Switching from Windows to Linux (Installing Applications)

Preston Gralla has a good article about tips for installing applications on Linux. It is very good and it is worth re-posting his main points:
1. Ask the community–No other OS has so much of the internet devoted to it. You can find thousands of sites, blogs, and forums devoted to Linux support or, even better, your specific distro support.
2. Don’t think of Linux as Windows–This is where most people fail and why most people think installing applications on Linux is so difficult. The problem is that we take our past experience and think it is universal, but it simply isn’t. In Windows you browse the web for the product you want, download an executable, and run and installer program. With Linux there is no exacutable so while you can download a .tar file after unpacking the file you won’t find a setup.exe. That doesn’t make Linux hard you just have to learn how Linux does it. I think we all forget how “hard” it was to install our first Windows program. As with everything in computers it just takes training. Personal story, when I first tried Linux I wanted to install firefox (at the time FF was still in alpha). I was such a Windows users, I went to the website downloaded the appropriate file and double-clicked it, thinking it would start to install. Instead it opened up the tar and showed me the contents, I figured that this must be the same as a zip file so I unpacked it to the desktop. Then I went in and started to look for an .exe or something, but I couldn’t find one and everything I double-clicked wouldn’t work. I don’t remember for certain, but I think I looked at the README, but their instructions were lost in translation. I was confused and defeated and thought that installing programs on Linux was just far too hard. My problem? I was thinking like a Windows person, in reality Linux installation may be easier than Windows you just have to learn how to do it in Linux.
3. Know your distro–this is a big one, that had I known would have made the previously mentioned story moot. I was installing Fedora at the time and it has a package manager built in called Yum. Debian and Ubuntu have apt/aptitude. For the most part just about any package you can imagine is already built into yum/apt and a few simple key commands installs the program for you. In my opinion this is far better than Windows. There is no browsing or second guessing you just open your terminal and type: sudo aptitude install package. How could it be any easier. And now both yum and apt have graphical versions so that you don’t even have to type in the commands. Imagine having a list of every program you could possibly imagine that with one click is installed on your machine and best of all they are all free.

For those curious about how to install an application on various distros here is a good forum link. If you break it down even installing from source isn’t all that difficult.

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