The differences between the various Linux distributions ("distros") are minor: the installation program, choice of the bundled applications and tools, arrangement of a few things on the hard drive. Regardless of your choice of distro, most of Linux is still at the same, and standard hard drive locations are used for essential items. Whichever distribution you decide to install, you will end up with essentially the same Linux.We mostly use "Red Hat Linux" (also called RedHat or RH) and Mandrake (sometimes called MDK) for the following reasons:
The most recent distributions we recommend (June 2003) is RedHat 9.0 or Mandrake 9.1. These are both excellent distributions. Be sure to specify the most recent version if ordering your software from a dealer--many dealers like to clear their inventory by sending you an older version (this applies not only to Linux). Generally, development under Linux is fast, and you don't want to waste your time with older distributions. The authors of this guide have no connection to RedHat, Mandrake (or any other Linux distributor) whatsoever.Our recommendation of Mandrake and RedHat for newbies does not mean that other distributions don't offer benefits or unique features which may surpass Mandrake or RedHat in specific areas. We do believe that we benefited from exposure to a different distribution because it helped us understand Linux better.
Caldera was once another well-known distribution. It was said to be aiming at corporate users, had a fancy installation program, a set of advanced (and pricey) remote configuration tools, and other corporate goodies. In Aug.2000, Caldera purchased SCO Unix (the original trademarked ancient UNIX) which gave them an even more "corporate" look in my eyes. Caldera did not seem to be putting too much of their work into the Linux community, nor to care too much about the home Linux users, so I never considered it for my home use. In early 2003, Calder (renamed SCO) evidently swiched to different business model ("fire programmers, hire lawyers"). I would surely stay clear of anything that might bear the name SCO or Caldera on it. This distro certainly does not have any future. Neither their Unix is any cutting edge so a newbie really does not have to bother with them.
There are "localized" versions of Linux for specific countries or languages (Korean, Chinese, Japanese... )--they likely contain (on default) all the hacks and docs (documentation) that the users in these countries want to see. Says Bill Staehle: "You may want to mention the Conectiva Linux distribution, loosely based on RH from Brazil. As such, it is in Portugese, and is also available in Spanish. Try: http://www.conectiva.com.br/". I heard several good things about Conectiva, so if Portugese or Spanish was my language, I would probably give it a try.There are also "special purpose" distributions, e.g. the "real-time" editions of Linux (might be useful if you are in for automation, robotics, fast speed data acquisition, etc.), very small distros (if you like the idea of running Linux from a single floppy which can be useful for system security or recovery), Linux for embedded systems (if you wanted to customize Linux as a small "special purpose" device, which could be good for the next-generation stereo, MP3 player, palm computer, or a fancy cellular phone), parallel computing and clustering systems (might be great if you plan to do your own weather forecasting :-) or at least nuclear explosion simulations :p ), etc. Here the differences will be larger, but these distributions are not meant to be "general purpose". As a newbie, you likely don't want to start with any of these, although you might be tempted to. (They surely show Linux strength and viability--Linux runs on toys, even a wrist watch, as well as computer clusters that make the currently fastest systems in the world.)
Which Linux Distribution should I select for my old computer(s)? Quick answer: Debian, Slackware, or perhaps BasicLinux (current version), or an older version of RedHat, Mandrake, or SuSE. Justification: RedHat, Mandrake, SuSE, Caldera, and TurboLinux are optimized/suitable for hardware current at the date of their release. They may be difficult or impossible to install on older machines mostly due to the memory contraints and speed. Debian and Slackware are suitable for most older hardware as well. At the begining of installation on older hardware, watch for the initial prompt to start the installation in the "text mode".
My 486-33 MHz with 8 MB memory and 1 GB hard drive had too little memory to run adequately stand-alone under GUI, but was still useful in my home network environment running as an X-terminal (a 486-class machine also performs just adequately stand-alone if it has at least 16 MB of memory but sometimes memory for old computers is hard to obtain and high-priced). (Pls note that Mandrake requires a Pentium processor.)If you are willing to jump a few extra hoops, you should be able to install and run Linux on as little as 4 MB of memory, but this is probably not worth the effort for the general purpose home Linux machine. I would say: get at least 32 MB of memory, and if possible 128 or 512 MB --more memory can make a difference in performance when running several large GUI applications concurrently. Memory is generally inexpensive these days (but prices can vary from month to month). Please note that many current distribution have problems running their installation programs on older computers with a small amount of memory (although once installed, Linux will typically run just fine). If you require more help on installing Linux on a low-memory computer, try: http://7thguard.net/files/DebianHOWTO.txt
| The_Hub |-[uplink]---[to_External_Network_over_Ethernet]
| | |
PC1 PC2 PC3_with_modem---External_Network_over_PPP
Here, I show a local private network consisting of PC1, PC2 and PC3, connected through a hub. Since I do not have "External_Network_over_Ethernet" on my home hub "uplink", PC3 provides my connection to the outside world (over a modem). Therefore, PC3 is called the "gateway" for all computers on my local private network (except PC3 itself). I enable the firewall software on PC3 PPP network interface, and let PC3 know how to dial out and connect to the outside. The outside world can only see PC3. As far as they can tell, PC1 and PC2 do not exist. My local ethernet network is "trusted" because only trusted people have physical access to PC1, PC2 and PC3. ("PPP" stands for "Point-to-Point Protocol" and it is a standard for communicating over phone lines.)
You can, of course, build a more complicated network with Linux. A PC can have 2 (or more) ethernet cards. It may then work as bridge between 2 (or more) networks. The PC will act as a gataway for all traffic between between the 2 networks. The networks do not have to be known to the outside world ("local private networks") and sit behind a firewall enabled on a gateway computer. The outside world will only know about 1 computer of mine, the "gateway" to the external network. Other computers will still be able to communicate with the outside world, but all the traffic will appear outside to originate from one, very busy computer--the gateway.
To connect just two computers, a cross-over cable for direct Ethernet-card to Ethernet-card connection is sufficient ("networking for the poor") but the connection through the hub is more straight-forward. To connect more than 2 computers together, you need a hub (~US$30 to US$80) and normal (not cross-over) cables. (If you have extra Ethernet cards, you may also consider installing more than 1 Ethernet card on a computer to make it a router. Then you use direct connections to other computers using the cross-over cables, and save the expense of a hub. This adds a configuration complexity to your system, yet in some situations can be technically advantagous.)
Here is another suggestion on setting up a different kind of network, using a very much older type hardware, which uses coaxial cables (like for the cable TV). For this, no hub is necessary. Because this networking scheme is older, it can be assembled using cards and parts that are sometimes available for free:
(edited for space) From: John.Edwards@brunel.ac.uk Subject: Linux Guide-a suggestion
Hi. Many older 10Mbps network cards (and some newer ones as well) have a BNC connector and you can usually pick up old co-axial cabling when companies upgrade to UTP. Add a T piece for each machine and a 50-ohm terminator at each end (about 1 pound or $1.50 each) and you have a home network that will happily support more machines than you probably have room for. And most importantly--no expensive hub (or cheap hub that can cause trouble). There are other advantages to co-ax as well, it's tougher to break and more resistant to noise from other equipment.
Disadvantages: There is a limit of 185 meters per network segment of thin co-ax, 30 machines per network, and you're stuck at 10Mbps, but I don't see any small home network needing more than that. Also if one cable goes down then the whole network stops, this shouldn't happen often unless someone unplugs a cable section. You can disconnect the T piece from a PC without harming the rest though.
Quick diagram, T for a T piece and Term for a terminator:
| | | |
PC PC PC PC
The various parts connect together using BNC connectors similar to a TV & video connector but with a bayonet that secures the two sockets together. For more details see the /usr/doc/HOWTO/Ethernet-HOWTOThe most straigh-forward and modern, however, is to get one 10-base-T ethernet card for each of your computers and a one hub to connect them all.
Zip drives of all kinds are supported fine.I wouldn't count on Linux supporting a parallel port (non-SCSI) scanner, no matter if the manufacturer claims TWAIN (="Technology Without An Interesting Name", no joke here) compatibility.
So the short answer is yes, in all likelihood your standard PC will run Linux with no problems. You don't invest much when trying Linux, so probably the easiest way to make sure is to attempt an installation on your existing hardware. There are Linux hardware compatibility lists at http://hardware.redhat.com/hcl/genpage2.cgi and http://metalab.unc.edu/LDP/HOWTO/Hardware-HOWTO.html if you want to check your newer or less popular hardware.When purchasing new hardware, I would always check its Linux compatibility on the above lists. You can also ask your supplier if the hardware is supported under Linux, but I would take the answer with a grain of salt--too many companies have incompetent sales personnel/technical support. When purchasing a new computer, I would consider a system with Linux pre-installed. A number of major suppliers offer systems (particularly large ones) with Linux, but many don't. You can always get a system with Linux-preinstallled from a smaller vendor.
If you are an adventurous person, as I am, I would pay no attention to the remarks above, chances are 90-10 that the hardware will work.If a piece of hardware of yours is (apparently) not supported in your current Linux distribution, don't give up. Chances are that: (1) It is supported, but you don't know how to set it up. (Solution: stay around with Linux for a few weeks, don't waste your time, when you get some understanding of how your system works, then you may be able to set it up.) (2) You have to go through a more complex setup to support the hardware (for example some cryptic command or a kernel re-compile, which is not as difficult as it seems). (3) An updated (different?) distribution already supports it "out-of-box" (you can usually order it for US$1.99). (4) There is already an upgrade somewhere on the Internet, you have to find it, download it, and figure out how to install it. (4) The upgrade will be available next month--Linux development goes really fast!
Here is a more comprehensive list of places to obtain Linux CDs with their location, so you can find something near to you (after B.Staehle) : http://www.ixsoft.de (low price CDs in Europe); http://linuxservice.de (another source in Germany); http://www.polo.demon.co.uk/emporium.html (The Linux Emporium); http://www.linux-emporium.co.uk; http://definite.ukpost.com/ (Definite Linux Systems); http://www.mallind.demon.co.uk/ (GPL + official distros); http://www.amush.cx/linux/ (GPL distributions in UK only); http://www.linux123.co.uk/ (GPL + official distros in .uk); http://www.kihi.com.au/bowtie/ (Bowtie Software - cheap CDs in OZ); http://EverythingLinux.com.au/ (cheap CDs in OZ); http://www.lsl.com.au/ (cheap CDs in OZ); http://www.arles.ns.ca (official distros and BSD in .ca); http://www.affinity-systems.ab.ca/ (Official distros - hardware in .ca); http://www.warpedsystems.sk.ca (GPL + official distros, custom built system CA); http://www.softcopy.on.ca/ (cheap CDs in CA); http://www.libranet.com (Libranet Linux Vancouver, BC, CA); http://www.linuxwarehouse.co.za/ (low cost and official in South Africa); http://linuxcentral.com (Clinton Township MI 48035); http://www.lsl.com (Chesterfield, MI 48047, USA); http://www.cheapbytes.com (Lodi, CA 95241, USA); http://www.infomagic.com (Flagstaff AZ 86004, USA); http://www.tummy.com/krud/ (Fort Collins, CO 80525, USA); http://www.pieceby.com/ (Hudson, NH 03051, USA); http://www.linuxmall.com (Aurora, CO 80046-0190, USA); http://www.linux-now.com (Clarion, PA 16214, USA); http://www.xcomputing.com (San Francisco, CA 94134, USA); http://www.ccsoft.cc/linux/ (Santa Rosa, CA 95401, USA); http://www.storeanywhere.com/ (Brooklyn, NY 11235, USA); http://www.linuxcomponents.com (Owings Mills, MD 21117, USA).
The commands above run the utility "rawrite" and specify the input file ("disk image", after the option "-f") and the destination drive (after the option "-d"), and suppresses the prompt to insert a floppy (option "-n"). You may find it easier to run rawrite without any argument--it will interactively prompt you for the input image (pick the file name as in the commands above) and the destination drive letter.From under Linux, you can make a boot disk by mounting the RedHat CDROM and typing the commands (as root user):
You may want to browse the RedHat or Mandrake manual. If you don't have the printed copy, an html version is on your CD so you can read it using any web browser, e.g. Netscape for Windows. Look here to see how to access this manual and some additional reading material which is on your Linux CD.
If you plan a dual boot (Linux and MS Windows on the same computer),
first use your DOS/Win utility FDISK to make the MS Windows
partition(s). Leave part (half?) of the hard drive(s)
unpartitioned for Linux. You will create and format the Linux
partitions during your RedHat (or Mandrake or whatever else)
installation. Linux will recognize the free (unpartitioned) space on
the hard drive and use it to create partition(s) in a non-Microsoft
Make the MS Windows partition "primary" and "bootable". Install, configure, and test your MS Windows before Linux installation. If you plan to run Linux only (no dual boot), you need just a clean hard drive (no partitions) to start with.It is possible to have only one Linux partition (plus one for MS Windows if you dual-boot). But it is better to have more partitions so that you can keep users' data separate from the rest of the operating system. This way, if something ever goes wrong, or if you have to reformat or re-install the operating system, you don't lose the users' data. (You can perform a complete Linux re-install without losing the contents of the /home directory that contains all user data if you skip the "re-format" option given to you during installation. But for that, the /home directory must be on its own partition.)
mount point type sizeIn the above example, I dedicate 300 MB for the root partition that holds the base of the Linux operating system. I allocate 1200 MB to the mount point that will be visible on my filesystem as the /usr directory and will contain the user's programs (the programs that don't come with the base operating system and I install later, for example StarOffice). I dedicate 380 MB for the partition that will be visible as the directory /home and will contain the setting and data of all users on the machine. And I allocate 120 MB to a "raw" partition for the operating system to use as the virtual memory (extension of the physical, silicon memory on the hard drive, so-called swap). (If your Linux is ancient, kernel version lower than 2.2 as in RH5.2 and earlier, your swap partition cannot be larger than approximately 127 MB.) The rule of thumb is that the swap should be about twice the amount of the physical memory (RAM). If you need more (e.g. if you have lots of physical memory, or you expect to run custom programs with really large data structures) you might want to create a larger swap partition during the installation (or several smaller swap partitions) or add a swap file(s) later.
/ ext2 300 MB
/usr ext2 1200 MB
/home ext2 380 MB
swap swap 120 MB
mount point type sizeIn this example, I dedicate 600 MB to the base of the operating system, applications, and user documents/data, and allow 50 MB for the swap partition (for the operating system to use as the virtual memory). The 50-MB swap should be quite sufficient for medium duty operations. The limitation of 600 MB for the operating system, applications and user data means that you will have to be very selective as to which applications you install or else you risk running out of hard drive space. Try pressing <F1> when installing the optional software that comes on the Red Hat CD--it will give you a short description of what the software does so you could perhaps decide if you really need it. (Don't worry too much if you miss something you need, you can install the missing parts later). You can easily finish the RedHat installation with 200 MB free on your Linux partition (out of 600 MB used in this example) if you make reasonable choices. Please note that "bundling together" the root partition "/" and the /home directory will likely save you some disk space, but it is not the safest solution.
/ ext2 600 MB
swap swap 50 MB
mount point type sizePlease note that the the mount points can reside on different physical hard drives. Linux agglomarates all the hard drive space into a single directory tree.
/ ext2 800 MB
/usr ext2 5000 MB
/usr/local ext2 3000 MB
/home ext2 5200 MB
swap swap 1000 MB
The listing of partitions that your Linux setup program presents to
you during installation will include any MS Windows partitions which you
have. For example, I have the following MS Windows partition:
mount point type size comment
[no mount] vfat 1200 MB ["Win C drive, hda1]
/mnt/dos_hdd2 vfat 1600 MB ["Win D drive, hdd2]
Don't erase these MS Windows partitions during your Linux installation if you want a dual boot. If you erase the MS Windows partition, MS Windows is gone from your system! If not sure, backup your data from your MS Windows partitions before Linux installation. "msdos", "fat" and "vfat" and "ntfs" are typical filesystems used by DOS and MS Windows 3.x/95/98/NT.As a quick reference, here is a brief summary of the standard linux partition types ("filesystems") with a short description. I copied the info from the linux manual pages: man fs and man mount (with some additions after I had a look at the source code files at /usr/src/linux/fs). The underlined filesystems are the ones that you are more likely to use. Other filesystems (not listed below) are available as add-ons (for example journaling filesystems, compressed, encrypted, ...).
minix is the filesystem used in the Minix operating system, the first to run under Linux. It has a number of shortcomings: a 64MB partition size limit, short filenames, a single time stamp, etc. It remains useful for floppies and RAM disks.
ext is an elaborate extension of the minix filesystem. It has been completely superseded by the second version of the extended filesystem (ext2) and will eventually be removed from the kernel.
ext2 is the high performance disk filesystem used by Linux for fixed disks as well as removable media. The second extended filesystem was designed as an extension of the extended file system (ext). ext2 offers the best performance (in terms of speed and CPU usage) of the filesystems supported under Linux. In short, ext2 is the main (default, typical) Linux filesystem.
ext3 is an extension of the ext2 filesystem with journaling. It is backwards and forward compatibile with ext2. It means that ext2 can be converted into ext3 without reformatting or data loss (just re-mounting the partion is required). ext3 can be changed back to ext2, also without data loss. I use ext3 extensively since Oct.2001--it is simple and trouble-free. It is included as an installation "option" since RedHat 7.2 and Mandrake 8.0. It is highly recommended that you use this filesystem.
xiafs was designed and implemented to be a stable, safe filesystem by extending the Minix filesystem code. It provides the basic most requested features without undue complexity. The xia filesystem is no longer actively developed or maintained. It is used infrequently.
msdos is the filesystem used by DOS, Windows, and some OS/2 computers. msdos filenames can be no longer than 8 characters followed by an optional period and 3 character extension.
umsdos is an extended DOS filesystem used by Linux. It adds capability for long filenames, UID/GID, POSIX permissions, and special files (devices, named pipes, etc.) under the DOS filesystem, without sacrificing compatibility with DOS.
vfat is an extended DOS filesystem used by Microsoft Windows95 and Windows NT. VFAT adds capability for long filenames under the MSDOS filesystem.
proc is a pseudo-filesystem which is used as an interface to kernel data structures rather than reading and interpreting /dev/kmem. In particular, its files do not take up disk space. See man 5 proc.
iso9660 is a CD-ROM filesystem type conforming to the ISO 9660 standard. Two extensions (listed below) are automatically supported.
High Sierra --Linux supports High Sierra, the precursor to the ISO 9660 standard for CD-ROM filesystems. It is automatically recognized within the iso9660 filesystem support under Linux.
Rock Ridge --Linux also supports the System Use Sharing Protocol records specified by the Rock Ridge Interchange Protocol. They are used to further describe the files in the iso9660 filesystem to a UNIX host, and provide information such as long filenames, UID/GID, POSIX permissions, and devices. It is automatically recognized within the iso9660 filesystem support under Linux.
hpfs is the High Performance Filesystem, used in OS/2. This filesystem is read-only under Linux due to the lack of available documentation.
sysv is an implementation of the SystemV/Coherent filesystem for Linux. It implements all of Xenix FS, SystemV/386 FS, and Coherent FS.
nfs is the network filesystem used to access disks located on remote computers.
smb is a network filesystem that supports the SMB protocol, used by MS Windows for Workgroups, Windows NT, and Lan Manager. To use smb fs, you need a special mount program, which can be found in the ksmbfs package, found at ftp://sunsite.unc.edu/pub/Linux/system/Filesystems/smbfs. [Standard linux command "smbmount" will also do.]
ncpfs is a network filesystem that supports the NCP protocol, used by Novell NetWare.
devpts--is a pseudo file system, traditionally mounted on /dev/pts. In order to acquire a pseudo terminal, a process opens /dev/ptmx; the number of the pseudo terminal is then made available to the process and the pseudo terminal slave can be accessed as /dev/pts/<number>.
fat --is not a separate filesystem, but a common part of the msdos, umsdos and vfat filesystems.
UFS --is a file system widely used in different operating systems.
swap--is a special partition type used for swapping data from memory to hard drive.
raiserfs--is a brand new journaling filesystem available as standard with Linux kernel version 2.4.1 up (January 2001).
hfs (=hierarchical files system)--MacIntosh filesystem. It is a late beta version., i.e., not recommended for use with critical data, unless read-only.
ntfs--MS Windows NT filesytem. It is still "experimental" under Linux, i.e. not recommeded for production machines, unless read-only (Aug.2001).
Most installers give you an option between text and graphical install. You need to select "text" if your computer memory is restricted. On modern computers, I always use the graphical installer.
However, some newbies reported that the installation was a "total nightmare" to them (hardware problems? lack of experience?). If you encounter problems, my advice would be to install a plain-vanilla system, without struggling with the highest resolution on your fancy video card or other bleeding-edge hardware peripherials which you might have. Anything can be added/configured later, after you get more understanding of how things work on your system. Even a re-install is always an option for a newbie (it seems Linux gurus think it is a shame to ever re-install Linux). It seems that many newbies have problems because they specify too high screen resolutions (which may be not supported or supported only with some extra tune-up). Again, it may not be wise to break your whole installation for support of a single device--the support can be added/tuned-up later.
No matter what distribution or version, the CD contains packages that make the base operating system (kernel, libraries, a selection of command-line configuration and maintenance tools, etc) a rich selection of networking "clients" and servers" with appropriate configuration and monitoring tools, some end-user text mode applications, base X-windowing system, at least one GUI desktop (most likely several), and likely a slew of GUI applications.
The installation program (either RedHat or Mandrake) will ask you which packages to install. If you select "workstation installation", then the packages normally found on servers will be omitted from your installation (for example, the Apache web server may be skipped). If you choose "server installation", then typically the end-user desktop applications will not be installed (for example, the GIMP graphical utility may be omitted). You can also choose to install "everything", and this is my favorite option for a home computer installation. Finally, you may opt to make your own selection of packages to install--read on.
It is definitely a very bad idea to select installation of packages/programs on the basis of how interesting their names sound--some packages have rather unusual names and I would never guess what they do. You could cripple your system by omitting the installation of an essential package (e.g., a library). You might also be disappointed when insisting to run some cool-named, cutting-edge piece of software ("version 0.1") that happened to be included on the distribution CD. In general, you might be annoyed by the functionality (or lack of it) that your "customized Linux" exhibits. Being a newbie, it sometimes pays to trust the defaults selected by your distribution creator.
Therefore, for my final "production" installation, I would stay away from the tempting installation option "expert install--select packages manually" unless I wish to install everything anyway. For starters, I like the safe "max default installation", however this installation option is called on your CD. Again, you can run into problems if you start with Linux using a strangely customized system (many installers will let you customize at will).
If you don't install a package and later find that you need it--don't panic. It can easily be installed later. Read on.
I would also install the other "alternative windows managers". They hardly take any space (some are really tiny) yet they can be useful under some circumstances. You can run any KDE or GNOME application from under any of them, as long as KDE and GNOME libraries are installed.
KDE is more power hungry. On older hardware (e.g., 133 MHz Pentium) I prefer GNOME to KDE. Other windows managers are ligther than either KDE or GNOME. Therefore, on really modest hardware, I would choose one of the "alternative" windows managers.
If you installed the GUI login screen, the login procedure looks
similar, but occurs on an X-window screen. (If you occasionally have
problems typing there, perhaps position your mouse cursor
above the dialog box. The X login screen may implement the
"focus-follows-mouse" policy.) After a successful login, my
default GUI desktop is launched.
"root" is a special account with an absolute power over the system, and it is used for system administration. You surely want to create at least one more "user" account later to do regular (not system administration) work. Read on to learn how to do it.
cp /dev/zero /dev/mem
As root, you can even erase all the files on your system with a similarly innocuously looking one-liner (don't do it):
rm -fr /
This is not to say that Linux is easy to crash, but that the system administrator ("root") has the complete power over the system. You can make MS Windows unusable by trashing some files from C:\WINDOWS OR C:\WINDOWS\SYSTEM directory. An important distinctions that makes Linux resiliant is that the user and administrative accounts are separated. Regular users can touch only the files they own, and similarly the programs which users run can only junk user-owned areas, no matter how buggy or malicious a program might be. The separation of "administrative" and "user" accounts adds to system complexity, yet it also makes the Linux system truly multi-user. This is unlike the old MS Windows approach. With the latest version of MS Windows, Microsoft moves more towards the UNIX approach. An old saying comes to mind: "those who do not know UNIX are destined to re-invent it".
Conclusion: do not use the root account for routine work. Add a regular-user account as your first administrative task and use this account for your experimenting with Linux and regular work. Here is how to do it (as root):
[enter a good long password with a number in the middle]
[reenter the same password without a mistake]
[login as johnbrown]
The root account is for administration and setup only. As root, I would not do things/run programs that I do not exactly understand what they do. At least not on a computer that I plan to use for real work. Really. I would definitely not browse the net as root (that is an absolute security no-no).
My learning path was as follows:
1. Install Linux.
2. Play around, experiment (root and not root, do cool things, setup
stuff. I want to be able to predict the behaviour of my system--only
then do I know that I understand it).
4. Unless I don't have any more time, get bored, or know everything, goto 2.
Once properly installed on good hardware, command-line Linux is legendarly stable--it can run for months or even years. As a newbie, you can almost bet that a funny system behaviour results from either your actions as root, or from flakey hardware.
Two quotes to amplify this point: "Using a graphical interface is fairly easy because it limits you to a few basic operations that you can learn quickly. But if those basic operations aren't what you need, then you may have problems". "One characteristic of a user-friendly system is that it does what the user wants. In other words, the most user-friendly system isn't necessarily the simplest one." [http://linux.oreillynet.com/pub/a/linux/2001/11/15/learnunixos.html]
I find that a mix of GUI and command line is perfect to cover all my needs. If you are determined to use GUI only and are not willing to learn any command line options, you might consider delaying your Linux installation until the GUI tools are better developed, unless you have somebody to help you administer your computer for now.
On the other hand, if you have a computer-agnostic girlfriend or boyfriend, and all s/he does is execute perhaps half-a-dozen different programs, you can set up a nice GUI screen for him with the icons or buttons or menus he requires. This, after some intial encouragement, may make like Linux.
From this Guide's point of view, command line is certainly simpler for documentation. Icons and menus are meant to be customizable and therefore your icons and menus may be quite different from mine. Also, to set up an icon or command, I need to know the command that stands behind the icon. In short, understanding of the command line is indispensible for setup and any work beyond trivialities, even under GUI. We include no screenshots in this guide--we found them ourselves useless in learning about computers.
Thoughtful partitioning of your hard drive will facilitate future upgrades, because your data files can be preserved in your "home" directory.
A checklist I made for myself when upgrading:
Go to part 2: Linux Resources, Help and Some Links
- Log in as root.
- Make a copy of the /etc directory to some place where it won't be distroyed (e.g., zipdrive). This will let me have a look at your previous setup in case I encounter problems.
- Make a backup of any valuable data in the /home directory. This is just in case something went really wrong, for example, if I happened to format a wrong partition.
- Determine and write down the mountpoints on your filesystem using the "diskfree" command:
For example, on my system it shows that the /home my home directory is mounted on a separate hard drive partition called /dev/hda9. and the directory /usr/local is on /dev/hda8. I write this info on a back of an old envelope.
- Perform the installatation of Linux, but tell the installer to mount the partitions /home and /usr/local at their previous (existing) locations. DO NOT re-format these two partitions. This is critical if you want to preserve your data.
- Boot the new installation and check that it works.
- For each user on the system, create a login with the old name and old user ID number, for example,
ls /home/maria/* -l (check the user ID for account "maria" in the file listing of her home directory),
useradd maria -u 503 (create a user acount "maria" with with an example uid "503").
The users will have to select new passwords. If I had lots of users, instead of re-creation of all the accounts I would edit the old and new versions of three files: /etc/passwd, /etc/shadow and /etc/group and copy-paste the relevant user information from the old files to their newer versions (one lines per user in each of the two files, one line per group in the third file).
- From each user home directory, delete the potentialy troublesome setup files, e.g.: ".kde", ".ICE*", etc. Good oportunity to delete any junk too. Some setup files may be troublesome because the new version of kde is likely to perform better with the most recent default settings (it will create them on first startup). E.g.,
rm -fr .kde
- Make sure that each remaining file in the home directories belongs to the appropriate user. For example, I do:
chown -R maria *
chgrp -R maria *