Am I being too technical?

Sunday, January 29, 2006 8:47 pm By BigLig

It occurs to me that my last post whizzed rather fast through a lot of technical details - it might be useful to make this page more useful to someone going for GNU/Linux for the first time.
Firstly, I should say that my Laptop is a Dell Lattitude D505. If you have a different brand then you will want to Google for other people's stories of installation on your particular machine.
OK, distribution choice.GNU/Linux is not like, say, Microsoft Windows, in that it is a single product. Rather, GNU/Linux is a collection of thousands of smaller pieces of software. You collect the right combination of them together, and you have a machine that does what you need.
This is incidentally why you should strictly speaking call it GNU/Linux (as I have carefully been doing), since Linux is just one of these components.
This process of deciding what bits of software you need and making sure they all talk to each other properly is a big job, but luckily various companies and organizations have already prepared several such selections, called distributions.
Ubuntu is a distribution based on the famous Debian distribution. It is a relative newcomer but is highly regarded. I like it for the apt-get tool, that makes it incredibly easy to install new software.
Partioning is the process of dividing a disk up into portions. I'm shrinking the portion that Windows XP is on to make room for GNU/Linux. This was traditionally a hairy bit of business, but worked well for me. I'm using Knoppix for this job - a CD that you can boot from that temporarily runs Linux on your computer. It's a tremendously useful tool - here it lets me use the GNU/Linux qt_parted tool to shrink the space used by Windows.
One feature of Ubuntu that has made it popular is that every 6 months the contents of the distribution are updated. The current version is code-named "Breezy Badger", but due to a flaw in my install CD I've had to install the older "Hoary Hedgehog".
Not a problem, though, thanks to apt-get. First I tell apt-get where on the net to find the software in Breezy, by changing the sources.list file and running apt-get update. Then I tell apt-get to go an upgrade all the Hoary software to the Breezy versions with apt-get dist-upgrade.