What is a distro?
Distro is actually a fancy name for Linux Distributions. As you know the source code of Linux is open, so you could hack/modify/tweak according to your needs and if you think the changes you made is helpful to the people around you, you could even roll out a distribution containing your changes. This new distribution is nothing but a distro. There are hundreds or maybe thousands or distros and counting. Choose one that suits your needs. Some famous ones are Ubuntu, Fedora, Suse, Zenwalk, Debain, Knoppix and the list goes on….
Many of these contain live CD’s. This means that you can boot the Linux directly from the CD instead of installing it on your system. This is a way you can first check out any distro. If you are impressed, give it a respectable position on your computer by installing. Live CD’s are pretty slow if your system is old, have bit patience while it loads. Of the above mentioned distro Knoppix is entirely a Live CD and Ubuntu contains both the live session and installer packed in a single CD.
What is a GNU GPL?
GNU GPL is one of the several licenses under which free and open source softwares are being released. It ensures the freedom of use, copying, modifying and redistribution. The source code of the program should also we given along with the software or made available. This license bars anybody from denying the rights to any person who gets software under GPL. E.g. if I got a software under GNU GPL, I am not allowed to prevent other people who I distribute the software to use, copy, modify or redistribute. In other words all the freedom I get from a Free software under GPL should be transferred to others who get it from me.
Is there anything I should know about GNU GPL’s history?
If you are a regular newspaper reader or keep an eye on tech development, you should know that GNU GPL v3 has been released on 29th July, 2007. The first version of GNU GPL was written by Richard Stallman himself with help of some colleagues in 1989. The second version came out in 1991 and had been unchanged for 16 years. In 2005 Stallman started working on v3 of GNU GPL. Soon the effort was taken over by Free Software Foundation (FSF). The work was not a dictatorship like. People were consulted, feedback and response were consulted and lots of lawyers were contacted to decide on legal matters before finalizing. The result was v3 of GNU GPL. Stallman urged the developers to release their work under v3 of GNU GPL.
I want to migrate to Linux. Can I install my M$ office suit in it?
Most Linux distros come with an office suit called OpenOffice.org .Its an Open Source suit by Sun. You will find all the important and essential features in it- Spreadsheet (like Excel), Word Sheet (like Word), Database (like Access), Presentation (like PowerPoint) and more. You should really give it a try. It has a PDF creator. OpenOffice can open all M$ Office documents, though the rendering of pages can be different. It also has its own format for saving word, spreadsheet and Slides Presentations.
I have lots of softwares for windows (.exe files). Can I use them on Linux?
Properly speaking Linux does not support .exe files. It has its own package management tools. You can have .deb or .rpm file for installing. Still you can make .exe file run on Linux by an emulator called WINE which is a recursive acronym for WINE is not emulator (nice mockery!). All softwares are not supported by WINE. You can try out Codeweavers’s Crossover. WINE is recommended as Crossover is not free. It’s proprietary software. Still you can find Linux versions of many types of software. Don’t get dishearted! There’s a solution to everything.
Now when I can’t get many softwares running on Linux how will I work?
There absolutely no need of thinking so much about softwares. Nearly all distros (distributions) come with lots of tools and softwares preinstalled. As for paint or Photoshop you can use GIMP. For playing music use AmaroK. For playing video use Mplayer or VLC media player. For office OpenOffice.org is installed. For those softwares not installed by default, you can download them in Package Manager (like Add/Remove programs in windows, but far far better). You can even specify the repositories if the package you want is missing or some problem of the sort.
What is a repository?
When installing software packages via Package Manager, packages needs to be retrieved from somewhere. Repositories are places specified where packages exist. It can be a remote computer or a CD-ROM. You can download the packages over internet or a remote computer if you have an active internet connection. If you don’t have, add CD-ROM to your list of repositories, get those packages on CD and start installing.
What is .deb and .rpm file?
Actually all major distros use mainly two types of package management. For Debian and its derivatives .deb packages are used. These disros use apt which stands for ADVANCED PACKAGING TOOL. Those distros which use .rpm packages use RED HAT PACKAGE MANAGEMENT. This is the package management used by Red Hat and its derivatives. You shouldn’t install .rpm packages on debain distros or vice versa. There is a software named alien which can be used to convert one package to other but its better to use Package Manager as any fault in manual process can make the application behave unpredictably or application may even crash.