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Chad Smith

Getting Started with Linux

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The ubiquity installer imho is fairly good. Its just not psychic and relies on the BIOS to a degree for some of the info. It'll tell you exactly what you are doing if you know where to look. For me it hasn't been a large issue since i just check the size of the drive i'm installing to in order to know which drive i'm using. Other ways to figure things out is to use the partition tool, and read the partition information to figure out what to do next. And as always with any side-by-side install with windows... Install windows 1st, then linux. Windows gets greedy during partition time.

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Sorry, I don't know enough about the ubuntu installer to help diagnose your situation. However, an alternative you may wish to try is to install the distribution on a virtual machine running on windows. The beauty of this approach is that if you screw up, you just delete the VM and try again. It does not address issues like dual-boot with windows (and I have no idea what that is like with Windows 8), but it does give you a forgiving approach to getting started. 

 

I run gentoo on Windows 7 through "virtual box" and I have been pretty happy with the result -- especially because I screwed up the installation several times ;-)

 

-Josh

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"Can someone explain a bit more detailed what the real difference between all these many desktops is besides fancy looks? Are there incompatibilities when you use the "wrong" desktop?"

 

Underneath they're all just X11. When your app asks X11 to open a window, it just opens a window. Doesn't have a titlebar or resize handles or anything like that. It just gives you a drawable surface back. The desktop is a window handler -- it also is given your new window to be decorated; to have close buttons and title bars added by the manager. In olden days, the window manager was a separate program that people might not choose to run or would swap depending on what things they wanted to do. And you can kill them and restart them without the running apps caring...

 

Unix in general, X11 certainly, has a philosophy of replaceable parts. It doesn't want to dictate how window resizing operations work, because people want it to happen differently. So they can, and very deliberately unless your application chooses to, it's not bothered by how the desktop is managing its windows. You *can* make your app not function with certain window managers, but you have to try. Because an app which conforms to the standards will work on all the compliant desktops.

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Sounds as if a window manager is just like any other program, just that it only fills the unused screenspace with a few buttons, clock, background, taskbar and then translates your key/mouse input a bit and sends it back to X but doesnt even communicate directly to the other running programs? All that buzz about people loving/hating these things made me think there must be something more to it, but I couldnt think of anything.

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As for the problem above, I think it might be when the BIOS dynamically adjusts the drive order (last letter in sd..) based on boot order, in which case the installer probably shouldn't rely on absolute drive labels but on UUID's to identify and store drive identifiers across reboots.

That's exactly the problem, it's using the Linux partition name instead of the actual name (i.e. the UUID). I have absolutely no idea why the installer chooses to do that. In fact, a better question would be why Linux allows using anything other than the UUID for defining the swap partitions.

 

Sounds as if a window manager is just like any other program, just that it only fills the unused screenspace with a few buttons, clock, background, taskbar and then translates your key/mouse input a bit and sends it back to X but doesnt even communicate directly to the other running programs?

Yep, it's exactly like that. In fact, even X itself is just another program, which is why you can have multiple instances of X running all at the same time in the same system.

 

All that buzz about people loving/hating these things made me think there must be something more to it, but I couldnt think of anything.

Pretty much it's along the same lines as "this program rocks" and "this program sucks" =P Each window manager is quite different, some try to gimmick pre-Metro Windows, the blackbox-like UIs... just look up bbLean on Windows to get an idea (I was using that before switching to Linux), GNOME is in-between those two, Unity seems to be something between OSX and a tablet-oriented interface (Metro does a much better job at the latter, honestly). You get the idea, there are all sorts of interfaces around. I wonder if somebody will come up with a Metro-like window manager eventually.

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Sounds as if a window manager is just like any other program, just that it only fills the unused screenspace with a few buttons, clock, background, taskbar and then translates your key/mouse input a bit and sends it back to X but doesnt even communicate directly to the other running programs? All that buzz about people loving/hating these things made me think there must be something more to it, but I couldnt think of anything.

 

Well, it manages all of the screen space, but yeah that's the gist of it. Personally, I do most of my work in terminals so I used a tiling window manager called 'awesome' which makes it easier to organize multiple terminals and navigate with the keyboard. 

 

-Josh

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Some info on The Reg today: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2013/02/18/picking_a_linux_distro/

I use Ubuntu which is easy to use. Others recommend Mint as an alternative without the recent Ubuntu UI changes.

And it's easy to try any distribution you like out with a Virtual Machine. (Indeed, if you will still be using Windows a lot, using Linux via a VM may well be better anyway - although I have a dual boot, most of my Linux time is spent in a VM, as it's so much easier to manage, and avoid rebooting. I only need a real installation for things like some 3D stuff.)

I don't know what happened with your installation - another benefit of VMs is not having to worry about partitions and boot options, and risk of damaging existing OSs. (Also my dual boot setup is on an entirely separate drive, and I set the BIOS to have that as the primary drive when I installed, so that the Linux boot menu wasn't overwriting anything on the Windows drive - so I can either boot from the Linux drive and have a menu to choose the OS, or switch back to the Windows drive, and boot Windows as normal.)

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