Getting Started with Linux


Cross-Platform Free and Open Source Software (CPFOSS)

Although there are ways to run Windows and Mac applications on Linux, it’s not guaranteed that the specific program that you want to run is going to be an elegant solution (in some cases the only solution is setting your system to boot up in either Windows or Linux 1). This is not ideal because it’s unhandy to be working in Linux and then to restart your computer to work with your Windows only programs.

So, the first thing you want to do before installing Linux is to migrate from Windows or Mac only applications and learn apps that are cross-platform – that is you can use the software on either Windows or Linux – and that are also open source and free-of-charge. This way, when you start Linux you can get to work right away and you avoid out-of-pocket expenses.

Open source usually means that the program is copy-left. One of the reasons you are probably interested in Linux is that you are tired of being “captured” by Microsoft or Apple. You are locked into their ecosystem and they just keep pushing consumerism on you. Whether that’s interrupting you with ads or getting you to buy things over and over again, i.e. an annual subscription to use your own computer, word processor, photoshop, etc.

Free and open source software (FOSS) & copy-left software means that anyone can fork the software into a new package. This means if anyone is offering open source software tries to capture you into their ecosystem, someone is probably going to grab a copy of the source code for that software, undo the capture mechanics of that software, and then that new uncaptured fork” may continue on to become a favorite iteration of that lineage.

Here’s an example. Chrome is a closed-source fork of open-sourced Chromium. Also, Chromium is ad-friendly. So there are a whole bunch of browsers that use the Chromium code and have taken out a lot of the tracking and ad-friendly features of Chromium. I think Brave is one of the more popular forks. But Brave sort of started creating its own ecosystem with its own crypto-currency, so along came some other developers that forked Brave and ripped out the Brave ecosystem capture elements, such as the browser I use – Dissenter.

So if your whole purpose of looking into Linux is to avoid capture then you need to also start using FOSS. And if you use cross platform FOSS (CPFOSS), then once you do take the leap and install Linux, you will have already learned most of what you need to know to be productive on your Linux machine. In other words, once your workflow in Windows or Mac is all CPFOSS, you have done the bulk of your learning.


  • Libre Office. An office suite that replaces the likes of Microsoft Office (Word, Excel, etc.). This is pretty easy migration.
  • GIMP if you are into photoshop/raster image painting/manipulation. This migration has been a bit daunting to me, but if you find a great tutorial course on Youtube you should be able to get some proficiency in short order.
  • Inkscape if you are into creating/manipulating SVG (vector graphics) then you want Inkscape.
  • If you are into streaming or screen recording then you’ll want OBS.
  • If you need to capture & manipulate audio then you need Audacity.
  • VLC is the king of playing DVDs and Blu-Ray as well as streaming other sources of video/audio.
  • Steam if you are a gamer. Steam allows you to play 1000s of Windows only games on Linux. So if you buy a game in Steam, then it is likely to be available to you when you get over to Linux.
  • Thunderbird if you are using an email application instead of your browser.
  • Dissenter for a browser.
  • Virtualbox or VMware for spinning up virtual machines. With this software you can try Linux on your Windows or Mac and once you move to Linux you can spin up a Windows or Mac virtual machine to run Windows or Mac only software (I’m guessing this works 99% of the time.) However, it can take a beefy computer to run a secondary operating system within a virtual machine.
  • Emby if you are into having a centralized media application for your home (i.e. Plex, etc.).


Linux comes in hundreds of flavors. If you want a stable, well-supported, Windows 7 Professional like (but better) desktop, then you want Linux Mint with the Cinnamon desktop. Not Ubuntu. Not Pop. Not Manjero. Not Redhat. Not Arch. Not even any “gaming” distributions. I’m not saying the other distributions are bad, it’s just that some of these other distributions are prone to “breaking” during an update. Or you have way too much configuration to do (IMHO) before you will get the Windows 7 Professional like experience. Linux Mint Cinnamon is ready to go, dead simple to use and configure, and has a large and well-supported community.

Also, even though Linux Mint is often said to be a “beginner” distribution of Linux, that is an unfair characterization of it. Linux Mint is full-featured under the hood. As far as I am aware, except in an extremely rare circumstance, if you can do something on Linux, especially in the Debian lineage, you can do it in Mint. Linux Mint is suitable to the power-user as well as the beginner.

There is one caveat here. If you install Linux Mint Cinnamon and you find that your computer is not as snappy as you would like it to be, then install Linux Mint XFCE, which is a lightweight version of Mint.


The first time you install Linux, I recommend you install it on a secondary PC. You want to have your Windows or Mac machine still available to you when you are first learning. For example, it’s quite common for a new user to “break” Linux by following an outdated terminal command posted on the Internet. If this happens to you, you still have your Windows or Mac machine to get work done and-or figure out how to unbreak your Linux.


The first thing you want to learn how to do in Linux is to backup and RECOVER your system using Timeshift. Then anytime before you, update your system, install software, or use the terminal, backup your system. And if you break your system doing any of those things, it’s a simple process to reverse most any problem.

I cannot overstress how important this is, especially for a new Linux user. As stated above, it is very easy to get bad advice on what to do in Linux. It may be outdated advice or advice that will only work for a particular distribution of Linux. So, backing up before updating, before installing software, before using the terminal should, in your mind, be a mandatory step.


Once you get ready for Linux to be your primary machine, I think it’s time to start considering whether you want to have a dual boot system where you can go back and forth between Linux and Windows. If you do, I recommend using two physically separate drives (at least).

If you are running an SSD with Windows and a secondary drive, pull out both drives to install Linux on a new physical drive(s). Once Linux is installed and working, you can plug in your Windows drive(s) and change your boot options and sequence to match your preferences and you should be good to go. Although it’s an advanced operation to get setup, I have had good luck with this configuration.


Here’s a good video that explains my approach to advancing Linux skills. There are some things in Linux that I found to be quite challenging, such as setting up a Samba server; dealing with file permissions; getting an old Brother printer to work; setting up Zoneminder (a home video surveillance program) to name a few. Most everything I use on Linux has been simple to get setup, but there are a few things that I really wanted that took quite a bit of research and effort to get worked out. Tackling these projects with the right attitude will help you immensely.

I don't think Linux is too hard. For 95% of setting things up, it's actually easier than Windows in my opinion. But there are exceptions and that's when new users get frustrated and here's where the following video is going to get you started on the right track.

aka dual-boot