For a while you’re going to hate what I have to tell you, after you use it for a month or so you’ll understand why people actaully prefer it and you will begin to wonder why windows doesn’t have a decent version of it.
The console/terminal. IE the ms-dos thingy.
It’s rather easy to learn, and once you understand it wou’ll really begin to actaully enjoy it. I regret being raised on windows. Microsoft has really destroyed true computing. Linux offers so much but for the engrained windows user a lot of linux practices (rooted in unix) seem ludicrous, they aren’t however and in the long run once you understand the practices and why they are used you’ll really begin to wonder why microsoft did what they did with OSs.
Linux may not be easy, but power and functionality come at a price. Linux’s greatest features are a new users worst nightmare.
I suggest getting knoppix or fedora core first. Join #fedora linux or #knoppix at irc.freenode.net and learning all you can about how linux works and how to navigate in a shell, or terminal/console. Once you’ve mastered those then I highly suggest getting Gentoo linux, it’s a little tough and isn’t graphical to install but with some practice at the console you’ll do just fine, and if all goes well a stage 1, or stage 2 install will teach you quite a lot. You’ll begin to understand why building software packages from source will bring great joy, it will greatly speed things up.
Remember to keep and internet connection handy, and a good web browser like firefox as well as a good irc client like xchat or irssi. Not everything in linux is self explanitory which means you will have to seek help, but help is plentiful.
Hope that helps
well, slackware? (which I personally have never used)
That would be ill-advised. Slackware is extremely hard to use for newbies.
A little about linux:
A while back (very early 90’s I believe) Linux Torwalds set out to make a clone of unix under a far less restrictive license than BSD. This license is the GNU GPL. Gnu’s Not Unix is the first acronym, the second is General Public License. This new operating system was like unix in many ways, thus what you do in linux, is most likely applicable in any other unix-like os, tru64 hp/ux irix macos x etc.
Linux consists of several parts. The kernel is the very basic piece of software that is installed, yet it is the most important. The kernel provides a layer of muscle between the hardware in your PC and the software. The kernel handles all drivers, which is what the software talks to. On top of this are the basic system tools which interface on many levels with end user software.
In the early days linux didn’t have a flashy gui as it has today. In fact any given linux system doesn’t require a gui, or as we will start calling ‘X’. X is interchangeable with XFree86, xfree, X11 etc. It is the basic system that interfaces with your video card to produce the GUI. X11 doesn’t make the gui it’s self (though it does have a very primitive one it’s almost never used). The gui is drawn by a ‘TK’, or tool kit. QT, GTK, GTK2 are tool kits. They provide the libraries (binareies that cannot run like an ordinary application, but provide functionality at run time for applications) for certain apps to draw the interface. These aren’t standardized across linux, each TK has it’s theme set (some are not skinnalble, or themable) and most apps are built for only 1 tk.
On top of these TKs applications called Window Managers, or WMs are born. They control placement of, size etc. of application’s gui interfaces or windows (where the dirty MS OS gets it’s name.).
After this a Desktop Environment is born. There are only 3 that are generally used to today: Gnome, KDE and XFce. These DEs come with their own window managers, file browsers, settings managers and lots of apps. The generally integrate themselves well with the OS and many apps and are based entirely on two different TKs, QT and GTK2. KDE uses QT, some don’t like it because it mimics windows too closely, and uses a license (QT at least) that isn’t GNU/GPL. Gnome uses GTK2 and is tightly integrated. It provide quite a plethora of apps and is what a majority of linux users use, though it’s a bit sparse on the MS likeness that KDE embodies, some like it some don’t. Right now it’s matter of personal preferance as to which you choose, though keep in mind a lot of apps that you may or may not use, use GTK2. XFce uses GTK2 as well, thought it’s size and integratedness ( ) aren’t that of gnome or kde, but it’s small, is standard compliant and doesn’t hog memory like the other two.
Many distros (distros are basically the kernel and some software packages, the term distro is hard to define without you knowing a lot about linux) include X11, the TKs, at least two of the three DEs and plethora of software packages, some even install it for you, detect hardware etc. Fedora install Gnome by default with a login manager, X11, detects drivers etc. It does almost everything for you. This comes at the prce of bloatedness, which is easy to correct with gentoo once you learn enoug about linux to run it.
Learning linux isn’t by any means easy, and it’s not something to go into lightly, esp. if you’re planning on switching. I haven’t switched all the way, I dual boot with windows. Linux works great for my graphics software, lkie blender, gimp, inkscape, wings etc. Provided that you install the nvidia dirver…because we all know you own an nvidia and not an evil ATI…but don’t get me started!
Hope that helps.