Adventures in Linux

I’ve made the switch to open-source. My blog is powered by WordPress and my business site will soon follow. My must-have programs are almost all open-source now. And just recently, my operating system went open-source as well.I’m running my business on Linux! Originally, I had a two year plan to make the conversion. First I was learning open-source packages that would work with Windows AND with Linux. I expected a slow adoption schedule, but I ended up switching several months early. For anyone who has been considering taking this leap, I’d like to offer a few words of wisdom.

If you are going from Windows to Linux you may want to save yourself a bit of time and research by considering theses options:

Go Kubunto – Select Kubuntu (Feisty Fawn distribution) as your first foray into the Linux realm.

  • It’s a well-rounded Linux distribution.
  • It can be downloaded onto a CD and you can boot a machine up almost as easily as with any Windows install – easier in some ways!
  • It automatically detects most hardware and just simply WORKS. (Linux has come a long way, baby!)
  • It looks and (in many ways) acts in a familiar way when you use the KDE desktop.

Basic Programs – Most of the programs you will need for basic office and Internet functions are available from within Kubuntu (in the Add/Remove Programs menu). So there will be very little need to even learn how to load packages manually for most users.

  • OpenOffice.org programs (includes most office packages you will need… and then some!)
  • Kopete – an IM service with cross-platform compatibility. It’s loaded in Kubuntu by default. It’s not fancy, but it just works. (Gaim is an option that works for both Windows and Linux)
  • GIMP – (The GNU Image Manipulation Program = GIMP) a great little image manipulation program.
  • GNUCash – a financial management package. I’m just now reviewing this one, but it looks quite promising.
  • BasKet Note Pads – A note taking application and my “One Note Replacement” of choice… so far. (This is available ONLY in Linux, unfortunately. It is almost worth switching to Linux just to have this notes program!)
  • GwenViewer – fast-loading image viewer which comes installed on the Kubuntu distribution. (Linux only)
  • Scribus – an MS Publisher replacement. I’ve not worked with this one much (although I have it loaded) because I’ve changed my business model a bit and have decided to farm out my publisher and DTP work and concentrate on my core services. It does come highly recommended from the open-source community. (Available for Linux and Windows platforms)
  • FileZilla – an FTP program and the best of show in my opinion. (Windows and Linux)
  • KeePassX – a password wallet program (my replacement for eWallet) it’s an option for automatic download on Kubuntu’s additional programs menu. (The windows version is called KeePass)
  • Firefox browser. ‘Nuff said.
  • Thunderbird email – there are many other options for Linux – but I love this one. I have used it for quite some time over on the old Windows machine. I may investigate others later, but for now, there’s been enough change in my online life.

Customize – The machine can be as “vanilla” or as ornate as you care to make it.

  • There are beautiful icons available for free to dress up your desktop. The PNG format is so much nicer (and more eye-popping) than the old ICO formats. Pick up freebies for fancier desktops here: http://browse.deviantart.com/customization/icons/dock/
  • There are a plethora of programs to make it work the way YOU work and it’s fun “shopping” for new software and the price is so right! What could be better than free?
  • There are a multitude of forums and helpful websites if you get stuck. Linux folks love to help newbies. It’s a great community.

Back up – As soon as you get your install the way you want it, back up your home files. In Linux, everything “lives” under the home folder. Just show all your “hidden” folders and grab a full backup. I managed to fit mine on a large thumbdrive. (Don’t forget to make a backup of your email profile as well — that one bit me a couple times.)By doing this, you can completely reinstall Linux, if needed, and just “drop” your home folder in from a backup and keep on working.

Why have I gone open-source? At first it was a protest. I didn’t want to adopt the next windows OS once I learned of the privacy issues and that my hardware was going to be tapped by this new OS to make sure I was legal and to monitor me. I’m legal. I’m not a thief or a rogue. I resented the idea that “big brother” would check up on me, so I decided I’d never own a Visa machine. That started the ball rolling.

Now, I’m thrilled with my decision. I love Linux. And, although there has been a bit of a learning curve, I am willing to guess that it’s more for me than it would be for most casual users. I like to poke at the OS to see what’s under the hood. Most people wouldn’t do that. Invariably, that compulsion is what gets me into trouble.

If you want to go with Linux and you don’t want to uninstall packages, reconfigure and generally harass the OS, you will probably have an almost “plug and play” operating system with Kubuntu.

And what else will you have? Free software. Access to the best minds in the business – via the forums and the Ubuntu help site. And a computer that doesn’t need to be replaced nearly as often. As long as I’ve been in business, I’ve replaced my computer every 12-18 months. (I work my machines literally to death). Now, I’m going to be building a Linux machine. Yes, building it from the motherboard up.

It may take a bit longer to build than to run down to my local computer superstore and buy one, but I expect this Linux optimized creation to last me 3-5 years. THAT is really saying something. Not having to worry about a new computer and having redundancies built-in will be a serious time, money and worry-saver for me.

If you want a solid business machine and you don’t have the overwhelming urge to play high-end graphic games, Linux may be for you too!

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