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Is Linux an effective computer science OS for a rookie?

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November 16, 2012 3:43:14 AM

Hello everyone. I'm looking to buy a cheap laptop for university and was highly attracted by the prospect of Linux, both from the standpoint of open-source software, and the ability to gain some real-time experience with an OS that has career building potential. From what I have picked up by way of Google, many users swear by Linux as a programmer's OS. That said, many also suggested having windows available for certain proprietary software.

So my primary questions are:

1. Is it possible for me to get by with a Linux system sans windows in an introductory cs environment?
2. If not, what kind of HDD size would allow me to comfortably partition for windows7 or 8 and an average sized Linux distro?
3. What distribution would you suggest? (I am aware Ubuntu is very user friendly and popular, but I don't hear much about productivity)

Just for full disclosure to avoid any confusion: I do have a windows desktop at home and will have them available to me in the campus labs.

Thanks for any feedback in advance!

November 16, 2012 6:36:21 AM

tuxborg said:
Hello everyone. I'm looking to buy a cheap laptop for university and was highly attracted by the prospect of Linux, both from the standpoint of open-source software, and the ability to gain some real-time experience with an OS that has career building potential. From what I have picked up by way of Google, many users swear by Linux as a programmer's OS. That said, many also suggested having windows available for certain proprietary software.

So my primary questions are:

1. Is it possible for me to get by with a Linux system sans windows in an introductory cs environment?
2. If not, what kind of HDD size would allow me to comfortably partition for windows7 or 8 and an average sized Linux distro?
3. What distribution would you suggest? (I am aware Ubuntu is very user friendly and popular, but I don't hear much about productivity)

Just for full disclosure to avoid any confusion: I do have a windows desktop at home and will have them available to me in the campus labs.

Thanks for any feedback in advance!


500~600GB should be more then enough, hell 300GB would suffice. You can run Windows inside a VM if your not playing games with it. Otherwise Linux is a great OS to learn on, get comfortable with the command line and working at different run levels.

I'm a fan of CentOS myself though I can understand Ubunto's attraction as a simple distro. CentOS is the Open Source release of Red Hat Enterprise Linus (RHEL). It's only missing the RHEL propriety software but is otherwise 100% compatible with RHEL. As RHEL has become the pseudo industry standard for Linux servers it serves as a great base to learn how to do stuff.
a b 5 Linux
November 16, 2012 1:34:14 PM

You certainly do not need windows for intro CS! You may not need it at all in your degree!
Any distro will be fine, take a look at the top on distrowwatch to see what is popular.
http://distrowatch.com/
As far as an intro CS course, any of those will work exactly the same. Just depends on what editor you choose to use. Your course may suggest using 'eclipse'.

Windows should have at least 60GB of space for the OS and programs. Same for ubuntu+extra space for data storage. 300gb+ would be ideal.
November 16, 2012 10:17:09 PM

Thanks for the encouraging response from you both!

Now to find a bargain basement laptop to start working on. ;) 

November 25, 2012 1:07:48 PM

tuxborg said:
Hello everyone. I'm looking to buy a cheap laptop for university and was highly attracted by the prospect of Linux, both from the standpoint of open-source software, and the ability to gain some real-time experience with an OS that has career building potential. From what I have picked up by way of Google, many users swear by Linux as a programmer's OS. That said, many also suggested having windows available for certain proprietary software.

So my primary questions are:

1. Is it possible for me to get by with a Linux system sans windows in an introductory cs environment?
2. If not, what kind of HDD size would allow me to comfortably partition for windows7 or 8 and an average sized Linux distro?
3. What distribution would you suggest? (I am aware Ubuntu is very user friendly and popular, but I don't hear much about productivity)

Just for full disclosure to avoid any confusion: I do have a windows desktop at home and will have them available to me in the campus labs.

Thanks for any feedback in advance!


Okay: 1- Very. It is so possible, that someone who has said no to this before is ignorant to Linux altogether.
2- Don't ever get windows 8. It has an UI based for a tablet or phone. It is a bad laptop/desktop environment. It may look nice, but it is a tablet/phone OS. Windows 7 was just fine, but Microsoft didn't see that.
3- Ubuntu is rated the TOP Linux distro. It is going on 12.10. And, is still kicking. It has really good productivity, it runs fast 'n smooth, it comes with Libre Office, it comes with Firefox web browser, and many other things. It runs on GNOME GUI. It uses UNIX (All Linux distros do). It has a good application market. I like it best. It's only competitor in my opinion, is Mint Linux. Anyways, I hoped I helped.


[EDIT] I hope you also do well in your degree! Good Luck! Alonze Alonzo!
a b 5 Linux
November 25, 2012 3:35:30 PM

spock9000 said:
... It uses UNIX (All Linux distros do)....


Nope.
November 25, 2012 4:02:49 PM

skittle said:
Nope.


And WHERE did you read that? UNIX is the core for Linux distros. Linux is built off of and around UNIX.
a b 5 Linux
November 25, 2012 4:13:01 PM

Read all about it here:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Linux
and while your at it read about the other half of GNU/linux:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/GNU_Project


More on google.

If your too lazy to click: Linux is "unixy' or "unix-like". It is not built off, or even use unix code in anyway.

BTW, mint has been #1 on distrowatch for quite a long time, I don't see ubuntu overtaking it again anytime soon. Quite a coincidence that this change took place around the same time its Unity desktop was released in mid 2010!
November 25, 2012 4:22:53 PM

skittle said:
Read all about it here:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Linux
and while your at it read about the other half of GNU/linux:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/GNU_Project


More on google.

If your too lazy to click: Linux is "unixy' or "unix-like". It is not built off, or even use unix code in anyway.

BTW, mint has been #1 on distrowatch for quite a long time, I don't see ubuntu overtaking it again anytime soon. Quite a coincidence that this change took place around the same time its Unity desktop was released in mid 2010!


Clearly I haven't used Linux enough. It is one of my favorites, though. I prefer it over windows if it could run my games.
a b 5 Linux
November 25, 2012 4:40:59 PM

There was a whole court case with SCO to decide whether any Unix code was used in Linux. The answer was an emphatic "No". I'm sure that you have used Linux a lot, but that doesn't alter history.
November 25, 2012 4:45:55 PM

Ijack said:
There was a whole court case with SCO to decide whether any Unix code was used in Linux. The answer was an emphatic "No". I'm sure that you have used Linux a lot, but that doesn't alter history.


lol. no.

[EDIT] I read, though, that unix was Linux's command line. That is what i've been going with all this time.
a b 5 Linux
November 25, 2012 6:57:55 PM

There are many varieties of Linux command line; they are more usually called shells. It is certainly true that the same shells, and commands, that are used in Unix have been implemented in Linux. But they have also been implemented in Windows systems, so that really tells you nothing. The most common Unix that you will see in general use is OS X.
November 25, 2012 8:55:51 PM

Ijack said:
The most common Unix that you will see in general use is OS X.


So, OS x is somewhat like Linux and Unix. But by a different company? I don't know. That's how I've always thought of it.
November 25, 2012 11:04:16 PM

Ok stop, your getting your -IX's mixed up.

Unix was the OS created years ago to run on mainframes, this was when "computers" took up whole rooms. It has since evolved many times over again and there are several varieties. Solaris, AIX, BSD are probably the most common "pure" Unix's you'll see (SCO and HPUX are dwindling). OS-X is Apple's version of a heavily modified BSD Unix.

Now Linux is not Unix, it's creator through modeled it after many of the concepts from Unix.

Which brings me to the real confusing part that is POSIX. POSIX is a set of standards involving Unix and Unix-like OS's. It's done so that code built on one OS can compile and run on another with little to no modification.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/POSIX

POSIX is what unifys and links all the -IX operating systems and why they seem so similar to most of the uninitiated. Everything from command shells to kernel memory access is defined in those standards.

I hope that clears things up a bit.
November 25, 2012 11:06:19 PM

palladin9479 said:
Ok stop, your getting your -IX's mixed up.

Unix was the OS created years ago to run on mainframes, this was when "computers" took up whole rooms. It has since evolved many times over again and there are several varieties. Solaris, AIX, BSD are probably the most common "pure" Unix's you'll see (SCO and HPUX are dwindling). OS-X is Apple's version of a heavily modified BSD Unix.

Now Linux is not Unix, it's creator through modeled it after many of the concepts from Unix.

Which brings me to the real confusing part that is POSIX. POSIX is a set of standards involving Unix and Unix-like OS's. It's done so that code built on one OS can compile and run on another with little to no modification.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/POSIX

POSIX is what unifys and links all the -IX operating systems and why they seem so similar to most of the uninitiated. Everything from command shells to kernel memory access is defined in those standards.

I hope that clears things up a bit.


Yes, it does. Thank you!
a b 5 Linux
November 26, 2012 5:23:42 AM

OS X is not just like Unix, it is Unix.
November 26, 2012 7:39:46 PM

Ijack said:
OS X is not just like Unix, it is Unix.


It can't be EXACTLY Unix. That is illegal. Unless they have permission. It's like plagiarism in programming. It's Programmism!
a b 5 Linux
November 26, 2012 8:04:17 PM

Just accept what I'm telling you, or else do a little research of your own. OS X is one of the few Operating Systems that is entitled to call itself Unix.

Your mistake is to think that Unix is a single Operating System It isn't.
November 26, 2012 8:50:12 PM

Ijack said:
Just accept what I'm telling you, or else do a little research of your own. OS X is one of the few Operating Systems that is entitled to call itself Unix.

Your mistake is to think that Unix is a single Operating System It isn't.


*sigh* I don't want to argue, sir. I'm just saying that you would think the creator of Unix, or, shall I say it's MAIN OS's, would let a more powerful company call itself his work.
November 26, 2012 8:53:43 PM

*Wouldn't
November 26, 2012 11:16:26 PM

Ijack said:
Just accept what I'm telling you, or else do a little research of your own. OS X is one of the few Operating Systems that is entitled to call itself Unix.



Ehh I wouldn't go so far as that. Apple bastardized the hell out of BSD to get the magic "it just works". It's "Unix" only in that it follows the POSIX standards and originally came from an open Unix code base. So while it indeed could call itself "Unix", it doesn't come with all the stability / security / standardization that typically is associated with Unix.
a b 5 Linux
November 30, 2012 9:57:00 AM

Back to original question

I use linux for all my programming and advise my students to learn cross platform programming as that broadens your market. I heard recently that microsoft was polling universities to find out why they were switching over to linux at an alarming rate for teaching programming. I don't think they'll like the answers.

Anyway. I use Ubuntu because I have to maintain many systems with limited or no internet (I'm in the DR Congo) and it's just plain simple. I setup one computer with everything most users need, including a copy of LXDE if the computer needing install has little ram, make a copy with remastersys and put it on a USB. That USB can then be used for installs or repairs. For you I'd recommend gPHPEdit for PHP and eclipse for the rest although Netbeans for Java is pretty nice too.
December 4, 2012 2:48:34 AM

Computer Science is not the only thing that Linux is good for. CAELinux is the distro for engineers. Android is the main Linux distro for phones and tablets. Steam is experimenting with the Linux market, as are other companies that I work with professionally. I have seen a lot of people say that the only reason they stick with Windows is so that they can play the new games, or run their proprietary IDE software.

When companies realize how easy it is to release their software cross platform, and start releasing software on Linux, Windows, and Mac, just like all the major open source projects do (Blender, Gimp, Firefox, LibreOffice, Python, Java, etc.) then there will be a massive shift of a certain type of consumer (like me), who don't like being told no, to Linux as their primary OS. Linux is mature now. There is nothing stopping a person with normal technical (or even below average) skills from switching over to it, and liking it after they give it a real chance.
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