Yeh, I run a dual boot WinXP/FreeBSD system. Running a unix based OS has it's pitfalls, as does Windows. Windows is seemingly unstable if you run it longer than a week without rebooting (in my experience). A unix system will run forever if you treat her good Now for the bad news, windows software, won't run natively on a unix system. There are some people out there trying to make windows translators (don't say emulators, they get mad) but they aren't perfect. BSD isn't the same as Linux, I chose it because I like how it works. The learning curve going from Windows to Linux and Windows to a BSD system is pretty much the same, so it's all a matter of personal preference. Do yourself a favor though, if you're going to get linux, please don't get Red Hat. Get Mandrake, it's good all around for a first linux system, and you'll learn tons If you think you need more of a challenge after a while, get Slackware, that was the last linux distribution I used before switching to FreeBSD. I hope my incoherent rambling helped
Linux is basically control. It's like the manual transmission of comptuers. If you want complete control over every aspect of your computer without having gay bill gates ____ing you in the ass every step of the way, linux is your best bet. With something like gentoo linux or freeBSD, you can control virtually every aspect of your computer.
Plusses of linux:
1. FREE - big plus for me
2. You'll never get a virus (virtually- nobody writes linux viruses)
3. You'll never crash it (virtually- at least for a casual user)
4. You'll never have to restart it
5. Filesystem is smart, not stupid (like windoze)
6. You can control everything, so you don't get programs like kazaa binding to ports to make your computer into a hacker's whore
7. Has a bunch of cool windows-clone programs like microsoft word, excel, etc. It's all free, so you don't need to pirate stuff, and it's usually betterly designed and more functional.
8. It's always up to date. It's all open source, so you don't have to worry about lazy middle aged programmers at windows to write a new version, because the very people who use linux (usually a bunch of closet homos- lol) write a new source code and you get new distributions very frequently.
Minuses of linux:
1. If you're a noob, you will instantly switch back to windows. I've had many friends do this. They are like, wow! I want to run linux because I'll be uberleet! w00tw00t! Then about 5 hours later, when they are trying to figure out how the hell to get openGL to work and to browse their favorite porno sites in non-text mode, they revert back to windows, completely reformat their hard drive, wipe out linux, and they've got their hands down by their toes and gates is gettin his groove on...
2. It is pretty much completely incompatable with windows programs. If you have to play a special windows game or some ancient windows-only tax program, chances are you will have to run a dual boot and have windows on your system.
Well... my take on linux is that it's great because it's all free, open source, and very customizeable. However, the learning curve is exceedingly steep. I myself used redhat linux to start off with, and I was part of a linux club, and I was in there for about 4 hours every week asking questions on how to do stuff. Eventually, I got fairly comfortable with it,and you can do most of the same stuff that you can in windows, and lots of other neat things too. The desktop layout is a heck of a lot better too.
If you are going to use linux, DON'T DUAL BOOT. At first, only use linux, and get a friend who knows a thing or two about it. Then, force yourself to use linux for a few weeks. You will like it at first, then hate it because you find out that you don't know jack about it. Then you will learn because it is the only OS on your box. Then you will begin to like it again because youknow how to use it. when you get to this point, you want to install windows again so you can use those wierd windows programs again.
I'd say go for it and try it out, but it is NOTHING like windows. Windows is set up for moronic operators who just want to surf the web and point and click. Linux is much much much much much more powerful, but requires great knowledge. Once you get the hang of text-based, you can walk your dog and take out the dishes with it.
In other words, let's say you want to install your video card.
In windows, you simply plug your video card into the slot on the mobo, start up your system, and then windows recognizes the card and installs a generic driver and everything works.
Linux will just sit there and laugh at you.
You will have to assign the video card, and then set a whole bunch of annoying resolution limits and refresh rates and stuff, and then you have to download the drivers. Then the drivers have to be compiled. Basically, you get the driver in a high level code, which you can change if you are feeling cocky, and then you compile it into binary and install it.
In windows, all you would ever be asked to do is to click "next" and then jst kick back and enjoy a beer. Linux is like the bastard child of all OS's. It makes you work for everything, but you can change anything.
The cool thing about linux if there is a HUGE amount of super nerdy people all over the world contantly tweaking and improving it. No matter how much money you throw into windows it will never have that. Now... it is a lot more involved but worth it if like sir said "you want total control".
I'd say get an old computer and put it on there to play with. after you get it all figured out you can put it on your main PC.
yeah, openoffice is an awesome "clone". It's like 500 dollars worth of microsoft software, completely free. It's really compatible too. It will accept all the microsoft file extensions and stuff.
GIMP is another awesome program too. It's basically a photoshop clone, also completely free (although most people will find photoshop for free in other places... *cough cough*)
But I don't suggest putting it on "another old machine" and "toying around with it". The ONLY... and I mean ONLY way to learn linux is to make it your ONLY option. If you put it on your old machine, you'll just never use that machine and become a windows whore again. It wont work. I've seen it happen before, and I'll see it happen again.
Put it on your main machine, and make it the ONLY OS on that machine. That way, you CANT use windows because you DONT have it. You'll get very frustrated, just as I did, but it's worth the frustration because eventually you'll pick up what you need to know, and you will have the skills to use it.
Linux isn't fun. It isn't cool. It's for two types of people:
1.People with huge brains, no girlfriends, too much free time, and
2.People with no money, like me.
You'll hate it. I didn't like it, and I stil don't like it. It's too hard to use, nothing works, and you wont be able to ask anybody for help because nobody uses it.
I was especially lucky because on campus, there is a club of people who all do linux and are very very adept at using it (they actually won a national linux contest thingy) and they were the ones who helped me out with it. Everything from downloading it, to installing it, to setting up all my programs for me. I watched, mostly dumbfounded for most of the time, but over several weeks I became skilled enough with it to get around. Check my mail, surf the web, play games, do photo editing, listen to music, watch movies, etc.
However, the hardest part is finding a program that will do what you want to do. In redhat, which was the distribution that I used, it came with neat programs like openoffice and XMMS and mozilla, so right off the bat I could listen to music and suft the web, and I could also do photo editing with gimp and do stuff for physics labs with the excel clone, open office.
However, things like watching movies weren't quite so easy. My video suppport reverted to software rendering, which is, as you know, extremely slow in comparison to hardware rendering, so I had to change that because the demand of watching movies (or playing games) with software rendering is too great.
So I said, swell, I'll just get something like winamp, save it to desktop, then double click on the icon and keep hitting next, and then I'll be done... right?
Wrong. It turns out that I needed to download the openGL driver from nvidia, then compile and install it. Sounds easy (and it is) but for a noob like me, you need a little help on the way. You actually have to go into the source code (the driver's very structure) and then modify some things before you compile it. This is good and bad. The bad thing is that it will make GUI whores (a.k.a. windows users) **** their pants because they don't know what is going on. The Good thing is that you can customize your drivers (if you';re uberleet) to your system. So in essence, you can tailor everything on your computer to suit its needs, so you can get more out of your system. It's really smart in theory, but hard in practice because it's a difficult thing to do.
So anyways, I got some help with that and I compiled and installed it. It worked, and I was happy. It was very rewarding.
So that's an example of exactly the kind of thing you'll be expected to do in linux.
However, with redhat, the update system is fantastic. you can just go into the terminal (it's like dos prompt, the most basic and powerful shell of the system), and then just type up2date <thing> and it automatically updates it and installs it. It's a lot like windows in terms of ease of use, which I liked because I was a GUI whore just like everyone else.
By the way, GUI stands for graphical user interface- essentially clicking on graphical icons rather than typing things in a console in text.
So if you're getting into linux, I recommend redhat because it's easy to use and a lot like windows. Dont listen to other people who want you to use gentoo or something else. It's way too hard. Hell, I could barely grasp redhat, and I am a fairly experienced windows user (I've been using it since dos)... so definetly just go the easy route for now and get your feet wet.