The first problem which people face while switching over to Linux is the “unavailability of softwares” as they claim. They just try to run their windows installer/setup file and end up with frustration saying “Linux is so incompatible!” Is it really so? Linux is not a clone of Windows. Then how come you expect your softwares built specifically built for windows to run on Linux. Linux has its own OS architecture, filesystem, binary file format and many more.
GETTING LINUX ALTERNATIVES OF YOUR SOFTWARE
So if you really want to switch to Linux, try to get accustomed to Linux alternatives of your software. If you were using Winamp, the alternative is XMMS or Audacious. The replacement of Internet Explorer is Firefox and IceWeasel though Firefox is also available for Windows. It would be better if you spend a week or two using softwares which are available for both Windows and Linux. Some of the examples are:
Firefox- an award winning and largely loved Web Browser
Thunderbird- a portable Mail client
VLC- a highly portable and excellent Media Player
Pidgin – Multi protocol Instant Messenger
Abiword – a lightweight Word processor
OpenOffice – An office suite, installed by default on most Linux distributions
FileZilla – an Open Source FTP client like CuteFTP etc
THE EASE OF INSTALLING SOFTWARES
Installing softwares on windows is claimed to be very simple. You just need to Click on Next and Next and Next. Why click Next so many times if you can install a software with just 2-3 clicks? That even when on windows you have to google desperately on the net to download your software? People usually think that installing software on Linux means compiling from source. I claim this to be a big myth! A really big one! That’s not the case. You also get pre-compiled software packages to just double-click and start, and the better thing is that you wont have to click Next a hundred times.
In Linux softwares come as packages. They are not installers in real sense, they contains data which is taken up by the packages installer and now its the packages installer which takes care of the further task. This prevents the package from harming the system if it has some malicious code. It is the work of Package installer to check that malicious code is stopped from executing. Probably the biggest drawback for windows method of installation is the executable installation method, viruses and other malwares may attach themselves to setup files which get executed when you try to install them.
In Ubuntu we have a package manager called APT which is an abbreviation for Advanced Packaging Tool. This utility takes care of all the packages listed on your system. There is another term called repository known as repo in short. Repositories are actually sources of packages, call it as a storehouse. When you add a repository to your package manager and update the list, it fetches the index/list of the softwares present on that repo. It now shows up on the Package manager. Now if you select to install that package it will be fetched from that repository and installed on your system.
A repository can be available anywhere. It can be on a CD, on a website, or a folder on your hard disk.The official Ubuntu repository is very large containing more than 20,000 packages, so one point is very clear “Most of the packages you need will be in the official repo”. This means you wont have to compile any software from source.
There are many package managers available, others being Red Hat Package Manager which is used by Red Hat and its derived distros. Ubuntu is derived from its father distro called Debian which was one of the pioneers in the development of Linux.
METHODS OF INSTALLING
There are two ways of installing any package – Command line way and Graphical way! Its upto you to choose between the two. Each have their own plus and minus points. Graphical method is recommended for a beginner but everyone should have atleast a basic knowledge of command line to deal and cope up with disastrous situations. This is not windows and you wont be reinstalling Linux even in worst situations.
The plus point with graphical method is that its really easy for a beginner to start using and installing any software package. The minus point is that we have to click on search, enter the package name, click on OK, when list comes, select the package, click on Apply and then again OK. It may take time and if you are a bit comfortable with linux and want to do all these stuff quickly you may prefer command line.
Using command line you may have to just type one command and the software installation starts. You dont need to search,OK, Apply and all those headache. The biggest drawback with this method is that it is a bit tough for a beginner who has never even seen the world of commands on windows.
A Point to note: In future in life you may get stuck up anywhere and may ask help from an expert. Dont expect him to give solutions in graphical mode, rather you will get the solution in commands. The reason is quite obvious – “Why would he type so much like “Click System”, then Package Manager, then enter password and all those long long methods”. You may even get stuck somewhere and say that you didnt find that option. To get over this problem too commands come to rescue. Just copy-paste the command to your terminal, no hassles even, if he tells to give the output, just copy-paste back the output. Its so simple, a single command did all that was required even though you might have found that command very absurd and unusual to look at.
In windows you had needed to update each application separately, this is not the case in Linux. Here updates arrive via the central “Update Manager” just like “Windows Update”. Unlike windows software updates, kernel updates, security patches and software patches, all comes via this method. If you had installed a software say “ABC” from a official repository “XYZ”, then when an update arrives on that repo, the Update Manager fetches the index of the updates and notifies you. This is an excellent way rather than checking and updating each software manually.