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Linux in 60 minutes!

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There’s never been a better time to start using Linux and you’ve never had a better chance than with this month’s issue of Linux Format! We’re packing the ideal Linux starter pack with a bootable Live Disc that you can just insert and run, alongside a 9-page guide on getting up and running with Linux in just 60 minutes! Amazing.

We’re standing on the shoulders of giants here. Dedicated, diligent, development geniuses have poured billions (probably) of hours into creating an open source ecosystem, which delivers an operating system kernel that’s capable of powering super computers, world-spanning enterprises, your home desktop and the meek Raspberry Pi.

This flexibility and open nature means people can create beginner-friendly versions of Linux distros (that’s what we call complete operating systems around these parts) with modern desktop interfaces and selected custom application suites. All this goodness comes wrapped up in a simple installer system to help get it onto your PC.

Linux distros don’t bug you for updates, they don’t snoop on you, there’s almost no Linux malware, there’s no bundleware and you’re not locked out from playing, exploring and hacking the OS to your heart’s content. If you want to have fun with your computers again, give it a try – you might like it!

Build it yourself

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I’ve always built my own PCs. Perhaps it’s the maker in me, but why pay someone else to have all the fun, when I can do as good a job myself? The sad truth is – while I’ve built other systems – my main home system has remained more or less the same Intel Sandybridge Core i5 2500K from back in 2011, and why not? With 16GB of memory it’s remained more than fast enough. A new graphics card here, an updated motherboard there and it’s stayed competitive for my needs.

Six years on and it finally looks like there’s a range of affordable upgrade options from both Intel and AMD – six cores, multiple threads, lower-power use, better hardware acceleration, faster interfaces – that make an upgrade really desirable.

Your own supercomputer

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Can you feel it? The thrilling static in the air? It’s because the world’s top 500 supercomputers are now all run on Linux. The last couple of non-Linux Chinese holdouts have dropped out of the list, superseded by newer Linux-running replacements.

An unstoppable combination of factors help foster this environment: generational expertise though open source in academia, research labs and beyond make it the prime choice for development. Built-in support for high-performance commodity components, drives down hardware costs and speeds development. The modular and scalable nature of the kernel ensures that it can be tailored to any task. Reliability, efficiency and more all mean that Linux is now the only choice for high-performance computing.

That’s lovely, but how does it apply to your perfectly capable AMD Athlon XP from 2003? All the features of the Linux kernel that make it perfect for powering supercomputers, apply to your 15-year old technology, too. If properly motivated, kernel developers and distro maintainers can still compile and package compatible kernels and the required software to run on. It’ll run as fast and smoothly as your hardware allows. But for how much longer?

Your own supercomputer

Buy it now!
Read a sample

Can you feel it? The thrilling static in the air? It’s because the world’s top 500 supercomputers are now all run on Linux. The last couple of non-Linux Chinese holdouts have dropped out of the list, superseded by newer Linux-running replacements.

An unstoppable combination of factors help foster this environment: generational expertise though open source in academia, research labs and beyond make it the prime choice for development. Built-in support for high-performance commodity components, drives down hardware costs and speeds development. The modular and scalable nature of the kernel ensures that it can be tailored to any task. Reliability, efficiency and more all mean that Linux is now the only choice for high-performance computing.

That’s lovely, but how does it apply to your perfectly capable AMD Athlon XP from 2003? All the features of the Linux kernel that make it perfect for powering supercomputers, apply to your 15-year old technology, too. If properly motivated, kernel developers and distro maintainers can still compile and package compatible kernels and the required software to run on. It’ll run as fast and smoothly as your hardware allows. But for how much longer?

Gnome sweet gnome

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People love being passionate and it seems nothing gets people more worked up than meddling with their desktop environment. Gnome 3 was originally released back in April 2011 – that’s over six years ago – and yet people are still posting sweary rants online as if the release had just happened. There was a similarly strong reaction when Ubuntu switched to the Unity desktop in Ubuntu 11.04, with people rage quitting Ubuntu hoping it all crashed and burned.And yes, we still get letters to this day stating the like.

Popularity contest

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We all want to be successful, in one way or another, don’t we? And when it comes to our favourite kernel the same is true. Most people want to think that they’re backing a winner, right?

It’s a bit puerile, but obsessing on Linux usage figures (even if it’s just web browsing) does at least give some tangible bread crumbs to rally around. Forget the two billion active Android devices, overlook the 498 of the top 500 super computers running Linux, ignore the 98 per cent of the top million websites powered by Linux… lately people seem to be most excited that mainstream Linux use topped 3.3 per cent, creeping closer to the 3.8 per cent of Mac OS X 10.12 users.

Protect withRaspberry Pi

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Security doesn’t have to be all doom and gloom. Monitoring, protecting and defending your networks can be fun… if you take the right approach. Part of making it fun is – love it or loathe it, there’s no denying it – the Raspberry Pi, which enables anyone to undertake a host of real-world complex projects for very little cost.

Helping to protect your networks this issue, we’re creating a Raspberry Pi honeypot that you can deploy on any network to lure and ensnare unwitting hackers. To block malware we’ll cover Pi-hole, now on version 3, to protect your entire network from ad-based annoyances; USB Sanitizer will scan and safely copy suspect storage devices, and finally we use Kali Linux to wardrive your networks for security holes.

Learn more with Linux

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To quote Natalie Portman, “Learning is beautiful.” Isn’t that the truth? If you’re reading Linux Format, you undoubtedly have the same sentiment; that’s the beautiful thing about using Linux and open source – the continuous learning curve. Just as you think you’ve mastered one area, a whole new technology appears for you to tackle.

With the Raspberry Pi Foundation’s mission to push coding into the curriculum, Linux powering more areas within schools, and open source becoming an increasingly important area, we’re dedicating our back-to-school issue to explaining how you can use Linux, open source and low-cost single-board PCs to power your own and children’s education at school.

A virtual world

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We expect virtualisation isn’t anything new to you, our happy reader, but it’s a topic that’s constantly evolving, improving and has become essential to a world that expects the ability to spin up multiple instances remotely in seconds. So this issue we’re holding your hand and taking you through the vital basics of creating a VirtualBox, getting more from managed snapshots to newer Docker Containers and cutting-edge development of GPU passthrough. So by the end of this issue you should feel you know your KVMs from your kernel chroots.
Even if you’re just using VirtualBox to keep a sneaky install of Windows hidden away (admit it, you know it’s true), the copious amounts of storage and computing power that even a modest PC offers can happily cope with storing and running multiple instances. It’s just a matter of knowing the best approaches, and is another fine example of how open source technologies have come to rule this admittedly virtual world.

Escape Windows! (again)

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Don’t use Linux because it’s free, but because it frees you and your hardware. We’re not here to bash Windows, we’re here to give you choice. When you buy a Mac you have to run MacOS. Buy a PC and you’ll be steered in the direction of Windows 10. I’m not even going to mention tablets, phones, TVs and even cars. All are examples of companies attempting to lock-in consumers to a walled software ecosystem. When you own the hardware, why is the software you can run being dictated to you?
The PC is a general-purpose computing engine. It should and usually can run any software you like – though recent examples show even the PC is being walled off through its firmware. That’s where open source Linux-based OSes come into play.
If you believe you shouldn’t be locked out of hardware that you own, then that’s just one reason open source software is so vital to the world. For us older types, another reason is the fun of getting to play with the inner workings of the OS – something that modern devices and their OSes are making increasingly difficult.
Even if you don’t accept the privacy and spying arguments for open hardware and software, surely having full ownership and control over the devices you buy is important? I feel you shouldn’t have to be beholden to huge corporations to do basic computing, worry about what personal information they’re retaining, or forced to use specific types of software.


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