows you may have to wait a while for top of the line hardware to work, particularly if the vendor has lousy FOSS support.

That said, the legacy hardware support is unmatched - hardware that stopped working for me in XP, still works in Linux.

Depending what you're doing with your computer, the other major issue is software support, whilst there is software in Linux to do everything, commercial software is lagging behind.

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I've just started using Linux instead of Windows. I've still got Windows as second boot option though, to be safe. Here is what I've learned:

  1. It's really difficult to choose a distro. As a non-Linux person, you have no chance. Best bet is to approach a Linux-savvy friend and use whatever he uses.

  2. If that's impossible, then use Wubi (Ubuntu) because you can install it from within Windows as if it were just another Windows application. It gets you up and running within five minutes, and you are spared the talk about partitions and window managers and so on. It's really painless!

  3. If you work mainly with Internet (like Gmail and Facebook) then the choice of operating system is irrelevant and you can more easily switch to Linux. But if you must use Windows because your favorite application XYZ only exists in Windows, then it's difficult to switch.

  4. Some Windows programs can be run inside Linux (using Wine or VirtualBox), but some can't. Apple iTunes is a famous problem because that absolutely won't run on Linux. If you have an iPhone, then you still need to keep Windows (or Mac) around, perhaps as second boot option on the same computer.

  5. Prepare to spend some time researching: I used to do X; I want to do Y; how does that work on Linux? Use Google, and use the support forum of the Linux variant you use - and use SuperUser, too! When you post a question, try to include as much information as possible. What is your situation, and what are you trying to achieve?

  6. Some hardware may not work. Your monitor may run with a lower resolution; that can usually be fixed (see previous item). Your scanner may not be supported; that requires someone to write the driver, which is often unlikely, and you won't/can't do it yourself!

  7. You will be using new applications. Yes, Firefox runs in Linux, and so does Picasa. But your Quicken and iTunes and MS PowerPoint do not. Expect to learn new applications for the tasks you already perform. Be open to these changes! You may be attached to your applications because you know them well, but alternatives can sometimes be even better.

  8. At first, it's daunting to solve problems. Say you want to find an application to replace your Quicken. There a million financial applications for Linux; the difficulty is figuring out which one to use.

  9. Don't listen to the experts too much. There are people with strong opinions about whether ACME or AJAX is best (application/system/tool/whatever), and they try to convert everyone. Such people are everywhere (Win/Mac too.) You can ignore these most of the time, except when they answer your questions (see item 5 above). Ask good questions, get good answers. If you didn't ask, don't listen, move on.

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In my experience, Linux makes the majority of things you do easier, but when you do encounter errors, they tend to be more difficult to resolve.

Be prepared to hit the command line at times. Be prepared for hardware compatibility issues, or the occasional heisenbug, as with Windows.

On the other hand, there's no more messing with firewall allow and deny lists, no more messing with spyware or antivirus tools, and no more defragmentation, unless you really have nothing better to do. Even better, your distribution's package manager will automate the installation and update of all the everyday software that you use.

As a programmer, you'll have to do some things manually and perhaps settle for an editor instead of an IDE. But the convenience of the command line easily outweighs all the hassle.

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Home users mostly uses computer for media and internet: browsing, downloading files, socializing, communicating. For these things there are almost no difference between OS. You can get your favorite browser (Opera, Firefox), Skype works fine, other instant messengers too. You can watch videos and play music too on both platforms. So if you don't need some special applications (like photoshop, or any finance software), you should feel comfortable with linux. I suggest Linux Mint at first. This distribution is based on Ubuntu, but comes with all media codecs and few other nice things. It will fit best to move from Windows.

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I've been playing around with Linux for several years and have tried at least 10 distros over that time. Now I have found Linux Mint and I love it. It just works and works well. I actually have 3 machines right now (people keep giving me their old ones). XP Home on one, Linux Mint on another and Ubuntu 9.04 server edition (gonna try to set up one) and now that someone gave me a printer hp Photosmart I now have a printer that works with the Linux Mint. My main printer is a Canon MX 850 which I can't find a driver for. More and more I am turning on the XP machine less and less. The only reason I do turn it on is because I haven't figured out how to run a couple of Fantasy Football programs on Linux. I think I am finally hooked and Linux Mint was the one that did it. The distros, in general, just keep getting better and better and the software is fantastic.

How do I add an image when it gives me a http://? What am I supposed to do with that.

Lord Chumley

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If you're not really sure about making the switch to Linux, try running a distro of Linux in a VM, such as VirtualBox; it's free and allows you to work with the OS as you would have if it were installed directly on your PC.

I've done this in college, because I only needed Linux for a while; I didn't want to have multiple operation systems on my PC or to completely erase Windows.

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Linux is not windows.

Seriously! Linux isn't windows, it doesn't try to be windows, it shouldn't try to be windows. Things will be different, things will be scary and new, and things probably won't make much sense (/ is root? What?), but stick at it, and you'll find yourself using a powerful, fast, and easy to use machine.

Oh, and if I had to give you one piece of advice? Grab an IRC client and go find a channel for your distro. Forums are nice and all, but not much can compare to talking to somebody who knows how stuff works.

edit: Actually, two pieces of advice. Learn to love the command line. Yeah, you can quite easily live without it for the most part, but it's still the most powerful, and flexible, UI you have.

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Take your time - make the switch-over gradually.

During the switch-over you don't need to convert brutally from Vista to Linux : you can have them both, using Linux as an application within Windows for studying whether it supports your needs and your hardware. When you decide to abandon Windows, then you may reformat your hard disk and install only Linux.

I suggest the Wubi linux distribution, since it's a variant of the very popular and easy to use Ubuntu Linux:

Wubi -- an officially supported Ubuntu installer for Windows

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