[ Table Of Contents ][ Answer Guy Current Index ] greetings   Meet the Gang   1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9 [ Index of Past Answers ]

(?) The Answer Gang (!)

By Jim Dennis, Ben Okopnik, Dan Wilder, Breen, Chris, and... (meet the Gang) ... the Editors of Linux Gazette... and You!
Send questions (or interesting answers) to The Answer Gang for possible publication (but read the guidelines first)

(?) linux questions

From zen maiku

Answered By Breen Mullins, mike martin, Ben Okopnik, Robos, Mike "Iron" Orr, Thomas Adam, Dan Wilder, Heather Stern

Dear The Answer Gang,

Hi, I just did a search on the Internet for a problem I was having, and I was led to a site with an answer by "The Answerman" on it, and I immediately thought he was great! Short, straightforward answers; to the point, simple, and very helpful!

So, naturally, right away, I decided to come to him with my own questions, and that's when I discovered that his E-mail may no longer exist.

So now I am coming to you, The Answer Gang, who were mentioned as a soon-to-be organized group of people, at the time of the article I was at. (Linux Gazette Issue 55)

So, if you would please, I have some questions for you. I looked in The Answer Gang Knowledge Base, but it didn't really give me the simple, short and succinct answers I was looking for. There was some help in there, but it was accompanied by a LOT of extra stuff. I'm writing in the hopes that you can deliver as well as The Answerman did.

(!) [Breen] Well, The Answer Guy is still here. We'll try to help though. Jim may even toss in a suggestion or two.
The reason you're not finding simple answers is that you're not asking simple questions.

(?) I'm thinking about switching over to Linux on my personal computer to replace Windows.

(!) [Breen] Good!

(?) I am not a seasoned Linux user, so I have encountered some difficulty with a few aspects of its use.

(!) [Breen] This is pretty common for newish Linux users.

(?) Since it turns out that I have 12 questions total, and they are all multi-part, AND because these questions are a serious impediment to my Linux use, I have named them "The Linux Deadly Dozen". My questions, because I can't seem to find too many straight answers online, are:

1. I'm a home user who uses the Internet a lot, plays games, works with music, and other average activities, and I have above-average computer literacy - Which Linux distribution is the best choice for me? What are the major differences between Mandrake, Red Hat and Best Linux? Are they the three best distributions out there?

(!) [Breen] I'm not familiar with Best. I use Red Hat; others here prefer Debian (which is probably NOT the best distribution for a new user). Mandrake has a reputation for being easier on the new user. S.U.s.E is also very well regarded. Other members of the Gang may have other favorites. The best distro is the one that works for you. (I know, you wanted a simple answer. There isn't one to this question.)
(!) [mike] Not heard of Best, I use RH myself but for a newbie Mandrake is probably good, SuSE is also fairly good

(?) 2. Does Mandrake, Red Hat, or Best Linux support USB ports? Is support built in, or do I have to download a patch or something? If the ports themselves work fine with Linux, then is it simply a matter of getting Linux drivers for specific USB devices?

(!) [Breen] USB support is pretty good with 2.4 kernels, which you'll get with a recent distribution.
(!) [mike] Current versions have support built in
(!) [Heather] SuSE has had working USB support since kernel revision 2.2.14 or so. Both 2.2.x and 2.4.x kernels will have USB support. There will be lots of modules, but usbmgr should deal with all that under the hood stuff for you...

(?) 3. Can I get Linux to support my Rockwell HCF 56k winmodem?

(!) [mike] Check on www.linmodems.org - Ithink they arenow supported

(?) How about my GeForce2 MX400 AGP video card, and my Soundblaster Live! Value sound card?

(!) [Heather] Yes albeit weird (nVidia has two modules to add, one for the kernel and one for X, but they are good), and probably. Creative Labs has been directly on the bandwagon for awhile now.

(?) How about cable modems?

(!) [Iron] linmodems.org is all for analog modems. A cable "modem" isn't really a modem. External ones that connect to the computer via an ordinary Ethernet card have a better chance of being Linux compatible than internal or USB ones. It all depends on whether the modem requires a proprietary driver, and whether such a driver exists for Linux.
(!) [Breen] You should search Google for hardware compatibility information. (I'd advise getting a real modem if you're even halfway serious about Linux. Or even halfway serious about The Other System for that matter.)

(?) 4. What are the differences between KDE and Gnome,

(!) [mike] various but not that apparent to a convert

(?) and why would I want to use one over the other?

(!) [mike] Personal preference
(!) Do they both contain office suites?
(!) [mike] KDE does and gnome contains some very classy apps, gnumeric (excel) evolution (what outlook should be), and galeon (web browser)

(?) Are they good, or should I go with StarOffice? I want an office suite for word processing, spreadsheets, and possibly web page building.

(!) [Breen] This is a matter of personal preference. You should install both and try them; then you'll know which is better for you from the strength of your own experience.

(?) 5. Should (can) I use Wine to run Windows programs like messengers and games, or are there Linux versions of these things? I want to be able to communicate with people on MSN Messenger and AIM,

(!) [mike] Use everybuddy or gaim or AOL linux client
(!) [Breen] Messenger clients are a dime a dozen in Linux. You don't need an emulator.

(?) and I want to play some of the current popular games. What can Wine do for me that makes it a must-have? (or is it a must-have?)

(!) [Breen] I'm not a gamer so I won't comment on whether emulation is likely to be any good for your games.
(!) [mike] games are a problem
(!) [Ben] Let's see - I just finished a rousing round of Quake2, and was running Heretic yesterday - and I'm not a big-time game maven. Admittedly, there are not nearly as many games for Linux as there are for Wind*ws (although that's changing fairly quickly), but dismissing it with "games are a problem" is rather simplistic. Take a look at the "Linux games" section at Tucows; I think you'll be amazed at what's available. Trust me, I'm not_ talking about yet another version of Tetris here. As well, take a look at some of the stuff currently in development at Freshmeat/SourceForge; people are coming up with distributed game systems that will make Wind*ws stuff look totally passe within a year or so.
(!) [Heather] See another thread on that topic, this issue.

(?) 6. What are the most common Linux file types, and what are their Windows counterparts? I notice Linux doesn't use .exe files? When I click on certain files in Linux, it asks what I want to use to open them, but I have no idea what to choose. Also, what are, and how do I use, RPM packages?

(!) [Breen] I'm going to skip this one right now. I think you'll do better to concentrate on some of your other questions first.
(!) [mike] linux does not have file types like in the windows world. Files are ssociated with mime-types although there some conventions

.sh shell scripts
.pl perl scripts
(!) [Ben] That's incorrect. Wind*ws does not have file types - its associations are based on the extension that a file has (which can lead to some rather funny situations.) Files under Linux are not associated with mime-types - that's a purely optional mechanism that is often used by mail clients and browsers (and a few other odd things) - but the only way a file is going to _have a mime-type is if one has been _assigned to it by a mail client, etc. Under Unix in general, files are recognized by their "magic", usually the first few bytes with which a file begins.
These extensions are conventions "more honored in the breach than the observance". I usually tell my students that unless they're writing Perl on a Wind*ws platform, they should not use the ".pl" extensions - and if they are, to use ".plx", since ".pl" is the correct extension for a Perl _library._ Under Linux, it doesn't matter whether you use the extension or not.
(!) [Iron] ... unless the program itself requires them. For instance, top-level Python scripts that you run from the shell or by clicking an icon may have the .py or not--it doesn't matter. But if it's a Python module you want to import from inside another Python program, it better have the .py extension or it won't work.
(!) [Thomas] Ben, surely file "extensions" are depreciated nowadays, since what is the purpose of the she-bang line??? -- of course as mike said, some languages do need the extension.
(!) [Ben] You're confusing filetype checking within the OS and filename usage in a programming context. The OS, as per my earlier statement, does not care about what extension you give the file - period. The fact that you can't, for example, rename "/etc/resolv.conf" to "my_favorite_DNS_servers.really" and have it work has nothing to do with this.
(!) [Dan] Python compiles and saves modules at import time, and wants to see the compiled module stored beside the source code, as file.py and file.pyc.
Not having to wildcard the name or do a search possibly shortens the "shall I compile this now" decision.
(!) [Ben] I can't see how that bears on the issue at all. Libraries and modules in Perl are also required to have extensions that identify them within Perl, but this has nothing to do with file identification within the OS itself.
Baldur:/tmp$ cp /usr/lib/python2.1/uu.py .
Baldur:/tmp$ file uu.py
uu.py: a /usr/bin/python script text executable
Baldur:/tmp$ mv uu.py uu
Baldur:/tmp$ file uu
uu: a /usr/bin/python script text executable
As far as identifying the file goes, the extension makes no difference.
(!) [Thomas] Ultimately though the colour options passed to "ls -l" make it much easier for me to identify a file type...
(!) [Ben] This _still does not use extensions. Actually, given the limited action of the way it works, I suspect it just sets the colors based on the data in the inode.
(!) [Heather] Well, my set of /etc/DIR_COLORS definitely uses extensions; I like to see that .jpg (and various permutations) .gif (likewise) .png (and so on) in a given color to tell me that they are images, various permutations of tarball (e.g. .tgz, .tar.bz2, .zip and its permutations, .deb, .rpm...) are packages, and so on.
I have a limited number of colors to play with but it's very helpful anyway.
If ls knows how to read by magic rather than extensions it's news to me. Of course it is useful to tell at a glance that I have the exec bit set, or that a given item is a symlink and not a real directory.

(?) 7. Where can I get great Linux freeware, like the great freeware I use on Windows; to handle picture viewing and editing, compressed files, music and video files, and other such things? What are the best programs?

(!) [mike] dont need it, most of the freeware programs for windows are either core parts of the OS, and otherwise the web - loads of programs
(!) [Breen] http://sourceforge.net will give you a list of more free programs than you can shake a stick at.
Oh. The best? The usual answer: try some out. Start with the ones that come with your distribution. My opinions won't match others anyway.

(?) 8. Will a computer that's running Mandrake, Red Hat, or Best Linux with a GUI like KDE or Gnome on it, be faster, slower, or about the same speed as a computer running Windows 95? What about Windows 98, ME, XP? Will programs and games load and run comparably?

(!) [Breen] Too many variables here; I don't think there's a meaningful answer. I haven't used Windows in years anyway.
(!) [mike] difficult to say, probably slower than w95 but comparable with full GUI to others (but nicer)
(!) [Heather] variable 1: linux native binaries may run much faster. variable 2: our GUI is not just X itself but the Window Manager too. We have more major Window Managers than fingers, and a lot of minor ones too. That's wihout counting the desktop environments. variable 3: different apps need different resources, and as we're multiuser you can run lots of apps at once. There's more tools to look at resources than you can shake a stick at too.
I could go on...

(?) 9. What are the GPL, GNU, and Freeware Licenses about? What are the differences between them? Are there other similar licenses I am unaware of? My interest is in ad-free, popup free, commercial free freeware only. I do not like shareware, commercial software (some exceptions), or adware, since the (best) freeware out there has often been superior anyway.

(!) [mike] Use the term Free software - big subject, pop into www.slashdot.org to get a feel of the subject
(!) [Breen] What, in 50 words or less? Rivers of ink have been spilled over licensing issues. I'm not going to even attempt to summarize. (Besides, this is yet another way to start a flame war and I didn't wear my asbestos undies today.)
(!) [Heather] I wrote an editorial ranting a bit on this subject awhile back, easy to find if you type "kosher" into the LG Search page.

(?) 10. What's the deal with compiling libraries? What does it mean to do that, why is it necessary, and how is it done? What is a compiler, and which one is the best?

(!) [Breen] Don't worry about this. You probably won't need to compile anything at all for at least six months after you move into your Linux system.
(!) [mike] When you are starting it is NOT neccesary, but has dvatages when you get into it. Most programs are available as rpm's

(?) 11. What is X Windows? Is it part of Linux or KDE or Gnome or something? Is it a must-have component, or built-in one, or neither, or both?

(!) [Breen] X is the underpinning of the graphical interface you're going to want to use. Your distribution will install it; you probably won't need to worry about it for, oh, six months.
(!) [mike] For all practical purposes a built in. gnome/kde run on top of X which runs on top of Linux
(!) [Heather] From an end user view, it's the GUI. You don't need a GUI to do cool things in Linux... but lots of people like to have one. As opposed to MSwin, where the GUI cannot be reasonably removed and even if you thought you wanted that (?!) there are so very few decent console mode apps.

(?) 12. What is the best web browser to use on Linux? Do KDE and/or Gnome have built-in web browsers? If so, are they good enough for most general purpose Internet use, and eliminate the need to download anything else?

(!) [Breen] Boy, you're just trying to start a fight, aren't you? This is yet another question without an answer. KDE and/or Gnome will install a browser for you. Try one. Try several. Decide which one is best for you. (I use and like one called Galeon. Another member of the Answer Gang foams at the mouth when it's mentioned.)
(!) [mike] Galeon (gnome app), have heard konquerer and Opera are OK
(!) [Heather] I use lynx, it may be text mode but it's the fastest thing on the planet... some who also like text consoles may prefer links, or w3m. All these have SSL support available too.
You said you hate adware so I dunno if there's an Opera version you'll like yet...

(?) Thank you in advance for any help, and thank you for your time and effort.

(!) [Robos] Hi!
Lots of questions there, and a tremendous amount of answers in the net. Therefore I give you some pointers where to start reading. Because this is in my opinion the main difference between win and linux: you have to actually read stuff! Lots of stuff. But as a consequence - you learn something ;-)
(had this with a friend of mine and me (both quite good in linux-matters) when he bought a mac with OSX: we simply pushed buttons - without reading the manual - because you're supposed to do this if you have a gui, aren't you?)
So, the list:
I think with these you will be happy for the next month or two,
(!) [Ben] Robos is The Man. :)
I think that's one point that everybody, including me, forgot to make - and it's possibly the most important one there is. Linux is not free. Oh, it doesn't have to cost anything money-wise - you can download the complete install, or borrow a CD from a friend (unlike dealing with Wind*ws, this is actually _encouraged ) - but where it does cost is in the time invested in learning it. Some people, however, see that as a very good thing indeed (and I'm among them): not only do you get to have this nifty OS, but you also get to understand it, woohoo! The thing is, you don't get to just lean back and click on icons (unless you want just the basic functionality). As soon as you want to get hold of some of the serious power that's available with Linux, you've got to open the hood, reach under, grrrab those high-voltage wires, and feel the power of Linux!... Oh, sorry - got a little carried away there. :)
Anyway, that's the big difference. When you want more out of Wind*ws, well... you can pay lots of money and get, uh, something real pretty and with lots of flash and neat sound-effects and stuff (functionality will be included in the next release - no, REALLY!) With Linux, there's (usually) no money involved and the power is available right now - but you do need to sit down and study. If that trade-off sounds good to you... welcome to Linux. You're in for a fun time.
Oh, and do be careful - those numbers on the speedometer are exponential values. :)

This page edited and maintained by the Editors of Linux Gazette Copyright © 2002
Published in issue 77 of Linux Gazette April 2002
HTML script maintained by Heather Stern of Starshine Technical Services, http://www.starshine.org/

[ Table Of Contents ][ Answer Guy Current Index ] greetings   Meet the Gang   1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9 [ Index of Past Answers ]