Linux Mint – Is Linux hard to learn?

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Quite often, I am asked whether or not Linux is hard to learn. The reputation Linux has of being hard to use and learn most likely stems from the early days when typical distributions actually were quite difficult to use. I remember a time when simply installing a video card driver required manually recompiling the kernel (which took many hours) and enabling support for media such as MP3s required multiple manual commands.

Nowadays, however, how difficult Linux is to learn and use is determined by which distribution you pick. If, for example, you’re a beginner and you choose a distribution tailored for advanced users, you are likely to find yourself frustrated very quickly. In fact, there are distros available that make you do everything manually, such as choosing which version of the kernel to run and installing and configuring the desktop environment. This level of customizability is wonderful for advanced users who wish to build their own Linux system from the ground up, though it is more likely that beginners would be put off by it. General purpose distributions such as Mint are actually very easy to learn, and in some cases, some tasks in Mint are even easier to perform than in other operating systems.

The ease of use we enjoy with a number of Linux distributions is due in part to the advancements that Ubuntu has made in usability. Around the time when Windows Vista was released, a renaissance of sorts occurred in the Linux community. At that time, quite a few people were so outraged by Windows Vista that a lot more effort was put into making Ubuntu easier to use. It can be argued that the time period of Vista was the fastest growth in usability that Linux ever saw. Tasks that were once rites of passage (such as installing drivers and media codecs) became trivial. The exciting changes in Ubuntu during that time inspired other distributions to make similar changes. Nowadays, usage of Ubuntu is beginning to decline due to the fact that not everyone is pleased about its new user interface (Unity); however, there is no denying the positive impact it had on Linux usability. Being based on Ubuntu, Mint inherits many of those benefits, but also aims to improve on its proposed weaknesses. Due to its great reception, it eventually went on to surpass Ubuntu itself. Mint currently sits at the very top of the charts on Distrowatch.com, and with a good reason—it’s an amazing distribution.

Distributions such as Mint are incredibly user friendly. Even the installation procedure is a cinch, and most can get through it by simply accepting the defaults. Installing new software is also straightforward as everything is included in software repositories and managed through a graphical application (we will explore software installation in Chapter 6, Installing and Removing Software). In fact, I recently acquired an HP printer that comes with a CD full of required software for Windows, but when connected to my Mint computer, it just worked. No installation of any software was required. Linux has never been easier!

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