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Distributions, desktops & documentation

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

Tux, 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

Linux Mint is community-driven and free to download for both personal and commercial use. Learn about Mint | Download 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

I recommend Linux Mint for those looking for an alternative to Windows or to continue running computers that no longer support the current operating system.

Linux Mint isthe 4th most widely-used home operating system behind Windows, Mac and Ubuntu. Once installed it includes a suite of commonly-used software including Firefox, Thunderbird, LibreOffice and VLC media player.

Replacing Windows

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

If your Windows is no longer supported, I recommend backing up your data then doing a clean install of Linux (i.e., wipe out the Windows partitions and install ONLY Linux).

System Requirements

Current versions of Mint only install on 64-bit computers. 32-bit computers are rare.

  • 2GB RAM (4GB recommended for a comfortable usage).
  • 20GB of disk space (100GB recommended).
  • 1024×768 resolution (on lower resolutions, press ALT to drag windows with the mouse if they don't fit in the screen).

The Linux Mint Installation Guide takes you from download to post-installation and troubleshooting. Always install Windows first when running Linux alongside Windows.

Learning more:


Download Ubuntu

Check out or download Ubuntu:

System Requirements

There are basic and recommended system requirments. I suggest you stick to the recommended requirments to ensure satisfaction.

  • 2 GHz dual core processor
  • 4 GB RAM (system memory)
  • 25 GB (8.6 GB for minimal) of hard-drive space (or USB stick, memory card or external drive but see LiveCD for an alternative approach)
  • VGA capable of 1024x768 screen resolution
  • Either a CD/DVD drive or a USB port for the installer media
  • Internet access is helpful

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.

If you aren't sure and want to test a few distros, try Universal USB Installer — download from

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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.

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:

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 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.

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 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 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.

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

Internet Software

Web Browsers



Learn more….


Accounting Software


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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


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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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.

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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.

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

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

On this site:

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Updated: June 1, 2024