Linux newbie getting started with questions!



Hi all and how are you! What I'm about to write, at least in part, may have been covered in the exponential forums across the Linux community so apologies if there's a duplicate. I think it would surely benefit me to have answers specific to my needs.

I'm so very sorry for these newby questions .... very sorry ... they've probably been asked a million times. Also, the forum won't allow me to make links to the relevant apps I've provided, so I apologise. I've had a difficult time posting this because it keeps reporting 'sneaky URLS!'

As a matter of background, I have no IT history other than the last few months. Not so long ago, Australia put in place mandatory data retention laws and I didn't know what it meant. Today, I know all about the issues of privacy and security and honestly, the entire thing made me feel physically sick. I'm 100% against anybody spying on anything I do. So, as an IT newb, it's been a long road, and I've learned a lot from Snowden and Assange to encryption and virtual machines. Been a steep learning curve. I understand how privacy-averse Windows 10 is, and I'd like to switch to Linux.

So, I think now I'm probably competent enough to ditch the spyful Windows 10 and go to a Linux distribution. I've tried a number of them in VMWare and am almost at the point of picking one out.

Obviously, this is a big step for me, and a bigger step for the wife, and there's numerous obstacles still in my way. I'm hoping I can do a dump here and for someone to collaborate and suggest a few things. I've read numerous posts that say 'it depends' and don't give an answer, or even a selection of choices, so I'm hoping to attract actual answers rather than 'it depends'.

Any help will be appreciated. It's been a long road (the distros I've finalised are at the bottom with some basic information about my computer as I don't know if its relevant).

1. Replacement software
I understand this is a highly subjective area eg (forum won't allow me to post urls's), (forum won't allow me to post urls's), (forum won't allow me to post urls's) and one of the top two or three areas where people like me struggle (in my view, choosing the right 'distro' is perhaps the toughest). I've got replacement software options for a lot of what I use, but I'm struggling with the following. Can anybody suggestion a replacement or three I can use for the following:

1. I currently use a secure cloud-based backup from (forum won't allow me to post urls's) with zero knowledge end to end encryption for personal files. It doesn't seem to have a Linux application. Although I'll be using a backup VM Windows at least in the short term and could use (forum won't allow me to post urls's) within the guest environment, it'd be good to use Linux natively. Do you know of a minimum 7GB free service with zero knowledge end to end encryption that could replace (forum won't allow me to post urls's)? I've looked into a number of services (including (forum won't allow me to post urls's)) and they don't seem to have the robust security (forum won't allow me to post urls's) appear to have. Suggestions will be appreciated, although anything near 20GB would be awesome!!

2. My favourite media player in Windows is PotPlayer (forum won't allow me to post urls's). I've experimented with a number within Linux, and it seems SMPlayer (forum won't allow me to post urls's) is the closest app to it albeit a little dated. Are there other alternatives other than VLC player (forum won't allow me to post urls's), preferably one that saves bookmarks, and renders well on LCD screens?

3. I also use Easeus ToDo Backup Free (forum won't allow me to post urls's) which is a fantastic Windows program for imaging my entire Windows install drive. I can restore it whenever I want and there's an option to boot from USB and recover the image from HDD - so if the install completely breaks, the USB boot option is there. Is there a similar thing in Linux? I tried one (called um ... err ...) and it was command line based and I couldn't get it to restore.

4. I use Eraser (forum won't allow me to post urls's) for my HDD that wipes free space monthly with a 7-pass DoD write. Again, any equivalent of this program in Linux?

5. I presently use Recuva (forum won't allow me to post urls's) for inadvertently deleted files. What's the Linux equivalent?

6. Lastly, perhaps one of the more important ones, is I used to use a Windows 7 TV program with a remote control and it disappeared when I upgraded to Windows 10. After much trial and error, I found a super awesome program called MediaPortal 2 (forum won't allow me to post urls's). Again, is there a Linux equivalent that I can watch TV on using my remote control (the remote control came with the computer originally from HP - it's one of those large remote controls, not the cheap eBay ones). As long as I can use the remote, play DVD's and hard drive movie formats, and pause TV and resume, record shows - the basic things - that's all I'm looking for. Stability over disability!

2. Looks like Linux
Issue number 2 is my wife's going to be using the computer and she's not much for change. It's a huge move for her to go away from Windows whereas I'm more flexible. I like how Linux looks, but to make her feel more comfortable, and I really don't want to ask this, is there a real easy guide or a download that can make Linux look more like what she's used to? (I can't even get her away from the Windows 7 menu. Our PC looks more like XP!) Hopefully, bit by bit, I can transition her away from the Windows interface into native Linux, but it's a softly softly approach.

3. Smells like Google
Like many, I have an Android phone and for the most part I like Android, but what I don't like is using Google's services. I use these services because (a) the calendar syncs with my phone and I can include Australia's calendar, eg, public holidays, etc. (b) contacts, (c) tasks. By saying goodbye to Windows 10, it means I've severed all Microsoft products :) and I want to do the same with Google other than Android. So, my question is: is there a service that I can replace Google calendar, contacts, and tasks - one that works with Linux and syncs with my Android device(s)? One of my email accounts is Tutanota and their roadmap (forum won't allow me to post urls's) has such a service, but they don't yet have it. Does this make sense? Hope so :) At some point I've found some replacement calendars but they don't include the country calendar. It'd be preferred to find just one service to replace all.

4. Other
1. Will Linux work with my HP F2100 scanner/copier/printer (forum won't allow me to post urls's) (I use it mostly to scan things), or is there a program out there I should install for scanning? I've never used OCR. Just scanned to pdf or jpg.

2. I think I've gone through everything else and found replacements although I've probably missed something. One of the blind spots I have is disaster management and how to recover from it. Within Windows I maintain Easeus Backups and it's easy to use. I don't know Linux. Are there other system protection measures I can put in place for disaster management (ps, I keep my OS on a 128GB SSD and my data on a 1.3TB internal HDD with everything else on external HDDs) - it's just the system I require recovering.

I know I've missed something, but the above will put me on track for the next steps of the process, will visually aid my wife in her learning curve, and will help me with these alternative apps as well as install a final system and get it up and running.

Thanks for reading - I know it's been tedious - I've looked around and although there are some answers, I honestly felt the best thing to do is connect with people, pick your brains, and see what you come up with.

I may be wrong in saying that there are certain "architectures" within Linux that determine what programs are available, eg, Ubuntu may be different from Fedora, so these are the distros I've whittled the list down in the current order I like them for various reasons

1. Backbox (future learning opportunities in penetration testing) (forum won't allow me to post urls's)
2. Makulu (seems great for the wife) (forum won't allow me to post urls's)
3. ElementaryOS (forum won't allow me to post urls's)
4. Elive (forum won't allow me to post urls's)
5. Kubuntu (forum won't allow me to post urls's)
6. Mint Cinnamon (forum won't allow me to post urls's)
7. Mint KDE (forum won't allow me to post urls's)
8. Kali (forum won't allow me to post urls's)

My basic computer setup
As I said, I taught myself most of this stuff, and I cannibalised my old computer and made my own:

- Gigabyte motherboard carrying i7 4770 3.4Ghz with 16GB RAM
- GE Force GTX570
- 128GB internal SSD (OS drive)
- 1.3TB (internal 7200 SATA)
- numerous 5200 HDD's USB3
- HD DVD/DVD/BluRay drive
- TV: internal Hauppauge WinTV1200 hybrid, with external eHome infrared receiver, MCE(?) remote
- Asus Xonar soundcard (I know, old right!!)
- Realtec LAN
- HP F2100 scanner/copier/printer
- Windows 10 Pro

Wow. You are covering a lot of ground here.

Let me start from the bottom, and cover some of this.

Mint is a good distribution for your wife. It still has a "start" menu with easy to traverse menus. It is based on Ubuntu, so it has good support and plenty of installable packages.

Most of the HP stuff is supported under Linux. There are databases on-line that show support for printers. Google that - buy the HP stuff is usually good to go.

Backups. I have a script I developed that backs up my MySQL database, then the machine. I copy these files to a USB drive. To do a disaster restore, all you need is a bootable CD with the most recent distro you've upgraded to, re-install a hard drive, then restore the last backup. You will need to be careful if you change hardware. I got a new laptop recently, and I have a Google-Doc of every package I installed and each step of restoring. I am looking to get a SSD, so this list will make it easy to re-configure a new drive step by step.

Some of the other stuff I have not researched, so I won't blow smoke and send you in a bad direction. I am sure there is a TV program, and there are better media players. I have come back to Rhythmbox - it did not work well on Ubuntu / Mint in the past, but it has been upgraded and seems decent. I only burn disks and don't use that much media, so take that with a "grain of salt".

Hopefully, others will have a bit more to add here.
1) A basic suggestion in many forums is to ask ONE question per post.
2) To find the Linux equivalents of many programs use:
3) ( I think Linux should look like Linux!) If you want a distro that emulates Microsoft Windows look at ZorinOS
OK, thanks for the input it's appreciated. Sorry if I asked all the questions in one as I thought it'd be better to have it grouped rather than smash the forum. Can't see the problem, but point taken. I'll keep monitoring the post for points of views.
For starters let me point out that your hardware is supported, most if not all of it 'out of the box'.

The printer is supported: I definitely recommend HPs driver (HPLIP).

Scanning can easily be done with a program called simplescan. The program is in fact simple.

Backups on Linux can be easy too, but not the entire system. Linux does not have anything like "Windows Restore Points", but we do have other advanced features such as full filesystem backups, filesystem mirroring, RAID (hardware and software), etc.

For simple file backup, a very simple program exists called dejadup. Simple, quick, and efficient.

Replacing Google services can be tricky, especially when it concerns Android. Perhaps your own cloud installation (such as owncloud)? File syncing has a few options, owncloud, syncthing, etc. Calendars are available syncing I'm not sure (besides, again, owncloud which has support). GNOME just added a bunch of Google service support..

Making Linux look like Windows just seems odd to me, but as others suggested take a look at Zorin. Theres also Linux Mint with Cinnamon, Kubuntu, Lubuntu and others that are kinda like Windows in terms of interface. Zorin and Kubuntu are the most similar in my opinion.

I know of zero free file sharing/syncing services. The best services are the ones you run yourself. I know of a few pay to use services that are extremely secure but they are not free.

VLC is my preferred media player for generic Linux distributions. Maybe M/Kplayer?

You can copy the entire Linux filesysem using anything from dd to clonezilla.
Check out this page for more options:

Secure disk wiping has been answered at these links: (basically use secure-delete)

File recovery is difficult on Linux. Primarily because of the filesystem design. This is all I can provide:
I've used PhotoRec before and it works; mostly.

Oh yes Linux has plenty of TV options for you!!! Check out Kodi. I use it every day.

MythTV may also interest you:

There are, of course, many more options. Most of what you want/expect is already available and ready to use on Linux.

Oh, and welcome to the forums.
Thanks so much for all the information: I honestly didn't expect anything else after a grim, uninformative reply from a Super Moderator, and being stuck wondering how it all works, I installed Windows 7 with my original licence used with Windows 10, but now you've resurrected my interest so thanks so much for all your work. I'm not a computer person. I've literally had to learn everything quick and I wouldn't have asked the questions if I knew. I'm getting on in years and always promoted, "there are no stupid questions" - oh how wrong that is on forums. The Google replacement issue is interesting. Seems there's a niche there. I'll look deeper into OwnCloud as I didn't understand it when I read about it. Maybe I've learned a few things since.

Thanks again for the reply. I've been apprehensive about my original post.

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