By Michael "Stibbs" Stibane
Late, budget conscious, and in a panic to get those Christmas cards out? Read Michael Stibbs' article and you can take care of all those cards in just a few minutes without spending a penny.
Did you, like me, forget to buy greeting cards in the midst and stress of the few weeks leading up to Christmas? If so, we have to come up with a quick solution. There are just four days left. I create my own cards with Scribus, a top-notch Linux desktop publishing package (DTP) and send them as PDF by email or printed and sent by regular mail.
Oh the weather outside is freezing, but the warmth from your monitor is making it feel like you are in the tropics. Christmas is coming up fast and this blaze of heat is making it difficult for you to get into the spirit of uncontrollable shopping madness. The clock is ticking and you're still at the keyboard looking for inspiration. Well, everyone, I've got just what you need.
This is the first in a series that is going to cover the installation of sofware packages under Linux. I'm going to jump right into this article by telling you that, for the most part, you won't need to be building packages from source. You can, but you generally don't need to.
The average Linux distribution CD comes with several gigabytes of software. SUSE, for one, delivers several CDs in a boxed set with enough software to keep you busy for weeks, maybe months. I'll tell you how to install that software, easily and without fuss. Despite all that your distribution has to offer, sooner or later you will find yourself visiting various Internet sites, looking for new and updated software. Where will you find this stuff, and will installing be the same as getting it from your CDs?
For new Linux users, the hardest thing can be trying to get an answer to one simple question: "Which Linux distribution should I use?" Back in the world of that other OS, the choice is pretty simple since you had no choice, or as Henry Ford might have put it, you can have "any color you want as long as it's black". In the Linux world, you can get black, yellow, red, blue, green, and every color in between. I personally think it is a wonderful thing that so many Linux distributions exist. Aside from creating a rich OS landscape, it furthers creativity and fosters innovation in software design. This can only be a good thing. While this makes for a colorful world, it can be very confusing for the new user. The DistroWatch Web site alone lists over 350 Linux distributions.
So which distribution should you get? Well, every Linux vendor does things a little differently. If you think of this in terms of cars, it starts to make sense. Every single car out there is basically an engine on wheels with seats and some kind of steering mechanism so that drivers can get to where they want to go. What kind of car you buy depends on what else you expect from a car, whether that is comfort, style, the vendor's reputation, or any great number of other choices.
If you've come this far and you are reading what I'm writing here, then you probably want me to do what no sane person is willing to do, go out on a limb, take sides, and recommend something. All right, here goes . . . but I'm going start by dividing all of you into two groups.
Those of you in the first group haven't yet decided whether they are ready to give up on Windows. You know it's a good idea and you're going to switch at some point soon, but you would like to try Linux without having to actually commit to anything. For you, I'm going to recommend Knoppix, a wonderful Linux distribution that runs entirely from the CD without the need to install. There are other so-called live CDs out there (and I invite you to try others) but Knoppix is a great place to start. Download and burn a copy or pick up the first issue of TUX which will include a special version of Knoppix, remastered to include all of the software we are covering in the first issue.
I'm a two browser kind of guy. Somewhere, on one of my virtual desktops, I always have a copy of Firefox open. On another, I have Konqueror. Both of these are incredibly capable browsers with their own strengths, strengths which are unique to both and which, as a result, leave me running two different browsers all the time. Firefox is there because, quite frankly, it can handle pretty much any web page I throw at it, even those that then to be a little (oh, how shall I put this) specific to that other OS.
Konqueror's real strength comes from its tight integration into the KDE desktop but that's not all. This amazing program is a file manager par excellence with capabilities that would require a pretty generous article, something I may yet do here. What I want to tell you about right now though is a means by which Konqueror lets you get at information on the Internet with nothing more than a few keystrokes. Let's look at an example:
Time for a shocker. Device support under Linux is excellent.
No, really. We have been trained to assume that anything and everything just works with Windows but that isn't even remotely true. From time to time, even Windows users must visit hardware vendors' Web sites to download a driver. Furthermore, some hardware works with one version of Windows and not another so having all your hardware work under Windows is far from being a given (probably closer to a myth). When running Linux, the sheer number of things that will work "out of the box" without you having to search for and install drivers is nothing short of impressive and, quite frankly, beats your old OS hands down. No contest.