Russ Harvey Consulting - Computer and Internet Services

Linux

Distributions | Security | Software | Documentation
The Desktop Environment | Drivers | What is Linux?

Tux is the official mascot of the Linux kernel

Moving to Linux

[I]f you really want a desktop where you're in control, and not Microsoft or another cloud company, what you need is a conventional desktop Linux such as Mint 17.2. Windows is heading to the cloud and it won't be coming back. — Cloudy Weather

Excellent Upgrade Path for Windows Users

If you're running an unsupported version of Windows and cannot upgrade without purchasing a new computer, consider installing Linux instead.

Linux will run on most XP or better systems without having to download special drivers but performs better on newer systems. Linux installations include most of the software casual users require such as Firefox, Thunderbird, LibreOffice and GIMP (high-end graphics).

Linux Mint desktop showing open Start menu

Excellent Upgrade Path for Windows Users

The following resources will help you make the decision on whether the move to Linux is right for you.

Linux is Everywhere

Linux has moved from obscurity. Linux Ubuntu and Linux Mint are now the third and fourth most popular home operating system installations (after Windows and Mac).

*The Microsoft Tax is the per-unit fee Microsoft charges manufactures for every system sold regardless of what operating system is installed. Users pay for Windows whether they use it or not when buying from most computer vendors.

Linux Distributions

There are various versions of Linux that have been developed (generally referred to as distributions or distros) including Mint and Ubuntu (see other distributions).

Linux Mint

Download Linux Mint

From Freedom Came Elegance

I recommend Linux Mint.

Linux Mint makes a good choice for those who'd like a distro that isn't constantly trying to change the desktop computing paradigm, but don't want to use abandonware. Mint is actively developed and both of its homegrown desktops are excellent. — The Register

Windows users that cannot upgrade their computers or afford to purchase a newer version will find that Linux Mint is an excellent option — provided you don't need to run proprietary Windows software*. A suit of commonly-used software is included such as Firefox, Thunderbird, LibreOffice and VLC media player.

*Many Windows programs can be run under Linux using WINE. Be sure to read the FAQ before installing WINE.

Linux Mint is community-driven and free to download for both personal (the 4th most widely-used home operating system behind Windows, Mac and Ubuntu) and commercial use. Learn about Mint or download Mint.

You can try Mint without affecting your existing operating system and software. Learn more:

Ubuntu

Download Ubuntu

Check out or download Ubuntu:

How And Why I Made The Switch From Vista To Linux is an excellent overview of Ubuntu, albeit somewhat dated. This user's experience switching is more current.

Other Linux Distributions

Some of the better known distributions are:

Most Linux distributions show some screen shots so you can get an idea of what the desktop looks like but you can also run them from their installation media without installing them to test them out.

Finding Additional Distros

There are many other Linux distributions.

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Linux Security

Linux has a history of being more secure. However, since much of what we do has moved online, it exposes Linux users to more security risks than every before.

There are still vulnerabilities that have nothing to do with software, including phishing, identity theft and more. Learn security strategies to prevent such infections.

Linux is considered to be more secure than other operating systems. However, it's increasingly a target of attackers, as Linux systems are used for critical roles like, web servers and internal file servers. In addition to being susceptible to Linux-based and cross-platform exploits, unprotected Linux machines can also become distribution points for Windows, Mac, and Android malware. — Sophos

Install Security Software

I strongly recommended that you install security protection onto your Linux system.

While the percentage of home computers running Linux is very small (compared to the Windows or Linux server installation base) you should be running security software.

You'll find a listing of Linux security software in the software section.

Testing Linux Security Software

AV Comparatives is just starting to test Linux security software in 2021.

Security Notices

These best practices will help ensure you're not running older Linux versions containing known vulnerabilities:

  • Upgrade your version to the most recent version supported by your hardware. Most vulnerabilities are addressed in kernel updates (i.e. new versions of your Linux distribution).
  • When your hardware no longer supports the newest version of your distro (or if your distro no longer is being updated) you need to either upgrade your hardware or look to a version that supports your current hardware.

A security report lists Linux distributions including Debian, SUSE, Ubuntu and Red Hat within the top ten affected vendors:

Just five vendors accounted for nearly one quarter of vulnerabilities in the first half of 2019.
  • Web-related vulnerabilities accounted for 54.5% of those vulnerabilities.
  • 34% have public exploits.
  • 34% do not have a documented solution.
  • 53% can be exploited remotely.
Risk Based Security

KRACK

KRACK is a vulnerability in the WPA2 WiFi protocol that affects virtually all WiFi enabled devices.

Newer version of Mint and Ubuntu have been patched if you've installed the updates. Other distros may be vulnerable, especially older and unpatched ones.

Kernel Vulnerabilities

This section contains information about vulnerabilities to the Linux kernel.

Linux's decade-old flaw: Major distros move to patch serious kernel bug. Three other serious security holes were patched in December 2016.

Learn more: Three serious Linux kernel security holes patched.

Be sure to install the latest patches to ensure you're protected from these vulnerabilities.

Software Vulnerabilities

While Linux itself has more secure mechanisms than Windows, there is also software vulnerabilities.

The Linux encryption app Cryptkeeper has a rather stunning security bug: the single-character decryption key "p" decrypts everything. — Bruce Schneier
Security researchers have found a new strain of Linux malware that appears to have been created by Chinese hackers and has been used as a means to remotely control infected systems. — ZDNet

Older Vulnerabilities

The vulnerabilities listed here should only affect you if you're running an older version of Linux that hasn't been patched.

Linux Security Information

Check these sites for more information about Linux security.

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Linux Software

Security | LibreOffice | PDF Editors | Internet | Graphics | Accounting | Games

This Linux software listing is not extensive but provides some basic apps. Try these resources:

Much of the software used by the average person is either included with the installation of many distributions like Ubuntu and Mint or can be downloaded and installed using updating utilities built into those distributions.

A more extensive listing of Linux software can be found on the Linux-Apps.com or Best of Linux Software. If you're moving from Windows to Linux, have a look at The table of equivalents / replacements / analogs of Windows software in Linux.

Security Software

As Linux becomes more popular, it becomes the target of malicious attacks.

Safety Detectives (source of the “best for” ratings below) warns:

[R]ecently, a few of those previous [recommended] brands made significant changes, and we needed to re-evaluate the whole Linux antivirus market in line with our high testing standards. I concluded that I could not recommend some of the antiviruses this list previously had as they were no longer valid, valuable, or of high quality.

Sophos seems to have discontinued Linux support.

LibreOffice

LibreOffice

LibreOffice is Free and Open Source Software.

I strongly recommend LibreOffice because it is better maintained and more frequently updated than OpenOffice. It provides everything most people need.

This section discusses the requirements for LibreOffice on Linux. For more general information about LibreOffice, please see the Recommended Software page.

System Requirements for Linux

LibreOffice runs on Linux.

  • Linux kernel version 3.10 or higher; glibc2 version 2.17 or higher.
  • Pentium-compatible PC (Pentium III, Athlon or more-recent system recommended).
  • 256Mb RAM (512Mb RAM recommended).
  • Up to 1.55Gb available hard disk space.
  • X Server with 1024x768 resolution (higher resolution recommended), with at least 256 colors.
  • Gnome 3.18 or higher, with the at-spi2 1.32 package (required for support for assistive technology [AT] tools), or another compatible GUI (such as KDE, among others).
For certain features of the software — but not most — Java is required. Java is notably required for Base.

See Oracle's Java Downloads for All Operating Systems page for information specific to Linux.

PDF Editors

  • Able2Extract Professional is a powerful professional PDF program that allows you to do almost anything with PDFs. Strongly recommended. See my review of Able2Extract Pro 12 for details and full system requirements.
    • A full license costs US$149.95.
    • A 30-day subscription costs US$34.95.

Internet Software

Web Browsers

Email

FTP

  • FileZilla (free) is the recommended FTP client for casual users.
  • FileZilla Pro (US$19.99) is a professional FTP/S, SFTP client for Windows, Mac OS X or Debian Linux. Heavily optimized for speed, it can also connect with many cloud servers.

Graphics

  • The amazingly-powerful GIMP graphics program is a worthy alternative to Photoshop.

Accounting Software

  • Manager is free cloud-based accounting software that runs on Windows, Mac and Linux — Ubuntu Oneiric (11.10) or newer. It includes modules such as cashbook, invoicing, receivables, payables, taxes and comprehensive financial reports. You'll need to create an account to use this program and your data will be stored in the “cloud” rather than on your computer.

Games

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Linux Help and Documentation

Linux Information Sites

There are numerous sites on the Internet that provide an incredible amount of information. Don't forget to check the various newsgroups for messages that provide solutions to problems you are experiencing with Linux installation or your routine maintenance issues.

Linux Documentation

There are several sources of information about installing, configuring and administrating Linux. Besides the MAN (manual) pages that usually accompany your distribution you will find various HOWTOs or mini-tutorials on the Web.

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The Desktop Environment

The GUI

X Windows is the GUI (Graphic User Interface) for Linux. It is much more flexible than either the Windows or Macintosh environments because it is not the entire operating system. This makes X Windows very powerful and configurable. Most users will have all three components installed, but they are not all necessary for Linux to run.

X Servers

Providing the support for the video card and monitor and basic window management.

Window Managers

These provide the window controls, buttons, menus and control panels for Linux distributions.

Desktop Environments

What provides the common “look and feel” to the desktop.

The components that are available to you will depend upon the distribution you are using and the capabilities of your hardware. Because of the nature of Linux you can change the look of your distribution by changing the various components of the desktop environment.

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Drivers

Traditionally many hardware manufacturers haven't provided drivers written for Linux for their current offerings. This resulted in a dependence on drivers provided by the Open Source community.

This is gradually changing as manufacturers realize that commercial interest in Linux is increasing. Drivers are appearing more frequently as demand grows.

Printers Drivers

The one area where there has been the most demand for drivers (and the most improvement) is with printers.

HP Printers

HP Linux Imaging and Printing for HP's print, scan and fax drivers for Linux.

I found native support for my HP Color LaserJet CP1215 on Linux Mint 17 although it wasn't the most current version available.

Brother Printers

The links I had for Linux support for Brother printers are no longer available.

 

What is Linux?

Linux is a Unix derivative that has become more mainstream in the last few years. Linux is not that new, only the amount of attention it is getting is new.

The backbone of the Internet is built on Unix and one of the features of Linux is the ability to use low-cost or free server software to run your network or Internet server.

Linux is Open Source

The Open Source movement means that the source code for the operating system must be made available for any programs using previous Open Source program code.

Companies like Microsoft or Apple are closed systems that deny others the ability to modify their program source code.

Thousands of people around the world can work on problems, develop new hardware drivers, and create software applications for Linux.

The Cathedral and the Bazaar will give you a good insight to the advantages of the Open Source movement and how it is helping to shape Linux.

Linux has been acclaimed as the operating system that will someday replace Microsoft Windows as the standard operating system.

This is potentially true. Windows is harder to try out (try surfing the Web from a "virtual" Windows install booted from a CD like you can with Linux Mint) but it supports a massive number of commercial and shareware applications.

Check out these Novell ads on YouTube parodying the successful Mac v. PC ads.

Early Netbooks Ran Linux

Windows users may have seen or even used Linux on early netbooks (miniaturized laptops) that came with Linux pre-installed on small solid state drives.

Replaced with Tablets

Netbooks have virtually disappeared as users purchase tablets running Apple's iOS or Google's Android.

Windows 8's Secure Boot Defeats Linux Installations

Users wanting to install Linux onto a preinstalled Windows 8 system will have difficulties because the new Windows uses UEFI instead of BIOS to enable the Secure Boot technology because the Linux installer is treated like a virus.

Linux Advantages

[I]f you really want your IT department to be in charge of your PCs and not Microsoft (or Apple, or Google with Chromebooks), it's time to start seriously considering the Linux option. There really are no other viable alternatives. — ComputerWorld

Linux offers many advantages to Microsoft Windows operating systems including the following:

  • Free fully functional downloads.
  • You can try Linux distributions by booting from the CD.
  • Linux is very stable operating system.
  • Security is excellent in Linux.
  • Linux is much quicker to respond to user demands for improvements and drivers.
  • Multiple distributions means that there is true competition.
  • You're invited to donate to keep the distribution(s) you use free.
  • Linux's modular design means you have a great deal of flexibility in your installation choices.
  • Security is built into Linux.

Other Resources

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Help Getting Started

If you would like some help installing Linux or getting your hardware peripherals to work with Linux please contact me.

Related Resources

Related resources on this site:

or check the resources index.


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RussHarvey.bc.ca/resources/linux.html
Updated: June 11, 2021