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Old 02. Oct 2013, 11:35 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Default Considering switch to Linux

Greetings everybody,

I'm hoping for some friendly advice again, as I'm about to enter undiscovered lands...


I'm thinking of switching from Windows XP to Linux; and I'm not quite sure how to go about it. Linux and me seems an unlikely match, as I'm really not very tech-savvy and the thought of ghastly terminals, 'sudo this' and 'cat that' scares me. Heck, I cannot even install XP without my step-to-step-fool's-guide. About 11 or 12 years ago I once tried a dual boot with Win98 and some Linux (Suse, I guess), and it ended in shambles. I just never got the hang of it; and then the dual boot thingy screwed up royally and that was the end of it.

Anyhow, I'd like to try again in hopes of a more noob-friendly Linux. After reading around for a while, my choices are down to either

Linux Mint 15 Olivia KDE (or maybe Mint 14 which had nicer reviews)
or
Mageia 3 KDE

Those are said to be newbie-friendly, windows-like and easy to use without writing codelines into any terminals.

I picked KDE versions because KDE seems to have a very customizable desktop (I'm always dreaming of a neat steampunk desktop and, of course, I might need some Windows resemblance), but mostly because it has K-Mail, which is told to have an in-built Mailwasher function in that it allows you to review (an delete) your emails right on the server before shoveling the whole lumber on your hdd. Also, the Krusader file manager seems to come closest to my Free Commander.

Mint seems to have the nose ahead in reviews and popularity, and I'm heavily leaning towards it because it's supposed to come with a lot of programs 'out of the box'. It's also told to make no fuss with drivers and hardware.

But I'm also a bit fractious about its short release times (a new version every couple of months or so). I hate change, and once I'm fine with a system, I'd like to keep it. I stuck to WIN98SE until 2008 or so, and only parted with it because I just couldn't get any decent browsers for it anymore. And since I 'll likely need a year or so to really get to know the new os, it might be useless if the darn thing quits service after 4 months.

Apart from the 'which-Linux'-problem, I'm pondering what would be the best way to make the change. I've read that the often recommended Live-CD-testing only gives an incomplete impression, as the systems behave a lot different there than in a real installation. Thus I reckon I'd better try the real installation. Since I only have one comp and the mere thought of 'dual boot' gives me the willies, I thought of installing the Oracle Virtualbox and run Linux as a guest in the virtual box. That would allow to keep XP for the time being and I'd have a fully installed Linux, Mint or whatever, to check and test and learn.

Later on I could change the setup - run Linux as the main os or 'host system', and put XP into the virtual box, as I need it for a few age-old programs I just cannot live without. Or even better - forget about XP and put 98SE in the guest box...

Problem - I never worked with Virtualbox before; and I don't know how stable the whole thing is - or if my comp is big enough to handle all that.

As for the comp, it's an Intel Pentium Dual Core G1620 2.7 GHz with 2 mb cache and 4 gb RAM.
The GPU is a nVidia PCI Express ASUS GT610-SL-1GD3-L GeForce GT 610 1GB

Sound is onboard of an ASRock H77 Pro4-M mainboard and I always have the comp connected with the Hifi-system to make use of the good speakers.


A final question about Linux: how safe is it really?

I go a bit off-track with my security, have ditched my AV along with Windows' security center and fully rely on my old Sygate firewall, Sandboxie and Timefreeze to keep my XP safe. Fool's luck or not - it works well.

Since XP won't be supported much longer (not that I ever needed their updates after wsusoffline did its job), I thought of keeping it for my offline programs and the old dears that would never run on Win7 or something and use Linux for mail, ftp web browsing and my Formula 1 livestream watching. Besides, I'm sick and tired of Windows's activation crap et all - I got a new comp and had a hell of trouble getting my old (properly bought) XP activated. Part of the trouble was that my beautiful dial operated 1960 bakelite telephone was useless for the registration process and I had to beg around in the neighborhood to find someone with one of these new-fangled mobile phones. Never again!!

However, I've read a few not so nice opinions that Linux isn't safe at all and that the old adagio about safe Linux vs buggy, vulnerable windows isn't quite up-to-date anymore.

My tried and tested, beloved security trio of SB/TF/Sygate won't work in Linux, so what? I don't really like the thought of fussing around with any AVs and overblown and bloated 'Firewall Solutions' again. I'm soo glad that one fine day I had the guts to finally kick out pesky Avira.

As an afterthought, I have my way with XP's windows services and one cannot look as fast as I disable the bulk of them until only 14 are left. But, I wouldn't have the slightest idea what 'services' are fooling around on Linux.

Is there a major flaw in my 'I-want-to-change-to-Linux-for-my-online-stuff' plan?


This is a long and jumbled post with a lot of questions. I'm truly thankful to everyone reading it, and will be very thankful for every advice and thought from you.


Many thanks in advance

Feline
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Old 04. Oct 2013, 01:13 AM   #2 (permalink)
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Linux Mint 13 is an LTS version that is supported until April 2017: http://www.linuxmint.com/oldreleases.php

Your computer is strong enough to run VirtualBox. It isn't that difficult once you try it hand-on (New > Name: Linux Mint, Version: Ubuntu > Next > Create > Next > Next > Create > Start > Folder ^ icon > select Linux Mint installation ISO > Open > Start). The installation instructions should be even more straightforward.
Linux Mint is actually one of the easier distros to try, because it has Guest Additions built-in for full compatibility (so you don't have to install it): Shared Clipboard + Drag'n'Drop (choose Bidirectional in Guest > Settings > Advanced), Mouse Integration (seamless cursor switching between Guest and Host), Auto-Resize Resolution (Ctrl+F/Ctrl+L/Ctrl+S), and Shared Folders (personally chose Drag'n'Drop and FTP server due to harder configuration in Linux).

As for security, it isn't really necessary as long as you stick to reputable repositories. If a suspicious executable is wanted, upload it in VirusTotal first. You could try browser extensions like WOT, BitDefender TrafficLight, LastPass, and NoScript/ScriptSafe, because Linux is susceptible to online threats like phishing and javascript exploits. Also, you can try something like Firestarter for GUI control of the built-in Linux firewall (the default rules are enough for most though).

If you miss any XP programs that don't have comparable alternatives on Linux Mint, you can try running it in Wine. There's also VirtualBox available if that doesn't work, so you can run XP as a Guest. You can actually convert your current installation into a virtual machine using one of these tools: VMware vCenter Converter, Paragon Go Virtual, and Disk2VHD.

This may help you with disabling services and the like: http://community.linuxmint.com/tutorial/view/114
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Last edited by J_L; 04. Oct 2013 at 01:20 AM.
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Old 04. Oct 2013, 06:31 AM   #3 (permalink)
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J_L is correct regarding security. More effort is put into "saying" Linux is vulnerable than exists in making it so.

Folks only get into trouble if they run as root or install from outside of the distros own repositories. For using external repos, J_L's advice covers it all.

Some rootkits target Linux but you would still need to help them arrive on your machine big time, although tools like rkhunter are available for the paranoid.

http://xmodulo.com/2013/05/how-to-sc...-rootkits.html

These comments are typical of responses to the many "reports" about Linux malware.

"Only install software from trusted repositories, and check the signatures. Prefer secure rather than “user-friendly” distros for your servers.

This is just pagerank FUD from a wannabee “security company. It looks like someone is seeking pre-orders for their to-be-released virusware.

You would need to take heroic measures to infect your nginx proxy server: Install a specific kernel and the malware kernel module, edit the init scripts, … Then you end up with a partially working prototype malware “infection”, that may, or may not redirect web visitors to a malware site via an embedded <iframe>.

If you have time to search out and read variations on this “story”, some of the comments are quite humorous".

"yep, as long as it has the root password, it successfully carries out its function. wink. amazing little rootkit".

http://threatpost.com/new-linux-root...s-112012/77231

Some antivirus programs exist for Linux, such as Comodo, but their purpose is to scan for Windows malware to prevent this from being passed on to other Windows users.
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Old 05. Oct 2013, 12:14 PM   #4 (permalink)
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Puppy Linux is a very good version for Windows users to try.
You can run it as a live Linux and even install it in that mode. That is the preferred mode for Puppy rather than the traditional full install. It works well under Virtual systems and can host Virtual Machines very well.
I use it on my Emergency recovery media to host XP in a Virtual Machine effectively giving me a portable XP.

Last edited by Burn-IT; 05. Oct 2013 at 12:22 PM.
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Old 06. Oct 2013, 04:46 AM   #5 (permalink)
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Thanks everybody for your valuable help - and sorry for replying late, I'm in the midst of some really busy days. I reckon I can start with Virtualbox/Linux some time next week, if I want to have some time to pay due attention to what I'm doing.

One small question to the Virtualbox - I read everywhere folks have problems to run their guest installation fullscreen. As it seems, they all ran a different resolution in their guest than they did in the host.

My rather naive question - if I put both on the same resolution (in my case 1280x960), shouldn't the problem be gone? But then, if it were that easy, why wouldn't they do it?
Since I want to work with the guest just the same as with the host, the 'no-fullscreen-problem' would be a downer.


As for Linux, I'm still leaning towards Mint - even though I still don't know which one. Maybe I should look up their forum and ask, esp. with my comp in mind. I've read Nvidia causes problems with lots of Linux versions, and as it happens, I have a NVidia graphic card.

Regarding the version, I've read a lot about people having perfectly stable systems running and then some updates arrive and screw it all up. Just like in Windows, uh? Only with Windows I know when I can safely tell MS to put their updates where the sun doesn't shine - I wouldn't know that in Linux.

But I'll give Puppy Linux a look, too - also Debian, as I've read Debian is stable, solid and rarely has updates.


And the security - I guess I just forget about that for the time being, except of course for the mentioned Firefox security add-ons and the firewall. After all, the Linux system will run in the Virtualbox for the first couple of months, so if anything ghastly happens, I can always kill the box, make a new one and start worrying about more security then. Or so I figure...

Thank you all again,

Feline

Last edited by Feline; 06. Oct 2013 at 04:47 AM. Reason: typo
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Old 06. Oct 2013, 08:02 AM   #6 (permalink)
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The fullscreen issue is fixed by installing Guest Additions, which Linux Mint already includes. Change the host resolution isn't the best idea, because it isn't optimized for your screen. You might notice stretching, oversized icons, and other distortions. An alternative is manually setting the resolution limit via VBoxManage setextradata, but that may include altering Guest system files to apply. Which is why I won't go into it unless Guest Additions fails.

As for which Linux distros, I still recommend Linux Mint or another one based on Ubuntu (preferably LTS). It all depends on you and your system them, but the mainstream Ubuntu-based distros tend to be the best at that.

An easier way than re-creating a virtual machine is using snapshots. Just create one whenever you like and restore it to revert all changes. Deleting previous snapshots merges it with the current state, if you want to keep the changes. You can just create another snapshot instead, but it may get harder to manage.
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Old 06. Oct 2013, 09:48 AM   #7 (permalink)
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Thanks, J_L, that's good to hear. Let's hope the Guest Additions will take care of that.

What do you mean with "Change the host resolution isn't the best idea, because it isn't optimized for your screen." ?

I have no intention to change the host resolution - it's 1280x960 and I want the same resolution for the guest.

(If you mean it's not the native resolution for my monitor, you're right, of course - that would be 1600x1200. However, my eyes have gone worse and worse in the past years, and I simply can see better on 1280x960. There are no distortions whatsoever, the only disadvantage the non-native resolution might have is that it is probably not quite as crisp and sharp as 1600x1200 would be. But with eyes like mine, you wouldn't notice the difference anyway...)

The advice re the snapshots is great, I haven't thought of them. Thinking of it, I might use them as a substitue for Timefreeze - make one whenever I go online.


But there is another fear that suddenly sprang up - file names on Linux. It seems they are still similar, if not equal, to Unix. That would mean they'd be case-sensitive and all, but worst, they won't allow spaces...

Now I do have a ton of files with such names, among them about 90 gb of music files with file names such as 05 - L'Arboscello Ballo Furlano (Pierre Phalese).mp3 or 08 - Baņos y aljibes.mp3. And not just audio files, practically all my files have spaces, except for those meant to be used on a website.

I really can't see myself renaming thousands and thousands of files to supply them with underscores and whatnot, or renaming them at all. Would that mean I'm stuck to Windows with them?


Speaking of file names - I read that Linux doesn't care for extensions. That's an XP option, as well - and one I immediately got rid of. There's quite a difference between jimi.mp3, jimi.jpg or jimi.wpd; and I absolutely hate to see three times jimi in my filemanager whith no idea which is what. In short: I need file extensions.

Can I get them in Linux?


Thanks again,

Feline
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Old 07. Oct 2013, 02:41 AM   #8 (permalink)
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Oh, I though you wanted to change the host resolution to fit the guest to get fullscreen. What I was talking about was too much zooming, or stretching if your monitor is widescreen.

I believe that's mostly an issue with the Terminal. The file manager never had any problems with spaces for me.

Most of the files without extensions are system/program executables, scripts, and text. Extensions are still used to associate with programs that opens your files. The XP option you mentioned only hides extensions, and Linux doesn't have that option (at least by default).
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Old 07. Oct 2013, 10:31 PM   #9 (permalink)
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Good to hear - both about the file names and the extensions.

Regarding the Virtualbox - is there a size limit for the virtual box? Such as 'can't get any bigger than 1024x768' or so? I just can't figure why someone would create a guest smaller than the host and then fiddle about to get them equal.


As for the Linux distribution, I've finally made up my mind (tada). It's neither Mint nor Mageia, I've decided to get Linux SolydK. (http://solydxk.com/)

It's a debian-based KDE distribution, and I reckon it could be the right one for me.

I've read it's fairly new and one website warned it might just fade and disappear from the Linux scene, but hey, same goes for me. So maybe we can grow roots together.

Thanks for all the help,

Feline
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Old 08. Oct 2013, 02:52 AM   #10 (permalink)
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The Guest Additions default graphics driver (without VBoxManage setextradata) doesn't include my widescreen resolution (1920x1080), only standard (up to 1600x1200). Therefore I need to install Guest Additions, which includes better drivers, to make it support any resolution I resize it to.

Good luck with you SolydK, although I won't be able to help you there.
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