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Frequently Asked Questions
What is Linux?
Linux is a free operating system developed by a vast team of enthusiasts. Some primary movers amongst this team are Linus Torvalds (who did all the original work on the core of the system - the kernel - and still maintains and manages it) and the Free Software Foundation (who provide many of the utilities and the licence under which it is all made available). Linux is very similar to UNIX.
Why are there all these different versions?
To have a useful computer running Linux, you need not only the Linux kernel itself but also lots of utilities. In the early days, enthusiasts would assemble all the necessary bits themselves, downloading them from ftp sites all over the world. Now life is much easier because various bodies - some companies and some groups of enthusiasts - put together what are called "distributions". A distribution will generally contain everything you need to get started with a Linux installation. All the distributions are built around the same Linux kernel, but they may have different sets of utilities and add-on software; they may install differently and they may have different filing structures once installed.
(When I say they will all be built around the same kernel, this isn't quite true. The kernel itself is constantly being improved so one distribution for instance may come with kernel 2.0.30 whilst another comes with kernel 2.0.32. They do however use the same kernel development tree, so if two distributions both say they have kernel 2.0.30 then they are using the same kernel source, and if you have an installation of kernel 2.0.32 you can upgrade to, say, 2.0.33 without worrying about which distribution you are using.)
Because Linux is licensed under the GNU Public Licence (or GPL) anyone can put together a distribution and sell it (or for that matter sell someone else's distribution).
What distribution should I get?
This is very much a matter of personal taste. Common distributions are Ubuntu, Red Hat, Mandriva, SUSE, Debian and others.
If you are totally new to Linux then you might want to try a Live CD such as Knoppix, Mandrake Move or Ubuntu Live. These will allow you to try out Linux without installing it on your computer.
These CDs are awfully cheap; are they legal?
Yes! Almost all the software on the cheap CDs is made available under the GNU Public Licence (GPL). This specifies exactly what you (and I) may and may not do with it. Unlike most software licences, just about the only thing you can't do with it is restrict someone else's freedom to do what they want with it. If you buy one of these CDs you can lend it to your friends, install it on as many computers as you like, or even duplicate and sell copies. The GPL explicitly permits you to do this. What you can't do is tell other people that they can't do the same. For further information, see the text of the GPL here.
Historically this depended entirely on what we had to pay to buy the CDs. Now we're producing almost all of them ourselves we're working towards the following scheme:
- CDs which we can produce and sell in bulk are £2.00 each, possibly with reductions for sets.
- CDs which only sell in very low volume or require frequent updating are £2.50 or £3.00 each.
- CDs which have to be custom made (primarily the updates CDs) are £4.00 each.
It's all dictated by the cost of setting up each CD for production and the effort required (per CD) to make them.
If I order from you, how long will my stuff take to arrive?
Provided the items you order are in stock and there aren't any special notes about them orders are usually despatched within a working day or so of receipt. We use first class post for most things and Special Delivery or next day couriers for more expensive items. The good old Post Office are better than one might expect at delivering first class post on the next working day so a two day turnaround (posting order to receiving goods) is eminently feasible. (Be aware though that the P.O. don't count Saturdays as real days.)
If you place an order on the web, we don't see your card details at all. They go straight through a payment intermediary to the banks, where they are checked against your account and address. We then get back a notification saying simply, "Yes" or "No". This is all for your protection and to ensure you can use your credit card on the web with confidence.
It's still our merchant account that the orders are processed through - not an agency. The transaction will appear on your credit card bill as "The Linux Emporium", so you won't have any difficulty identifying it. We have a separate system which we use to process orders which come in over the 'phone or though the post.
What happens if I buy a CD from you and it doesn't work?
We make every effort to ensure that all the CDs we produce are good. Our CDs are made on a commercial CD burning system (not your simple home PC CD burner) and verified as part of the production process. Our error rate is very low but the odd bad one does sneak through.
If you get a CD with read errors we will replace it immediately. There's no need to send it back - just telephone or e-mail and a replacement will be on its way. We might ask a few questions just to ensure it is a faulty CD and not another problem - there's no point in sending a replacement CD if that isn't the cause of your difficulty. (Under the Sale of Goods act, if you get a faulty CD then you can also opt for a refund instead of a replacement - the choice is yours.)
Or, "I've downloaded a .iso file of Linux and burnt it to CD on my Windows system but it doesn't work. When I examine the CD all I see is one very large file on it."
Creating CDs is a two stage process. When you copy files to, say, a floppy disk, parts of the disk are written to very many times. Each time a file is copied onto the floppy a directory entry will be created for it, which means the relevant directory is written to the floppy again and again. CDs can be written to only once so this approach won't work.
Instead, the whole image of the CD (including all the directory entries and the file contents) is prepared first and then that image is written to the CD. Most Windows CD creating programs do these two stages transparently. If you've downloaded a .iso file the first stage has been done for you - that file is the image of what needs to be written to the CD. You need to persuade your CD writing program to do only the second stage - the actual burning of the CD. Look for an option called "Burn raw image" or "Burn ISO image".
Do you have Star Office on CD?
No, I'm afraid not. Sun were giving out CDs for free until the release of 5.2. but they now seem to have stopped. Openoffice.org is available on cheap CDs and is also shipped with many of the recent boxed sets.
Unless there's some licensing reason why we can't and if it's one of the ones we normally carry then the answer is generally yes. It usually takes a couple of weeks to master the relevant CDs so please be patient. (I'm not going to respond to e-mails asking this question within 2 weeks of a release.)
Can I run my existing Windows programs under Linux?
In general the answer to this question is no. There are however a number of ways that you might be able to get them running.
- There's an open source package called Virtualbox which allows you to run Windows (or many other OS's) under Linux.
- There's a commercial package called VMware which allows you to run Windows under Linux. It emulates the hardware environment expected by Windows so you can run an actual copy of Windows and thus almost all Windows programs.
- The WINE package (WINE stands for Wine Is Not an Emulator) emulates the Windows program environment allowing some Windows programs to run under Linux.
Why should I buy a wireless card from The Linux Emporium?
When buying a wireless card it is often difficult to know exactly what you are getting. This is best illustrated by a quote:
Wireless NIC manufacturers are notorious for changing the chip sets on their cards depending on the price of the components. They then supply different drivers with each new card to make them work. It is possible to buy cards with the same model number from the same vendor with very different circuitry. Frequently Linux drivers for the new cards are unavailable. Always check the compatibility lists before buying your wireless hardware.
- Peter Harrison, Linux Quick Fix Notebook.
When buying a wireless card from The Linux Emporium you know that you are getting a card with a Linux compatible chip set. We currently stock D-Link and MSi wireless cards with chip sets which have drivers released under the GPL.
Do you ship to the United States?
Yes, we ship world wide.
I don't agree with something you've said here. What should I do?
Send e-mail to: firstname.lastname@example.org