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February 14, 2001


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Selecting a Linux Distribution

X Window - The Good, the Bad, & the Ugly

Getting Started with the K Desktop

Working on Your Own


Resources & Links

Linux for Microsoft Windows Users:

#2 - Getting Started with The Linux MS Windows-Like Desktop

Mike Angelo -- 14 February 2001(c)

(Editor's Note: This is the second edition of a new regular MozillaQuest Magazine column designed to help Microsoft Windows users better understand and use Linux, and Linux software.)

Are you normally a Microsoft Windows user who now is using Linux as a second or alternative computer operating system? Or, are you making the switch from Microsoft (MS) Windows to Linux? If so, then chances are that you want your Linux installation to look and to feel as much like MS Windows as possible.

Fair enough. That's both reasonable and understandable. The more Linux looks and feels like MS Windows, the less time and effort you need to invest in learning Linux and Linux applications.

As an individual computer user it is important to you that you can get right into using your Linux-based computer for getting work done, playing games, surfing the Net, or whatever you do with your MS Windows-based computer. If you are an IS/IT manager, it is important that your people make the transition from MS Windows to Linux with a minimum of training-cost investment and with a minimum of productivity loss during training and transition.

Selecting a Linux Distribution

How close you can make your Linux-using experience to your MS Windows-using experience in part depends on the particular Linux distribution you select. The particular Linux applications you select impact upon that too.

Linux distribution-wise, the best choice for MS Windows users likely is Caldera OpenLinux eDesktop 2.4. First, OpenLinux easily installs from MS Windows just like any MS Windows application installation or an MS Windows operating system (OS) upgrade installation.

Second, once OpenLinux is installed, it opens into the K Desktop Environment (KDE) by default. The K desktop looks and feels very much like the MS Windows desktop. There are differences, however.

It is the GUI (graphical user interface) desktop that you see and with which you interact when you use MS Windows. So, the closer the Linux GUI desktop you use is to the MS Windows GUI desktop, the more Linux will look like and feel like MS Windows.

If you already have a Linux distribution that you feel comfortable using installed on your computer, there is no need to switch to Caldera OpenLinux. Likewise, if you have a different GUI desktop installed that you are comfortable using, no need to switch desktops either. The important thing is that you have a Linux distribution and a Linux desktop that you are comfortable using.

X Window - The Good, the Bad, & the Ugly

If for some reason you are not able to do a standard OpenLinux installation, then either KDE or X Window might not have been installed and configured. In that situation, OpenLinux cannot open in to the K desktop.

The X Window system, often just called X, is the Linux industry standard GUI engine. The original X was developed at MIT in 1984. It has evolved into the current version, X version 11 revision 6 -- X11R6.x.

The X Window system serves as the foundation for the graphical interface, MS Windows-like, Linux GUI desktops -- including the K desktop, and GUI software such as word processors, spreadsheets, browsers, and so forth. So, before you can use any graphical-based desktops or applications such as the K desktop or the Netscape Web browser, you must have a working X Window system.

If you are lucky, your Linux distribution will configure the X Window system for your PC automatically and correctly. In that case all you need to do is to start the Linux GUI desktop of your choice.

Usually, that means simply typing startx at the Linux command-line if the Linux GUI desktop does not start automatically when you boot. That will bring up the K desktop if you are using the Caldera OpenLinux distribution or the GNOME desktop if you are using the Red Hat 7 Linux distribution.

If the automatic X configuration does not get your X Window system up and running you will have to manually configure it. Unfortunately, manually configuring the X Window system can be a real zoo.

Chances are that if you find yourself confronted with the need to manually configure X, you will lose the Linux and go back to being an MS Windows-only computer user. X Window configuration problems easily might be the weakest link in installing and configuring Linux.

It's likely X Window configuration problems turn off lots of people that otherwise would be using Linux. If you do have an X Window problem, hopefully you and the tech support people for your Linux distribution can work it out.

Before you give up on Linux because of X Window problems, check with Xi Graphics. It specializes in X display servers and graphics drivers and is well-known for its Accelerated-X brand of X servers. Often, using the Xi graphics stuff will get you a working X Window system -- even when you cannot get the X server that came with your Linux distribution to work for you.

However, X Window and its problems are another story. So, let's get back to getting started with the K Desktop Environment

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