My First Steps with Linux

I've happily used Windows XP for the past four years, but I'd heard good things about Linux so I decided to give it a try last year. I now use Linux for a lot of my non-programming tasks, and although I feel parts could be improved, it's a very pleasant environment to use.

Getting Started

The first thing to do was to grab a Linux distro. I use Mepis, because it's the only LiveCD I could get working on my laptop. I highly advise using a LiveCD to start with, as it allows you to try everything out without installing anything on your hard-drive.

After clearing roughly half of my hard-drive of unused programs and Windows files, I defragmented and partitioned it. The Mepis OS centre makes partitioning your drive a straightforward affair, and the install process was quick and simple. It guides you through installing a boot loader if you want to keep your existing OS (which I did), so now when my laptop boots I get a quick menu to choose between Mepis and WinXP. The whole process took a few hours, but it was a lot simpler than I had imagined. The Mepis installer does a good job of guiding you through the steps to install.

My favourite apps

I wasn't really sure what to expect with Linux, but I've been pleasantly surprised by the high quality of the applications. My most used programs:


I've used Winamp for years, and amaroK was a bit of a change for me. It's got plenty of great features for organising your tracks and albums, such as downloading track information and album covers. There's support for last.FM, dynamic playlists and a host of other rather nifty features.


I don't like it as much as Office 2003, but I prefer it to It does have an “autocomplete” feature similar to which I'm rather fond of, as it can speed up typing long words.


Gaim is a great IM client that works on multiple platforms. It handles the popular protocols (MSN, Yahoo!, AIM/ICQ) very well, and also supports IRC and Jabber.


TaskJuggler is a project management application which moves away from the standard Gantt editor. Tasks are entered using a text editor, which can be daunting at first. It takes a while to learn the syntax, but once that's out of the way it's really quite powerful. It can generate HTML and XML reports, as well as our trusty friend the Gantt chart.

Other bits and pieces

The one thing that really convinced me to give Linux a try was the LiveCD. It's a really nice idea, and meant I could play around with all the features before clearing space and partitioning my drive. I really expected things to be a lot harder than they were, and despite a few crashes I've found the whole thing easy to install and use. It's certainly worth a look if you want to try something new. Mepis has a good community of very helpful people, and you can generally find the answer to any problems quickly.

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