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

I think a good issue is that

I think a good issue is that even today, I find it hard to get linux to work on new upgrades to your computer,

eg: motherboard, processor, memory. and graphics cards.

I can only get Fedora15 to work on mine, Ubuntu 11.10 will not reconise my AMD 960T x4, it loads up via the disk, but when it comes to booting without the disk, it wo`nt

X86 386 ARM64

I've only been using linux a year so am very much still a newbie. Having come to linux from a non-computing background (before Linux i used a Casio SL800 for all my computing needs) i am still very confused by 32 bit, 64 bit, x86, ARM compatible binaries. I have no idea what any of these mean but i have so far learned that if i use a standard 32bit iso i cant go far wrong. I would greatly appreciate a short explanation of what these are.


A useful contrast: staying up to date

It would be useful, I think to highlight the difference between Windows and Linux when it comes to a) updating software and b) shifting to a new distribution or major version.

On one hand:

Windows Update
Filehippo update checker
Secunia PSI
Microsoft Security Essentials
Apple's software updater
Adobe's software updater
Sun's Java updater
Logitech's updater
Anti-virus updater
etc. etc. etc. (and many of these not installed on most machines with consequent security risks)

and on the other: apt-get update and apt-get upgrade (or graphical equivalent)

The number of hours to move from Vista to Windows 7: 40 (Microsoft estimate), plus all the £ upgrades

versus: what? 20 mins for an Ubuntu version update?

How about the mind-bending business of being able to keep your /home directory when switching distro?

Or a fresh install and then all one's apps reloaded with a script?

Linux should also be about the pain FORGONE as a reward for learning a few new things. Few people seem to know that they don't have to put up with the Windows way of doing things, and that there is an alternative to paying a premium to Apple.

It would be good to highlight the familiar -- a few things that work with NO CHANGE -- Dropbox, Firefox etc. as well as web apps (Facebook etc.).

One that drove me crackers at first was figuring out making changes to xorg.conf to force my monitor to work at the max resolution with a KVM box that was preventing it. That might be a bit obscure but recovering from a bad edit to that file, or other startup problem, is useful thing to know. Nothing like a black screen to cause a novice some panic.


I think new Linux users should be able to go to a website and sign up and the be assigned a mentor. This is the person (volunteer of course) that will correspond with the new user and help guide him through any means available. That could be email, IRC, or over the phone. The web site should TRY to match users and mentors according to there location, that way if they are close enough together they can meet and talk face to face. Other than that, new users should definitely be told that you CAN NOT download apps from the web and expect to be able to install them. I get calls from users all the time asking why program xyz.exe won't install when they double click on it. The application manager of all the popular distros should be explained in complete detail. No need to start teaching them CLI, that is for the more advanced users, but they do need to know what the CLI is and how to access it in case the ever need it.

The newbie's very first look at a Linux based desktop...

I remember my first experience with Ubuntu version of Linux. There was no one around to help. I had no idea of what was missing, (codecs), and why. The file system was a mystery. Then I happened upon a book by Rickford Grant, Ubuntu For Non-Geeks. It was a book of exercises that got my feet wet. His latest book is a little out of date but still useful. But the author got it right for 'newbies'.

So, I think you need to consider the profile of a 'newbie' as someone who is just nominally knowledgeable about MS-Windows or Mac. Try to walk the newbie into Linux with contrast or comparisons of what the newbie already knows. I can think of no better tool than the You-Tube video to get the newbie started in some version of Linux.

A listing of sites and tutorials will also be a great help. Maybe a list of books aimed at the newbie. I think Ubuntu, Mint, and other versions hoping to be more popular have really missed the boat with computer users who are curious about Linux. You-Tube videos can go a long way in showing what and how Linux works. If a curious looker can see a good video of how to go about using Linux then many more new users will jump on to Linux.


Do NOT WASTE MONEY buying over priced magazines or books. The best information is available for free in the internet. EG the best python ducumentation comes with python for FREE. Mostly what you pay for is just a copy and paste of free stuff.

Getting past the "How 'computers' work" barrier

As you yourselves have lamented more than a few times in your podcast, the average computer-using Joe thinks that the way Windows works = the way Computers work. Given that fact, I think to get the most bang for your buck out of a "n00b" article, you want to tackle the primary differences between how Windows and Linux function. If you explain the concept of software repos (contrasted with .exes), and how there are no drive letters, you'll already have helped countless beginners. And allow me to beg: please don't include the well-intentioned but mis-guided line "Don't be afraid to break things!", as you will only put the idea in peoples heads that they WILL break things, and nothing will scare them away faster.

If it can't run iTunes Houston, we have a problem

Listen, I'm in the Technology Profession and I understand how the computer works even outside of the "consumer computer world". Most consumers want to use the internet, email, play music and videos, and sync mobile devices. MS Windows can do this and so can Mac/Apple OS, so what's the deal with the Linux? People spend a lot of time explaining how much better Linux is than Windows.

My personal example, I dual boot Ubuntu 11.10 and Windows 7.I like to use Ubuntu at home cause I work on Windows all day at work. But, when I'm ready to do anything on my Ipods, Ipad, or Blackberry, I boot into Windows 7 cause I haven't found a way to use my devices under Ubuntu. I have alot of music, videos, and books in iTunes. Can't completely leave Windows until this issue is addressed.

i wish i'd known how grub

i wish i'd known how grub (0.97?) would bork the mbr -- on my wife's new windows computer. opensuse was able to fix it up enough to boot again. the risk was downplayed or oversimplified. i had thought i'd be able to attach a hard drive and boot linux from it. likewise, i also never suspected that just running a linux live cd in a mac would cause it to become unbootable. i thought that could have been a freak event, but it was 100% replicable. fortunately, it could be fixed with the install/repair disk for macosx, but i was never warned that any such thing could happen. this didnt discourage me; it actually inspired my problem-solving faculties, but in both cases, i might not have tried linux if i had known those complications would happen. it's not something that would give the average first-time user a good first impression.

newb noob n00b

in principle, there shouldnt be such a thing as a "newbie", or at least to no greater extent than the other operating systems have them. Perhaps Android and ChromeOS are closest to that ideal. That's what can be learned from mobile OSes. Having more devices with a user-friendly linux pre-installed on the market and keeping functionality mostly analogous to the other larger established OSes (as Gnome 2 did) make it easier for new users. If the "n00b" meme doesnt die, linux will never break out of the low single digits for desktop market share and may only be adopted by a subset of the computer science majors.

I am a noob and I can say one of the first things to cover....

basic prereq: how to use the terminal = no brainer

Daunting as it can be. How to get WIFI working is critical. In this modern day many internet connections are going WIFI and often that's how A NOOB will try to connect. Having been at Linux for all of 2 weeks now I can say that The most productive time I have spent in tutorials was the second week. Since the first week I was trying to get the WIFI working. The ability to try things out immediately as you read them in tutorials is indispensable. Also the ability to download updates directly instead of mucking about with flashdrives... I'm sure you get the idea.

I know WIFI and linux don't always like to play nice but the learning experience of getting WIFI working is very valuable but beyond that if I didn't HAPPEN to also have another machine (win) connected to the net right there with me to get the help I needed... I probably would have given up on Linux.

Besides these days most people view a PC without the internet as a glorified typewriter. Sure there are other things and programs but the "UNUS MUNDUS NETWORK" has really made it;s mark as being a necessity.

Distro Hopping, Stable Distro and SSD's

I got some really cheap SSDs (Solid State Drives)from ebay.
Hung the SATA cables (and power) out of side of PC case.

I have a 32GB for Xubuntu with WINE (my current keeper distro)
16GB for distro hopping.
Still have Win7 on HDD, (bit too much of a squeeze on 32GB, but just do-able, if a bit finicky).
Big old HDD for films, backups etc.

Most of my stuff is also backed up online across DropBox, UbuntuOne, Evernote and lately, SugarSync.

Result, safe (very) fast DistroHopping setup.
Safe, fast, full distro and the one Windows program I can't find a good alternative for (Digiguide) on WINE.
Win7 very rarely needed, and if used wearisome with updates.

I know these are difficult times financially, but a cheap SSD and Linux might delay the need for a new Win7/8 PC, so a saving really.
My SSDs have been very reliable even though cheap non-branded ones.


PS Now trying BSD (PC-BSD lots easier to install so far).

Not Interested in becoming a "Geek"

I have Absolutely NO interest in learning all of the "Geek Speak" or Software Engineering Study/Research/more study/Learning CODE [a dirty word to me, by now!]
Just as easily as my Mint 10 OS computer "finds" the correct connection FOR THE Internet; IT SHOULD BE ENABLED TO "FIND" MY PRINTER! I DO Like the Appr. 60% that does work correctly.
I have no interest in "Hand Cranking" my car,

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