Linux FAQThis FAQ is designed to answer frequently asked questions about my own experience with Linux, and not to be a FAQ about linux itself. If there are already many FAQs on the web devoted to answering every conceivable question about Linux itself. So I'm not going to go into a lot of detail about the origins and history of Linux.
Q. What exactly is Linux?
A. Linux was designed to work just like the Unix operating system (used by large corporations and educational institutions on their computer systems). Unix is very popular operating system that has been in use and constantly evolving and improving for over 30 years now. Whole generations of computer science students, programmers, system administrators and all sorts of other people who do serious computing have done it on machines running the Unix operating system. But Unix is a very expensive operating system. So in spite of its wild popularity in corporate and educational environments, most people can't afford to buy a copy of Unix to use on their own personal computers. Linux was designed to be a free alternative to Unix that anyone could use.
Q. Why would anyone want to use Linux instead of Windows?
A. Well, Linux is less expensive than Windows (you can even get it for free). Linux is more reliable and less buggy than Windows. Linux is also more secure than Windows.
Q. Why did you choose Knoppix Linux out of all the versions of Linux available?
A. Two words. "It's Easy" Knoppix is dead easy to use even for absolute beginners, and there is no initial commitment. You don't have to actually install Knoppix on your computer to take it on a test drive. You can just pull the CD out of your drive and go back to using Window$ if you decide Knoppix isn't for you.
Q. This site used to be about Redhat Linux. Why have you changed to Knoppix?
A. In the beginning of my own personal migration to Linux, I decided to try Redhat Linux because it was by far the most popular flavor of Linux in use at the time. I figured I would need lots of help installing, configuring and learning linux, so I chose the most popular brand with the most users, web sites and discussion groups devoted to it that I could get help from. I then created the original version of this web site based on that experience.
Today the situation has changed. Redhat has essentially abandoned the little guy to go off in pursuit of big bucks from enterprise users (Can't really blame them). They have stopped issuing new versions of Redhat Linux for personal use and also stopped supporting the older ones. So it was time to either pull the plug on this site, or remake it based on a different Linux distro.
Q. What other versions of Linux have you used or considered using?
A. My first real experience with Linux came when I bought some used computers at an auction. They had Mandrake Linux installed on them. The auction house had received the computers with the hard drives erased. They installed Linux on them because they wanted to demonstrate that the computers were fully functional to the bidders, so they installed Linux on all hundred or so computers in that auction. Installing Linux was cheap and legal. (Installing Windows on a hundred computers can never be both cheap *and* legal at the same time.) I played around with Mandrake a bit and found it wasn't as difficult to use as I expected. But I needed the computers for something else and so wound up wiping the hard drives and installing Windows on them. Later when I decided to give Linux a serious try, I tried Mandrake Linux again side by side with Redhat. Unfortunately I had installation problems. I could never quite get all of the hardware in all my PCs configured and working right under Mandrake (though that problem may be fixed in newer releases of Mandrake or may not even be an issue on your particular machine). I didn't have the same problems with Redhat. Getting the sound to work on some of my computers was the only sticky issue I ever had with Redhat, and eventually I solved that problem too. I stuck with Redhat Linux from version 7.2 until they pulled the plug on it at version 9. Then on a whim I downloaded and tried out a live Linux CD called Knoppix, and never looked back. I still actually have Redhat Linux installed on a couple of my computers, even though it is now an orphaned distro. It's just too much trouble moving to something else when the computers are working just fine for what I need them to do.
I have also considered trying straight Debian Linux, rather than the Knoppix version of Debian. I have heard a lot of horror stories about how hard Debian is to install, though that has apparently gotten better lately. Knoppix makes it so easy that I haven't got around to trying straight Debian yet. I have also considered tying out SuSE Linux, Slackware Linux, and FreeBSD (Not really a form of Linux, but very similar). Unfortunately I just haven't had the time do do anything with them yet. Someday though I'd like to set up a multi boot system with several favors of Linux installed so that I can compare them side by side.
I have also tried out lots of other "live" versions of Linux including MEPIS, Damn Small Linux , SLAX, Santa Fe Linux, dyne:bolic and a few others. I had problems with most of them though. Usually they failed to correctly detect and configure some of my hardware. Newer versions may be better at that now. The only live Linux distros besides Knoppix I use at present are MEPIS on my laptop and I never go anywhere without a Damn Small Linux disk. I wouldn't want to use it as my day to day desktop environment, but it makes a great rescue CD if your computer won't boot. It also runs well on older hardware with limited resources that might choke on a full size distro.
Q. How can I create screenshots like you use on this web site?
A. There is a screen capture program called KSnapshot under the Graphics tab of the start menu. It will capture an image of your screen and save it to a file. It even has a time delay feature to grab the screenshot after a certain time has elapsed so that you'll have a chance to initiate any actions necesary to set up the screen you want to capture.
Q. What issues do you have with Windows that made you decide to switch to linux?
A. I have lots of issues with Windows. First, there is the reliability issue. I make my living using computers. If I had a dollar for every time Windows barfed up a general protection fault or the "Blue Screen of Death" or just plain crashed and wrecked my valuable work over the years, I could retire in luxury. Windows is just too buggy to trust my valuable hard work to it.
Then there is the cost issue. You pay for Windows (whether you want it or not) every time you buy a PC. It's called "The Microsoft Tax," and it adds a couple of hundred bucks to the cost of your computer. (Only recently have companies like Walmart and Dell started selling PCs without operating systems pre installed.) Windows, the Office suite and other Microsoft software is simply too expensive for the quality (or lack there of) that it delivers. Some of the best software I use and depend on every day is either freeware or shareware. But some of the worst software I have ever had the misfortune of using came from Microsoft, and I paid through the nose for it. The cost of having to upgrade multiple machines to the "latest and greatest" (but always just as buggy) new version of Windows and/or Office every year or two is just too much. Eventually I decided it was time to look into alternatives.
Then there is the DRM issue. DRM stands for Digital Rights Management. To the uninitiated, it may sound like some sort of system to protect your rights. Actually it is a system to protect the alleged rights of copyright holders (read big media and software companies) at the expense of your long established fair use rights. DRM is being built into Windows and most of the applications that run on Windows. I find this unacceptible. The only person with any rights on my computer is me, and I intend to assert my fair use rights to the fullest. So I choose to use an operating system that hasn't been crippled by DRM.
Then there is the attitude issue. Microsoft seems to believe that having their operating system or application software on your computer means that they get to spy on your activities and dictate what you can and can't do with your own computer. Their paranoia over software piracy is driving them toward building spyware and DRM limitations into future versions of Windows software that will prevent the user from copying or transmitting certain kinds of data on machines with the Windows software installed, even if you are the legal owner of that data. There is even talk of future Windows software automatically deleting anything it finds on your system that it thinks you shouldn't have there. This is totally unacceptable. I own my computer and I determine what it will and won't be used for and what data it will contain. An operating system should help me do what I want to do with my computer, not get in the way.
Q. What's up with the "My other computer runs Linux" thing?
A. It's just a little sign I made up and stuck on the side of my computer at work (We still use Windows on all our machines at work). People who see it stop dead in their tracks and then start asking me all sorts of questions. It really impresses the hell out of people. Print it out and try it yourself.
Q. Will you be able to help me with my particular Linux problems/questions/issues?
A. Alas, probably not. This site gets a LOT of traffic. The volume of email this and my other web sites generate is just too huge to keep up with. I don't have time to even read it all, let alone answer it. I suggest that if you are stuck on some problem or other, just do like I did in the beginning and do a Google search. You'll probably find that hundreds, if not thousands, of people before you have had the same issue. There are probably lots of web sites and message archives containing just the information you need to fix your problems and answer your questions. You can still try emailing me, though I can't promise a response. email@example.com