2.4. Consider Optional Software Packages
Once you decide which distribution you want, you will also want to decide how much of it to install. You don't have to decide on each and every package, either before you begin the installation or even while you install your Linux distribution. You can install additional packages later. There are, however, a few important things you should think about up front in order for the installation to go more smoothly.
You should consider things like whether you'll have a graphical workstation or a text-only interface, whether or not you'll be connected to a network, and what kind of work you plan to do with your new Linux system. Of course, you can simply install everything that comes with your distribution if you have the disk space.
2.4.1. X Window System
The X Window System is the graphical
Until mid-2004, XFree86 was the
It is likely that one or the other will be available, but not both, so if you plan to use your Linux computer as a workstation, plan to install whichever X Window System software is included with the distribution. For more information on open source
2.4.2. Desktop Environments
If you plan to run your Linux system as a graphical workstation, then in addition to the X Window System, you'll want a
. Where the X Window System provides the basic windowing functions and interfaces to the screen, a desktop environment provides the interfaces that a person uses, like the icons,
Two desktop environments have emerged as the main players in Linux environments and are now used in many UNIX environments as well: the GNU Object Model Environment (GNOME) and the K Desktop Environment (KDE). Both come with most distributions of Linux, although each distribution
If you have never used either GNOME or KDE, you will probably want to install both (if you have the disk space) and try them. Debate rages over which is "better," and they each have legions of fans. On the surface, they both let your system behave like a "typical" window-based system. The differences are more in the philosophy of the designers and what problems they were trying to address. To greatly oversimplify, many feel GNOME is simple but elegant and KDE is complex but flexible. Which you prefer is largely a matter of personal taste.
GNOME originally grew from code written for a GNU image library. It is a user desktop as well as a development platform for graphical applications that can be written in a variety of languages. Developers with the GNOME Project have invested a great deal of effort in human interface and usability issues. In the UNIX tradition, it embraces simplicity, providing the basic necessities of a desktop environment, but does not overload the user with options. GNOME is Open Software. Figure 2-3 shows an example of a GNOME desktop.
Figure 2-3. A GNOME desktop on Fedora Core Linux.
KDE is also a user desktop and development platform. It provides more applications specific to the KDE environment and
Figure 2-4. A KDE desktop on Mandrake Linux.
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If you want to install only one, you should visit both project's web sites and read about their capabilities in detail:
I might even go so far as to say that both web sites have a "feel" that is similar to the desktop environments, so if you find one web site more useful or comfortable than the other, that might tell you something.
If you are installing your Linux computer in an environment where it will be connected to a local network, there are some things you will likely need to know to install Linux. Your network or systems administrator should be able to provide you with the information you need. Most installation programs have a section where they let you set this information. When installing Slackware Linux, you have to run the
utility to set up the network during the installation process. You can also define all the network-
The first thing to find out is whether your local network runs a Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol (DHCP) server. If
If your network doesn't use DHCP, then you will need to have your network administrator assign values for (or help you choose) the following items:
The specifics about these items are discussed in more detail in Chapter 9, "Networking and the Internet."
If you are on a local network, then you should also install packages containing network services and tools. If you plan to allow other computers to access the file systems on your Linux computer, you should also install NFS (Sun's Network File System) and Samba.
You should also find out if your local network runs IP (IPv4) or IPv6. Some Linux distributions default to using IPv6 (the latest version of the Internet Protocol networking protocol) and in some environments this can actually cause performance problems. If your network is still running IPv4 (most probably do), you may wish to disable IPv6 in your Linux system.
2.4.4. Office Tools
A nice suite of office productivity tools is available with most distributions of Linux (and if not, you can download the latest version of the software from the web site below). Sun Microsystems sponsors and participates in the open source project OpenOffice.org, which provides a suite of tools with similar functionality to those in Microsoft's Office Suite. Based on Sun's StarOffice (which cannot be completely released as open source due to licensing restrictions on
OpenOffice.org boasts 16 million downloads and includes the following applications:
If you plan to do any
2.4.5. Programming Languages and Tools
Linux comes with GNU C and C++ compilers, Perl, and Python. Java comes with many distributions, but if your distribution doesn't have it, you can download it from the Sun Java web site: