Want To Give Up? A Word To The New and Frustrated

By Scooter

I've read a few posts in the Forum by newcomers to PCLinuxOS, who have, of course, been acquainted beforehand with Windows. They speak of becoming frustrated early on with learning how to use a new and different OS. Some elect to return to the familiarity of Windows. I have a couple of points to make for novices deciding to give up on the effort of learning Linux: a) Linux is not harder than Windows, and b) with Windows, unless you know how to "harden" and secure it properly, you and your data are in a position of serious risk.

Now this article isn't to bash Windows. I gain nothing from participating in that kind of debate. In reality, Windows is fine to use, but it needs to be secured, configured properly, and regularly maintained with security programs. Without this advanced knowledge - which takes just as much time and learning as getting to know Linux - using it is risky. A Linux install is relatively simple and quick to secure, and inherently has no such vulnerabilities. A person who has come home with a shiny new computer with Windows should know that their machine is not secure and ready to go. There is much work to be done.

My sister-in-law's recent situation is a brilliant example of this. She brought her Windows XP machine to me because her OS was in critical shape. After much effort to just get it started, I found she had a reputable firewall and anti-virus installed. Despite that, this is what I pried out of her XP: 126 Trojan viruses, 3 rootkit viruses, 389 spy-ware programs (dataminers, keyloggers) and 27 hijacks (Trojans meant to allow hijacking of the machine by a remote user). Those were just the ones I could actually find. In the end, after recovering her important files, her drive had to be reformatted and XP reinstalled.

The following week, I performed similar surgery on another person's machine. Same story. What did they have in common? Simple: both users had little or no knowledge of how to properly secure the machine and perform regular checks, or even of computers in general. Their personal data (passwords, financial info) and files may have been stolen by these infections. Indeed, their machines may even have been used by hackers for more evil purposes, all silently and without their owners' knowledge.

This doesn't happen in Linux. And that is why I recommend it for new or less (yes, I said less) technically-minded computer users.

With Linux, there is a learning curve, but it is no less than that of other operating systems. Remember the first time you were faced with Windows? I do, way back in 1990, and I was just as lost as with my first gaze at Linux in 2005.

In Windows, most peripheral devices come with driver install CD's. Spin them up and Win easily does the rest for you. But security is up to you, and you better know it before you even plug that Internet connection in (an improperly secured Win box can get infected within 10 seconds of being connected to the Net).

In Linux, there is some simple user device configuration needed, unless you have exotic hardware, and for more difficult issues there is a huge user support base. However, security is as easy as clicking "Set Up A Firewall" in the PCLinuxOS Control Center. Since viruses and spy-ware can't be run in Linux unless intentionally made to do so by the user, or by installing compromised non-repository third-party software (both of which require more advanced knowledge), the only concern is closing up those open ports with the inbuilt firewall and not running as the Root user.

Windows has the dreaded Regedit. Linux has the Command Line, but also the man and apropos commands to explain to you in plain language how you use the commands if you're stuck.

So this is for those beginners who want to walk away. Linux is not difficult, only different from what you are used to. The frustration you feel is related to your newness, it's not the fault of the OS. Learning takes time, just as it did with Windows. Stay with it, be patient, don't let yourself get frustrated, and shortly it will all make sense. And you have peace of mind knowing that you and your data are very secure. Ten thousand plus members in PCLinuxOS alone, and many more in the other distros combined, can't be wrong. And take note that we love to jump in and help when 'New Friends' have questions or issues.