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Very New to Linux


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#1 Johnny Computer

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Posted 28 September 2009 - 11:39 AM

I am going to be purchasing a laptop so I can run Linux on it. I prefer a laptop with a dedicated linux OS rather then doing the dual boot method on one computer. I have a VERY basic knowledge of linux but a fairly advanced level of general computer knowledge....I would probably be refered to as a "Power User". My question is, is there any particular laptop that works well/comes bundled with Linux and more importantly.... I am really confused on which version of Linux to load on to the new laptop. I am interested in learning all the "Command Line" type features, telnetting, etc....uses of Linux but am also aware that there are some more user friendly more GUI based versions and since I am a real beginner with linux I am really stuck on which version to go with. Any help suggestions you could provide would be much appreciated. I don't want to buy the laptop/OS and find out I should have purchased a different more appropriate version of Linux for my skill level ....lol.... Thanks in advance for your time and help. :thumbsup: :flowers:

avatar591802_2.gif"DO OR DO NOT. THERE IS NO TRY."


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#2 Andrew

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Posted 28 September 2009 - 12:26 PM

Hey Johnny Computer, how ya doing?

First, here's a list of companies around the world that sell laptops with Linux preinstalled: http://www.linux.org/vendor/system/laptop.html

Secondly, and most importantly, you needn't worry about "buying the wrong version" of Linux! Linux is Free and Open Source Software. Yes, some people sell Linux distros, but it's perfectly legal (and encouraged) for you to download those versions for free. Basically what I'm saying is: if you don't like one distro you can pick up and go to another for free (not counting labor, of course :thumbsup: )

Every distro of Linux comes with the command line. In most cases, it's the BASH shell, though some may come with other shells (like busybox, DASH, ASH, CSH, or plain old SH, for example) These are all pretty much variations on a theme and once you figure one out, the others are pretty easy too.

The Linux/Unix command line (or shell) is very, very different from what you may be familiar with under Windows. It is much, much, much more powerful, flexible, robust, scriptable, extensible, etc. There is literally nothing that one can do in the Linux GUI that can't be accomplished from the shell. And faster.

One word of advice: forget everything you know about administering a Windows box. Windows administration is a different animal, and users who come to Linux expecting something like "Windows Lite" are invariably irritated to learn that practically nothing of their Windows knowledge is specifically transferable to Linux ("where's the Start button?!")

As for which distro to try... I'll recommend Ubuntu. It's an excellent launching point for neophytes, true, but also is a full fledged Linux Operating System with all the advantages, caveats, pains, and pleasures thereunto appertaining.

#3 buddy215

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Posted 28 September 2009 - 02:27 PM

Dell offers Ubuntu preinstalled. Here are links:

http://www.dell.com/content/topics/segtopi...;l=en&s=dhs

http://www.ubuntu.com/dell

“Every atom in your body came from a star that exploded and the atoms in your left hand probably came from a different star than your right hand. It really is the most poetic thing I know about physics...you are all stardust.”Lawrence M. Krauss

A 1792 U.S. penny, designed in part by Thomas Jefferson and George Washington, reads “Liberty Parent of Science & Industry.”


#4 Johnny Computer

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Posted 29 September 2009 - 08:37 AM

Thanks to both of you for your quick and infromative responses. Andrew....In terms of the command line vs GUI situation I have a question in reference to this quote I found from wikipedia on Shell computing ....

"Operating system shells generally fall into one of two categories: command-line and graphical. Command-line shells provide a command-line interface (CLI) to the operating system, while graphical shells provide a graphical user interface (GUI). In either category the primary purpose of the shell is to invoke or "launch" another program; however, shells frequently have additional capabilities such as viewing the contents of directories."

If I use the Ubuntu distro as you recommended am I going to be getting a blend of command line/Gui type interface or is it kind of "This distro is strictly a command line version and this other distro more of a GUI based version". I know you said all versions come with a shell so I know I will be getting command line capabilities regardless of the distro....I am just trying to get an idea if certain distro's lean more heavily toward one type of interface of the other.

I am aware of the vast differences between linux and Windows/Apple type operating systems which is what interesrts me. I have been meaning to investigate Linux for quit a while and am finally getting around to it. So looking forward to a new and what I am sure will be an interesting learning curve. Please watch for lot's of newbie questions from me on the linux forum once I get up and running.

Finally, Can you recommend any books/tutorials for Ubuntu that would be good for a real beginner??

As always, thank you for your help. I know you guys do this on a volunteer basis and you have helped me with a few other issues in the past always solving my issue. So much thanks for the continued help. :thumbsup: :flowers:

avatar591802_2.gif"DO OR DO NOT. THERE IS NO TRY."


#5 Andrew

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Posted 29 September 2009 - 12:08 PM

Ubuntu aims to be "Linux for human beings" and to that end tries to make things "point and click" as much as possible, while still retaining the command shell in case the user wants it. The Wikipedia article is somewhat misleading as it insinuates that an OS must be either command line or GUI but cannot both. GUI's and command lines can live together peacefully on the same OS quite well.

Take, for example, this screenshot I made several years ago under Ubuntu:
Posted Image

As you can see, I have several GUI applications running: a web browser (showing Bleeping Computer, of course), an IRC client, a VM running Windows XP, AmaroK playing "Doctor Worm" by They Might Be Giants. But I'm also running a command line program, as you can see, simultaneously. (The program was rTorrent, which I only used to download public domain copies of the Bible, of course...)

Edited by Amazing Andrew, 29 September 2009 - 12:23 PM.


#6 Johnny Computer

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Posted 29 September 2009 - 02:03 PM

Wow-- Thanks again Andrew....That answered my question perfectly and I think you are right that Ubuntu is a good starting point for me.

1.) I have heard varying opinions on the need for anti virus/anti spyware programs on Linux versions. In your opinion do I need to worry about these types of things with Ubuntu??

2.) I will read the 2 pinned topics in the linux forum on choosing the right version and the introductory guide....Do you have any other books/tutorials you could suggest for the beginning Ubuntu user??

Once again Andrew....Thanks so much for your help. I love learning about this stuff :-) :-)

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#7 Andrew

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Posted 29 September 2009 - 03:26 PM

you'll get about as many opinions about Linux security products as people you ask. My opinion? Unless you're running an e-mail server you needn't bother. While there are known malware for Linux, they have never been observed "in the wild." Further all the antivirus programs for Linux do is scan for Windows viruses. This is handy if you're running a mail server that serves Windows clients as it can protect those clients from malware being sent via e-mail. But for your run-of-the-mill desktop running Linux, an antivirus program is just a waste of space, as far as I'm concerned.

Under Linux the greatest threat to the system is the user him- or herself. It is advised that you never log on as root (the name of the administrative account) unless absolutely necessary and then only for as long as in needed. In Ubuntu, the root account is locked out by default and users cannot log in as root from the login screen. Ubuntu recommends the use of sudo and its GUI equivalents (which are automatically invoked if you try to run an admin program in the GUI) to run administrative tasks.

Keeping your Linux box secure is an exercise in common sense: apply patches as they are released (which is often), have a hardware and/or software firewall, have a strong password, don't execute commands you don't understand nor programs you don't trust.

A note on that last items: commands you don't understand and programs you don't trust:

The Linux shell is extremely powerful, even more so when run as root or with sudo. The shell will execute commands without question, even destructive ones. Never, ever run a command that you don't understand. There have been cases where someone is told (through some kind of online help like a forum or chat) to run commands that damage or destroy the system, for example:

sudo rm -rf /
dd if=something_anything of=/dev/sda
:(){:|:&};:
These commands will, from first to last:
Attempt to recursively delete the entire filesystem
overwrite the first partition of the first hard drive with something
Spawn new processes until the system grinds to a halt (fork bomb)

On the same token, never execute programs you don't trust. For example, if you ask a question and someone says "hey, just enter this into you terminal and it'll fix the problem" and gives you something like this:

wget http://some_place/some_file
sh ./some_file

Don't do it. Download the file, sure. Read it, make sure you understand what it's doing. Then, and only then, execute it. (Note: wget is a powerful download program, sh is the name of the shell, ./ instructs the shell to execute the file after it. So these two lines read as: download some_file from the web address given into the current directory, invoke the shell interpreter, then execute some_file)

One of the security features of Linux (and Unix in general) is that no file is considered to be executable unless explicitly marked as such. This differs from Windows where there are several filetypes which execute immediately upon accessing them.

If you choose to go with Ubuntu (or any of it's variants) I'd highly recommend visiting http://ubuntuforums.org/ for help and support. Not that Bleeping Computer isn't an excellent resource of course( :thumbsup: ), but Ubuntu Forums has more Ubuntu and Linux experts than BC does.

Edited by Amazing Andrew, 29 September 2009 - 03:35 PM.


#8 BubbaT

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Posted 01 October 2009 - 01:58 AM

Sounds more like you would want to use kubuntu, a variant of ubuntu which uses KDE as it's desktop. ( Go for KDE version 4.2 or higher, it's cooler then 3.x )
KDE is closer to Windows so yolu should adjusgt a bit easier.

As for commandline, in every desktop, you can open a "term" ( short for terminal). It is a box running a shell ( usually bash ). It's very similar to a dos box under Windows.

Another way is to type ( depending on your distro ) CONTROL-ALT-1. This totally hide the X session and open up a full screen text session ( you will have to log in ).
CONTROL-ALT-7 and it will return the X session. You have similar CONTROL-ALT_# for 1-6, so you can be logged into a commandline session six different times. It makes doing more then one thing at a time from the commandline much easier.


PS If you have already installed ubuntu, it is fairly easy to convert to kubuntu. In this case Google is your friend.

#9 Brewster Down Under

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Posted 01 October 2009 - 10:04 AM

I found this site very helpfull converting from windows

https://answers.launchpad.net/ubuntu/+questions

Having said that I found Linux Mint more user friendly out of the box, lt is derived from Ubuntu
and everything worked without to much fuss (just my opinion)

Looking forward to Linux Mint 8 to be realeased this month :thumbsup:

Forgot to mention the help forums are good as well (reason for edit)

Edited by Brewster Down Under, 01 October 2009 - 10:23 AM.

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#10 Andrew

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Posted 01 October 2009 - 11:48 AM

I believe the newest version of Ubuntu is also out this month.

#11 Johnny Computer

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Posted 01 October 2009 - 04:11 PM

Thanks again everyone for all this great information. I am researching all the different disto's and am leaning toward Ubuntu. My wifes having a baby tomorrow so my Linux project is on hold for a few days. Does anyone have an opinion on weather its better to buy a laptop that comes preinstalled with a Linux distro or to just buy a laptop and install it. I think I would like to just buy a laptop and install it but am not sure how I would go about that. Do I purchase a laptop with no OS installed at all, then use a disc from whichever disto I go with to load the OS. I.E.....I get the new laptop without any OS , power up, insert disc and distro loads the OS?? I would like to load it myself for the learning experience. Any opinions are much appreciated. Thanks again for the time and help guys. :-) :-)

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#12 BubbaT

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Posted 03 October 2009 - 03:15 AM

Does anyone have an opinion on weather its better to buy a laptop that comes preinstalled with a Linux distro or to just buy a laptop and install it. I think I would like to just buy a laptop and install it but am not sure how I would go about that. Do I purchase a laptop with no OS installed at all, then use a disc from whichever disto I go with to load the OS. I.E.....I get the new laptop without any OS , power up, insert disc and distro loads the OS?? I would like to load it myself for the learning experience. Any opinions are much appreciated. Thanks again for the time and help guys. :-) :-)


I forgot to mention DistroWatch before. Makes it easy to do side by side comparisons of distros.

Except for Linux only server every computer I've bought had Windows on it.
The question is do you want dual boot ( both Windows and Linux ) or single boot (linux alone).

The chances of a hardware incompatability are slightly greater with a Windows laptop, but they are not that great these days. Even when they were really bad it wasn't so much not having drivers as it was doing a lot of work to get them working right. If you get Linux preinstalled you may not get the distro you want, but you should be able to install your distro if you really want. Also the linux box will be cheaper by about $50, the OEM price of Windows.

#13 Andrew

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Posted 03 October 2009 - 12:04 PM

Also the linux box will be cheaper by about $50, the OEM price of Windows.

In theory, you're supposed to be able to get a refund of the "Windows Tax" by not accepting the EULA and removing it completely from the computer as soon as you get it home. But it can be a lot harder than it ought to be.

#14 BlackSpyder

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Posted 03 October 2009 - 03:23 PM

Buying the Ubuntu Dells leaves you kinda pigeonholed when it comes to Hardware, or at least that was how it was last time I looked at them. buying a relatively low to mid range laptop through a vendor such as Bestbuy, Wal-mart, or other chain store is a good option as linux needs less hardware than windows but as Andrew mentioned getting back your Windows Tax can be a PITA. Tiger Direct is a good place to look for refurbished laptops without an OS installed. Finally my favorite way to buy PC's (well favorite way to buy anything) Craigslist, Ebay, or insert any classified or bidding site will have Preowned, refurbished, and occasionally new (watch out for ones that "fell off the truck") laptops for a good price. having to deal with hardware not specifically put together for linux is an education not to be missed but Ubuntu makes the process a little better (NDSWrapper we love you)

Yes Ubuntu 9.10 comes out later this month, and the new LTS (Long Term Support) will be out in one year or less i believe (I'm not doing the math on it right now).

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#15 Herk

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Posted 16 October 2009 - 12:31 AM

As I mentioned in an earlier thread, I like Kubuntu. It looks more like Windows, and things are in pretty much the same places. And you can even change the desktop. (Have they allowed anything but a few choices in Ubuntu yet?)

I use it on this desktop (that I'm writing from) and I just loaded it onto a netbook with slightly less spectacular results. Pluses: the internet works, the touchpad works, including the tap, the screen is nice and bright. Minuses: the system and wireless seem slow, the screen is odd-sized and I haven't gotten around to a fix yet. It's usable, though.

Most software is added or removed by kpackagekit which gives you a list to choose from. (GUI) If you have enough processor and memory, you can use goodies such as Compiz, which comes pre-loaded.

And installation is some of the easiest I've ever seen.

I am using dual-boot systems in both machines, with XP on this box and Vista on the netbook. (Does sound strange, doesn't it?) During the easy installation, you are prompted to change the hard drive partitions. Geez, that's gotten easier over the years!

The best choice is presented as a line with the existing partitions. You can accept the suggested partitioning, or drag the bars around to get exactly the size you want. My netbook's 250 gig HD got a new 100 gig partition for Kubuntu, leaving the rest for the Windows partition and the small recovery partition. When choosing which OS to load, the bottom choice is the actual Windows startup and the top choice is the Linux setup, which will log in if you just leave it alone.

There is no absolute need to learn any command-line stuff anymore except in odd fixes, and learning it can be harrowing unless you're a true geek. I think the file system is actually easier to use than Windows. And not having to restart after every update is nice, too.




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