My Adventure of Switching to Linux – Part 3

If you plug your printer into a Linux box, nine times out of ten it’ll simply work. And that’s just what happened with my Epson Stylus TX110. No drivers, no messing about, no stupid CD that force you to load a ton of bloated crap on your system – it just works. That’s the way it should be done, much better than under Windows or Mac. CUPS (the Common Unix Printing System) has drivers for nearly every printer under the sun. Extra brownie points go to CUPS for supporting older hardware too – our old Xerox DocuPrint P8ex laser printer only has had drivers released supporting Windows 9x and NT 4.0. It’s dodgy old system of kernel mode drivers meant there was no chance it worked on Windows Vista or 7 (XP worked… to a point). But Linux has given it a new lease of life after my Dad relegated it to the shed since it didn’t work on his new Win7 laptop. Now it’s happily printing out my calculus notes! Now to networking. Networking is Linux’s forte, so I’d be surprised if there was anything dodgy about it at all. It sees my Debian laptop fine, and transfers/syncs files to it happily, and pretty quickly over Wi-Fi. I didn’t bother testing whether it would see any Windows boxes – well, that’s because I don’t have any running 😉 Previous experiecnce with Samba indicates that it should work fine. And the next best thing about Nautilus (or Dolphin, if you prefer KDE) is its ability to connect to an SFTP server and work with it just as if it was local. It’s beautiful. In conjunction with a custom terminal launcher that goes straight to ssh, I can work on my own machine just as if I was in the computer science lab at uni. Linux was made to be a multi-user system, and this exemplifies it. Bravo.

The world of the smartphone changed upon release of the Apple App Store. iPhone was a solid phone, but what really gave it the term ‘Jesusphone’ was its fantastic applications marketplace. Kind of makes you feel a little bit jealous of the attention, considering Linux was there first – a long, long, long time ago. You can still see this if you use Debian – it still uses Synaptic, which was one of the original and the best package managers. Essentially all of these are front-ends to apt – which is Debian’s command-line package management system (which as you become more familiar with Linux, you will use too just for the sake of quickness). Oh, and all the applications are free. The Mint updating system is second to none, too. Just click on the shield and all your updates are listed in the order of safety – if you’re not sure if an update will mess up your precious box, you can opt to install only 1,2 and 3 level updates. Unlike Windows (and Apple) update – it updates ALL your software, as it searches through the same repositories that the Software Manager uses (which are the ones apt uses… you’ll find that nearly everything in a Linux box is linked). On the topic of software, one kind which Windows users are most familiar with are viruses. It’s common knowledge, but it’s worth repeating for the sake of it – LINUX DOES NOT GET INFECTED. Why? You’d think that releasing the source code for everything would make it easier to write virii? The answer is that Linux is a very broad term for a very large amount of configurations. Not to mention that the software you’d get is all from trusted repositories – tell me, where are you going to get a virus from? (Although in all my time using Windows, I’ve never encountered a virus on my own system in about 5 years)

Surprised? First up, the default set of games given by Mint is pretty good. You have your standard fare of card games, Mahjongg and Chess. In my experience I reckon they’re superior to the Windows editions, introduced in Vista, but that’s a personal thing – it’s still the same game underneath! Enter the software repositories – with hundreds of free, open source games to download. (My favourites are the KDE ones, they’re not hard to find as they all start with a ‘K’). I played a bit of vDrift (a brilliant racing sim), Tux Kart (open source Mario Kart), Frozen Bubble, hell even a recreation of Battleship. They are great fun, and much better than anything Windows or Mac has to offer (you know Mac OS X doesn’t even come with ANY games?). If your gaming career extends only to free games and Facebook (or other browser games), then by now your decision should already be made – stop reading this article and install Linux now! If you consider yourself a Hardcore gamer, a modder, a competitor or would just rather barbeque your balls than buy a console – then you’d probably prefer to keep a Windows install than completely move to Linux. WINE is a fantastic piece of software – it’s actually quite incredible that a very large amount of Windows code can be run on UNIX/Linux, but it’s still hit and miss. I’ve got GTA III, Vice City and San Andreas working perfectly in WINE, which is awesome. I love those games. I didn’t try any Valve games as I didn’t fancy downloading 7 and a half GB of Source Engine but I’m told that these are generally some of the best compatible games on Linux. Call of Duty 4 works great, which is really all you need. I notice a clear trend, that there is a significant performance hit with games with better graphics. But if you have a grunty system – whatever game you can exceed 100FPS on in Windows will probably run at better than 60FPS on WINE (like COD4), which is unnoticeable unless you have a 120Hz monitor. I couldn’t get Games For Windows Live games like GTA IV etc working (I just ran the .exe from the Windows partition) without using some illegal crack that bypasses GFWL, but performance was crap anyway, and there were graphics glitches. But my experience was better than what I expected – and more than good enough for a casual gamer. Don’t expect to run BF3 and Crysis 2 at the best settings (if at all) but if you’re more like the average computer user and the extent of your 3D gaming is The Sims 3, don’t hesitate to make Linux your next OS. (Plus looksy at the free games you can’t get on Windows!) In my own case, I’ve deleted most of my Windows games from Linux and kept them on Windows. Why? So I can use Linux to be more productive, and I won’t be tempted to play games when I should be coding/doing physics assignments/researching the joys of modern mathematics etc. I’ve also added Facebook to the hosts file, so this should help a bit…

So, dear Windows or Mac user, the question is – when are you going to drop your current OS (slightly more excusable if you’re a Mac user, while I’m not OS X’s biggest fan, they do work pretty well and are based on UNIX) and begin your journey into the Open Source wonderland? My experiences with Linux have been little else but positive – the black marks I’ve mentioned can all be rectified, and you only need to get used to the intricacies that Linux thrives on to remain what it is.

Why you should consider Linux:
– For its ultimate configurability and personalisation
– Its superior performance to Windows and Mac OS X (unless you use KDE, but it’s still better)
– Learning to use the command-line – which IMO is a necessary computing skill :) As you get better at Linux, you’ll soon prefer the Command-line for completing certain tasks
– None of the crap which plagues Windows (viruses, driver issues, slowing down over time, the need to defrag your HDD, the list goes on…)
– It’s probably more compatible with your devices (you might have better luck with the iPod, mine’s been jailbroken and changed the hell out of, so this might be why mine is rubbish)
– Say goodbye to paying for software. (please don’t talk about piracy, if you’re about to rebut this statement with something like ‘The Torrent Shop’) All the apps you’ll be likely to need on Linux are free. And so is the source code, so if you’re a programmer or just interested (I could say I’m confident in C but I haven’t got a hope in hell of understanding, for example, the source files of LibreOffice Writer) take a look at how a REAL program is written :)

Why you might want to stick with Windows:
– You actually like the look of Windows 8 (edit: then why don’t you try GNOME3?)
– You run mission critical or highly expensive (Autodesk, Adobe, Pinnacle, etc) Windows software that won’t work in WINE properly. You could find an open source equivalent, but I understand it would hurt if you’ve just paid $1000 for Photoshop. It costs more than my PC!
– You’re a serious gamer and you periodically spend a month’s paycheque to add another GTX 580 in the pursuit of playing Battlefield 3 on Ultra settings.

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