Wednesday, December 10, 2008

From Windows/Dos to Linux

You want to switch from the DOS/Windows world to Linux?

Good idea: Linux is technically superior to DOS, Windows 9x and even Windows NT.
But beware: it might not be useful for you. These are the main differences between DOS/Windows and Linux:

• Windows runs Microsoft Office and lots of games; is perceived to be easy to install and configure; is notoriously unstable; performs poorly; crashes are frequent.
• Linux runs StarOffice, scores of technical software and fewer games; can be tricky to install and
configure; is rock solid; performs impeccably; crashes are extremely rare.

It's up to you to decide what you need. Furthermore, Linux gives you power, but it takes some time to learn how to harness it. Thus, if mostly need commercial sw, or if you don't feel like learning new commands and
concepts, you had better look elsewhere. Be aware that many newcomers give up because of initial difficulties.

Work is underway to make Linux simpler to use, but don't expect to be proficient with it unless you read a lot
of documentation and use it at least for a few months. Linux won't give you instant results. In spite of these warnings, I'm 100% confident that if you are the right user type you'll find in Linux your computer Nirvana. By the way, Linux + DOS/Win can coexist happily on the same machine.

You installed Linux and the programs you needed on the PC. You gave yourself an account (if not, type adduser yournamenow!) and Linux is running. You've just entered your name and password, and now you are looking at the screen thinking: ``Well, now what?'' Now, don't despair. You're almost ready to do the same things you used to do with DOS/Win, and many more.
If you were running DOS/Win instead of Linux, you would be doing some of the following tasks:
• running programs and creating, copying, viewing, deleting, printing, renaming files;
• CD'ing, MD'ing, RD'ing, and DIR'ring your directories;
• formatting floppies and copying files from/to them;
• tailoring the system;
• surfing the Internet;
• writing .BAT files and programs in your favourite language;
• the remaining 1%.

You'll be glad to know that these tasks can be accomplished under Linux in a fashion similar to DOS. Under DOS, the average user uses very few of the 100+ commands available: the same, up to a point, applies to
Linux. Introductory Concepts The best way to learn something new is to get your feet wet.

You are strongly encouraged to experiment and play with Linux:
unless you login as ``root'', you can't damage the system that way.

A few points:
• first of all, how to quit Linux safely. If you see a text mode screen, press , wait for the system to reboot, then switch off the PC. If you are working under X Window System, press first, then . Never switch off or reset the PC directly: this could damage the file system;
• unlike DOS or Windows, Linux has built−in security mechanisms. Files and directories have permissions associated to them; as a result, some cannot be accessed by the normal user. DOS and Windows, on the contrary, will let you wipe out the entire contents of your hard disk;
• there's a special user called ``root'': the system administrator, with full power of life and death on the machine. If you work on your own PC, you'll be root as well. Working as root is dangerous: any mistake can seriously damage or destroy the system just like with DOS/Windows. Don't work as root unless absolutely necessary;
• much of the complexity of Linux comes from its extreme configurability: virtually every feature and every application can be tailored through one or more configuration files. Complexity is the price to pay for power;
• redirection and piping are a side DOS feature, a very inportant one and much more powerful under Linux. Simple commands can be strung together to accomplish complex tasks. I strongly suggest that you learn how to use them.

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