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How do I find out about Linux software?

Posing this question is the most common event when people get together to discuss Linux, and its family of open source software. This presentation is not to answer any questions, but rather to point to places on the Internet where you can find your own answers.

For the most part, I have tried to keep URL's simple. The first part is to answer questions about Linux programs you may wish to run. The second part is how to get information about Linux the operating system. If you are generally curious, try Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Linux

When you install Linux, a great many options are offered, and the default install often sees a great many program names flash by. What are these programs? Are there others I should install? We'll look at a couple of approaches (aside from spending money on a book, which might not be a bad idea).

If you are lazy, writers do often suggest what you can use. For example in the January 2007 issue of Monitor, Paul Godin had the following list:

Linux: Ubuntu or Kubuntu
Office suite: Open Office
Desktop environment: KDE
Web browser: Firefox
Mail client: Evolution
Database server: MySql
Web server: Apache
Print server: CUPS
Web tool development: Bluefish
Audio editor: Audacity or Rezound
Video editor: Kino
Slideshow creation: ManDVD
CD/DVD Burner: K3B
Photo cataloguing: F-Spot
Graphics: Gimp
Animations: Blender

A couple of items not in this list:

File sharing: Samba
Software development: Eclipse, http://www.Jboss.org (Red Hat sponsored)
Video player: Kaffeine, Democracy video player, http://www.getdemocracy.com

There is a site that attempts to map from Windows programs to Linux programs, the Linux equivalency project, http://www.linuxeq.com.

Issues do arise with Linux, and I will mention four:

  1. First is that of CODECs, or coder / decoder software needed for reading / writing data such as MP3 files.
  2. Second is the issue of documentation: writing code is cool, writing docs and help files about how to use it is not.
  3. Third is that of determining quality: if a product in a store is inferior, it does not sell and will be removed from the shelf. This may not happen with open source software.
  4. Finally there is the issue for dual boot systems of reading and writing the Microsoft NTFS file systems. (Microsoft does not document how the file system works.) There is a web site for the people working on the project, http://www.ntfs-3g.org/index.html and some recent magazines have had articles on the topic. This one will be resolved. For now, the easiest solution for dual boot systems is to create a FAT partition.

IBM has a Windows to Linux roadmap at: http://www-128.ibm.com/developerworks/linux/library/l-roadmap.html

A major source of information is The Linux Documentation Project, TLDP, at: http://tldp.net. Other sources include http://www.psychocats.net/ubuntu and http://www.tuxfiles.org/linuxhelp

Which distribution of Linux should you use? I prefer using a major distribution. The current most popular one may be Ubuntu, http://www.ubuntu.com. Others are Suse, http://en.opensuse.org or Red Hat Fedora http://fedora.redhat.com. The major distros generally are integrated with all sorts of useful programs, rather than you having to manually download them. If my list is not big enough, try looking at http://distrowatch.com.

Next, a note on windowing. Early versions of Linux were command line only; then installing a GUI became an option. Now the default is windowed. Note that the GUI environments of Microsoft and Apple are different based on different design philosophies. Linux has two major options for its GUI, Gnome and KDE. Again, Wikipedia has some comments, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Desktop_environment. Linus Torvalds prefers KDE but the choice is almost a religious issue.

Finally, don't forget our local Linux group, the Ottawa Canada Linux Users Group, OCLUG, http://www.oclug.on.ca