Newbie Guide: Your Thoughts Wanted


Here at LXF towers, we're working hard to get ahead of ourselves so we can enjoy a well earned break over Christmas. As such, we've planned the content for Issue 155, to be published in January (keeping three issues in mind at once is very confusing!) and decided that for the cover story, we'd create the ultimate newbie guide to Linux - and your insights are the key to us really making this the 'ultimate' newbie guide.

The plan is to explain what Linux is, what free and open source software is, how to get started with it, all the cool things it lets you do, and so much more.

But, we were wondering, when you first started using Linux, is there anything you know now that you wish you knew then?

Please, let us know in the comments, and help us to make this the ultimate newbie guide.

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Your comments

When I first started, I kept

When I first started, I kept hearing references to command line, but didn't understand where or what it was. No one referenced to pressing alt+f1 or as Terminal or xTerm. As a result, it made the transition slightly harder, but I learned and am able to perform all kinds of functions now. But seriously, remember in your article to reference command line as its aliases or button combos too, please.

Hmm, maybe I'm a bit out of touch

When I first started with Linux the first thing I needed to learn was how to re-compile my kernel, I'm guessing that isn't going to be needed so much now.

I suppose as a newbie it's going to be things like:

Getting started with open source on Windows before moving to Linux

How to move things like bookmarks, documents etc...

How to get MP3 playback (even though this is mostly just taken care of now)

Normally what I get asked is "I've installed Linux, what now?". So how about getting on with the usual tasks and some new things you might not have been able to do before on Windows.

Just a few ideas


Definitely worth explaining what and how the filesystem in Linux is (generally!) organised -- including the fact that just about everything's a file, including your mouse and drives. Explain why there are so many different "bin" directories (/usr/bin, /usr/sbin, /usr/share/bin, ~/bin, etc.), and how there aren't any "drives" per se -- just mount points. Actually, I think that that last one was the one that I just couldn't wrap my head around at first -- I'd never heard of partitions all those years ago, so in my mind, a drive was a letter.

That, and, as Christopher W. mentions, the fact that you can jump to the terminal to fix a problem (like Xorg!) without necessarily having to reboot.

And you have to make sure that you include a handy quick-reference guide for the shell. Number 1 on the list, "killall pulseaudio" (which I have to do once or twice each week).


What software is compatible with my version of Linux? Can I install anything?


I guess you should start by explaining that Linux based distros are very different from the Microsoft OS's and that they should be ready to open their minds to new ways of doing things rather than complaining about what Linux lacks compared to Windows(doing just that, they will soon find out that Linux doesn't lack anything). Beyond what I just wrote, I second every opinion given so far.

The choice, and scripting

I used Unix and other systems before Linux, so I had different expectations than today's newbie, but:

1) Linux applications rarely interfere and Linux applications are very small in comparison to MS or Apple - so you can load up as many different choices of wordprocessor or layout or photo package as you like, and then uninstall whatever you don't get on with.

2) That choice of Linux application is in the distribution archive, there is no need to hunt for websites and certainly no need (in most cases) to download anything executable off the web.

3) Bash looks intimidating, but the first time you write a one-click back script using rsync, or a photo-resizer (that also strips out your GPS locations), you will be pleased with yourself. Add Zenity and it looks like a professional wrote an app.

Intro to the package manager...

The most important thing(s) for a noob to learn is how to keep their install up to date and how to browse the package manager for various applications they might want/need.

Where to get info/help +1

I agree with @Chris W there definitely needs to be something in there about what to do when things don't work and how to get help.

I remember when I started using Linux for the first time on my Acer Aspire One that without the Macles Blog I would have been totally at sea... that got me running Linpus Lite running XFCE desktop rather than the kiosk it came with and from there I learnt that Fedora was what lay behind Linpus and I installed Fedora. The Macles blog helped me get Sun Java, updated Firefox and updated openoffice on to the Linpus build through using the terminal when I was really fed up of having very old versions and not brave enough to install Fedora.

You've covered basic newbie CLI stuff recently so perhaps some useful slightly more stretching stuff at newbie level would be good because there is so much awesome stuff that can be done in the terminal that you don't know about.

Perhaps something about interaction with non-Linux OSs ought to be there must be many of us whose partner and/or family don't use Linux but we need to share files etc. with them.


How about covering using Wine to run Windows software (but making it clear that its no magic solution that will run everything)?

Working with stuff created in Windows software. For example how to open .doc files in, etc.

How to install software (without the need to compile packages), however I understand this would be difficult since each distro has their own way of managing packages.

Windows/Linux comparison chart (e.g. in Windows you do this, to do the same in Linux you do this).

Application management

I first started using Linux around 2010 (I'm still young) and was using Ubuntu 10.04 (it was a heck lot nicer back then). The biggest problem was I only have USB broadband internet and can only have one user at a time and is terribly slow sometimes.
I was used to Windows and loved the fact that I could just copy .exe files and run straight from a pendrive. When I started Linux, I thought it would be able to do the same but I could not find much programs that installs and runs from pendrives.
Linux offline documentation is not as good as Windows so I guess the main reason for the low adoption of Linux even within my tech-savvy friends is because of its dependency on the internet. You couldn't install much programs offline (I still get confused with compiling softwares)
Although I know that .deb packages are almost the equivalent to .exe files, you still couldnt run them easily without documentation.(Please dont flame me, I'm still a newbie till now) Windows is just 'pick up and use'. It's really simple to newbies. Too bad the advantages of Linux outweighed Windows.

The Difference in Philosophy (and not just free vs closed)

A key point that I often make to new users or users who are thinking about switching is that every operating system has it's strengths and weaknesses. Understanding why those strengths and weaknesses exist requires understanding how and why the software was written. If you try to use Linux "like windows" then of course you are going to think it sucks. You have to take advantage of its own strengths. Once you open up to a new way of thinking, finding answers to problems will be much easier.

Just a quick example of the difference in philosophy in action. In most Linux desktop environments, applications are sorted by function. Games, Internet, etc... In Windows they are sorted by developer. One way benefits the user and the other the developer.


Tips on which filesystem format to use (e.g ext3).
Tips on how to organise your files and back them up.

The Perl Philosophy

The greatest bit of Open Source wisdom I have come across is the Perl slogan: "There's more than one way to do it", or TMTOWTDI for acronym abusers (or AA). I think it's very
important that new Linux users realize that they can do basic tasks with the standard GUI tools that come on most distros (think Ubuntu Software Center), an alternative GUI tool (think Muon), or the terminal (apt-get). All three do the same thing, but each with a different style, which appeals to certain users.

Choice can be intimidating, as you've said many times, therefore it is only sensible to not only have good, newbie-friendly defaults for the Distro but also for the community. We should have tools, distros, and documentation that we can agree are the best for Linux beginners.

linux noobie guide

A newcomer to linux comes across references to various "sub-systems" such as python, cron, hal, udev, cups, X etc.
My suggestion: Some form of overview chart / diagram which describes (high level) what all these things are in a typical linux workstation / desktop AND HOW THEY RELATE TO EACH OTHER.

With that overall understanding, one can then dive a bit deeper into learning about each one.

Two Cents

As I have helped friends and family with Linux, I have had these questions;
What program do I use to do X? Will it do everything that proprietary program X will do?
How do I play/rip movies and MP3s?
I need to use proprietary program X because of feature Y, can I do that? Do I have to use the command line?
My computer crashed and I have a black screen asking me to login, what do I do?
Who do I ask when you are not there?
I want to install Linux on this new PC (or other PC), what is this partitioning thing and how do I use it?

Other than that, they seem to understand that its going to be different. The steep learning curve for starting to use Linux is gone. My 5 year old daughter proved it, as she was able to wipe a laptop hard drive and install Linux Mint. So also, how to setup an auto-backup program.

It's not that difficult

It is important to explain that the transition to Linux is not that difficult. While terminal commands and understanding of the file system etc are useful to know, you do not need this knowledge to install and run say Ubuntu/Mint/Opensuse etc. I think hearing command line and terminal all the time puts people off trying Linux. The Linux desktop has come along way and you do not need to be a techie to enjoy it anymore!

Just a few things...

How to play DVD's

How to play media formats (mp3's, wmv's, wma, etc.)

How to make Microsoft office files work with LibreOffice

How to use Gimp (If that is possible to teach)

Oh and show people that Linux does not have viruses.


How about something that tells you how to install software. I still can't do it from source after 4 years using Linux!


How to make RPM's work in Debian based Distros (like Ubuntu)

How to make Deb's work in RPM based Distros (like Fedora)

How to run Windows Programs in Linux with Wine

How to install distros in a Tablet (Like the HP webOS)

Where to listen to an awesome Podcast... (

I think the most important

I think the most important thing is to be honest and realistic. When I was first trying Linux I kept hearing about how Linux is 'better' (sometimes qualified, often not) and about how much powerful software there is and so on.

And so when I got it installed I was sort of bemused. Coming from the sheer wealth of powerful graphical creativity apps on windows to ... The Gimp. It's not that the Gimp is bad, it's just that there's only the Gimp. I was confused - where's all this powerful software I've heard about? I'm not feeling particularly empowered with my 1000 choices of text editors and file managers when what I want to do is edit a .PSD.

I think some Linux enthusiasts raise peoples' expectations such that it can only result in disappointment and confusion when people actually give Linux a whirl.

Of course Linux is better than Windows in many ways - it's more efficient, it's more flexible and powerful. But none of this matters much to the new user (unless *literally* all they want to do is web, email and IM (and arguably office stuff)) when there is such a dearth of graphical apps (and there still is. We have Inkscape and Scribus and Blender now but... that's still *one* choice in each of four important (to me) categories).

It needs to be explained early on and upfront that while Linux is indeed superior to Windows in some specific ways, in some other ways a compromise is going to be required. The reason this compromise is, for me, worth making are philosophical and hard to convey. I just believe the cultural model Linux (and Free Software in general) represents is a better way for humans to interact. WIth that in mind I'm able to approach Linux willing to make allowances, and as a result I persevere and find things I love about it - reasons why, for me, it really is in practical terms 'better than Windows'.

So in short/list form:

1. Don't pretend that all everyone wants to do is web/email/office or code. There are people who are not coders but who still use their PCs creatively. A very many of them.

2. Explain what the Freedom is for. What it means. That it's a *better way to behave*. i.e. explain the beneficial side of the compromise.

3. As well as being eager to point out how/why Linux is better, be honest about where it's poorer/fiddly/inconvenient. Don't try to gloss over it, prepare users for this keeping #2 in mind. (by the by, I feel that you do a much better job of this in your podcast than you do in the mag.)

4. Don't be ashamed of the command line. It's a powerful, modern, efficient tool (or set thereof) and is very very often the best tool for the job. It's only a problem if you don't explain what the commands *do*, what the switches mean and so on. Of course it's not all going to sink in, but explaining rather than just telling will pique the curiosity of those willing to learn. Also explain the GUI way of doing it if it exists, some people will have no interest in the command line and that's fine. But also explain the relationship between these two methods - that the latter will often just be a visual way to do the former and so on. It's not really all that complicated, it just needs explaining and putting in context. Hiding it away makes it *seem* complicated.

Keep it simple

It comes down to your intended audience.

For those who already understand what Linux is and the philosophy/shortcoming/advantages compared to other os's, then things like command line, filesystem layout, foss musings etc. would most likely appeal.

For the first time Windows convert, keeping it down to the common every day user tasks would be more suitable.

- Steer away from installing. That info is available with distro reviews/disc contents and respective distro websites. Don't scare them before they are off the starting block.

- Caveat, this is not Windows, it works differently, don't expect to do things the Windows way (biggest turn off for newbies if not prepared for this).

- Intro to the 2 big DE's (no more, get them on linux before overwhelming them with choice, remember, MS converts are not used to choice!)

- How to play media and access social media, including apps and their Windows "equivalent", perhaps using 1 distro as an intro point, one that INCLUDES or auto installs codecs)

- Even though there is iPod/Phone/Pad support, make it clear there is NO ITUNES hence no iTunes store. Introduce dual boot here as the compromise (leave virtualisation alone - again scary for "casual" users).

- Steer clear of mentioning wine. For a newbie, there is nothing more frustrating as failing to get that windows app working in wine (big turn off).

- BASIC package management, ie you want app X, here is where you get it (no mention of repositories please, compare to a simple and free app store instead).

Of course I could go on, bu my point is, simply say "here is Linux and here is how you do what you do in Windows", and STOP - get them on Linux first, then open up the big wide world beyond that first step.


The first time on Linux for me...

was at a computer class(ECDL), the teachers all thought it to be a good idea to show us some different operation systems so we would be able to do just some general basics on them. The System 7 Mac was easy enough without much change in mindset, then we all got a disc with Knoppix, I want to say 3.5 but I'm not quite sure. We were told what a Root password was and then tasked to set it, write a document on how we did it and save that to a memory stick and then left alone for 3 hours. 15 minutes in we had done all the task, the majority of the time spent was to find where to set the password. I spent
most of the remaining time learning basic stuff on my own.
It all made me conferable enough to some years later make the switch from Windows to Kubuntu 8.04 and finally Linux mint.

Based on my experiences I would say that I had the perfect start, I got to figure out things that was just hard enough that I saw it as a viable alternative. And no matter how people see Linux from a user friendly perspective it was a heck of a lot easier and more fun to learn the Dos in my mind.

My most puzzling experience

My most puzzling experience was working out that ~ = /home/me in a shell.
I think that the distro at the time didn't comprehend /home/me at all and I couldn't figure out what was going on for quite some time.

My linux Baptism

My first experience of Linux was Fedora/Redhat where mp3 playback and other codecs weren't out of the box. It helped me to gradually learn how to modify my system and learned a lot about linux at the same time.

also using Slackware helped my knowledge noend.

Package manager!!!

Linuxrich (above) is correct - Windows users are used to downloading new apps as .exe files from all kinds of sources and then installing them. Teach them to use their distro's package manager to get them. It is so much easier, but the change in approach and mindset is profound.

Newbie past to newbies present.

When I started (with SUSE 10.1) as a Windows refugee, the real bugbears were installing codecs for proprietary multimedia file formats, getting DVD playback working, getting proprietary graphics drivers installed and working and getting WiFi working. Also, as a Windows refugee, it took a while to get my head around not needing anti-virus software, between getting started and accepting this, I used to unplug my ethernet connection when I didn't need the internet. Since then, things have become easier. OpenSUSE ships with meta packages that install codecs and libraries from 3rd party repos. When the nVidia repo is added, the correct drivers get automatically marked for installation in YaST and they no longer require any post installation configuration (such as telling the system you actually want to use them). Since I replaced my Broadcom* WiFi card with an Intel one, WiFi has been painless, too. So perhaps a wee note about hardware compatibility (PCs and peripherals) is required here, such as naming a few vendors whose kit is known for "just working" with Linux. These days, hardware compatibility is generally excellent and a non-issue, but I remember a time when it certainly paid to check.

For today's newbie (assuming that they are otherwise familiar with PCs), I might recommend something like using GPartED before their first installation, to make way for Linux. Having a sensible partition scheme in place at the start of their Linux adventure should result in less involvement with each distro's installer, hence reducing the learning curve and enabling / encouraging distro hopping until they find one they like. I find GPartED to be a good, easy to use, "Learn Once, Use Many(times)" tool for partitioning (to coin a phrase). So some discussion of Linux file systems, a typical fs layout and partition scheme(s) is required.

Next, I think they might need a guide on doing their first online update, so that any bug-fixes since release can be applied and any stuff from 3rd party repos or stuff that can't be distributed get installed. This is a simple step but I find it pays dividends to do this before cracking on. Also, it's worth covering any gotchas, such as any crippled versions of software shipped due to patent problems.

Next, a list of programmes for everyday computing needs might be a good idea. Personally, I'm a fan of the more poetic names programmers give to their creations for Linux, but some of them don't give much away as to what they do. Perhaps also including a list of equivalent programmes newbies may be familiar with from other OSes, such as OS X, Windows etc. However, we're quite good at descriptions in the Linux environment, like "Text Editor", "Optical Disc Burner" and "Package Manager", probably as suggesting the use of Vim over Emacs or KDE over Gnome (or vice versa in both instances) can incite the flames. Also required is an introduction to how we typically find and install software (package managers), and where it is kept (repositories). Worth a mention as well is that not all packages contain programmes, some only contain libraries and that users don't really need to worry about installing these as, if required, they get installed automatically as a dependency of a programme package. This confused me when I started out. Hence it's also worth mentioning why this is done (advantages gained by programmes linking to common libraries, rather than each supplying their own copy).

Next, may I suggest a "Top Trumps" style card for the most common distros / desktops that newbies may wish to install, so they don't get lost in all the choice? A good place to start would be the six distros in the showdown in LXF 147. For example: fields that might be useful for a distro are "Software Installer" = "YaST/Manage Software" on openSUSE, "Synaptic**" on Ubuntu etc., "Repository of User Contributed Packages" = "PPA" on Ubuntu, "Home Repository" on openSUSE, "Recommended Third Party Repository" = "$whatever" for software packaged by each distro's community if the distro can't host the repository themselves and does not install it by default. Fields for desktop cards might be "Text Editor" = "KWrite" on KDE, "GEdit" on Gnome etc., "Music Player" = Amarok on KDE, Rhythm Box on Gnome etc. Whatever common programmes / configurers etc. that newbies need to find and aren't called the same across distros and desktops. Perhaps also include further information fields, such as a "Website / Forum / Community Page" and "Recommended Reading" if a good book*** is available. Don't forget to use the DVD here, great for extra info, demos and the like, perhaps even the free software song. Which brings me onto my last point...

Finally, I've assumed here (perhaps erroneously) that those reading such a guide are familiar with other computing environments but want to come over to Linux (or are curious about doing so) because of issues of cost, stability, security, quantity of malware and ease at which it is acquired, that are associated with other platforms and that they just want to get their systems working with Linux. Whilst these issues are addressed on Linux, the suggestions I've made here don't cover, and indeed may be contrary to, the philosophical benefits of using Linux, namely the F/LOSS ecosystem. I wouldn't like to state how much interest this would be to Windows and Mac refugees, at least at first, but whilst there is already quite a bit for the newbie to cover, some mention of these philosophical benefits are worth considering. After all, perhaps only when they are gone will we miss our freedoms and thus to maintain them, we need to guard them constantly. It's also worth including advice for any Linux advocates / mentors who may be helping someone entirely new to computing start with Linux.

Any way, food for thought, that's just my two, uhm, quid's worth by the looks of this.

* I understand that Broadcom has since relented and that native Linux drivers are now available for some of their cards.

** I gather that this might have changed to "Software Centre".

*** I found Chris Brown's "SUSE LINUX" a good companion for the start of my adventure, it wasn't long before I was compiling and installing "xine-lib" to get multimedia working properly. Thankfully this is no longer required, thanks to the Pacman repo, but it was a good example of "./configure", "make", "make install" working without any fuss, not a bad initiation.

When I had my first abortive

When I had my first abortive attempt at running Linux (I can't even remember what distro it was, how bad is that?) the one thing I couldn't get my head around was that c:\ didn't exist any more and I had no idea how to access my Windows partition. So, I guess something about the directory structure would have helped me at least.

Using package managers for

Using package managers for downloading/updating software
A guide to using PPA's
Installing codecs and flash etc. This should include an explanation of why they cannot be pre-installed in Linux.(a brief guide to FOSS Vs Propriety would be useful)
NDIS wrapper
Enabling desktop effects
Using a live CD - very important to check hardware compatibility
Where to get help on-line
Guide to FOSS vs Windows equivalent apps
Strengths and limitations of Linux (not all hardware supported)
Most important of all............Linux is NOT a FOSS version of Windows or MAC. It is different and you must allow yourself time to learn about it.

Using a live CD - very important to check hardware compatibility

Back in 2008 I used your "Linux starter pack", formating my laptop's hard disk as part of the installation process and having no WindowsXP disk I was burning my bridges! Since Ubuntu 8.04 didn't work with my built in "soft" modem I no longer had access to a slow Internet. So I bought an external modem. Still no luck using Ubuntu! But I think your cover disk with openSUSE 11.0 saved the day!

So using a live CD to first check your computers hardware a must.

I went back to using Ubuntu and I'm now using Xubuntu 11.10, I'm also playing with Ubuntu 11.10 with Gnome shell on my net-book and loving it.


Q: What's a partition... swap what? Is this going to break my computer?
A: Catch your breath there, tough guy. GParted loves you and will take care of you.

Q: What are all these strange folders? bin? proc? var? ... and where are my applications stored?
A: Yeah, we don't know either. Just stay in the "home" folder and use the thing called Package Manager. Seriously... don't worry about it.

Q: Tar Balls? You're kidding, right?
A: Yeah. sorry about that. It's just sick joke. Ignore them.

Q: WTF?! How come I can't run iTunes? Why is is so hard to sync podcasts to my iPod? Why do I need four applications to do what iTunes does?
A: Yeah, you're right. This still totally sucks tar balls. Be patient.

Q: What's that smell coming from my hard drive?
A: Breathe deep, jerky. That the smell of freedom.

My early experiences and those of a recent convert

My first Linux distro was a magazine disc of Fedora Core 6. The first stumbling block came when it asked me to partition my hard drive. A Partition? What on earth? Someone then recommended Mandriva and the technical bit suddenly passed by and I had time to explore and learn Linux on my own terms.

I recently recommended Linux Mint 11 to a friend. Here are his questions he sent me via facebook:

"sorry to sound a real noob here! what's difference between Debian, 11 and 11 LXDE. And also what is Gnome?";
"I've come across Wine app. Have you used this emu before or know how easy it is to use?";
"...I was thinking about itunes because I have an iPad";
"also when i plug in my andriod phone, the file browser dosn't seem to pick up any files on the phone, especially wanted to pick up the MP3 files. any ideas?";
"While we're on the help topics lol, need to convert avi file to mpeg4 so I can play on my Android."

He and I have completely different uses, but it's clear that for some tech-savvy multimedia fans, Linux presents certain challenges when using external devices. Once I explained what desktop environments were, it became more important to my friend that his iTunes, iPad and Android phone all connected and worked. I think this is an area that needs addressing.

My mum gets confused when using usb pen-sticks. In Windows, a new drive letter is assigned (e.g. H:), but struggles on Linux to locate the correct drive name because it's sdb2 or /Media/f64ed78552 or something. It's not difficult to work out, but it is different, and that's the point. If someone is brand-new to computers, they won't realise the differences, and Linux will be learnt naturally. However, the people who have problems are the ones who switch OS's and expect they all work the same!

Similarly, the names of equivalent applications might be a good starting place.

Good luck with the article - it'll be interesting reading.

Live CDs that autoconfigure internet connection

Live CDs really sold me on Linux.

I tried a couple Live CDs but became discouraged (and intimidated) when I couldn't set-up an active internet connection. Then I tried Simply Mepis (from a magazine) and it recognized all my hardware. I was SO excited and stayed with Mepis until KDE4.

Even today there are great distros that don't autoconfigure internet. Puppy for instance. I give friends a copy of Linux Mint when they complain about their slow lapstops and let them make up their own minds.

Configuring for multi-distros

Things that I suggest be included:
info on how to set up partitioning on hard drives to use multiple distros. After all, isn't that why the distros are included on LXF disks? Also include how to allow said multi-distros to use the same user/home directory vs separate one for each distro. Lastly, how to setup multiple hard drives.

I started TRYING to use Linux with, wait for it -- SCO Linux and Slackware back in 1997/8 without success.

I was introduced to LXF while living in Beijing from a Phillipino working in IT at Canadian Embassy-convoluted for sure? Tried Mandrake in 2002/3 from LXF CD. It worked but getting upgrades etc, over very dirty phone lines put me back to Windows 98. I have since tried OpenSUSE, Mint, PCLOS-currently using Lubuntu 10.10.

I keep it very short my

I keep it very short
my first surprise with Linux nearly 12 years back

sudo rm *

in the root folder is really going to delete everything.
Was trying to delete the content of a folder...

ended up with 2 entire erased harddisks, an erased floppy disk and a big palmface.

So tell people that they can do many things within Linux... including many wrong things


Having unsteerable power.

The two things I would've liked to know about earlier are the FHS and the ability to access non-GUI terminals in dire situations (Alt + Ctrl + F1 in Ubuntu). Aside from that, the basic functions of package managers, drive mounting, sudo-ing and chmod are all very handy things to know when entering the realm of linux.

To Many Things To Mention

There are just too many things to put in a universal linux guide. Especially now with the direction Ubuntu is going and the several different start up init systems, the inevitable transition to wayland, and proprietary graphics drivers. Not to mention, doing server stuff between them all the Distros different.

I suppose the most important things would be:
1. Command line basics
2. Don't worry about proprietary graphics drivers until later... unless absolutely needed. However explain the issues associated with it.
3. Pick a distro with a large software repository for rapid and addictive testing of the different software available.
4. Provide a list of software for certain tasks
5. Explain the difference between package formats
6. Explain the basics of how shared libraries are linked to binaries and why you can't use the same binary across all distros.
7. Explain how to compile, why would would want to put it in a package format, and why you would want it in /usr/local
8. Give a list of basic commands/services for managing services on Fedora, Ubuntu, and Slackware based distros.
9. Release the content of the guide to be published on non commercial webpages. A newbie guide isn't going to help enough people if they have to buy the magazine.
10. Tell them to only use Vim because no text editor should be able to play Tetr... Falling Blocks.

How about some how-to-s?

We just assume, with all those fabulous distros we have now, that nothing goes wrong anymore. That's not the case. For example, I recently installed a smaller Linux distro on my old computer and even though the machine is useable, I could not not adjust my screen resolution and had no sound until I manually tinkered with those ancient ".conf" files that are still around (I still have not figured out how to get some sound). It took me quite some time to figure out how to get the printer to work with Ubuntu 10.10 on my other computer.

So I would suggest that a few easy to follow "how-to" documents, which would explain the main steps to get various items working right (network, printer, wireless, sound, screen, Scanner, bluetooth,etc.) would be very useful for newbies and more experienced users alike.

Directory structure...

To quote Welsh Penguin in the Netherlands...

When I had my first abortive attempt at running Linux (I can't even remember what distro it was, how bad is that?) the one thing I couldn't get my head around was that c:\ didn't exist any more and I had no idea how to access my Windows partition. So, I guess something about the directory structure would have helped me at least.

I totally agree, it took me ages to find the /path/to/Python/Lib drawer(/directory/folder) that doesn't actually exist. It really pi**ed me off.

The directory structure has got to be a good starting point.


Desktop or Server Newbies?

First Point: Qualt, you raise a good point, a newbie guide to Linux as a desktop OS or a newbie guide to Linux as a server OS. I'd imagine a guide that was both would run to several pages, so rolling the two together may not work. However, as a desktop Linux user of some five years, I'm probably not in the target audience for a desktop Linux guide but I would be most interested in a server Linux guide, as I have almost zero knowledge in this area.

Second Point (note: this is not intended as flame bait): All, there are quite a lot of comments about Ubuntu and Ubuntu specific stuff on here. For sure it is popular and I wouldn't like to knock it as it flies the flag for Linux, but please, Ubuntu is not Linux, so I'd like to other distros covered too (see my post above). Also, its default desktop is in somewhat of a state of flux at the moment and thus it might not be as good a place to start as in previous years.

No title... just a commoner

There are many of us who are dependent upon mobile broadband for internet access because of the lack of CATV in our areas. It is very difficult to discover which distros include mobile broadband capability and even more difficult to find out which specific providers are included.

As good as a distro may be if I cannot get online with my USB mobile broadband modem it is of no use at all.

Please consider making mobile broadband capability a standard topic in reviews.


The Concept of Installing Software From a Software Centre

The thing that took me a while to get my head around was the package manager for installing software - now more often the software centre or similar program. In Windows if I wanted a new program I would have had to search the internet for independent programs and then download the executables from their website - which were invariably trials or limited free versions - or go out and buy a CD. It took me a long time to realise that in Ubuntu (as that's what I started with, but have since moved to Mint) all the programs I could want and need, plus more besides, were available in the software centre/package manager.

There are of course a thousand things I'd like to have known when I started using Linux but getting my head around the concept that there was one location for all the software I would need was one that took me a long time to understand.

Thanks :-)

Thanks for all the excellent suggestions :-)

keep them coming, and keep an eye out for the issue when it comes out to see how we manage to fit this all in to a cohesive story!

Software repos and multimedia

Software repo's, how to add them, update them, upgrade them, remove them, that was something that I wish I had understand completely from the beginning.

Also some explanation about why mp3's are behaving so difficult, and what to do.

Point to some good distro's for beginners:!

It didn't take me long, with

It didn't take me long, with LXF in hand, to figure out Linux, but a table of the main programs equivalent to Window counterparts would be very helpful for new users. On the otherhand Mike always 'had' (boo-hoo) a page telling most of this, but it could be expanded for new users.

to many distros choices, find one you like then stick to it

As a novice linux user, but not a 'newbie, I had no wish to become a 'geek' just wanted it work as it should. My problem was the many diferent choices of 'Distro's' available.
At one time I had as many as thirty CD's of different Distro's.
What I would suggest, try a few, you get the feeling eventually which one suits you, then stick to it and learn more about your favourite linux system.
As you gain confidence expand your horizon, get rid of windows completly and commit yourself to linux. It's not that bad, really!

I needed package systems

I needed package systems explaining, advantages/disadvantages! Although I imagine that's fairly obvious. Nowadays everything seems pretty self-explanatory! Maybe a break down of basic applications equivalents, what to use for what. Sometimes, for example, the bevy of video playing apps can be confusing.

Maybe something on bug reporting and feature suggesting, and how they can actually have a really visible effect in the FOSS world!

Mobile broadband dongles

I agree with Mr Simmons.
I have unsuccessfully tried a number of USB broadband dongles which advertised "linux" or "Ubuntu" compatibility, but gave out of date or wrong installation instructions.
If you have windows on the same machine you can "flip" these devices from storage to modem mode, and in theory you can do the same thing on linux with USB modeswitch, but it isn't always easy.
I wonder how many people tried, and failed, to get broadband dongles to work on all those early linux netbooks and were put of linux for good?

Ubuntu - More Terminal than GUI

I switched to Ubuntu as it is described as a GUI Linux for normal people. It turns out that this is not really true. Because many function are not available through the GUI (lazy command line oriented developers) you cannot solve problems by simply exploring the system with your mouse. You spend hours using Google trying to find the required magic terminal command. With a decent GUI you don't have to remember commands. The system does that for you, freeing up you brain for less trivial things. Unfortunately, many of the people involved with Linux still live in last century's world of command lines and seem to think its cleaver to remember all the commands you need to know. What a waste of brain power! I stopped using command lines shortly after getting my 1st PERQ in the 1980s. Having designed and implemented operating systems, programming languages, compiler, persistent object stores etc, I strongly believe that people should be able to use things without needing a detailed knowledge there internals - just like most people drive cars. Linux still has a lot of growing up to do.

Stuff I wish I knew then...

1) You don't have to put all your OS files on one drive/ partition. Nice for backups, replacing drives and sharing home directory.
2) I you're not sure, use Intel hardware...
3) If you never used VIM or EMACS, don't bother using it as a serious development editor. I tried to be cool and "PIMP" vim to the max, but in the end it still failed to impress me. I currently use NetBeans/Eclipse/MonoDevelop/Ajunta, MEdit, GEdit, Geany... Whichever suits. I do use basic vim at times for quick config file editing though.
4) Linux is a very good tool for web development. LAMP stack is easy (relatively ;-) to install. I won't forget how cleaver I felt after installing my first stand-alone Linux / Web server without much fuss!
5) Compiling software can be challenging and fun, but try and install most things you need from the package manager or software center. It's a lot less frustrating and dependencies are in most cases automatically included. The LXF CD had me trying to install/compile the software included while I should have just entered the name in the software center or package manager and saved me many minutes/hours of searching for dependencies and compiling.
6) Star Control II and Elite / Frontier has open source versions! : Urquan Warriors, Oolite and more .. Great fun
7) NVidia drivers mess up my boot screen. Look on internet, there is a workable solution.
8) GIMP was designed by aliens... for aliens. It makes my head hurt. I still can't wait to get something basic but powerful the likes of Paint.NET working in Linux. It must be able to handle layers and fonts well with a plugin system for effects.
9) Wine still can't run most important /paid-for Windows software, so don't bluff yourself.
10) Liberation Fonts are still better looking than Ubuntu Font (In my opinion), so try it and see...
11) You can install certain Microsoft fonts as freeware to help web and other applications display stuff the same as on Windows. "Courier New" comes in handy as mono spaced font in source code editors.
12) There's a LOT of important hidden files in your home directory. Restoring them after re-loading your OS restores most of your settings!
13) More Stuff I didn't get until much later:
a) Linux file structure /home, /etc, /usr, /var. What is each used for.
b) What is the difference between file systems: ext3, ext4, etc. and when to use them
c) What is Gnome, KDE, GNU
d) What is a shell, XTerm, etc
e) External devices goes under /mount?
f) Where to install new applications? (Big one!)
/usr seemed almost like "My Programs" in Windows except I needed root access to change anything!? Should I rather install my own stuff under /home/me/applications...
g) Making desktop icons / shortcuts to applications.
h) Finding the application you want to link to
i) Finding the icon bitmap for my shortcut
j) The list goes on...

Where to put personal files

I started using computers before QDOS, aka MS-DOS. On Windows systems, I always create a separate partition, drive D, where I store my stuff. So when I started using Linux I mistrusted using /home/me.

Others have mentioned that you should talk about the directory organisation. I've read articles in various places that talk about unix directory organisation, but none has really explained that /home/me should be where personal stuff goes (that's correct, isn't it?)

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