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Facts & Opinions

Linux Revisited...
... hate Microsoft?
Was Linux developed by just one guy?
Isn't Linux just for large computers?
Isn't Linux hard to use?
Windows crashes, does Linux?
But no one I know uses Linux...
Is there support for Linux?
Are there big companies behind Linux?
Do I need to be a computer guru to use Linux?
Why is Linux catching on so fast?
Does Linux have applications?
What's with the penguin?
Should I upgrade to Linux?
Who is Linux best for?
More questions, answers, install tips, etc..

 

What is Linux again..?

Ok, maybe it seems a complicated subject - but Linux is an operating system.
For the sake of simplicity, you could compare an operating system to OS2, Unix, Windows NT, MSDOS, etc..
This is the software that allows computer hardware to run, and serve the computer applications that you use.

Linux is an operating system developed by experts from around the world as an alternative to proprietary software platforms.
It is available freely, and performs better than other operating systems.
This is because it is a revised and updated form of Unix, which has been widely used and tested for many years.
Therefore, even though it is free, Linux is direct competition for Microsoft and other operating systems.

Is Linux going to be useful for you?
That depends on you immediate needs. Linux has about everything most people need if they want to browse the Internet and send and receive email, or if they want to run a business or point of sale shop, do word processing and data base management, and there are many other applications available.
Not all software has been ported directly to Linux yet, but you can run pretty well everything that runs on Microsoft if you use the right Linux add-ons. There's VMware for Linux which actually runs a copy of Windows 3.1, 95, 98+, NT 4.0+, or any of several other operating systems "under" Linux. There are other options also, and you can find them on this site, so read on.

Another thing you will likely notice is the different method of accessing (mounting) your hard and floppy drives and CDROM.
Linux is a lot different than Windows in some respects.

Linux is like Unix. It has been called "Unix the Next Generation", and that may really be a better way to look at it. Linux is a direct replacement for MS Windows, Windows 95, Windows 98, Windows 2000, Windows NT, OS2, or any other operating system. It does things that Microsoft and other companies have only been talking about for years. It is stable in a way that no Microsoft software is.

Years ago, Microsoft's Bill Gates made the statement "Windows NT will be a better Unix than Unix.". Somehow this has never become reality, but Linux already is.
Linux is already a better Windows than Windows, a better NT than NT, a better Unix than Unix for several reasons, and it keeps getting better through it's world wide expert support and development.
Bill also said in 1981, ``640K of memory should be enough for anybody.'' It gets increasingly difficult to believe anything from Microsoft, with their notorious history of blunders and broken promises.
Who wants to use a broken window, when there's an open door? (read about Open Source)

Some companies, especially Microsoft, make and break promises, spend big money on ads, and compromise system stability on schemes to protect their secret proprietary code.
Linux already delivers more power and stability, ease of use, and a free and open source code availability.
The open source code is why Linux is free, and always will be.
That doesn't mean all Linux based software applications are free, only the source code is. But there are complete software solutions available for Linux, and also many free applications, games and utilities included with Linux, just as there is free ware available for DOS or Windows.
Companies like Corel and StarDivision have provided their powerful applications, including word processors and office suite solutions, free to Linux users for personal use.

Open source code means that everyone in the world can potentially contribute to the development of Linux.
This is why there are several slightly different, but HIGHLY COMPATIBLE Linux distributions.
Basically the different Linux distributions are made of the same "heart" or "kernel" with a standardized file system, but with slightly different and sometimes customized default interfaces, install routines, support options, etc..
Linux is sometimes harder to use than equivalent Microsoft products, but it is catching up fast. It is well worth learning for several reasons.
It is a multi platform operating system, which means that it runs on many different types of computers.
An operating system which will run on many computers is very attractive to software developers, because it means their programs will enjoy increased sales.
Linux is based upon Unix and Unix commands, and therefore it uses similar command syntax to that which has been used on "Real" computers like the mini's, mainframes, and super computers since the late '60's. This means that there are many advanced users who are already familiar with this structure.
It also means that if you are a computer professional, or thinking of getting into the field, sooner or later you will be using this operating system, or something very similar.

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Who hates Microsoft..?

Even though Linux is completely free of charge, Linux is direct competition for Microsoft.
But we don't hate Microsoft.
Actually, if you live in or near the Niagara Peninsula in Canada, we make house calls to fix broken MS Windows and applications, and we also give home lessons on the use of Microsoft applications and operating systems.
Of course, we don't do it for free, so supporting Windows makes us money.
We have promoted and used Microsoft applications and operating systems for many years, (since 1986) and we still accept contracts supporting users who have problems with Microsoft products and other software that runs under MS Windows or DOS, etc.

It would be fair to say that like many millions of people around the world, we're fed up with being ripped of by Microsoft.
The words "exploited", "abused" and "resentful" are also used to describe the one sided relationship with this arrogant giant.
Microsoft has traditionally released bug ridden operating systems, possibly to compel or even force users to "upgrade"; although a fair percentage of their software applications, Office Suites etc. are pretty nice, as long as they work.
Microsoft sub contracts work to smaller companies, each of whom feels must protect itself by keeping their code a secret. That's why some Microsoft applications tend to crash frequently, or seem poorly integrated - there is a lack of disclosure, trust and co-operation.
But no matter what, Microsoft software is usually fairly feature rich.
Despite the intrinsic problems, their products almost always look pretty anyway.
It seems that alone is enough to satisfy a lot of people.
But even the best applications are only as good as the operating system they run on.
Most of us are familiar with the "house upon the sand" parable.
That is very similar to the problem with Microsoft operating systems.
Being intrinsically flawed by continuously making changes to avoid compatibility with competing compilers and applications, they eventually cause their own systems to crash.
Twisting like a snake, they just can't keep up with all the changes.

Java is supported in Windows NT Server through Microsoft's Java Virtual Machine. Currently there are two Java virtual machines vying for server and application server usage -- the Microsoft Java VM and the Sun VM (supported by Linux). At this point, you'll need to choose between the two for practical reasons: there are differences between them, and unless you want to maintain two code libraries (leading to all kinds of inconsistencies and incompatibilities), you will have to commit to one VM or the other. While we're not saying which one to choose, we have yet to encounter a benchmark that absolutely proves one VM is faster than the other, but we are just pointing out that it is highly impractical to use both.

In addition, Microsoft's insistence that COM be preferred over CORBA will lead to some difficult decisions when mapping an enterprise level computing scheme. In general, the Unix/Linux world has standardized on CORBA, while Microsoft has steadfastly supported COM. At the present, you'll need to support one or the other, which could be a significant issue on the enterprise level. There are many other significant issues also.

This leads to one of the strongest criticisms of Windows NT Server: the incessant and confining linkage of the operating system with Microsoft products. We know that this is how capitalism works, and Microsoft leverages its offerings better than most companies in the computer world. However, the fact that Microsoft offers a relatively closed operating system at a time when open source software is gaining in popularity should be a consideration when evaluating Windows NT, especially when you're looking at the financial pros and cons. On an ongoing basis, Windows NT is one of the most expensive operating systems for the PC platform. Linux is free, no matter how many systems you install it on. Linux is also more stable. The applications which run under Linux are also more inexpensive than the Microsoft offerings.

It's hard to understand how Microsoft or any other company can legally release a product without ensuring or guaranteeing it's stability, or at least offering a free bug fix for every real software problem.
If a product is defective, a responsible company would offer a free fix or upgrade.
Although this is a standard policy with most conscientious software companies, this is not usually the case with Microsoft.

It was about 1986 when Microsoft began to widely distribute Windows 1, which they promised to be a multi tasking operating system.
It was not. It kept crashing, and even the newest versions still do.
Each time they release an upgrade, they promise that the problems are repaired. They often include an extra feature or a "cool new interface upgrade" etc..
With few exceptions, users have to pay again and again for "upgrades", but Windows still keeps crashing.
Ethical business practice? Not in our books.
And even worse, the problems continue, with no real end in sight.
All that users and developers can count on are the stream of empty promises, and high priced upgrades and educational seminars.
Every bug that hits the consumer is another potential upgrade sale for Microsoft.

Microsoft has recently demonstrated technology which will eventually force users to pay for each time they use their software, bugs or no bugs.
It's usually referred to as "Pay Per Use" by end users.
Not everyone likes this idea, since a monopoly can set it's own price. Only the wealthy could afford to use this technology.
Not everyone wants to pay for each time they boot their computer, or type a letter, send or receive an email, or visit a web page, etc..
Coincidentally, Intel has released the Pentium 3 chip with embedded serial numbers, which will further allow any interested web site to identify each individual's computer, by down loading this distinct serial number.
The excuse given for this privacy compromise is "increased online commerce security", but in fact the same security could be achieved by software security measures without revealing the user's personal information to every visited web site.
This embedded and individualized serial number is a perfect way of implementing "Pay Per Use". They will just have the operating system log each time users boot their machines, and record each time they start a program, then transfer this information over the internet, and bill the user. Pretty sweet deal for the folks at Microsoft!
Even the wealthy must be concerned with the implications, if every web site they visit could potentially access detailed financial and "other" information about them...
Microsoft is "Big Brother".

We have been promoting and using Microsoft systems and software since 1986.
However, we regret the thousands of dollars we have spent on their bug ridden systems, and we feel abused by being caught up in the never ending cycle of upgrades, each time hoping it will fix the defects which were never our fault in the first place.
We have recommended their defective software to so many trusting clients and friends over the years because we believed and trusted in Microsoft and their partners.
All we can do is apologize, and try to right the wrong by recommending the very best we can find.

We REGRET our association with Microsoft.
But we have found Linux.

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Was Linux developed by just one guy?

Linux was not developed by just one person. Thousands of the best computer minds in the world have helped developed it over decades. Millions of users alpha test, beta test and report any problems to the developers directly. While many people think that Linus Torvalds, must be god-like, and rich beyond belief, they are wrong. Linus did not invent or create the entire Linux operating system. He is a nice guy who wanted to share a Unix like program that he developed, which caught on and became the Linux kernel. Since then hundreds have worked on the kernel, and thousands on the greater operating system that took on the name of the kernel. Much of what is now known as Linux existed in the Unix world as much as a decade or more before Linus came on the scene. He was the right man with the right skills, the right motivations, and the right personality, appearing at the right time. Linus continues to be the leader of the kernel project, and the leader of the Linux movement, which now involves tens of thousands of developers, all cooperating in a way that results in every component of Linux being as good as it possibly can be. And the corporate contributors to Linux want the operating system to be as good as it can be so that it will be an excellent platform for their software to run on. Since it is a free and powerful operating system which is available to the whole world, it is not as ridiculous as it sounds to say, that Linux could potentially contribute to world peace. It is truly a paradigm shift worth learning about.

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Isn't Linux just for large computers?

No. This used to be true of Unix, but PC hardware today is more powerful than the "big" computers of the past (the past being as recent as three years ago). Linux runs on everything from the 3Com Palm Pilot to parallel super computers. The famous water scenes from Titanic were rendered using a massively parallel Linux super computer, made up of many Digital Alpha processor based PCs, because no other operating system could handle the task within budget constraints. Ten of the commercials during the 1998 Super bowl (the first one the Broncos ever won) were rendered using Linux. Linux is very personal, and very scalable in a way that corporations have been dreaming of. One consistent, capable and modular operating system from the smallest devices to the largest computing systems...

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Isn't Linux HARD?

Some people think so. But some people think DOS is hard too. (see Who is Linux best for?)
Linux can be easier to use than Microsoft Windows.
If you are scared that there are different "flavors" of Linux, feel free to start with Red Hat, but remember that many flavors are based on Red Hat, and you can easily change later if you find another distribution more feature rich.
In our opinion, Linux is an upgrade to MSWindows, and as such, often requires some basic experience to install and use properly.
Although highly graphical and "Windowy", Linux has noticeable differences from MS Windows, so there is a bit of a learning curve, as there is with any new software.
Another thing you will likely notice is the different method of accessing (mounting) your hard and floppy drives and CDROM. Unless you are prepared, this could send you to the manual for info..

Though a novice should have no difficulty installing Linux from a CDROM, and using it effectively, at this stage of it's development we feel Linux may be best for "Power Users", who have advanced knowledge of computers - or for those with absolutely no experience, who seek the fast track to becoming a real Power User.
It's a great way for those who know nothing about computers to get a quick start.
After all, if you know nothing about computers, you're sure to do some reading, especially the installation documentation or other Linux users reference material (The Linux Documentation Project).

If you are changing from Windows to Linux, remember, you are stepping UP - not stepping back or sideways. If you feel frustrated at something, it's probably not the fault of the operating system. It's probably because you don't know how to harness the power you keep hearing about. Searching the free online documentation or reading a quality reference book should quickly remedy that.

We should mention at this point, we made a visit to a local computer shop very recently - I don't think there was a single REAL modem in the whole place - only software dependent "win modems" - but we asked if they carried Linux.
They confirmed they had a package that contained 6 flavors, but the sales girl said their technician tried it out, and "could tell some real (horror) stories".
We bristled indignantly and muttered something derogatory about their technician's level of experience, but later we realized that Linux is an advanced operating system, and the installation is not always smooth as silk, to put it mildly. This is especially true if you have software controlled modems and sound cards etc., which it seems was all this shop carried. Also, users should read the installation instructions before installing, and install from a CD - not the internet - on their first try.
Linux is still a year or two away from being as easy to install as Windows, although Caldera Open Linux is taking huge steps toward installation ease.

In fairness, there are a great many "technicians" who are not even experienced in DOS, never mind Unix, Linux, or even Windows NT. They expect all software to behave exactly the same. A lot of these people are just folks who have learned how to insert plug and play cards, and how to get Windows to recognize them. Most of these folks have very limited experience. Even when they get Linux installed, and see the X-Windows etc., they sometimes can't find the famous Linux power. This is usually because they didn't make the time to read the documentation, (The Linux Documentation Project) or didn't read a Linux user's reference book.
The power everyone keeps hearing about is there, but you must learn know how to find it and use it or you're missing the show.
While X-Windows are really powerful and easy to use, there is much more to the system than just the pretty X-Windows and applications.

Many novices make the mistake of judging Linux by it's installation, rather than daily use. Depending on your choice of hardware, Linux distribution, and installation method, some installations may be challenging. Recently Caldera Open Linux has announced a version that some reviewers are calling "a potential Windows killer" which actually starts the installation from within MS Windows. If you are familiar with MS Windows, this may be your easiest installation.

However, all of the latest distributions of Linux make installation easier than ever. Our own Developer's Installation of TurboLinux 3.0 installed in about 20 minutes from the CD. (See Should I upgrade to Linux?)

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Windows crashes, does Linux?

Does Linux crash....? Not likely. That's why everyone is raving about how stable Linux is.
But if you have a hardware conflict, you can be sure your system will not behave properly.
If your system is not set up correctly, you could crash Linux or any other operating system. But with Linux you can generally "kill" a crashed process and continue without re booting.
Properly installed and configured, Linux has been reported to be running in continuous and stable use for over 4 years without re booting. Once you have some experience under your belt, you will not have to go through the tedious re booting that is necessary with Windows. But unless you are already a Unix expert, don't expect overnight miracles.
Linux is a joy, but it must be setup correctly. Generally, if you have no hardware conflicts, you will have no worries.

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No one I know uses Linux!

Although it is possible that this is true, ask around and see how many people use or know of Linux. In France and Japan Linux outsells Windows NT, and it looks like it may be true in the USA too. But there is not yet have enough evidence to tell for sure. A European automated Internet survey looks for machines online, and asks what operating system they use. That survey finds that the majority of online systems are Linux systems. Just about every major school and company uses Linux for something. Many schools that teach Unix or Unix applications provide their students with Linux so they can practice projects at home. Just about every company in the "Fortune 2000" has bought Linux and Linux related products. Most governments use Linux, including the Canadian, English, French, German, Italian, Spanish and U.S. governments. (see Who is Linux best for?)

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Is there support for Linux?

Yes. There are Linux user groups that you can join in nearly every community, consultants all over the world, companies that you can call for telephone support, and there is the free support available in many places on the Internet. Companies can even buy support contracts from many reputable sources. Most Linux distributions include on line support with their "Official CD" releases. Unofficial installations can find all the information they need online for free. (The Linux Documentation Project)

Individual Linux users can get Corel's WordPerfect 8, Netscape, and Star Division's StarOffice 5 free for personal use.
Business users may still have to pay for most software applications (much less than Microsoft equivalents!) if they intend to use them for business purposes.
But Linux itself, and all of it's upgrades, will always be free for everyone.

There are different schools of ethics regarding the distribution of software.
Some idealists think that all software should be free for everybody. (kinda like software Communism)
Other people think that software should be "free" for personal use, and only businesses should have to pay for business use.
The reasoning behind this, is that if everyone was familiar with using this software, businesses would have no difficulty hiring skilled workers, and software developers would have no problem selling these "free" products to the businesses.
This makes a lot of sense, but only for business software developers, not for game developers etc..

It's a lot of work developing software, and everyone deserves to make an honest living.
Quality software developers should receive fair payment, and the "free" for personal use model works fine for many applications.
We believe that the software should work properly.
That's a just a normal part of honest and responsible business practice.

With Linux, users are investing in a quality system, with international support.
And all upgrades to Linux are always free for everyone, whether for business use, or for personal use.

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Are there any big companies behind Linux?

There are too many developers and companies to mention here, but some of the larger ones are Netscape and Intel, who have just invested in Red Hat Linux.
IBM has announced support for Apache, the default web server in Linux.
Compaq is involved; Dell has made announcements about Linux, as have Oracle, Corel, Sybase, Informix, VariCAD, StarDivision, etc..

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Do I need to be an expert to use Linux?

No. But although many aspects of Linux are very similar to Windows, there are things you may want to learn, or ask a friend to help you with, just like Windows. Once it is set up, Linux is as easy to use as any other operating system. It uses a GUI (Graphical User Interface) and most distributions include several intuitive and beautiful graphical interfaces. There's even one which looks like Windows 95! You could also purchase one of several other windowing systems in the unlikely event you become bored with the excellent graphical interfaces included for free. You can even buy computers pre loaded with Linux, so you do not have to set it up yourself. However, if you don't know what power is available, you will miss the importance of this operating system. That's why we recommend reading a good book about it. These are available from the Linux Mall at discounted prices. (see Who is Linux best for?)

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Why is Linux catching on so fast?

Linux has a technical superiority that Microsoft cannot match. All of Microsoft's money cannot buy them a development team as large or as capable as the team working on Linux. Linux is a new paradigm doing to Microsoft's current paradigm as Microsoft did to IBM's about a decade or so ago, and for the same reasons. For more information on this, see the article "Why Linux is Significant" written in 1994. The predictions made in this article have been occurring right on schedule, and this article is as relevant now as it was then. Also see http://www.LinuxMall.com/announce/netscape.html for a number of resources that will help you understand what is happening and why.  If you go through all the news archives on http://www.LinuxMall.com you will see comments on future events which actually came to pass not too long later. Predictions are not hard to make when you understand the underlying motivations that cause the changes.

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Does Linux have applications?

Yes it does. See the ads and product pages on http://www.LinuxMall.com for many choices, with new ones being added all the time. If the particular application or game you want is not available, then you won't have to look far for another that does the same thing. All major software vendors have ported, are porting, or are considering porting their products to Linux. This includes Oracle, Sybase, Corel WordPerfect , StarOffice, Netscape, Informix, Quake, Doom, VariCAD and many more than we can possibly mention here. Check our Links page. Even Microsoft has ported some of its products, and more are coming.
Individual Linux users can get Corel's WordPerfect 8, Netscape, VariCAD and Star Division's StarOffice 5, all free for personal use.

Although Linux does not directly run all the applications for Microsoft Windows, there are several things that you can do:

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What's the Penguin all about?

There came a time when the people said, we need a mascot for the Linux kernel! Linus relented.
Lots were drawn from all the entries thrown into the ring. Linus was asked what he liked. Having been attacked and bitten recently by a
penguin on a visit to a research station in Antarctica where Linux was in use, he said "a penguin".

When asked why a fat and waddling penguin was the appropriate mascot, he said, "If you think penguins are fat and waddle, you have never been attacked by one running at you in excess of 100 mph!".

See more information about the Penguin Power Program and Tux the Linux Penguin at the Linux Mall.

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Should I upgrade to Linux?

It is possible that you are reading this because you have heard about the power of Linux.
You have not been lied to. Linux is powerful and easy right now. It is an ongoing work, and it gets better every day.
Linux installations are getting more automatic all the time, but installation routines and possibly some function you may now find easy with Windows, could take a year before being equivocated on Linux systems. Development is ongoing, and there are thousands working on Linux projects as you read this.

Of course, we think you owe it to yourself to at least have a look. (see Who is Linux best for?)
After all, with a little research you can easily install it onto your system and it will not interfere with your existing DOS and/or Windows setup. Caldera Open Linux has announced a version that reviewers are calling "a potential Windows killer" which installs from MS Windows. If you are familiar with MS Windows, this may be your easiest installation.

In any case, Linux is an upgrade to Windows - not a side step.
You must consider that your first installation will probably not be as automatic as a Windows installation.
If you have no idea what a COM port or an IRQ is you should do some homework, or look around for some help first. (see Isn't Linux HARD?)

You may have an advantage installing Linux if you possess a bit of experience with installing software other than just Windows - like software for DOS, etc..
You may also have an advantage if you have had no experience at all.
If you have no experience at all, you are certain to read the installation instructions! (The Linux Documentation Project)
No matter what, it's wise to have your hardware manuals handy and be sure your hardware is of good standard quality, and not entirely (windows) software controlled.

Most people should be able to get Linux installed easily if their hardware is compatible and if they read the documentation. (The Linux Documentation Project)
You should make sure that your hardware is fairly standard, and suitable for DOS/Unix/Linux. (most quality standard hardware is)
The recent official Linux distributions auto detect most hardware, but you may need your manuals if you do not see your hardware listed during installation, especially settings for some monitors. You may also need your internet connection settings handy, modem IRQ and COM port info, etc.. You should also be aware that some of your devices may not yet be fully supported.

There is a learning curve, and you should prepare yourself for it. You may need reference material (The Linux Documentation Project) if you want to make full use of the command line instead of just sticking to the Graphical Interface, especially if you know nothing about Unix or Linux. Invest in a book like "A Practical Guide to Linux" or "Linux for Dummies (2nd edition)", etc.. These books and others are available at a discount from http://www.LinuxMall.com.
Most hardware works fine with Linux.
Our first installation was Pacific HiTech's TurboLinux 3, on a Pentium 166 with 32 megs of RAM, a 6 gig hard drive, 4X CDROM drive, S3VirgeDX PCI video card, Sound Blaster 16 Vibra Plug & Play card, HP Laser jet 2P, and internal 56Kflex ISA modem, and it went quite smoothly. But we sent back our PCI Sound blaster and PCI modem for the ISA equivalents. The full "Developer's Installation" was over 900 megs, and was completed in well under 1/2 hour.
Although you may not want the full suite of developers tools, you may need about 400 megs if you want to choose from all the graphic interfaces.

After installation, everything worked well right away, and we were able to boot our choice of Linux or Windows or DOS at start up with no problem. But everything looked even better when we got out the manual, and told Linux the exact scanning frequencies of our digital monitor! If you've ever seen X-Windows, you'll know why we were so blown away by the beauty and stability! We installed the color animated x-globe desk top, which shows the areas of the earth that are currently illuminated by the sun. (a real-time reference!) When we saw the availability of a graphical command line interface and file managers, MS Windows began to look like a rickety cart compared to this Rolls Royce of an operating system...

Many PCI and Plug and Play devices work well. But be aware that some devices do not have hardware control, and could be problematic.  Although most Sound Blasters work great, the PCI models, and also many PCI modems could give you problems. This is mainly because "Software" or "Win Modems" have no dip switches to configure COM ports or IRQ's, they are not really modems. Same goes for some sound cards without hardware controls. These devices depend on software for important settings, and at this time may require separate software, like Windows . "Real" modems and sound cards with hardware controls, and almost all known external modems and ISA cards work just great! Support for problematic devices of this type is under continuous development. However, choose your hardware upgrades carefully to ensure they will run well under Linux or Unix.

Recently, Caldera announced a version which reviewers call "a potential Windows killer" which installs from MS Windows. If you are familiar with MS Windows, this may be your easiest installation.
You can also buy computers pre loaded with Linux, so you do not have to set it up yourself.

If you are intent on installing Linux yourself, it is really best done from a CDROM. Linux installations are quite large, and could take days to download from a free FTP site. Also, first time installations by novices from the internet are not easy, and usually require an expert hand.
Linux "Official CD" distributions normally have detailed instructions for installation and use.
If you have any doubts about your abilities to install or use Linux, consider purchasing an "Official CD" distribution, which usually includes online support.

Linux can be purchased on CD for around 2 or 3 dollars U.S. from http://www.LinuxMall.com.
The "Official" distributions which usually include online support are also available there, and normally cost around $50. U.S..

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Who is Linux best for?

Linux is an upgrade to Windows - not a side step.

In our opinion, if you know absolutely nothing about computers, Linux is the best starting point you could possibly make. Users like you are sure to do careful homework before attempting installation and use. A thorough knowledge of Linux will prepare you for all aspects of computing.

Linux is for those who want to run Microsoft Windows and Windows products in separate windows while running MacIntosh and/or DOS sessions in other windows, while running Linux and/or Unix applications in other windows. These folks are often referred to as "Power Users". (See VMware for Linux.)

Linux is also for those who would rather invest their money in hardware for their machines than pay dues to Microsoft or other companies for the never ending bug fix "upgrades".  It is an extremely powerful operating system which is very Unix like, very graphical, very "Windowy", and it is free for everyone to use. Once installed, Linux can be upgraded by downloading from the internet for free.

Linux is for computer science students, computer professionals, and students of Unix who wish to learn Unix/Linux programming in C, C++,  Perl, Java and other languages on their home computers. Linux is fundamentally based on the operating systems used on major computer systems world wide, including Mini Mainframes, Mainframes and Super Computers.

Not only are students wise to learn Linux, it may even be a requirement if computer science, computer programming or computer systems administration are among their career goals.

Linux is also the best place to start for those who are interested in establishing or working for an Internet Service Provider. Linux was designed on the internet, for the internet, and includes all the tools needed for this type of operation, all at no extra cost.
Linux is the most common operating system used by Internet Service providers.

Finally, Linux is for those who just can't afford to keep buying Windows, or refuse to as a matter of principle.
If this is you, it's your lucky day.
Linux is free, and always will be.
Supporting companies supply all the software you need to do your projects,  including Internet browsing, word processing, spreadsheet, database, graphics, web site creation and administration, games and much, much more - all free for personal use.

Although there's an old saying "If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is."... Linux is the exception.
But although Linux is free, you should somehow get hold of an installation copy on CD.
If you can't buy a copy, borrow one. Often university students can find a copy for you to borrow, or even purchase.
If you buy a CD, it may cost you between $3. US (for an unsupported copy, which will install just fine) to over $50. for an  "Official release" distributor supported CD set.
Either way, you can get what you need from the Linux Mall - http://www.LinuxMall.com.

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