New To Linux: Part 1 - What is It and is It For Me?

Discussion in 'Linux Basics' started by theZUDreport, Jan 14, 2012.

  1. theZUDreport

    theZUDreport New Member Staff Writer

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    Many people, when they hear the word Linux, immediately dismiss it as a hard to understand, command line environment designed for hackers and computer geeks. Images of scenes from the 1983 movie War Games start to pop into their heads, with the green on black text based computer systems. In reality though, it is not that scary... in fact, you've probably used Linux hundreds of times and not even known it. As the title suggests, this series of articles will be directed towards people new to Linux, or toying with the idea of making the switch.

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    [TD]First, let's clear up the name Linux, it is most commonly thrown into conversations about computer operating systems like: “Do you use Windows, Mac or Linux?”. The problem is that Linux is not an operating system (OS), it is what is known as a kernel. So, what is a kernel? It is the very base, the foundation of an OS. In the simplest terms, it contains all the instructions and commands needed to turn a collection of components like the mouse, keyboard, memory, hard drive... etc into a useful, working computer. Of, course the reality of it is much more complicated than that, but luckily the average user does not need to know all the ins and outs of it. Think of it like your car, you do not need to know how every part of the engine works just to go to the store. So, what does this mean exactly? Why the confusion? Well, the Linux kernel is distributed under what is called the GNU General Public License or the GNU GPL, what this means is that it is, again in the simplest terms, it is free to distribute and modify as long as derived works use the same license. Free in this case means, not only no cost but also freedom to change, modify, rewrite or add to the code even if it is to make your own kernel, as long as due credit is given and you allow the same freedoms to others with your work.[/TD]
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    sit3-shine.7.jpg Tux, the Linux mascot by Larry Ewing
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    OK, so enough with the boring stuff. The confusion comes from the fact that many, many operating systems use the Linux kernel... like Ubuntu, Red Hat, open Suse, Fedora, Android, an many more. These are what are known as Linux Distributions, or Distros for short and use the Linux kernel with varying degrees of modifications. Android for example uses an extremely trimmed down version since the hardware of the devices it's used on is unlikely to change much. I said earlier that you have most likely used Linux hundreds of times and not even known it, because it's used in things like ATMs, cable boxes, self checkouts at the store, GPS units and phones, not to mention countless numbers of web sites run on Linux based computers... it is everywhere.



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    step5.jpg Ubuntu Installation Wizard
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    [TD]So, is Linux for you? Absolutely! Many distros are working to make their OS more user friendly, for example Ubuntu makes it simple to try it on your PC without ever installing it. The download section of their website gives you step by step instructions on how to create a Live CD or Live USB and their installation also makes it easy to install Ubuntu along side your current OS so you can have both on one computer. And Ubuntu is not the only one, many distros are working towards making their OS suitable for newcomers and Linux veterans alike. Most average computer users can install, set up and use their computer with a Linux based OS and never need to see a single command line prompt, and still do everything they do now. Most programs used in Windows have either a Linux version or a comparable Linux only program that does the same thing. For example, if you use an office suite in Windows there are several free, open source variants such as LibreOffice which is compatible with MS office and offers a similar suite of programs. The programs that do not have a Linux version or counterpart can often be run in an emulator-type application called WINE. Since, you can try distros like Ubuntu before you install them, you can find out in advance if you can do everything you need to, and with the ability to install side by side with Windows, you can always keep it around just in case.[/TD]
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    In the next part of this series, I'll go over how to get, try and install Ubuntu ​(one of the most new-user friendly distros). I'll also get you familiar with its desktop environment and go over the basic settings to help get you started.
  2. sbircris.jr

    sbircris.jr New Member

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    Great thread ... I am Linux/UNIX newbie ... I am still trying to untangle all the definitions, terms and commands and this post cleared my mind regarding the kernel :D
    Thank you for nice explanation :D
  3. pane-free

    pane-free Active Member

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    "Most average computer users can install, set up and use their computer with a Linux based OS and never need to see a single command line prompt, and still do everything they do now."

    This quotation points to a disturbing trend noted of late for forum moderators, GNU/linux bloggers and their like to downplay the importance of the command line in linux usage. It is disturbing because the quality and personality of linux experiences depend in large part on delving into the seemingly dreaded command line or console.

    Prior poster, sbircris.jr, points to the common linux newbie confusion. Working through this confusion and frustration individually and with help from forums forms a common thread from which a comraderie is built amongst linux users heretofore that does not exist in most who use the dominant OS. Is this quality of experience to be lessened for the sake of quantity of users?

    Let commercial enterprise distros like RedHat and Suse worry about quantity and garnering a piece of the Cloud via compromising principles for the sake of money. These and Canonical do not define what GNU/Linux is. More and more Android unwittingly takes over that role for the public a large as they turn to their smart phones and tablets and leave even laptops (let alone desktops) behind in their daily struggles to survive.

    I encourage new linux users to learn how to use the command line within their chosen distros. Without having learned APT (apt-get and aptitude, et al) I would have neither delved into PERL to fill in the gaps nor advanced on to using Slackware. It is because I see a lot of what seems like laziness creeping in that I write. Call me old-school (I'm not really, having vowed to eliminate that OS from Redmond from my life but a short 2 yr 9 mo ago) but Linux is becoming emasculated by such mindsets as I note of late, and I must protest. I no longer use ms at all.
  4. goodselfme

    goodselfme New Member

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    I appreciate the "boring" stuff you discuss since it clears up things for me. thank you.
  5. Victor Leigh

    Victor Leigh Member

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    "Is Linux for me?"

    Why not? I look at it this way. I use a computer to get my work done. Not to get anyone richer at my expense. Of course, I do not grudge anyone trying to make a buck. Just that I don't see any reason to buy the cow when I can get the milk free, so to say.
  6. LArchimonde

    LArchimonde New Member

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    Actually I like Linux Distro (Ubuntu 12.10) more than any other Windows OS. I have been using it only for a month and a half, but so far is great. I know I got a lot of things to learn but that's the fun part about it. It gives you more freedom and you can use everything that you use in any Windows OS. Plus it's much more stable. And that's just some of the advantages.
    DevynCJohnson likes this.
  7. newtolinux

    newtolinux New Member

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    Hi I am attempting to install Linux Mint 64 bit distro from a USB card... the problem that I am having is that every program I have downloaded to convert the .ISO file into a bootable file from USB has been riddled with viruses...Already one complete system refresh in I am curious as to where i can find a decent copy of Mint and the program to allow me to boot it from USB without viruses hanging all over it? Please if anyone has any info let me know I am running windows 8 now and am about to throw this pc out the window because of it's glitchy behavior. I have always considered myself as having a decent understanding of PC's however.....With Linux right now I feel stupid. I don't know why but I don't get it.
  8. catfunt

    catfunt New Member

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    I've not posted enough in order to leave a link but I've always used www isotousb . com and never had a problem.
  9. Mohanasmith

    Mohanasmith New Member

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    Linux is just great..i guess it is the most suited platform me..cause it is less prone to the viruses and you need not to install additional things like the video and the audio player and the image tools...it has it all in it.Plus it is actually quite easy to shutdown and turn on the system.
  10. Kaimanasmith

    Kaimanasmith New Member

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    I agree with your opinion on Linux..it is just great...works perfectly fine for me as well..
  11. ryanvade

    ryanvade Administrator Staff Member Staff Writer

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    Must say that Linux has changed my life. SERIOUSLY. Linux is the reason why I am getting a degree in computer science. I don't have to pay for WIndows upgrades and not the OVER PRICED Apple hardware. Linux is for ME! For YOU! For EVERYBODY!
  12. Peter Jones

    Peter Jones New Member

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    This is the type of basic primer I need as I haven't attempted any command line stuff since around 1980 (which I gave up on as I couldn't 'make' computer do what I wanted
    Didn't touch another computer until 1998 and have only used Win 95~98 then Win XP
    Probably should have learned Debian or Ubuntu several years ago when friend switched everything from windows to Ubuntu :rolleyes:
    Maybe something even simpler for real beginners to command line use?
    ryanvade likes this.
  13. nickmh

    nickmh New Member

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    When was the last time the CEO's of Apple or Microsoft called you up to tell they have your best interests at heart?

    HHmm didn't think so!

    You don't have to wait for that phone call from the Linux CEO. There isn't one! The community will take of you, if you're prepared to take an interest in and help yourself!

    Simple!
  14. Mohanvamshi Kodali

    Mohanvamshi Kodali New Member

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    @ newtolinux

    Try to use yumi from pendrivelinux.com or use Lili to boot from pendrive both are easier to use and configure.I say these words because iso to usb has not worked for me
  15. nickmh

    nickmh New Member

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    What I find astonishing is people Talking/Promoting/Screaming about freedom and yet install proprietary systems to manage their information and entertainment systems.

    It seems freedom is just a convenience. Not something to be taken seriously. There maybe an unexploited niche there for Linux.
    flunwyc and ryanvade like this.
  16. ryanvade

    ryanvade Administrator Staff Member Staff Writer

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    There is freedom in that choice. They CHOOSE to install the proprietary software. Also, how many people (percentage of all computer users) know about alternative operating systems? With almost all computers running windows, the others almost always running OSX.

    I CHOOSE to use the Proprietary Nvidia drivers. They give better performance. I CHOOSE to keep a copy of Windows installed for gaming. Choice, while not freedom, is a step in the right direction.
  17. Aron

    Aron New Member

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    It's a good choice
  18. flunwyc

    flunwyc Member

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    There are a lot of "popular" distros, mostly Debian derivatives, which bundle non-free software without a second thought. This seems harmless but it is probably acting as a block to the adoption of free alternatives. Choosing to install non-free should be a conscious choice and not something which comes bundled with a distribution hidden among the free software.

    If you want a good example. the non-free nvidia or amd drivers are a good one. Many users install those and then struggle with the bugs and problems they can introduce, without realising that the free alternatives are built into the kernel and xserver. For many users the free alternatives are not suitable for various reasons but the vast bulk of desktop users who browse the web, they're more than adequate.

    If nothing else the free drivers open you up to the world of mesa/drm, which is fascinating in itself and it can be satisfying to see the progress made there. I've seen mesa/Gallium3D come on in leaps and bounds over the last few years - where many users just dismiss it and go straight for fglrx or nvidia without realising there is a free alternative. The free drivers also support KMS, which both of the major proprietary vendors have ignored so far.

    While nvidia's proprietary drivers work well, are reliable, give good performance and are well supported - they contribute nothing to the Linux kernel and recently discontinued the open source NV driver project. They do not even acknowledge the existence of the open source nouveau driver.

    AMD do contribute code to assist in the development of the open source radeon driver - but this driver involves closed source firmware blobs.

    Intel on the other hand have managed to run an open source driver project for years and contribute code to the kernel.

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