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Old 2007-02-28, 22:41   Link #1
Ledgem
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Converting from Windows to Linux

Given Windows Vista's lack of appeal to me, I've been considering switching to Linux realistically. There are a few setbacks that I'd face; however, for the most part all of the programs I use heavily are available on Linux (Opera, GAIM) or have equivalents (OpenOffice).

A big question is how to deal with the data that I have on the Windows side. I have four hard drives with a total of close to 600 GB of data in total. It's not a lot compared to some, but it's enough that moving it over to a different partition type may not be so easy. When I tried Linux two years ago, NTFS support was shakey; NTFS volumes could be mounted and read, but writing would cause corruption. More recently, I've read that NTFS support is now complete, although a bit more processor intensive than people would like. Does anyone have any experience with this?

Also, has anyone else switched from Windows XP (or any other version) to Linux? Any advice to give, preparations to make, or problems to anticipate? Advice is much appreciated.
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Old 2007-02-28, 22:57   Link #2
Epyon9283
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I made the switch to Linux years ago. My generalized advice on switching would be to not treat it like Windows. Don't expect it to work like Windows. No matter how pretty the GUI is, the command line is still your friend. Your best friend. Don't fear it for it does not suck as it does in Windows.

For your filesystem dilemma, I have no experience with NTFS on Linux. When I switched I got a new HDD, mounted the NTFS partition as read only (as was supported at the time), and moved all my data over. Once it was moved, I formatted the old HDD as ext3 and used it for storage. The idea of continuously reading and writing data to a type of partition that isn't 100% supported didn't fill me with confidence.

Things to watch out for would be hardware support. Do some research to make sure things like your sound card and your wireless network card have good, working, fully functional drivers.
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Old 2007-02-28, 23:45   Link #3
SeijiSensei
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Here are a variety of alternatives arranged in order of simplicity:

1) If you are installing Linux on another machine, leave the Windows machine alone and mount its files over the network. I use KDE and connecting to a Windows share is as easy as typing "smb://servername/sharename/" (or, sometimes, "smb://win.box.ip.addr/sharename") in the Konqueror application (KDE's equivalent to Windows Explorer). You'll be prompted to login in to the Windows box with a valid username and password. If you shared the whole drive, you'll be able to navigate the entire hard drive on the Windows machine.

This eliminates the problem of writing to the NTFS shares since that will be handled by the Windows machine serving up the files. You can read and write to your heart's content over the network and not worry about compatibility.

2) If you've only got one machine, the next easiest solution is installing a second hard drive in the computer. If your machine has IDE drives, you can make the Windows drive the "slave" on the controller ribbon, usually by removing a jumper on the drive near the power connector. Move the Windows drive to the other connector (the one in the middle of the ribbon) and plug the original connector into the new empty drive. The new drive should have the jumper installed making it the "primary" on the controller. Insert a Linux distribution installation disk into the CD drive and have it install Linux on the new drive. Usually the installer will discover the Windows partition on the other drive and offer to add it as an option at boot time. You can then choose whether to boot Windows or Linux at startup. (Dual-boot on separate drives is much easier to set up than dual-booting separate partitions on the same drive.)

{Somebody with experience with SATA drives in this situation, please speak up.]

This still doesn't address the question of using the files on the NTFS partitions. Like Epyon, I don't think you want to use these partitions as your primary, long-term file storage if you're primarily running Linux. The newer NTFS drivers seem pretty reliable, but they won't be shipped in any free distribution like Fedora or Ubuntu because of patent issues. You'll have to hunt them down and install them yourself either from source or from a software "repository." The Livna repository that I use with Fedora Core has pre-compiled binaries of the NTFS drivers; I suspect you can find the same for Ubuntu or other Debian-based distributions.

I'd approach the problem on a piece-meal basis. First, decide if you want to stick with Linux. If so, I'd start migrating the files off the NTFS partition and onto a native Linux filesystem like ext3. With 600 GB to migrate this obviously won't be easy or fast. The good news is that should you choose to go back to Windows, there are free ext2/ext3 drivers for Windows so you wouldn't need to convert back to NTFS.

As someone who spends a lot of time typing commands into a shell, I can't help but endorse the recommendation to learn a little bit about using the command line. There are a number of books that might help you here; I'd take a look at O'Reilly's offerings as a jumping-off point. This book looks pretty relevant, too. Of course, there's also the mountains of free information about Linux on the web; Google is your friend.
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Old 2007-03-01, 07:33   Link #4
Loniat
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What you need is http://www.ntfs-3g.org/. Stable, and I've been using it for quite some time with no problems in a production environment.

I second the other advices to learn a little command line. And don't expect it to behave like Windows. That's all.
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Old 2007-03-02, 15:45   Link #5
Vexx
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The biggest problem remaining for me with Linux/Ubuntu is the media file applications and media handling.

As far as communication, processing, and computing tools, I'm set:
Thunderbird, Firefox, Opera, IRC, OpenOffice, SSH tools,
PDF readers, various web extensions (the only sites left that are MS-crippled are sites I don't visit --- aka Walmart, Tripod, or the occasional Frontpage-broken knitting site my wife visits)
All the huge choices in programming, processing, etc.

Where I still run into issues? Games and Media Apps.
For games, I don't care -- I split my PC game playing off to a separate XP box years ago. Basically a fancy home-built "console" box with keyboard

For my work machine... the media apps (bleh). They are still just clunkier than using the apps I'm running under win2K. I need to sit down and test what works under WINE but I'll probably lazily defer until win2k reaches end of life for sec-patch updates or some cost factor annoys me enough.

Update: checking out the VLC player for win/*nix ... that would eliminate one of my remaining noises if it is smooth.

I was fine with the VLC UI (not too clunky) and it played just about anything... but it *crushed* my P4 1.8GHz workbox.... stutters and jumps galore and mouse pointer spasms. Will try it on my AMD64 gamebox later.... it may just be another indication that I need to send a mess of my components off to charity

Last edited by Vexx; 2007-03-02 at 16:03.
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Old 2007-03-02, 17:11   Link #6
SeijiSensei
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I'm a KDE user and am very happy with Kaffeine, the KDE front end to the Xine media player. Kaffeine adds a variety of UI features not present in plain-vanilla Xine. Both mplayer and xine play everything I throw at them after I installed all the various non-free codecs for Fedora Core from the Livna repository.

Ubuntu has Automatix which is supposed to handle non-free items for this distribution. Not being in the Ubuntu/Debian world I can't comment on how well it works. I understand Canonical has been negotiating with Linspire to gain access to their repositories of encumbered software as well. So we might see a version of Ubuntu that contains legal support for mp3, MPEG, etc., though whether any such distribution can remain free as in beer is an open question given that Canonical will presumably be paying per-copy licensing fees.

All these matters are a nearly daily topic of conversation over on Slashdot. Sometimes these discussions are even informative!
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Old 2007-03-02, 17:47   Link #7
Vexx
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Heh... I read Slashdot daily. Unfortunately, the zealotry from all angles tends to cloud the fact that different users have different needs. My wife is definitely in the "it just needs to work when I click an icon" group so she's my acid test for usability. *nix drones that pontificate that "well jeez, all she has to do is write a quick Perl script" are so far out of touch that their knowledge is a "lost record index"

I'll check to see if Automatix has improved its UI .... too many of the players require the user to resort to the command line at some point (especially when adding codecs or trying to use the DVD menu).

Since I've been messing with Ubuntu, I've not taken a look at the KDE environ (last time I messed with it - thought it was concise but I didn't appreciate the choices for apps they'd made... but that was when I was using SUSE as my primary).

Thats the "ticket" though... you can't pass judgement on a kit and then move on.. one has to keep checking back in every six months or so
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Old 2007-03-02, 17:59   Link #8
SeijiSensei
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Linus likes KDE better.
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Old 2007-03-02, 19:57   Link #9
Epyon9283
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Epyon also likes KDE more. Gnome annoys the hell out of me when I have to use it. Its always seemed buggy and unfinished.
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Old 2007-03-03, 02:24   Link #10
Ledgem
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SeijiSensei View Post
I'd approach the problem on a piece-meal basis. First, decide if you want to stick with Linux. If so, I'd start migrating the files off the NTFS partition and onto a native Linux filesystem like ext3. With 600 GB to migrate this obviously won't be easy or fast. The good news is that should you choose to go back to Windows, there are free ext2/ext3 drivers for Windows so you wouldn't need to convert back to NTFS.
Apparently either you or I gave the other reputation in the recently past, otherwise you'd have a +4 boost to your rep (or whatever my old account gives out). I'd actually meant to ask about this as well, but you answered it for me. If Windows can access the Linux partition, it takes out a huge bit of worry. For example, I'd planned to migrate over my Opera mail folder for my email. If I used Linux, how would I see newer emails in the Windows side, should I ever have to? Now I know that I could just re-copy the mail folders over (or if I wanted to be daring, change the default directories - but who knows how stable that'd be).

Also, thanks Loniat for the recommendation and testimony on NTFS drivers.

I'd also like to request advice on the setup you'd all recommend as far as hard drives. From what I've read on the net, people don't recommend having Linux and Windows partitions on the same drive. I would be very willing to buy a 40 GB or 80 GB drive dedicated to Linux (they're pretty cheap). A potential problem: unless parallel ATA cable extension cables exist (and Google indicates that they don't), it'd have to be a SATA drive. (FYI, SATA extension cables do seem to exist, not that I'd need one.) Windows is on a regular ATA drive. It may be more specific to the BIOS, but can I have a dual-boot option when one OS is on a SATA and the other is on an ATA? If it is BIOS-specific, where should I look in my BIOS settings to find that out?

And for what it's worth, I like KDE better, too. When I tested Ubuntu two years ago, GNOME felt like an unpolished version of Mac OS. I'm sure it's very different now, but KDE seemed a bit flashier. I'm not effects-crazy, but I don't mind wowing my Mac friends once in a while, either

I've been considering SUSE this time around. Pretty much all programs that I use on a day-to-day basis exist in Linux versions, except for Microsoft Office. I'm an avid Slashdot reader, too, and I've heard some worrying things about OpenOffice even there. What do you all use in place of Microsoft Office?
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Old 2007-03-03, 08:56   Link #11
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If you have free unpartitioned space on one of your existing drives I don't think there'd be any issues putting Linux on it. If you do go with a new SATA drive, just make sure that your SATA controller is supported by Linux. If support isn't an issue, dual booting shouldn't be a problem.

I use openoffice in place of MS Office. Its not a great replacement for MS Office although the price is right. If you need some Office specific feature or you're trading complex files back and forth with MS Office users I'd just go with cross over office and install MS Office in Linux. http://www.codeweavers.com/

My main problems with openoffice is that its slow and that it uses its own freetype libs for font rendering. I only know this because it completely screws up font rendering on my Gentoo box. Some of the fonts are barely readable.
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Old 2007-03-03, 12:23   Link #12
SeijiSensei
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I only really use a word processor and spreadsheet; I have no need for the other tools in office suites. That said, I generally use OpenOffice, but I'd like to make a pitch for two other open-source products, the AbiWord word processor and the Gnumeric spreadsheet. Both of these are fine tools for most normal tasks. They may not have every bell and whistle you find in MS Office products or OpenOffice, but most people don't use those features anyway.

As Epyon says, your need for MS Office compatibility depends entirely on whether you need to share files in native MS formats. When I send documents, I send them as PDFs since I'm not collaborating with my recipients. I get annoyed when people use .doc files for things like driving directions assuming that they are somehow a standard format.

Actually the one piece of software I miss most in the Linux world is MS Access. It's a great front-end to SQL databases and makes data management and querying pretty easy. I wouldn't store any data in Access; I'd use it to manage my PostgreSQL databases on my Linux servers. I've only played a bit with OO Base, but it didn't impress. It's still pretty new, though, so I may give it another chance in a few months.
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Old 2007-03-03, 13:40   Link #13
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Have you tried http://www.kexi-project.org/ ?

What annoys the hell out of me is when customers send me screen shots in word. I had one customer send me 8!!! word documents attached to an email with a screen shot in each one.
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Old 2007-03-03, 18:06   Link #14
Ledgem
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Epyon9283 View Post
If you have free unpartitioned space on one of your existing drives I don't think there'd be any issues putting Linux on it. If you do go with a new SATA drive, just make sure that your SATA controller is supported by Linux. If support isn't an issue, dual booting shouldn't be a problem.
For the distro I'm looking at (opensuse) I can't really find a specific list of supported stuff; I've only found some posts from two years ago (some even about a year ago) stating that they had issues (my controller is an nforce3 250). Think it's safe to assume that since then support has been added?

As for Codeweavers, I've heard of it - didn't realize it wasn't free. How is it different from WINE? (Seems like it's based on WINE - is it just WINE with tweaked settings for better program support?)
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Old 2007-03-04, 12:33   Link #15
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I read a week ago that NTFS-3G support has become "stable" with a new release. Perhaps that would help.

Personally, I have tried Ubuntu and Mandriva 10 and come to the conclusion that Linux still needs a lot of work before it can gain widespread support. Of these two, Ubunty failed to install and Mandriva was simply too difficult/time-consuming to use. For example: to install stuff, you are way too often referred to the pre-historic command-prompt and told to do X to the source-code.

You would need to be a serious tech-nerd to start doing that with every program you want to use, starting from the drivers for every device in your computer. Linux might be okay for companies and government-institutes, though, if they want to save money.
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Old 2007-03-04, 16:03   Link #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Wordplay View Post
Of these two, Ubunty failed to install and Mandriva was simply too difficult/time-consuming to use. For example: to install stuff, you are way too often referred to the pre-historic command-prompt and told to do X to the source-code.

The command prompt is NOT prehistoric. If you're averse to using it then Linux isn't for you.

Unlike windows, Linux has a useful command line interface. There are still a lot of things that you can only do on the command line. There are other things that are far faster to do on the command line.
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Old 2007-03-04, 16:45   Link #17
Vexx
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Well.... I'll also say YMMV --- My Ubuntu installation on my wife's laptop has not needed a single resort to command line. Everything has installed and run via the Synaptics package manager and had GUI configuration access that worked (its an old Thinkpad).

And despite having used a command line since before graphic UI's were even available.... command line access limits will ensure Linux isn't adopted by the vast mass of users who just "want it to work".
(and I'm saying that after getting pissed at SUSE and dropping it because their wizards kept screwing up my "vi" config text mods a number of years ago).
The distributions keep getting better at that goal though... so its worth rechecking every year or so.
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Old 2007-03-04, 19:49   Link #18
SeijiSensei
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Originally Posted by Epyon9283 View Post
The command prompt is NOT prehistoric. If you're averse to using it then Linux isn't for you.
I strongly agree with the first of these, but disagree with the second.

Unix shell languages offer a rich command and programming environment that's simply unknown in the Windows world. I've written one-line commands to accomplish tasks in a few moments that would take a lot longer to accomplish if I had to use GUI tools. (For example, sort a list of 35,000 email addresses by domain after removing certain domains and removing any duplicated addresses. One line in Linux, took a couple of seconds to execute. My client would have used Excel and taken half an hour.)

However, like Vexx, I think lots of people can easily accomplish all their normal computing tasks in Linux without ever seeing the command line. While I might prefer to install a software package like mplayer on my Fedora box using the command, "yum install mplayer," others might use the various graphical program managers to accomplish the same task. I think it's a lot easier to do things the first way, but that doesn't mean it's not possible to do it with the GUI. I do a lot of file management from the command line even though KDE provides powerful GUI tools for these tasks. I just find all that pointing-and-clicking-and-dragging-and-dropping a lot slower than typing a command like "cp *.avi /newdirectory" when I need to copy some files.

Obviously there are many tasks where a GUI is much more appealing. While I could probably figure out the sequence of commands required to burn a directory of files to a DVD, I'd rather use a program like K3b which automates the entire process. But the fact remains that all K3b is doing is managing a bunch of command-line programs that I could run from the prompt if the GUI option were not available to me. Can you say the same for a program like Nero?

Like "Mrs. Vexx," my daughter uses her Fedora laptop every day and never touches the command line. It is on the list of things she wants to learn more about, though, because she has seen how powerful it can be from watching me.
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Old 2007-03-05, 01:14   Link #19
Ledgem
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I read through a few Linux forums (mostly looking for opinions of Ubuntu vs. SUSE) and found an interesting view that many Linux users held. Basically, the consensus was that both Ubuntu and SUSE are "easy" distributions - good for the beginner, but something you graduate away from. Some people were saying how people should use the command line, and without it you can't appreciate the neat things Linux is doing behind the scenes, and so on.

It's the first time I saw what another opinion on Slashdot remarked on: that Linux users don't understand where the average user is coming from. Most people really don't care to see what's going on, they just want it to work. Whether computers should or shouldn't be used that way is a bit of a moot point, because operating systems like Mac OS and Windows are reaching the point where they're pulling it off.

I'd always advocate that a person should choose an operating system based on what their needs are. I wasn't thrilled with the command line and having to look up the commands when I used Ubuntu two years ago. But I'm not opposed to learning the command line if that's how Linux does it. I showed my girlfriend some videos of the beryl interface, and since she knows I'm planning on switching, she excitedly asked if she should switch to Linux, too. She's not a computer person at all; I just can't imagine her using Linux without a major hit to her productivity. She and I are busy college students, and time spent studying commands is time lost studying for tests.

I'm excited about the prospect of switching, though. I've ordered a small HD to run Linux off of. I'm planning to go with SUSE for now; if it doesn't work so well, Ubuntu (or probably MEPIS). Next week is spring break, so that'll be my project for then. I'll let you all know how it goes. Thanks for the input thus far.
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Old 2007-03-05, 08:39   Link #20
SeijiSensei
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Quote:
It's the first time I saw what another opinion on Slashdot remarked on: that Linux users don't understand where the average user is coming from. Most people really don't care to see what's going on, they just want it to work.
Lots of Linux users like me would agree with that statement, but you won't see that attitude as often among the Slashdot crowd. It's not l33t enough. I've dealt for years with "average users" and perhaps have a lot more appreciation for what they require. For that matter, I usually know what's going on, and I still just want it to work!

I really like Fedora. It doesn't get much love nowadays in the distro-of-the-week fanboy crowd, but I think that opinion reflects their distaste for RedHat. There was a lot of wailing and gnashing of teeth in that group when RH decided to split off Fedora into a "community-supported" free version while concentrating its attention on its commercial enterprise products. I think these attitudes reflect an over-the-top aversion to commercial anything. Personally, I'm glad RedHat's figured out how to make money from Linux so they'll be around in the future.

I've installed RH or Fedora on dozens of machines over the years. For those who say they've had trouble installing a Linux distro, please try Fedora. I haven't encountered any installation problems in the past half-decade or so except in the areas of wifi detection and high-end video. Both these problems arise from the reluctance of hardware manufacturers to release open-sourced drivers. I usually stick to Intel wifi and Intel or NVidia video since they're better supported than other manufacturers' products, though a recent RH install detected a PCI-bus Linksys wifi card without any hassles.

Of course, there won't be any non-free items like support for mp3 or some video codecs in any totally-free distribution like Fedora. That's the price of "freedom" (in both senses "speech" and "beer"). Most of these standards are decided on by large corporate committees, and legal use of the standard requires the payment of licensing fees. (Sometimes, as Microsoft just learned with mp3, you may not even be sure whom you're supposed to pay!)

In the US we also have the Digital Millenium Copyright Act to contend with. Reverse-engineering something like the CSS encryption technology used on DVDs exposes the developer and any distributor of that software to prosecution in the US. So things like DeCSS cannot be legally distributed by any company in the US and won't appear in an all-free distro like Fedora. You just need to know where to look.
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