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Oof -- How Do I Start? What It Is And What It Ain't


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#1 machiner

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Posted 15 July 2008 - 10:40 AM

Hi everyone. I'm new here but have been using and teaching Linux for some time. Please understand that I'm no expert - at all, but I am here to help. Pardon the long-winded introduction ;)

I read posts constantly web-wide about how hard Linux is and about the mysticism that seems to surround it. Additionally, people attribute those using Linux with all sorts of character flaws like being a "cracker", a terrorist, general malcontent, etc., etc., etc. You get the idea. Of course, this is slowly changing but it's really only doing so by attaching a monetary value to it. Towit, BestBuy now sells Ubuntu for 20 beans. People respect that a lot more than their ability to download it for themselves. Ya, kills me, too, but that's just how it is. Buy Linux = responsible consumer (actually, I'm a citizen), downloading it = creepy kid up to no good.

Moreover I see a lot of failed attempts at either installing Linux (OMFG it's SO HARD!!) or setting up additional functionality once it is installed. The way I see it is, I am a firm believer in personal responsibility. Meaning, if you jump into a thing without understanding it you are doomed to failure. This is wholly unnecessary when you, and I'm speaking to everybody, realize that Linux is not Windows. Nor is it Mac. We should all be grateful for this but it seems to scare the crap out of most. Sigh.

I have built a Debian resource that has failed miserably - debiantutorials.org. The original intent was to assist those computer users fed-up with Windows in their migration to Debian, and if need be, Linux in general. I say I have failed becasue the site was hijacked by those immediate-gratification types that are already running Linux but can't seem to figure it out, for whatever reason. On the site I make an attempt to assist with tutorials and articles that I see as relevent to the switch. Also, I have written the site in what I consider to be a very casual and "homey" way. In an attempt to assist. In general it's been well received although it's very difficult to write that way. A large problem is that Windows users are either too afraid, or too ignorant to interact with the site. Don't be offended by "ignorant", it means without certain knowledge, not stupid. Another large problem is that those new to Linux demand it be Windows only safe from viruses and otherwise secure. Which it's not.

Many of us try to change the mindset of Windows users because it has to happen in order to be successful with Linux. Linux is completely not Windows. Conventions are different all the way around. I don't really see "free" (as in beer) as the biggest draw to Linux. I embrace it's configurability and it inherent safety and ease. By running Linux you are able to create the desktop (or server, or appliance) that you want and not what a company dictates. This throws a lot of people, after all, we are so used to being spoon or force-fed. We are used to having others think for us and make our decisions.

This is madness. You must consider what entity is doing the dictating and to what end. If this is done honestly many do stop and rethink things. But their newfound liberation leads to frustration becasue they enter into uncharted territory full of big plans and hopes only to see them dashed for their lack of education. Again, Linux is not Windows.

I don't wish to place all the blame on Microsoft, however. I place a substantial amount of blame on the computer user. The "wowie!" factor kills them. They jump in and fail and they say - "Linux SUCKS!" or "Linux is HARD!". Neither is true at all. Most of those people tend to propogate the web with maladies because they don't understand Windows at all either, but Microsoft doesn't let them. These computer users run their computers with wreckless abandon and some even call themselves expert or "power-users". Lol, once I helped run a secure network built on NT with win95 clients and some Linux controlled services (email). I realized that the power-user designation was nonesense. Unless it's ascribed to the user's ability to powerfully wreck their system. Windows wasn't set up to allow a user to get to the root of things. It still keeps users dumb and at bay. Truth is not marketing ;)

In order to have a successful run at Linux the computer user must understand that the system they wish to run is one that enables them. This can be scary to most, too, although I don't see why. We all passed the 3rd grade...right? Where is it written that we shut down our brains after High School or College? Where is it law that dictates learning stops once you've achieved your initial goal of surviving into adulthood? Yeah -- nowhere. Moreover, where is it written that any computer user can feel free to jump into a new thing, screw it up and then demand assistance from others? lol -- nowhere.

Yet, there are many places filled with many people that offer up their expertise to the rookies among us. Comending them is not called-for. Recognizing their altruism and working with them to achieve our own goals is, however. When new users vent their inadequacies and frustrations at these people willing to help, nothing productive comes from it. Agendas get served, FUD gets spread and you, dear Linux rookie, are right back where you started. Nowhere. Hating what you don't understand is madness.

My children both run Debian. Not too often becasue I don't let them waste their lives in front of a computer; That cold and impersonal appliance that many of us ascribe powerful Voodoo to. lol. My daighter has sudo power becasue she's responsible. She is 10 and has her own ideas and social guidelines (I cannot compete, I can only hope to contain a bit) but enjoys the fact that her computer is "awesome". You, a successful and smart MF, have insane amounts of trouble forcing your Linux computer to behave as Windows does. sigh. When did you become so dogmatic? There is no place for dogma with respect to computers. Changes and newness occur daily. When you join a new club there might be an initiation -- Linux is the same.

Those of us that are successful running the Linux distribution of our choice all have a thing in common. We want to run Linux. We are not tepid toe-dippers nor are we afraid to understand that this new thing in front of us will require a bit of learning in order to run successfully. I fail to understand how this is a difficult or unachievable goal. Of course, coming from the willy-nilly world of Windows, where you have been allowed to wreck your system, you may be used to operating in a lazy or ignorant fashion. You cannot force Linux to allow you to operate this way and when you come to terms with that you will be one step closer to enjoying the system. However, you will find that your Linux system is set-and-forget. Pffft -- maintainence is a 2 second thing.

People say -- "I cannot install applications!" I say phoey,. They say -- I can't print -- I can't get my wireless to work -- how come I cannot install X program? These comments are mostly coming from the mentality of a Windows dupe (all apologies but the shoe certainly fits :thumbsup: ). All are incorrect and all are asked or posited in the wrong manner. A lot of users seem to be frustrated that they cannot double-click a thing and have it install. Well, these users would be wrong. You certainly can install applications that way. However, take it further -- how about compiling (ooooh, spooky word alert) that same application to work on your machine with the hardware that you have? That's the sh&t rigt there -- but I know -- give a person a rope....Windows software gets compiled, too. The devs do it for you. Software for Linux is mostly pre-compiled for you, too. Those come in the form of .debs or .rpms. They are, for all intents and purposes, an .exe file. You can double-click them if you have enabled your system to do so, or you can install them with the tools designed to install them. Your choice. ('nother spooky word alert) You can understand the workings of these pre-compiled packages or not. Who cares?

People say -- Linux is spooky because "I heard that I must use the terminal in order to configure my system". Hogwash! You can, certainly, but to think that you must maintains your dogmatic posture and sinks you in the FUD. I install Debian on computers belonging to people having all levels of computing experience. I also get a lot of happy calls telling me how wrong they were in their convictions about Linux. Woohoo!!! Fresh air! The terminal is there for you to use if you like and I always tell people that they should fire it up and see what it's all about. I give them some basic commands and tell them how to learn more and they love it. Even those people that would otherwise be considered people that shouldn't even be running a computer. They report success and glee. They report learning and they enjoy it. Welders, doctors, teachers, homemakers, engineers, politicians. The "smart" ones and the "dumb" ones. lol, what is dumb, anyway?

I hope that I haven't travelled all over the place too much in this long post. I could continue for days but who needs that? running Linux is as simple or difficult as you make it out to be. If you want to keep the Windows mentality then more power to you - just don't come callin' becasue there is nobody here to help you perpetuate that folly. Now, make the decision. And believe me, there is a lot of FUD that comes from the Linux side, too. Make the decision to either run it or no -- but don't be half-arsed about it and don't expect the system to allow you to screw it up by applying Windows habits to it. If you really want to screw up your Debian system (or, Linux) ask me how and I'll tell you. Then you can have fun bringing it back to functionality. It is in this manner that I learned Linux and I think it's a good way to go. Roll your sleeves up, learn the important disctinctions of LInux, install it, configure it, and then wreck it. (or, don't -- just install it and be happy) Before you know it you will know it. You will also realize one or two of the great aspects of Linux -- everything is a file, and you don't have to reboot. Ever, if you don't want to.

I will leave you, you curious and weary readers that have made it this far (the ones among you that will succeed), with a few basic tenets of Linux and hope that it serves you well.

Everything is a file
compiling is easy and beneficial
stop thinking about viruses
stop attributing magic to your computer, it's a stupid on or off machine
the terminal is your friend and is vastly more powerful than you will probably ever know, but it's pretty brain-dead simple to use
you are not allowed to change files outside of your /home/you directory unless you become root. This is a fabulous thing
almost all the drivers you need are already installed. Honest.
success with Linux demands desire and effort; as much or as little as you feel like giving it
with knowledge comes freedom, shed those shackles, breathe, enjoy it
there are no experts, there is only learning, as much or as little as you want
Linux will never sell you out
commands are powerful things and if you can think it, you can probably do it. Linux rewards creativity
some people will never find success with Linux, it is what it is. You may be one of these people, only you can decide.
The best things in life are the ones you have to work at.
Immediate gratification is an oxy-moron, stop demanding it
standards are a good thing, keeping the user in the dark is not
a little understanding can take you far, but don't get carried away and be one of those people that becomes dangerous

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#2 raw

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Posted 15 July 2008 - 11:42 PM

WOW...at first I thought this was the mindless ramblings of a Linux zealot
who had consumed too many mushrooms. :thumbsup:
I don't want to turn this into a Win vs Lin debate.

Linux sucks because not everything works just like Windows. This is part of
the learning curve.

Linux is not Windows. Everything looks different because it is. You are not expected
to be a Linux expert by booting up a LiveCD. It takes a strong desire to learn and
the patience to fail.

Read about users who decided to take the plunge. After reading how easy it was for
people just like the people here at BC some might just download a Linux distro and give it a look.

http://www.pclinuxos.com/forum/index.php?board=45.0

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Current systems: WHAT OS, BackTrack-raw, PCLinuxOS, Peppermint OS 6, Kali Linux

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#3 machiner

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Posted 16 July 2008 - 07:38 AM

Well, phew! Glad you were able to see that it was not "mindless ramblings of a Linux zealot" -- 'cause it ain't (nor am I a zealot - in fact I am no software's beeatch) ;) I'm just not very eloquent. Nor do I want to turn this into a win vs lin debate, again, 'cause it ain't.

I was hoping for more of a "hey, bub, get over yourself -- this isn't hard, it's not magic, and you're not stupid".


We'll see.

#4 raw

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Posted 16 July 2008 - 08:49 PM

I conjured up three different replies before posting my previous response.
All three ended up being long winded and personally biased.
It is no secret that I hate Windows, but the truth is none of us
would be where we are today without it. Windows has taught me
how to reformat a hard drive and install an Operating System. It has
shown me the destructive nature of malicious software. And it encouraged
me to find out what Linux is all about.
Windows keeps food on my table. While PC support is not my main line of work
it does provide a nice extra source of income. If half my clients switched to Linux
my bank account would soon suffer.

Hopefully some will read this and follow my previous link and see the positive
experiences those users have had with Linux.

And...Linux is magic! It is hard for new users because it is unfamiliar, but there is
fun and a sense of accomplishment in learning something new. And you are not stupid. :thumbsup:

One final thought,
Great moments of satisfaction: Your friend tells you they took their PC in for repair because it
got a virus or trojan or whatever and you look them straight in the eye and say "I never have those
problems since I switched to Linux."

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#5 RandomUser

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Posted 02 August 2008 - 10:16 AM

I love the GRUB. All Hail GRUB.

Love the VIM. Be the VIM. Conquer the VIM.

LSPCI, Grep, chmod, ls, and ifconfig, are your friends. Don't be afraid of your friends.

A wise man once said, if you can't install something nice, use Synaptic! (or other gui installer)

Linux Rocks!

#6 Trio3b

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Posted 02 August 2008 - 10:35 PM

Sadly, the paradigm has shifted over the past few years from one of personal responsibility to one of ENTITLEMENT, a business model that is very lucrative for MS and the attendant Winapp vendor and cemented into position by those vendors and the mindless consumer decisions made by the user himself.

The computer, laptop, portable device (DAP,cell phone,ultramobilePC, etc.) has been reduced to nothing more than an appliance, much on the level of a toaster. There's enough blame to go around, but the bottom line is that this mindset allows these vendors and users to continue in their unhealthy symbiosis. The rate of advancement of Linux in the past 18 months is stellar compared to MS products in the same time frame, yet adoption of Linux on the Desktop is still lagging due to business infrastructure being reliant upon a handful of flagship "must have" apps.

I have been using Linux for my business for 3 years now and I am able to accomplish %100 of my needs with FOSS. I am NOT averse to commercial opensource, just fortunate that I don't need anything that doesn't come with a vanilla Linux install. Apparently the Windows user appears to be perfectly happy with forced upgrades , EOL'd apps, costly tech support, reformat and reinstalls, viruses, spyware, rootkits, junkware, code bloat, hardware lock-in, DRM, and other proprietary strangleholds and that the future of hi-tech promises more of the same. Go figure!

Edited by Trio3b, 03 August 2008 - 12:11 AM.


#7 sharpe95

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Posted 06 August 2008 - 11:39 AM

I have been using Linux for my business for 3 years now and I am able to accomplish %100 of my needs with FOSS. I am NOT averse to commercial opensource, just fortunate that I don't need anything that doesn't come with a vanilla Linux install. Apparently the Windows user appears to be perfectly happy with forced upgrades , EOL'd apps, costly tech support, reformat and reinstalls, viruses, spyware, rootkits, junkware, code bloat, hardware lock-in, DRM, and other proprietary strangleholds and that the future of hi-tech promises more of the same. Go figure!


You make Windows seem worse than it really is. Automatic updates CAN be turned off (even though some might not know how to do so). You can just get tech support right at bleepingcomputer.com :D

Windows is rather simple to use and wide-spread compared to Linux. Malware can generally be avoided in Windows by a good anti-virus, one or two anti-spyware, Firefox, and a nice healthy dose of common sense. Of course, the risk of infection is still rather large compared to Linux.

You are right about the reformat and reinstalls, though. Linux is free, which makes it more convenient to reinstall at your own leisure. Windows CDs have a limited # of downloads. Also, Linux can read and write to NTFS. Windows can't recognize other partitions for its own life.

I am a neutral party. I have a Windows XP/Ubuntu dual-boot laptop. :thumbsup:

#8 Trio3b

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Posted 06 August 2008 - 07:47 PM

I will concede that Windows is ubiquitous. Prior to Linux used Wxp. Almost lost important business data due to Wxp virus.

Was running xp firewall, Ad aware, spybot. Updates were turned off, but MS advises security updates so I became infected the minute I allowed the "security update". This among other things pushed me over the edge 3 years ago . Migrated to Linux and haven't looked back. If Windows works for you....great!

#9 machiner

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Posted 06 August 2008 - 08:01 PM

Many of us don't see the logic in adding ancillary programs to an OS just to make it work or survive ;) Moreover, once you do start adding resource swallowing software, that in reality doesn't actually do much for you at all, you're left with an OS that's dogged.

There is a lot more to condemn about Windows - it's not relevant that YOU can use it well, lol, so could I, what's relevant is that the greater computing population at large runs it badly and propogates web maladies to ever other Windows user, through their continued ignorance and a whole host of other annoying or broken aspects of Windows.

Seriously, it'a getting more and more difficult to ignore people that say Windows is a fine OS. I'm no software's beotch, when Linux starts to suck I'll move on to something else. But after using Linux for some years, and Windows for some years, there ain't no way in hell I'll ever listen to someone tell me that Windows is a decent show. If you like it, fine. More power to you.

Pollution and corruption are ubiquitous as well - tell me how that makes either a good thing.

#10 Trio3b

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Posted 06 August 2008 - 08:17 PM

The 84 pages of Vista help threads in these forums pretty much tells me all I need to know about an OS that was years in the making and is a flagship product of one of the "world's leading" technology companies.

You may be shocked at how many people equate ubiquity with quality. As you mentioned, there are tons of goods and services out there that may not be good for the consumer, but MS and minions have worked VERY hard at crafting a certain perception.

I stand by post #6

Edited by Trio3b, 06 August 2008 - 08:21 PM.


#11 machiner

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Posted 07 August 2008 - 07:59 AM

The 84 pages of Vista help threads in these forums pretty much tells me all I need to know about an OS that was years in the making and is a flagship product of one of the "world's leading" technology companies.



Lol, I wrote something very similar in my own forum, pointing here, to bleepingcomputer.

#12 raw

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Posted 07 August 2008 - 06:59 PM

The computer, laptop, portable device (DAP,cell phone,ultramobilePC, etc.) has been reduced to nothing more than an appliance, much on the level of a toaster.


Hack your coffee maker - http://www.securityfocus.com/archive/1/493387

Best yet, the software allows a remote attacker to gain access to the Windows XP system it is running on at the level of the user.


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Current systems: WHAT OS, BackTrack-raw, PCLinuxOS, Peppermint OS 6, Kali Linux

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