Your Choice

Your choice: part 1

Linux offers a freedom of choice.  Part 1 of ??

  1. Choice to create an operating environment in countless variations. Of course other Operating Systems offer choice in customizing your work space.  Changing things like your desktop colors, fonts, and font sizes are possible in Mac and Windows, etc.   With Microsoft Windows, you’re stuck with “Explorer” as your file manager. In Mac it’s called the Finder.  In Linux there are many file managers to pick from.  Another example is the desktop environment.  Say you wanted a simplistic layout without all the “bloat”.  Linux offers several “minimalist” desktops where the fancy eye-candy is gone, leaving you with a clean interface that uses less system resources (such as RAM) allowing for much faster response times.
  2. Choice of how many virtual desktops (Mac OS-X has “Spaces” which does essentially the same thing).  What are “virtual desktops”?  They are workspaces.  In Windows, it’s easy to clutter your desktop when you have a lot of file folders and applications open.  It becomes tedious to remember which ones to use and which ones to minimize.  And even with the advent of “ALT+TAB” to cycle through your folders and apps, the more things you have open makes it take longer to get at what you need at that given moment.  Imagine grouping your web-based apps and folders in its own “area 1” and have your word processing and spreadsheet open in “area 2” and have some mp3 music files playing in “area 3”.  The ability to flip back and forth between these “areas” greatly reduces desktop clutter—allowing you to get things done more efficiently.
Command Line (CLI) Learning Linux Using Linux

Save time on tasks

Learning basic Linux commands helps save you time when working on repetitive tasks.

Imagine you had a folder of images in *.bmp format.  File sizes of bmps are larger than jpg files because they contain more information.  To convert these bmp files to jpgs you could open a .bmp file in a graphics program (such as photoshop), select processes (such as ‘save for web’), set the format to convert to, and finally, save the file “as” filename.jpg.  Converting each image takes about five to six “manual” steps, depending on how you opened the source files and where you save the destination files.  If you had a folder with 100 images, it becomes tedious repetition.  There are better ways to do this.

You could create a batch process or “macro” in your graphics app that lets you record the individual steps performed on a single image, and then point the macro at a folder of source images and a folder to save the converted images.  Photoshop has “batch processing” that handles this fine.  Other programs (such as THE GIMP) are “scriptable” but some knowledge of Python is probably a must.

So we now have a way to convert images en masse with a GUI app, but is it the most efficient way? Is it reusable? It is reusable but you’ll probably have to reset the macro/batch settings if your source and destination folders change the next time you had to convert a lot of images.

Is there a quicker way to accomplish the same thing more or less?  There is, in my opinion, a better way perform mass image conversion in a predictable, reliable way.  It requires the command line terminal and an application known as “ImageMagick“.

Using Linux (the bash shell and ImageMagick) here are the 2 steps:

1. Use the “cd” command to get to the directory that has the bmp images
2. Issue this command:  mogrify -format jpg *.bmp
The above command was found at and I thank them for posting it.  It accomplished in one line the same work as a 50-line shell script.
Result: All of your bmp files have been converted and saved-as jpgs in the same directory
Warning: the “mogrify” command usually replaces the source, but when changing formats, Imagemagick is intelligent enough not to destroy the original bmp file.

2a. To store the new files in a folder other than the source (e.g. “bmpFiles/jpgs”), add the -path option in front of -format.  The command becomes:  mogrify -path jpgs/ -format jpg *bmp
The folder specified by -path must first exist, or the command will fail.

Obtaining Linux Using Linux

Save some money

Linux saves money by allowing reuse of an old computer.

Let’s say you have an old (PC-style) machine lying around, and you enjoy “tinkering” with computers.  You’d like to learn more about things such as partitioning, dual-booting, bash shell scripting, or hosting a local PHP-based websites with database connections. Having and old computer available lets you to do this without messing with your “main” computer.  Remember, if it’s PC-style, (Gateway, IBM, HP, or Dell) Mac OS-X cannot be used.  Why throw away a working machine just because the latest Microsoft Operating System won’t run on it? So what are some options?

  1. Purchase a licensed copy of Microsoft Windows (remember, old machines probably cannot run Vista or Windows 7).  If the machine is really old, it may not even be able to run Windows XP.  Even if it could run XP, do you really want to use an outdated or no-longer-supported OS?
  2. Obtain a pirated copy of Microsoft Windows.  I don’t condone this approach, but it happens.  Even though your experimental machine is old, it deserves a stable architecture.  Think about it.  Your OS should be fully-functional so you can perform updates & backups without worrying about crashes or losing your work.
  3. Download & burn a few Linux LIVE CDs.  Use that “main” computer for something awesome without erasing anything on the HD. Go to distrowatch, read some info, check out some screenshots.  If a distro appeals to you—then download and burn the .iso—the cost (monetarily) per Live-CD is one blank CD.  Let the LIVE CD attempt to detect all of the hardware (this is  important if it’s a laptop, as you’d want to ensure that the wifi is working).  It might be best to stick with the more “popular” distros at first.  Most distros are “based on” or “derivatives of” major Linux distributions such as Red Hat, Debian, and (more recently) Debian-Ubuntu.  “Debian-Ubuntu” means that Ubuntu is the base, and Ubuntu is based on the Debian distribution.
drive setup Installing Linux

Partitioning for Linux

Partitioning is a drive-setup process where you designate areas of your hard drive as “mount points”.

Depending on the situation, you can partition the drive as you’re installing Linux, or set up the drive first, (using a utility CD such as GParted or other).  For a single-boot setup, I suggest using the Install CD’s partitioning tool if you’re wiping out the old operating system or replacing one Linux distro with another.   If you’re adding Linux (to create a dual-boot machine with MS Windows or Mac OS-X) then you should attend to the partitioning chores first.  More on dual booting later.

Partitioning can intimidate newcomers, but fear not.  The Linux install process is flexible, and you don’t have to manually create partitions for single boot setup.  The install CD may offer suggestions (depends on distro) or at the very least have an “automatic partitioning” feature that works fine.

Manual partitioning, on the other hand, is worth learning.  Even the basic “3 partition” scheme (/, swap, and /home) offers the advantage of not losing your documents if you replace your distro.  While you should make frequent backups of your files anyway, common advice from the Linux community suggests keeping /home on its own partition for that very reason.  Find a partitioning tutorial here.

Installing Linux

Single-boot Linux

Single-boot or “single boot” is when only one (1) operating system will be installed to your hard drive.  A single boot machine is a simple way install Linux. The single boot scenario typically consists of either

  • Completely wiping out the current Operating system and installing Linux, or
  • Installing Linux on a new and blank hard drive

I’ve performed both, and as stated, the process is simple.  You put in your Linux Live or Install CD and follow the prompts.  Many distros offer graphical installers which take you step-by-step, and typically asking you to confirm all the choices (default or custom) before any changes are written to the hard drive.  Some distros offer text-based installers which can be a bit too challenging to the new Linux user.

More on this topic later, but a word on partitions.  A partition is a “chunk” or “area” of your hard drive.  If you plan on trying other distros and still want a single-boot setup, you should definitely consider creating a minimum of 3 partitions where the swap area, root partition and “/home” are the 3 separate partitions.  A separate /home partition allows you to keep all of your documents when installing the next distro.  For more detail about partitioning follow this link.


Hello World

I’d like to say some words here in introducing/launching this blog.

I’m hoping to provide a helpful and useful resource to those considering a switch to Linux from another Operating System.  There are a lot of good reasons why you’d want to make the switch, but it isn’t something I’d recommend unless you’re ready to really, I mean really get into.  A half-hearted effort will likely bring frustration and little reward.

Yes, I know “Hello World” is a cliché phrase.

Obtaining Linux

Download a distro

Linux Operating systems or “distros” are available for download from a variety of sources.  When downloading a distro, I usually go to At other times I go to the project’s website; for example: Linux Mint, Crunchbang, and Ubuntu.

Why go to distrowatch?  It’s an easy name to type into a web browser.  It lets you search by distribution name and takes you to the “project page” for that distro—where you can get details about the distro—such as country of origin, which releases/editions are available, what software/applications are included, the default desktop manager, and more.

When your download is complete, you should verify your download before you burn the .iso file to a CD or DVD.  Verification is the process where you compare the md5 hash of your downloaded .iso with the expected md5 hash published at the website where you downloaded the .iso from.

There are a few ways to verify a .iso file.  In linux, issue the command md5sum [path-to-iso-file] and press ENTER.  For Mac OS-X, follow these instructions.  Lastly, in MS Windows, follow these instructions.

After verifying the download, burn the .iso to a CD/DVD.  Just make sure that you’re burning a “bootable iso image” (which is different than creating a data CD that includes the .iso file).  Most of the good burning software will have the option to “burn an image to disk”.

Obtaining Linux

Linux: you can try it

You can try Linux before changing anything on your Hard Drive. This is one of the reasons why Linux is so awesome.  This allowed me to try out Linux and I still use it today.  I still try out Linux with LIVE CDs.

Many people purchase computers from online or “in store” retailers.  At Best Buy you can get a Windows-based or Mac OS-X based PC.  Can you get a Linux-based PC?  Well, I didn’t see any in my local Best Buy.   I’m not trying to generalize about all Best Buy & I hope they don’t mind me using their name.  But I’m inclined to believe that Linux-based PCs make less profit than Mac or Windows-based machines.

Desktop Environments

KDE: a brief introduction

KDE is a desktop environment whose software is based on the Qt toolkit (wikipedia). It can be found in many Linux distros such as OpenSuse, Fedora, and Kubuntu (a derivative of Ubuntu).  It’s look and feel is different from that of the GNOME desktop environment. I’ve used the KDE environment a few years back, when I was running Fedora Core 4 on an IBM Netvista desktop machine.

While your mileage may vary, I can say that neither Fedora 4, nor KDE, operated very fast or smooth.

Then again, it could possibly be the result of an old, underpowered machine.

Desktop Environments

GNOME: a brief introduction

Gnome is a popular desktop environment for Linux Operating Systems.

Gnome can be found in many Linux distributions as the primary or “default” environment.

Using Gnome, KDE, or any other Desktop Environment can be said to be of personal preference.

I have used both Gnome and KDE and both are wonderful.  But I won’t recommend one over the other.  I think it’s up to you, the curious and adventurous user, to experiment and see which one you like best.