Thank you for your business, and congratulations on choosing to use Linux instead of Microsoft Windows. You will no longer be plagued by Windows malware, forced or failed updates, or other Windows problems. 

Having any distribution of Linux installed on your existing PC to replace unsupported Windows XP, Vista, or 7 gives you a current, stable, secure, high performance operating system while avoiding the expense of a new computer hardware and Windows license. Linux also eliminates Windows 10 problems such as high hardware requirements, built-in advertising, data collection, updates and changes you didn’t ask for and can’t control, updates that force you to wait while starting up or shutting down, and vulnerability to viruses and other malware.

It is an excellent choice on a new PC as well.

Linux has been around since 1991. While it is currently only installed as an operating system on less than 5% of desktop PCs, it is definitely mainstream. The majority of the world’s web servers are running some version (“distribution”) of Linux, as are many other network and business PCs and servers. The Android smart phone and tablet operating system is based on Linux. ChromeOS is based on Linux. In addition, the software or firmware in many devices is Linux-based. Your Internet router, Smart TV, home security system, and possibly even your car or your programmable washing machine are using Linux. Apple’s MacOS and iOS areis based on Unix, which was developed before Linux and is a close cousin.

Linux is “open source” software. This means that the source code is freely available to anyone. It is maintained by the user community of developers and end users. By contrast, Windows and MacOS are closed proprietary operating systems under the control of Microsoft and Apple respectively. Users must purchase those operating systems, can not make changes beyond a superficial adjustment of settings, and only can easily know what the company chooses to tell them. They can not see or change the source code. Microsoft and Apple make money by selling software and pushing new versions. The Linux community makes money by selling custom application software, software development, customization, and support.

Technically “Linux” refers to the kernel, or core portion of the operating system that controls the computer’s CPU, memory, hard drive and other hardware. A complete Linux operating system or “distribution” consists of the Linux kernel and many other software modules that provide the user interface and other high level functions. Ubuntu, Lubuntu, Linux Mint, Debian, and Red Hat are examples. For convenience, many people just refer to it as “Linux” to differentiate it from Windows or MacOS.

Just about anything you can do with Windows, you can do with Linux. However it is important to understand that Linux is not Windows. Therefore programs written for Windows will not install and run directly in Linux. Some Windows programs can be made to run using the WINE compatibility layer, but the best solution is to find an equivalent program that runs directly in Linux.

Many common programs (such as Firefox) have Linux versions that work almost exactly like the Windows version. For most common computing tasks such as word processing, spreadsheets, presentations, graphics editing, music and video, CD/DVD burning, email, instant messaging, etc., there are open source programs available.

Most mainstream Linux distributions have common user programs (“applications”) already installed. There is also an on-line software repository of programs that have been optimized, tested and packaged for easy installation. The repository can be accessed using a package manager (typically called “Software Center” or “Software Manager” and available in the System section of the Applications Menu.

Because Windows programs won’t run directly in Linux, it is essentially immune to most of the viruses and other malware floating around the Internet. However this does not mean Linux can’t get malware or be screwed up by a poorly-written program. Just like Windows, if you download some Linux program from an untrusted source and give it permission to install, all bets are off. Unless you are really sure about what you are doing, stick with software you get through the Software Center.

 Desktop distributions such as Linux Mint have a graphical user interface that looks a lot like Windows so the ‘learning curve’ is minimal. Most common operations like starting a program, manipulating windows, editing text, working with files and folders, etc., are performed in a very similar manner as in Windows.

At the lower left is a button that brings up the Application Menu, equivalent to the Start menu in Windows. Go here first to look for programs, settings, and other system tools.

But remember, Linux is not Windows. The Desktop on distributions like Mint is designed to be very similar to classic Windows, but there will be some differences. Most are minor and can be discovered by a little trial and error. Some functions may just have a different name. If you can’t figure something out, use the Internet. Just search using the name of your distribution and a description of what you want to do. If you really can’t figure it out, post a question in one of the many Linux forums. There is nearly always a way to do what you want, although some of the more obscure settings and procedures may require the use of the command line.

Some things just don’t work the same in Linux. This may be frustrating, but believe me it is no more frustrating than finding that some Windows procedure you have been using for the last 15 years no longer works in Windows 10 because Microsoft arbitrarily changed it or eliminated the ability to do it.

Note: Lubuntu and Mint are based on Ubuntu, which in turn is based on Debian. Therefore, the basic documentation for Debian applies to Lubuntu and Mint. The basic file system is the same, and most low level command line procedures for Debian will work.

Linux ultimately gives users complete control. Unlike Windows which is tightly controlled by Microsoft, and MacOS which is tightly controlled by Apple, any user can edit configuration files or even actually rewrite Linux source code to change virtually anything. It’s not easy, requiring the use of the command line, text or code editors, and an understanding of how Linux works, rather than just clicking settings in a graphical control panel. This is not a bad thing, because it means that it’s less likely a casual user will screw up Linux by accident.

Open source and user control also means you are not at the mercy of Microsoft or Apple. You will never get a forced update or other unwanted change, and new versions are available without purchasing expensive licenses.

Updates are released periodically but will not download or install automatically unless you want them to. You can check for updates and choose which ones to install by going to the Update Manager in the Application Menu. Linux is constantly being improved and new versions of all major distributions are released frequently. LTS (long term support) versions receive updates for several years. Updating to the next LTS release may take some work. but at least don’t have to buy another license like you do with Windows.

Your system may be set to dual boot with Windows. You can choose Windows from the boot menu when the computer first starts. Old version of Windows and many of the old programs that run on them are no longer supported. This means they no longer receive updates and are more susceptible to viruses and other malware, and also will just became increasingly less compatible with Internet-based applications and functions. If you have some old program you need to use then boot to Windows, but try to avoid accessing the Internet. Resist the temptation to boot to Windows just because it is more familiar. Virtually anything you can do in Windows, you can do in Linux.

The GRUB (“Grand Unified Boot Loader”) boot menu also provides some troubleshooting options in case you experience problems and Linux will not start normally. If you choose “Advanced Options” you can start in the equivalent of Windows Safe mode, or have Linux perform several self-repair tasks.

User name and password: Your Linux installation has been set to boot without requiring you to enter a password. However for security reasons you do have a password. Unless otherwise noted, I set it to be the same as your user name. So if your user name is “owner” then the password is “owner.” When installing updates or  new software, or changing certain settings that require “root” or “superuser” privileges (same as “Administrator” in Windows), Linux will ask you for your password.