Nineteen days ago I downloaded openSUSE 11.2 Linux and installed it on my backup PC. I was so pleased that I decided to move it to my primary PC and replaced the RC version of Windows 7 and for the last eight days it has been my main system.
The layout of the desktop is very similar to Windows 7, so I lost nothing there. It boots much faster and for my tasks, it runs faster. So what programs am I using?
As you would expect, my needs are relatively simple. I need the Internet and a good browser. I have three.
Firefox is what I use the most and I just saved my bookmarks under Windows first and restored them in Linux.
Opera is the second and touted as being the most secure and standards complaint. When I get more time, I may try making it my default browser. It has a few features I prefer over Firefox, but in any case, I will not remove Firefox.
The last browser is Konqueror, which is the KDE’s native browser. It is a fully functional browser. I am currently using it as my file transfer program to move photos to my web-host. On Windows, I had used FileZilla and could use it on Linux, but just decided to keep things simple and now that I have tried it, I like it better than FileZilla.
For my word processing needs, I am sticking with Open Office. It has all of the functionality of Microsoft Office that I require and the price is right ($0). If you haven’t tried Open Office, you might be surprised how good it is. I have not used Microsoft Office for the last 5 years. NOTE: If you decide to use Open Office, I recommend you change the file save option to save in a Microsoft Word format, so you can share files with Microsoft users. By the way, Open Office will run on Windows and Apple PCs as well.
As you are aware, I take a lot of photos, and photo management is done by digiKam. This program has improved a lot since I first used it. I stick my camera memory chip into the slot of my PC and I am asked if I was to use digiKam to load the photos. I accept and select the photos I want to file in the appropriate directory. You can then tag photos such as family, birds, or other tag you need and then later if you want to see all photos of that category, digiKam will find them for you.
There is also a new feature, of digiKam, called showFoto, which I had not seen before. It does many basic types of photo editing. I would use it, but I always put a watermark on the photos I post (too many were being stolen without giving credit) and currently showFoto doesn’t do that.
For more elaborate photo editing I use GIMP, another free program, that will do most of the things that PhotoShop does. Photoshop has more polish and GIMP has the right price ($0). GIMP also runs on Windows and Apple PCs.
Another great program is Amarok, which plays all of my music files and is an outstanding Internet music player. When it plays music from any source, if the lyrics are on the Internet, it displays the lyrics so you can sing along if you have enabled that function and are so inclined.
Moving back to the KDE desktop allowed me to return to Kontact, which is KDE’s version of Microsoft Outlook. If I put something on my event calendar, it reminds me. Something has to remind me or I forget. For example, at 9:00 AM on Sunday, it tells me I need to wind my clocks. That may not seem like much, but if it didn’t tell me to get up and do it, the clocks would run down.
With Windows, I used some of the messengers with video to communicate with family in the US and Costa Rica. The messenger I use is Kopete. With one program I talk to people on MSN Messenger, Yahoo Messenger, Google Talk, and others. The downside is that it does not support video. To take care of Web Cam calls, I have installed Skype and have phone quality communication with video.
Another program I use periodically on Windows is Movie Maker. It is useful for me if I want to post a YouTube video. I am still researching Linux replacements for that. HERE are some of the options I will be working on installing and testing. Given some time, I think I can completely wean myself off of Windows. I am close right now.
I still maintain that for the majority of people, Linux can replace Microsoft Windows or Apple for your computing needs. I have a good friend that I have migrated away from Windows. I think she would consider herself a PC novice, and for close to a year she has used nothing bur Linux.
Until yesterday, I had her on Linux Mint, which is a very easy system for the Linux beginner. Yesterday, I moved her system to openSUSE 11.2 KDE and I think she thinks she has a new PC. Maybe someday, I can convince her to give it a review from her perspective of the learning curve and benefits and limitations.
I have mentioned before that I have an upcoming project with Antonio Singh to see if we can put Linux on some PCs and bring some communities that have never heard of the Internet into the Internet age. Linux is being considered because older PCs are going to be used and all software would be legal.
NOW FOR A FEW CAVEATS:
Linux still is not an idiot proof install. While it is improving everyday and I believe the openSUSE install is one of the cleanest, it helps if you have Linux assistance on hand if you run into problems. Many device drivers are restricted and most Linux releases do not install them automatically.
Linux Mint does the best. The UBUNTU versions are next and openSUSE may be next. So why did I go with openSUSE? As I have written before the two primary desktops (presentation and user interface) are Gnome and KDE. UBUNTU is primarily a Gnome supporter. Since Linux Mint is a UBUNTU directive distribution, if follows that its support will be better in Gnome as well.
OpenSUSE is a distribution from the open source side of Novell, which has a commercial division supporting Novell’s SUSE. SUSE was originally a German distribution and has always been more oriented toward KDE and I believe that openSUSE is the best KDE distribution available.
Hardware can make the install easy or tough. Having a HP printer is a tremendous advantage. Other brands may require a little work. Some distributions do better than others. OpenSUSE does a good job with more printers, but for no headaches, get a HP.
Web-cams are another consideration. Logitech is the best supported. A cheap Chinese brand that comes with a windows driver CD may never work. I use a Logitech 9000. It costs a little more, but it is worth it.
Windows applications: If you have Windows application needs, you may be stuck with Windows. However a Google search for Linux equivalents might surprise you with what is available. For instance, if you use Quicken, you might look at KMyMoney.
KIDS on Linux:
I have encouraged my daughter to use Linux for her kid’s needs. She has a PC work area in her second floor for the kids. Kids can be the greatest source of PC viruses and Linux is almost immune. Set up correctly, it is 99.9%. My daughter has two age groups that will use the PCs (teenagers and sub teens).
That is a snapshot of one of the projects that has been occupying my time. It is time I get to another on my “todo” list. Now go have a great day. I know I am planning on having one.