Switching to Linux

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How easy is it to switch to Linux full-time? Programs I mainly use are LateX, MATLAB, and languages I use (or may use) are JavaScript, Java, C++, Python, and R. My concern is compatibility with windows, since not all people use Linux, and I may need to share some files with windows users. For example, can I create PDF files in Linux from LaTex files? If yes, can these files be opened using PDF readers in windows? Not sure what other issues I might run into, but I appreciate if you could point some potential issues.

Thanks in advance
 

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  • #2
Marc Rindermann
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How easy? very easy!

the only real compatibility issues there are is that games usually are not (yet) ported to linux. but steam is doing a great service to promote games on linux as well.

other compatibility issues might occur when using proprietary file types like any of the windows office or adobe ranges of products. however I have no real experience.

LaTeX, Matlab, other languages that you mentioned work natively in linux. LaTeX, C/C++ have actually been ported to windows if I'm not wrong.
 
  • #3
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C and C++ always were part of Unix, and Linux is an open source version of Unix.
It's Windows that is weird and different.
Even Apple's IOS is really a Unix variation, so is Android.
 
  • #4
andrewkirk
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For example, can I create PDF files in Linux from LaTex files? If yes, can these files be opened using PDF readers in windows?
Yes and Yes. I do this all the time.

My experience is that all programming-based (coding) activities are very portable across operating systems. I use R, Latex and sometimes C++ on multiple platforms, primarily Linux but sometimes Windows and occasionally Apple. I don't know about MATLAB. Proprietary, non-open-source programs are less commonly portable to Linux than open-source ones. For instance I have to boot into Windows to use Sibelius, a proprietary sheet music writing and editing program, because there is no Linux version.
 
  • #5
Marc Rindermann
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Yes and Yes. I do this all the time.

I don't know about MATLAB.
MATLAB, Mathematica, Maple run natively on Linux. I guess because they were all developed in an academic environment and predate Windows by at least a decade.
 
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  • #6
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The only issue I’ve run into is word docs. I would edit it with OpenOffice or libreoffice and then later try to edit on Windows. It never works well and things can get really messed up. I think it’s more the differenceS in editor rather than OSes but Word doesn’t work on Linux. RTF works okay though.
 
  • #7
fluidistic
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How easy is it to switch to Linux full-time? Programs I mainly use are LateX, MATLAB, and languages I use (or may use) are JavaScript, Java, C++, Python, and R. My concern is compatibility with windows, since not all people use Linux, and I may need to share some files with windows users. For example, can I create PDF files in Linux from LaTex files? If yes, can these files be opened using PDF readers in windows? Not sure what other issues I might run into, but I appreciate if you could point some potential issues.

Thanks in advance
In your case the transition should be pretty smooth.
Yes you can create PDF files from latex docs, and there will be no compatibility issues when opening them on Windows.
Then, if you use LibreOffice (please do not even consider OpenOffice, which died about 7 years ago and people still use it because they have no idea it's a dead project lagging light years behind LibreOffice), be prepared to have compatibility issues with Windows's Microsoft Office suite like jedishrfu mentions. Same problem with "Impress", the LibreOffice Power Point equivalent.
To deal with these problems, what I do is use Impress (or LibreOffice Writter) if I plan to make a presentation or print a file using my own computer/laptop, but I generate a PDF out of those documents if I have to open them on a Windows machine.
 
  • #8
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Thanks all for the replies. They are all very helpful.

I know that gaming is a major concern for gamers when switching to Linux, but I am not one of them (I used to be in the past, but not any more). I now only use the computer to surf the Internet, and use programs like the ones I mentioned before (good to know the Mathematica runs on Linux as well. I use it sometimes, but not as often as MATLAB). I usually create my documents and presentations as PDF files using LaTex, but sometimes, people I work with ask me to send them a word version for editing purposes, and they don't know LaTex. So, I understand, this is the only issue I will probably face.

I have another question regarding security. How secure is Linux to be used for online purchases and online banking? I don't know whether the used OS has anything to do with the hacks, or if they happen at the end user end or at the server end, but still I would like to know this bit of information.

Thanks
 
  • #9
Dr Transport
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Matlab has a free clone called Octave for Linux, but you can pay for the Linux license if you want, it has more libraries...

pdf is pdf whether a windows or *nix box, you'll have no issues there as well as transferring LaTeX files back and forth since they are text based.

I think that the current versions of Office will read the open office files and vice versa.

If my buddy who is in the Debian community says, Linux is less vulnerable and he uses it for his banking etc, but you still have to take precautions, I always empty the cookie bin whenever I close a browser and never keep a history past one day and never, never, keep passwords saved. He also suggests that you encrypt the disk when you load the OS that way if someone does try to get in your data can't be seen.
 
  • #10
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I use Octave now on windows because I don't have a license for MATLAB. It does the job for me, but it is not like MATLAB. For example, I cannot copy paste the code within a file or between files. Also, I have to modify the figure extensions to include them in LaTex file as .eps figures (there is no option in the generated figures to save them as .eps files directly).

Are you saying that I need to take more precautions for online banking than in windows? I am leaning toward Ubuntu, since it has a large support community. I heard that Debian is more stable though.
 
  • #11
Buzz Bloom
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How easy is it to switch to Linux full-time?
Hi EngWiPy:

I invited A. Richard Miller of Miller Microcomputer Services to comment. He co-leads the FOSS User Group in Natick (a western suburb of Boston, Massachusetts, USA). NatickFOSS monthly meetings are free (as are GNU/Linux and other Free, Open-Source Software, "FOSS"), and they attract beginners through experts who learn and share information on this subject. (a western suburb of Boston, Massachusetts, USA). NatickFOSS monthly meetings are free (as are GNU/Linux and other Free, Open-Source Software, "FOSS"), and they attract beginners through experts who learn and share information on this subject.

His response is below.

Regards,
Buzz

1. What are Linux and FOSS?
Learn to RECOGNIZE FOSS (including the GNU/Linux operating system in many flavors, plus Firefox for web browsing, LibreOffice instead of Microsoft Office, R for statistics, and so much more) and to ANTICIPATE that there's a good open-source solution - or ten of them - for every proprietary one. Thousands of FOSS apps are ready for your easy use. Others can be slightly modified (by yourself or others - remember, the code IS open-source!) for your optimal solution. Yes, even games - and unlike proprietary games, all fans can grow FOSS games, together! (Many other apps, like MatLab, are not FOSS but WILL run on Linux.)

2. Why is it a SECRET?
Assume that the proprietary software vendors you've come to know do NOT want to feature their free competition - making FOSS a QUIET revolution (at least, in the USA). You must look elsewhere for open and unbiased FOSS information. Once your blinders are removed, you'll discover that there's too MUCH software, and even more information! I recommend LXer.com for a continuous overview of the thousands of articles, tutorials and product announcements in this vast field of work (and play).

3. Is it GOOD?
Just like the proprietary software, there's a spectrum of offerings from amateur to university/business/ government to NASA and the International Space-Station - and nowadays, most expensive development projects SHARE their work back into the public domain to the benefit of all players! Competence with Linux and FOSS now commands top programmer salaries. You're hobnobbing with hundreds of thousands of the world's BEST programmers; they want ALL tools (and often with more power), they know how to deliver them, and they dig sharing and enhancing. (My favorite photo app, Fotoxx, runs ONLY in Linux.)

4. Is it SAFE?
FOSS is MORE safe. Every week, we are rudely reminded that nothing is guaranteed to remain safe on the Internet. But those best programmers are using FOSS to make themselves and YOU safer. They CAN access open-source code to see inside, instead of gambling upon the security of insecure proprietary software.

5. How to BEGIN?
First experiments can be done by booting into Linux from a DVD disk or from a USB flash drive - running it in memory with NO necessary writing to hard drive/SSD.
You can run Linux as an alternate-boot option on your existing computer.
Or you can run a constrained version of Linux within Windows. Conversely, you can run Windows under Linux.
Once people find that Linux works for them, most leave the proprietary operating systems behind in favor of all-Linux computers.
Linux is flexible, easy, free, optional - and the best of it is very, very good!

6. What PROGRAMS should I choose?
If your favorite app doesn't run in Linux, ask about compatible ones. For a start, you might consult alternativeto.net re, say, MatLab.

7. Can I get LIVE HELP?
Of course. CONSULTANTS galore.
Also look for FREE HELP AND COMPANY from your local schools, from your colleagues, from your community.. IF you're lucky, there's a group waiting for you to ask. Every library SHOULD be ready to help, but we're early on THAT curve. Ask; maybe they'll FIND a local group(s), or help you to start one locally (with an announcement in the local newspaper, etc.). Also ask what FOSS/Linux books and magazines they can offer, or can order in.
If you're lucky enough to live near Boston, I recommend two rather different groups:
a) At MIT, the Boston Linux & Unix User group is a wonderful group for programmers. One Wednesday night per month, Typically, BLU features an advanced look into one techie subject and some time to share other questions and answers.
b) Our own FOSS User Group in Natick includes beginners through experts, and meets 3-6PM on one Thursday afternoon per month. NatickFOSS will cover DOZENS of FOSS/Linux topics at each meeting, including some good show-and-tell, Q&A time - something for everybody with access to a computer. We major in the popular, smooth and powerful Ubuntu Linux, with attention given to various other good Linux distros, large and small.

In short, give Linux and other open-source software a good look. It's real, and very good. It's a quiet revolution. Psst, it's free!

Cheers from
--Dick Miller, Partner, MMS <TheMillers@millermicro.com>
FOSS User Group at Natick Community-Senior Center
 
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  • #12
Dr Transport
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I use Octave now on windows because I don't have a license for MATLAB. It does the job for me, but it is not like MATLAB. For example, I cannot copy paste the code within a file or between files. Also, I have to modify the figure extensions to include them in LaTex file as .eps figures (there is no option in the generated figures to save them as .eps files directly).

Are you saying that I need to take more precautions for online banking than in windows? I am leaning toward Ubuntu, since it has a large support community. I heard that Debian is more stable though.
I wouldn't be less careful with Linux than Windows online.

As for Debian being more stable, yes, Ubuntu I believe is based off the same code base, just some different front-ends and commands. Both are pretty good.
 
  • #13
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I haven't used windows on my home computers for over 15 years. I have linux (opensuse) installed on my pc and my laptop and my wife uses it as well without any problems. Although libreOffice is good, if you want to minimize issues with office, install PlayOnLinux (a wine frontend) and you can install and run office from linux.
Linux is really great for programming and scientific writing, there is so much latex and file/data editing stuff in linux, I would install linux just for that. I would start with Kile, a very nice latex environment.

You could first try running linux from a live cd (run it from a bootable usb drive without installing anything) and see how that works out for you. Maybe scientific linux, knoppix or the ubuntu live cd? I haven't done this in a while so others might have better suggestions.

If you're looking for matlab alternatives your best bets are scilab, octave, and sagemath. Sagemath is actually a very clever frontend for a whole bunch of packages, including scipy and numpy, so if you're into python this might be interesting for you.
 
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  • #14
Stephen Tashi
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How easy is it to switch to Linux full-time?
It can be a difficult if you're not already using Linux part-time.

You've asked about programs and file formats and gotten answers. However, you will find that the Linux operating system is not organized like Windows. For example, you won't find "the registry" in Linux. Instead you find quite a variety of files that affect configurations. It is simpler to find answers about Windows operating system issues on the web than about the Linux operating system. You can certainly find much information about Linux, but there is variation among different Linux distributions in how the operating system is managed. There are different desktops for using the Linux operating system and each has its own peculiarities.

In my opinion, you can't manage a Linux system without having some familiarity with a command line interface (bash shell or other shells). Don't expect to get things to work just by using GUIs.
 
  • #15
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I know that I need the terminal in Linux. My concern is if I can find the programs I am using on Windows to make the transition without any compatibility issues if I decided to share the files with a Windows user.
 
  • #16
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I use Octave now on windows because I don't have a license for MATLAB. It does the job for me, but it is not like MATLAB. For example, I cannot copy paste the code within a file or between files. Also, I have to modify the figure extensions to include them in LaTex file as .eps figures (there is no option in the generated figures to save them as .eps files directly).

Are you saying that I need to take more precautions for online banking than in windows? I am leaning toward Ubuntu, since it has a large support community. I heard that Debian is more stable though.
I use Ubuntu for home use. I use LibreOffice for word processing, spreadsheets and presentations... They have similar features to MS Office but they aren't the same. The biggest issue is in sharing files between folks who use MS Office and folks who use LibreOffice (fork of OpenOffice). I had big problems with a design document I was working on and sharing with other developers between their changes and my changes the document just broke and I could never get the formatting right. Eventually I had to abandon the effort and switch back to MS Office to complete the task. However for documents don't have this shared writing component then LibreOffice is easier to use than MS Office.

MATLAB has a version that runs on Linux and I believe that file sharing works fine between them. Usually the text file sharing issue centers around the use CRLF in Windows and LF in Linux. Listing a text file written on Windows might show 10 single spaced lines ( each line ending in CRLF) when displayed on Windows but would be 10 double spaced lines when shown on Linux (ie Linux treats the CR like an LF and the LF like an LF so you get two lines for every line). The reverse has similar implications but Linux has commands to mitigate the issue and many programs like LibreOffice can handle it.

https://www.mathworks.com/support/sysreq.html

Do an inventory of the things you typically do on your machine and then we can tell you the equivalent Linux application(s) and from there you can review them on youtube to see if they look reasonable. You could also make a bootable USB stick of linux and explore it first before committing to it completely. Alternatively, you could buy a Raspberry-PI and explore Linux on it before going whole hog into using it.

I like Linux and think its cleaner to use than Windows but I'm a programmer by trade and prefer doing things by command line and scripting. Windows would always get in the way of my scripting efforts namely the spaces in filenames and directories always threw my scripting efforts into a loop of fixing and trying again. To be fair linux allows spaces in names but it doesn't typically do it for its own files.
 
  • #17
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I have a dual-boot Ubuntu, but I haven't used it for my work. I explore it from time to time, but I haven't used it consistently. Probably I should start doing that. As I mentioned, I use MATLAB, C++, LaTeX, MS Office, PDF reader. Can I share .cpp file between Linux and Windows? I also have a security concern on Linux. For example, how safe it is to do online transactions?
 
  • #18
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The .cpp file sharing will run into the CRLF vs CR issue noticeable when you're editing the files. Like I said it depends on the tool you're using. I think if you use Eclipse or Netbeans they will should handle the issue without a problem. If not then you might have to import and export them between machines ie don't use a shared disk approach ie don't write it on windows, switch to linux and then edit on linux.

https://stackoverflow.com/questions/1886185/eclipse-and-windows-newlines

One caveat, don't edit the same document with MS Office and then switch to linux and use LibreOffice. You're asking for trouble and will most likely have a broken document.
 
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  • #19
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I know that I need the terminal in Linux.
Well, by my experience it is actually not frequent that you are forced to use terminal. And switching between Win/Lin is more about a ton of small inconveniences than about big issues.

My concern is if I can find the programs I am using on Windows to make the transition without any compatibility issues if I decided to share the files with a Windows user.
Wine is a great help. We ended up running an old Word under Wine instead of that weird Libre.
Also, for emergencies you can still keep a Win instance running in a virtual machine on your Linux.

Yeah, the problem with switching is kind of about finding cheats for every small (small enough that you still don't want to switch back) but annoying bug what is popping up week by week.
 
  • #20
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Oh yeah, I forgot to mention Docker might be another way to go on your windows machine. Docker allows you to run linux distros on your box configured for specific applications. You could use it to explore ubuntu or fedora...
 
  • #21
cronxeh
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I've used Linux full-time for about 5 years as my primary desktop, everything from Slackware, CentOS, Fedora, Ubuntu, Debian, SUSE, and Mint. Although my primary income is based on knowing and using Linux, and I've used it as my primary desktop operating system, I would not recommend using it. For server farms, academia, and really any serious enterprise environment, sure, its not even worth discussing alternatives. If you haven't done full-time sysadmin work, running Arch, Fedora, or *BSD can be a pain, especially when an upgrade takes down X server or Kernel upgrade renders drivers inactive.

Personally I find Mint to be most hassle-free, followed by LXDE on Ubuntu (Lubuntu), XFCE (Xubuntu), and lastly Debian. For my personal desktop or laptop, I would rather use OSX followed by Windows 10, and honestly if you have a choice, avoid Linux and especially BSD altogether.

All that being said, my absolute favorite things to run on Linux are Docker, VirtualBox for Windows VMs, IntelliJ IDEA, Sublime3, and Terminal. With those things up and running, you can do anything you want. I also dont use LibreOffice or MS Office as I found those tools to be just sad relics of the AOL CDs era. Google Docs is the only way for me :D
 
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