So now that you've learned about the politics, history, and personalities behind Linux, only one question remains: what's Linux actually like when used day to day? What should the average user expect from the experience?
These are the questions I hope to answer in this brief chapter.
What should you expect from Linux once you've installed it? Well, it's a little like running Windows, except there are no viruses, no crashes, and no inexplicable slowdowns.
In addition, you have complete control over the system. This doesn't mean Linux is necessarily complicated. It's just that you have the control if you wish to make use of it. We'll look into this in the latter half of this book.
Most software you use under Windows has at least one equivalent under SUSE Linux. In many cases, you'll find that the program comes preinstalled. It's unlikely that you'll need to download any additional programs and, even if you do, you'll probably find they're available for free.
In most cases, the Linux swap-ins are at least as powerful and easy to use as their Windows alternatives. Tabbed browsing in the Konqueror web browser lets you visit more than one site at once, for example, but without needing to have a lot of Internet Explorer instances running. Kmail has a search routine that lets you look through your e-mail messages quickly for a variety of criteria, and it puts the features in a similar Microsoft product to shame.
Does this sound too good to be true? There is just one caveat. Linux isn't a clone of Windows and doesn't aim to be. It has its own way of doing certain things and sometimes works differently compared to Windows. This means that many experience a learning curve when first using Linux. However, none of this will cause a problem for the experienced computer user. It's certainly no more difficult than the move from Windows 3.1 to Windows 95 (if you can remember back that far!). It's ultimately worth it.
There are several Linux distributions that aim to mimic Windows pretty faithfully. For example, Xandros, Lycoris/lx, and Linspire copy the look and feel of Windows to the extent that (allegedly) some people are unable to tell the difference.
In just a few weeks after your move to Linux, everything will start to seem entirely normal. Most of the time, you won't even be aware you're running Linux. Of course, some patience is required during those initial few weeks. Linux can be illogical and frustrating; on the other hand, so can Windows. We simply got used to it.