7 Steps to migrate painlessly to GNU/Linux
or "How I learnt to stop worrying about bombs & migrate to GNU/Linux"
Time has moved on and GNU/Linux has become more usable, powerful and has some features and applications that make it indispensable as an Operating System today - I find myself using it more and more for certain tasks. Mostly server based, but I've gradually become more impressed with it as a desktop, especially since Ubuntu reached version 6.06 (Dapper Drake)
Now I'm always happy to use the right tool for the job, there's no Windows/Linux fanboy in me. However deciding on GNU/Linux at home is a personal choice due many reasons, including the licensing controversy surrounding Vista, price and DRM amongst others, and I simply don't wish to go with it. Since now 95% of the little gaming I do is now done on consoles (Damn you, Counter-Strike: Source and while I'm writing I'm currently on an Eve Online trial.) as it is the only software area that GNU/Linux can not reproduce as effectively at the moment. I felt it was time to make the move.
The end result I was looking at is total migration to GNU/Linux, at home for every application I use with any Windows applications running under WINE or as a last resort, on a Virtual Machine. I still use Windows at work (where I can control the machine and put whatever applications I wish to use on it anyway).
So I'm now on step 7 and doing quite well thank you. This step-by-step progression is quite a common sense approach, but what is obvious to some people isn't necessarily to others and so I list it here for those that could use a nudge.
My 7 step plan
So this is how I am managing my controlled movement to GNU/Linux with as little pain as possible.
1. Start using opensource, free and/or cross-platform programs for as many tasks as possible.
Concentrate on ones if possible that are available for both platforms or have a similar user-interface.
Here are some common examples:-
- Browsing - Firefox , Opera
- Email - Thunderbird / Evolution (Win32)
- Image - GIMP, Picasa
- Messaging - Gaim
- Office - OpenOffice
- Video - VLC - VideoLan Client
- IRC - Xchat (Win32)
- Phone / Voice communications - Skype
- PDF reader - Adobe Acrobat Reader
- Online video - Real Player, Democracy Player
- World maps - Google Earth
- eDonkey - Amule / Emule
- Bittorrent - Azureus
Here is a good table of equivalents / replacements / analogues of Windows software in GNU/Linux, a useful list at the Linux Alternative Project and lastly the OSSwin Project .
These programs are not necessarily the best in their category or the most user-friendly and they will not make your toast in the morning. However they are well known programs in their field and they do on the most part work well.
So when you get used to using them under Microsoft Windows, you can boot over into GNU/Linux and use the exact same programs natively. You then have much much less fiddling around getting to know a new user interface to do the same task when your underlying Operating System does change. Quite often these examples above are pre-installed or at least easily installed using something like Automatix.
This obviously makes your eventual full time migration much simpler - as does swapping between the two systems when necessary (if you do need to boot between systems or use different operating systems in different circumstances or locations).
2. Build GNU/Linux servers on old pieces of hardware (or use Virtual Machines) to play with.
Download Putty and find out what SSH and the command line do (if you don't already know) and start playing around with it! Feel free to try to make it do stuff, break it and make mistakes, even to try and fix it again. Explore the file system and see how it differs to Windows. The aim here is just to play and test without repercussions.
3. Move and store as much of your data onto fileservers, NAS, CD/DVD or drives using FAT32 for simple cross platform access.
Make sure any data is in a format that is either open, well-documented or supported or at least has been ported to both platforms. (Keepass was a prime example for me on that last point).
If you are accessing drives, FAT32 is well supported by both operating systems, and I have had success so far using Ext2 Installable File System For Windows which seamlessly accesses EXT2/3 drives in Windows for my data. (I prefer this option to FAT32 personally.)
4. Start using LiveCD's to familiarise yourself with a desktop distribution.
My personal favorite as mentioned is Ubuntu. Of course your choice and mileage may vary... Read about the different distributions. Have a look at them using LiveCD's if it sounds interesting. At this point you still aren't committed to anything, so feel free to play or go back to the old hardware/VMWare stage.
5. Create a partition or install a new hard drive and dual boot your desktop PC with your chosen GNU/Linux distribution
A lot of them do this automatically if you install them after Windows has been installed. If necessary modify the GRUB boot loader to boot automatically to Windows first rather than your new GNU/Linux distribution if that is your preference. Use the GNU/Linux installation as often as possible to familiarise yourself with it.
6. Any final (non-system) NTFS partitions on your PC, consider changing them to FAT32, or better still EXT3.
There are several EXT file system programs and drivers for Windows. The easiest/safest way to do this is to copy to another drive by using a GNU/Linux NTFS driver to read from the drive.
7. The only real final step is to boot into GNU/Linux more often than Windows...
And there you are, you've painlessly migrated yourself to GNU/Linux!
Now go have fun with Compiz/XGL :)