Five mistakes to avoid when you upgrade to Linux

Moreno Razzoli, aka Morrolinux, is a YouTuber, FOSS evangelist, and LPI’s Platinum Partner. He returns to this site support the Upgrade to Linux initiative. When you are starting your Linux journey, the first steps are extremely important. We have all been beginners at some stage.

In this post Moreno shares five – plus one… of the most common mistakes you can end up entangled with when you switch – say upgrade! – to Linux.

This post is inspired by a talk in Italian Morrolinux  gave recently, which inspired a webinar in English on LPI’s YouTube Channel.  

The beginning of the beginning: no idea about what I am doing… 

When I first installed Linux, I had no idea what I was doing: If I didn’t like the way a distro looked, I just changed distros; if I encountered an apparently unsolvable problem, I just formatted the disk. Rinse & repeat… 

Meanwhile, when I tried to actually solve problems, I followed online guides – quite randomly – and, without even reading the whole thing, I just pasted into the terminal commands I didn’t even understand. Needless to say, most of the time I ended up with an even more damaged system than before… 

Yes: I made mistakes. Lots of them.

In this post, and in the videos mentioned earlier in support of the “Upgrade To Linux” initiative, I want to share with you five lessons I learned the hard way. Or: the five most common mistakes to avoid when upgrading (because upgrading it is…) to Linux.

Error #1: Trying to use Linux as if it were Windows or macOS.

This is probably the most common mistake. You have accumulated years of experience with another system and have been told that you can do the same things with Linux. But that doesn’t mean you will do them the same way… 

Installing new software, for example, works very differently on Linux than on other platforms, where you typically use a search engine, get to the site of the software in question, download the installer, and run it.

On Linux, most of the software you can install is conveniently found in the distribution’s repository, a kind of “app store” from which you can search and install virtually anything in one step.

And the best part of it? This way, it takes only one click to update the entire system and all installed applications!

The pool of commonly used software is also substantially different: Linux prefers free software, and with some notable exceptions, much of the proprietary software used on other platforms is not available here. For example, we do not have WinRAR!; instead, we have 7zip. Or again: we do not have Microsoft Office, but we have ONLYOFFICE or LibreOffice, and so on.

All of these software packages are not only free and open source, but can be found for Windows too.

Generally, free software is distributed cross-platform, while the same cannot be said for proprietary software. So even before you make your upgrade, when you are still running Windows or macOS, you can start using free software right away and get the hang of it.

The transition to Linux will be easier this way, because you will already be familiar with much of the software in everyday use.

It is true that Linux can run some Windows applications in .exe format via Wine and other compatibility layers, but you generally don’t need to resort to any Windows software, and if you do you are probably doing something wrong…  unless you are trying to run triple-A games for Windows. So always remember to look for Open Source alternatives before resorting to Wine and company!

A stubborn resistance to using the terminal is another common vice of people coming from Windows; we’ve all been there. It can be scary at first and like all things has a learning curve, but past the first step it gets easier and easier and eventually you realize it is just a matter of habit.

It is also thanks to the terminal that Linux is so powerful and versatile…. Refusing to learn it will only make your life more difficult!

Error #2: Forgetting to check hardware compatibility.

Because of its versatility and streamlined nature, Linux can run just about anywhere, from the megasized data center to the smart refrigerator at home.

Unlike Windows, however, not all hardware manufacturers are interested in providing driver development support for Linux. Despite their obstructions, though,  in some cases, a piece of hardware is still made to function thanks to community efforts. Other times, however, we may be less fortunate.

This is why it is essential to check for Linux compatibility before buying new hardware, so that you have fewer problems and a better user experience.

Often it is enough to search for the name of the hardware + “Linux” on a search engine, or the keyword “linux” in product reviews, but there are also specialized sites such as where you can search by exact model and serial number.

If, on the other hand, you are dealing with hardware you have already purchased, whether it is a WiFi stick or an entire computer, you can check that everything works before installing Linux, so that there are no surprises…

That’s what “Live ISOs” are for: When you create a bootable flash drive with Linux, you can use the system “live” before proceeding with the installation, check that peripherals are working properly, and even run a utility that verifies the compatibility of each detected peripheral.

Try to avoid purchasing hardware that requires proprietary house software to function. Mouse and keyboard with programmable RGB LEDs, for example, will work on Linux, but the LEDs might be not configurable.

In short, Linux is impressively well supported for a non-dominant operating system, but you have to be careful what hardware you use.

Error #3: Choosing a distro that’s wrong for you

… Or rather, choosing the distro the wrong way. And by that I mainly mean choosing a distro based on its graphical appearance.

Those coming from Windows or macOS are probably used to thinking that an operating system is strongly tied to its graphical appearance, but in Linux this is not the case: Thanks to its extremely modular nature, you can recreate any graphical appearance on any distro.

You don’t have to install a distro for its appearance, you just have to ask the right questions: What desktop environment does this distro use? With what font? What icon theme? And so on.

Changing the graphic features can be a fun exercise and also quite instructive, because you get a chance to familiarize yourself with the distro you are using.

The recommended criteria for choosing a distro are very different and have more to do with the philosophy of the distribution itself, its software release model and cycle, package management, and so on.

If you are a novice user, you may not have understood much of what I have just said, and that is okay. The Internet is full of guides to choosing a distribution for beginners, and I myself have posted a couple of of these guides on my channel.

Error #4: Refraining from looking for help

If you’ve ever had problems with Windows, you may have noticed that it’s not uncommon to come across support forums where the proposed solution is “reinstall everything” or something like that. But on Linux we can do better!

No matter what anyone says, the Linux community is one of the largest, most active, and collaborative in computing. Between support forums, chats, wikis, documentation pages, and manuals, you really are spoiled for choices It is unlikely that you will not be able to find a solution to your problem, but even then you can always ask for help.

…And when you do, do it in a smart way to help others help you:

Whatever means you choose to ask for help, always try to understand what you are doing when you follow instructions or paste commands into a terminal.

Remember that in addition to solving the problem, your real goal is to learn.

Also, try to get a better understanding of what you are pasting into the terminal if you don’t want to risk ending up with a more damaged system than when you started!

… Last but not least…

Error #5: Throwing in the towel too soon

Like all things, Linux has a learning curve. A curve that starts more with one step, actually. The many steps required tend to discourage the less determined before they even getting started.

If you come from the world of proprietary software, in many cases you will be accustomed to answers such as “it works” or “it doesn’t work,” “it can be done” or “it can’t be done,” but in Linux and in free software in general these answers are not always so clear-cut.

There are 50 shades of “works” and “doesn’t work,” and just as many of “can do” and “can’t do.”

So don’t stop at the first problem, don’t settle for the first answer you find, and don’t give up at the first “no.” Determination makes the difference.

And another thing!

To conclude, I want to share the seventh of the 10 commandments for Linux users according to PCLinuxOS: Explore. Linux opens up a whole new world of options and possibilities. Try everything you can.

Bottom line: Linux opens up a whole new world of options and possibilities. Try everything you can and you will have an exciting journey.

With this pearl I bid you farewell and look forward to the next video.

But until then… Have a safe journey!

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