Originally Published: Thursday, 7 September 2000 Author: Ryan C. Gordon
Published to: featured_articles/Featured Articles Page: 1/1 - [Std View]

The Linux Newbie HOWNOTTO

So you want to be a Linux user, huh? By just installing Linux on your box, you are instantly granted access to an international fraternity of users that are just itching to change the face of modern computing. Remember, though, that you are not just installing an operating system: you are recompiling your lifestyle.

So you want to be a Linux user, huh? By just installing Linux on your box, you are instantly granted access to an international fraternity of users that are just itching to change the face of modern computing.

Linux will become your new religion; this is your win32 afterlife. There is no need for a bible, or any manual at all. Linux users don't have time or use for documentation. However, here is a simple HOWTO of basic guidelines for getting the most out of your Linux experience. Remember that you are not just installing an operating system: you are recompiling your lifestyle.

Before we get started, you'll need to choose a distribution. Unlike "that other operating system," there are many flavors of Linux. All have different focuses and benefits. For example, Stampede Linux concentrates on optimizing all its applications for Pentium class processors, whereas TurboLinux tries to focus on the Asian markets. Mandrake Linux focuses on robbing Red Hat Linux blind, and LinuxOne focuses on robbing Mandrake Linux blind. Slackware is designed specifically for users that were mistreated in their formative years. Basically, distributions find their niche and fill it nicely.

So which distro is right for you? To level the playing field, it's important to remember that while they all excel in different ways, all distributions suck in precisely the same ways. So, in the long run, you are better off finding the distro with the coolest logo. Just be careful; as cool as that cute little devil with the pitchfork is, you must avoid that package at all costs. It's a Linux wannabe. And we wouldn't want to start out our new life as a Linux user on the wrong foot, now would we?

In case you were put off by the price of the box with the best logo, don't worry, thanks to the GNU General Public License, you can freely download the entire contents of the discs they were selling you for 80 bucks a pop. In fact, quite often you can get exact .ISO files of those discs--legally--from the company's website without having to go through the trouble of r00ting the server first. No catch. Honest.

Once you start warezing the latest and greatest 0-day GPLs, it will not be long before you realize that while free software is good when compared to free speech, it's damned good when compared to free beer. One of the primary benefits of Linux is that you will never have to feel guilty for pirating shareware programs that talented individuals put love and sweat into...in the Linux community, those talented individuals want you to take it. Go on. No one's watching. Take it.

Inevitably this will start to lead you to think that software has no quality unless it's free...as in beer. I mean, yeah, sure...that source code thing is nice, and contributions to the Linux community are fine, yadda yadda...but if you have to pay for it, it must be crap. So, as part of your Linux initiation, be sure to send hate mail to VMware, inc, and Real.com...because sooner than later, even the online registrations for free software will start to irk you.

Oooh, but save some venom, my little script kiddies! We have not come to the central point of Linux's achievements: it's not from Microsoft. Those that have experience with OS/2, MacOS, or Java may skip this section. More important to a Linux user than his spam filter is his god given right to slam Microsoft. One of the most effective ways to do this, of course, is to tell it to other people that also hate Microsoft. You might think this is an ineffective use of hostility, but it's not. After all, the uninitiated throng just wouldn't understand. You'll need an outlet for your anger, and you may find a home at Slashdot.

Now you've got software and a sense of belonging. There is only one step left: installation. This can be a scary process, but don't worry, we're here for you. Hold on tight.

First, insert the installation disc. Then turn on the machine. At this point a beautifully designed GUI will appear that allows you to install Linux with a single click. Go ahead and click anywhere on the screen. Watch in wonder as your existing partitions, 3D accelerator card, and blood type are automagically detected by the distribution of your choice. Look how wonderful the installer performs, thanks to power of community contribution and peer review!

Did something go wrong? It happens. Little trolls in your computer (placed there, no doubt, by Microsoft) can interfere with the installation procedure. You have a few options at this point:

Call tech support. This is an undertapped resource in the Linux industry, mostly because of the clientele; many Linux users approach telephone voice transmission like Count Dracula approaches garlic. The rest of the time, the support call stops dead immediately after the operator asks for a product serial number, and since you downloaded the discs for free, you don't have one. Take pity on these poor support staffs; they feel unappreciated. Red Hat reported in their SEC filing that a large portion of their budget is based on a high tech support suicide rate; this allows them to avoid retirement packages and employee raises. So be sure to call your distribution's tech support and tell them you think they are cooler than Shaft. No, not that Samuel L. Jackson remake. The original one.

Failing tech support, your next best plan will be Internet Relay Chat. Go find an IRC client and head for #linux. There will be a lot of people in here, and they are all dying to help you. In fact, most have never answered a question, so whatever you ask them is bound to be fresh and exciting. You'll notice that there is a lot of noise going on in such channels, so be sure to type in all capital letters, so you will be heard above the throng. Extra points for replacing letters with equivalent numbers. For example:

"HEY d00DZ! NE1 IN HERE RUN LINIX?! :-===)"

(For reference, that emoticon is a smile, and NOT an ascii representation of the Stanley Cup.)

That should get everyone's attention like a white boy at the Million Man March. Everyone will now flock to your aid, and you'll be up and running in no time.

Now you are ready to run Linux! Just sit back, relax, and enjoy the vast array of multimedia applications that are famous for supporting all the newest codecs and top-notch Office suites that offer full integration and modest memory consumption.

This is the future; welcome to it.

Ryan C. Gordon is a dance, dance, dance, dance, dancing machine. When he was a newbie back in the day, he pronounced it "Line-ux" and no one knew better to correct him. You can set him straight by email: icculus@lokigames.com