- December 26th, 2013
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Using commercial software, is like driving in handcuffs.
Using modern, open source, free software is like flying an airplane!
… The freedom-feeling is not comparable!
10 years have now passed since I thought about what Linux distribution to choose. Back then at my university time, Gentoo was the most popular, now Ubuntu seems to be the one. After more then 10 years of computing, it is time to share knowledge, in order to provide a resource for users, who want to use free software. Choosing the Operating system to work with, is an important decision. I suggest, and I will deal only with Linux based systems in my blog, as I have eliminated all commercial software from my view, and I’m really happy to use only legal, free software in everyday life, at my companies, and in my private use.
Choosing a distribution is not always a simple choice. The distribution timeline gives an idea what this choice is about. Back then, red had was a popular Linux brand, and I started with Fedora Core, the community distribution project, while experimenting with other Distributions too. It became my first choice, as I wanted to have the most up to date, newest Linux technologies in my system.
That said, I will start blogging about Fedora, with the current latest release, Fedora 20.
Once the decision was made, it is time to install the operating system. If you come from another world, you might think that you install the OS on a computer. This is actually not really the case. The operating system is installed on a disk, and is actually quite portable. Disk may be a Hard drive (HDD), a Solid State Disk (SSD), a pendrive (USB stick), or similar media. For a solid desktop my suggestion is a proper Solid State Disk, with good hardware specifications. The #1 part determining the computer’s speed these days, is the disk with the operating system. If you plan to install an OS, it is worth the effort to get a proper SSD first.
The second choice before actually installing the system is primary about architecture, secondary about desktop-environments or spins. Modern computers have 64-bit architecture, older computers might run only in 32-bit, mobile devices might have ARM processors. Choosing a desktop environment is rather a personal preference. Gnome, especially in the latest version is something really new and fancy, after getting used to it, it is my first choice. A more lightweight, and more windows-like enviroment is LXDE and XFCE. On older computers I usually install the 32-bit XFCE spin. There are more desktops-environments if you want, KDE, MATE, Gnome-shell, and so on. Freedom of choice.
Here is the fedora download link.
Time for an installation? The most simple is to download the spin of your choice, and burn a “Live” CD / DVD to boot from. Most motherboards provide a boot option, that might need to be enabled in the BIOS. The faster, and recommended method for power-users or for multiple installations is to use a Live system on USB media – or a standard disk. Here again, if you come from another world, his might sound strange. What is a Live OS? Well, an Operating system that is not installed, that simply runs. Commercial operating systems like Windows can not run live, and due to copy-protection, they cant even run from USB! Yes, these are the handcuffs, technically there is no real reason why an operating system can not reside on portable media, or cant be copied freely. The Live system, booted from an USB hard disk is fast, and will have the “install to Hard Drive” icon, to start an installation.
To prepare the Live media, most simple way is to use the liveusb-creator. Once the media is prepared, it can be taken out from the USB port, and started on a SATA interface too! The tool can actually take any disk as a parameter. I found this to be very useful. Just in case, someone does not want to get rid of Windows completely yet, (not recommended ;) Linux can be installed if there is a free space of at least 6 Gigabytes, installs a boot-loader that usually detects other installed operating systems, and sets the boot-loader accordingly. Fedora and other Linux distributions can handle other file systems well, let it be NTFS, HPFS, FAT, or anything similar. Needless to say, that data must be backed up regularly and properly, especially before doing such significant interventions!
Installation is really straight forward. The installer started from the live system is called “Anaconda”, and does a great job. I usually do installations on standard partitions, but LVM, or BRTFS can be great options too. It separates the system and the home folder by default, that can be the same to have more space, and if having a lot of RAM, there is no real need for a swap partition. I suggest to set a strong root password, and to create an user, that can be an administrator even without password, for simple usage. Once the system is installed, reboot or power off the machine to unplug the Live media, and boot into the new system. I encountered a few cases where the fresh installation did not boot up with the default kernel, but booted up with the rescue kernel. That is no real problem, and is fixed by the next step.
The terminal is a really powerful tool for system administrators, power-users, and even end-users that can see the advantage. The Linux shell is much much more powerful like the Windows-equivalent DOS-like command prompt. Once logged in, find a way to start a terminal, in Gnome under activities, in LXDE with a right click on the desktop surface. The terminal is user-sensitive, and has 3 pieces of informations when it show’s up:
[x@localhost ~]$ _
User x is logged in to localhost, and is in it’s home folder, that has the symbol “~”. You can type or paste commands here, and hit enter to run. In order to run deep system commands, it might come handy to be root permanently, the root user or with other words the superuser is the one that can do anything, or to use a third expression, he is the main Administrator. To change to that super user issue the following command: “su -” so it looks like this:
[x@localhost ~]$ su -
It will ask for a password, the password was provided at the installation when the root password was set. Once logged in, the prompt will change, the $ sign will change to the # sign, indicating root privileges. I will not always post all these parts of the shell prompt, and always use the “sudo” command, that will work if the user got administrator privileges during installation. if the user does not have administrator rights, he has to log in every time with “su -“, however in that case, the “sudo” command wont do any harm. Having that clarified, it is time to update the system, the first task on the installed system. The network should be plugged in, up and running. This is the command:
sudo yum -y update
It will download and install small packages, or better said their negative deltas, fedora uses the rpm format, and yum is the package manager used by Fedora.
At this point, we have a system that has all the really-really free up to date software from the selected spin. In the next posts, there will be more installation hints, fine tuning tips, and procedures that I find useful. They might be documented on other blogs, and other sites, but I will also post more unique scripts, that I document to myself, and to others. Sharing is everything!
Long live open source free software! Free, like in free speech!