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December 1999 TPC Workshop Summary

Linux Introduction Workshop

Judging from the euphoria surrounding Linux, we guessed that many people will be interested in this workshop. Therefore, due to space constraints, we kept pretty quiet about it. Even then, we exceeded our maximum of 10 attendees. So around 15 of us got together at VCN to get a grasp of Linux. We missed the in-depth knowledge that Jim Tittsler might have provided us with, but i guess most of those who attended got to know the basics.

What is Linux?

Linux is an Operating System, just like DOS, Windows, OS/2 or MacOS, which is based on UNIX and is gaining wide-spread popularity. It was initially developed by a university student from Finland named Linus Torvalds, hence the name Linux, and was later used mostly by hackers or hardcore geeks. Like many others before it, it is being touted as the next Windows killer, and for good reason.

Firstly, the stability of Linux is legendary. Servers running Linux have been known to stay up for months without needing a reboot. That includes the TPCs own web server that only needs to be taken off once in a while in case of hardware or software upgrades.

Secondly, Linux is based on the GNU License agreement, which guarantees that it remains open source and open to everyone. You can take the code, modify it and then sell it as your own version of Linux. Of course you have to release whatever changes or additions you may have made.

Thousands of programmers from around the world contribute to the project by writing drivers and bug fixes for Linux. Even most of the software used on Linux is available free for download from the Internet. Linux has the best support for different file systems. It supports FAT, FAT32, NTFS (Experimental) and HPFS partitions as well as many other file systems. It can even run Windows or DOS programs in emulation mode.

Installation

I remember the first time i did a Linux installation. It was with a very old version of Slackware Linux (which is still pretty difficult compared to other vendors). It took me one whole night and a lot of studying beforehand, but it was fun. At the workshop, we had a look at the installation of two of the most popular and latest versions of Linux. RedHat Linux 6.1 and Caldera OpenLinux 2.3.

There are many ways to start the installation. It can be started right from within Windows in the case of Caldera. Most linux CDs are bootable, so you can boot from the CD and start the install if your computer BIOS supports it. Of course there are many other ways including network installs and starting the installation from DOS, but i find that all methods are easier than installing Windows 9x and most notably Windows NT on a fresh hard drive.

The latest versions use very user-friendly install programs so even someone new to computers can manage to put it on their system. Since nearly all Linux distributions need their own separate partition, you have to set aside space for it in advance. OpenLinux 2.3 includes a special edition of Partition Magic just for this, but we decided to use the whole hard drive for Linux. WinLinux (another distribution of Linux) is an exception to this, since it can reside on a FAT partition.

Both RedHat and Caldera include bundled free software for everything from CD writing to setting up your own web server. GIMP (GNU Image Manipulation Program), which is a free Photoshop like graphic editor is also a standard part of most distributions.

Sun Star Office 5.1

We also had a look at Sun StarOffice which is available for free download from Sun's website and installs on Windows, Linux, Solaris and OS/2. It is as easy to install as Microsoft Office, if not any easier, and can read and write MS Office files without a hitch.

Finally

There are many things that have yet to be sorted out. Support for some recent technologies such as USB, DVD and IEEE 1394 is still under development and many hardware devices including most PCI and Win modems and some sound cards will not work on it. There is also less software available for Linux compared to Windows or Macintosh.

Many improvements are in progress for Linux, including the port of Silicon Graphics' journaling file system and support for a wide variety of upcoming technologies. And of course, it is getting easier and easier to use. Users of other operating systems may have some difficulty getting used to the way Linux works, but with the speed at which it is going, the time is not far when Linux catches upto the other big guys.

For more information on Linux or to download it, take a look at these websites:

RedHat http://www.redhat.com The most popular distribution with 55% market share
Caldera http://www.calderasystems.com Probably the easiest to use and second most popular with 10% market share
Corel Linux http://www.corel.com New Linux version. Supposedly is the easiest yet.
Linux http://www.linux.org The official Linux site
Turbo Linux http://www.turbolinux.com Good for Japanese or Chinese versions. Biggest supplier in Asia
S.U.S.E http://www.suse.com Most popular in Europe. Includes loads of free and shareware software
C-Net http://www.download.com Extensive list of Linux software available for download
Tu-Cows http://www.tucows.com More free software for Linux

          Sajjad


Tokyo PC Users Group, Post Office Box 103, Shibuya-Ku, Tokyo 150-8691, JAPAN