Originally Published: Tuesday, 8 February 2000 Author: Jobs Staff
Published to: interact_articles_jobs_ask_staff/Ask the Jobs Staff Page: 1/1 - [Printable]

How to start with Linux? Should I consider taking a class to learn it?

Dear Jobs Staff, I'm an MCSE (bad word, I know...) who has recently "seen the light"! I've grown tired of Microsoft and want/need to learn something I actually believe in. Problem is, I don't know where to start.

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Dear Jobs Staff,

I'm an MCSE (bad word, I know...) who has recently "seen the light"! I've grown tired of Microsoft and want/need to learn something I actually believe in. Problem is, I don't know where to start.

I just read your article on Linux.com (Linux Jobs Skills), and the questions you've listed are similar to the ones I have:

> 1- Can I really make a decent living from a free OS? > 2- Who is using, hence, hiring people with Linux skills? > 3- Do I have to grow a beard and learn to hack -- What do I really need to know? > 4- I've heard about some sort of Redhat certification -- is this a good idea, and what other certification programs are out there? > 5- Which distribution should I specialize in? > 6- Ok, I've spent 8 months learning this stuff, taken the tests, & researched the job market; now what?

Mainly #3. I've got a copy of Red Hat 6.1 and a book on mastering Linux. I'm going to install and try to work my way through it, but I'm not sure if that's the best way to go. None of my buddies have any Linux experience, so I've only got the 'net as my tutor. Should I consider taking a class to learn it?

Basically, I'm just looking for advice. Anything would be helpful.





The one thing I've learned about acquiring linux skills is that there is no one way to do it. From personal experience we can tell you that the Internet has all of the necessary resources you should ever need to learn the basic skills.

With RedHat, you've picked a pretty standard distro which has a great deal of indivual support (news groups, learning sites, and LUGs). Here are some things to consider:

1. If you have one computer with a dial-up connection to the net, then you may want to dual boot (Windows and Linux sharing the hard drive on different partitions) so that you can get back onto the net until you've figured out how to get onto the net with your modem in Linux. 2. If you have two computers, then you may want to have both running so that you can get on the net with the Windows box and learn on the Linux box. 3. Linux is command-line driven. Yes, there are many X-Window packages and managers out there and some are as easy to use and much more sophisticated than windows. However, the power is still at the command line. Hence, I would suggest learning the basics of linux without an X-Window interface sometime early in your experience. Why?

  1. Many people find that compiling their own kernel to match their specific hardware optimizes their computers 10-15% or better in speed increases. This is best done from the command line.
  2. When (not if) X-Windows crashes (it will) you'll need to know how to exit X-Windows (Cntrl-Alt-Bckspc) and then kill any offending process (using e.g. ps -aux | more and kill ###) and then reenter the X-Window environment. Like NT, Linux has preemptive multitasking and therefore, the kernel almost never crashes (in four years this has happened once with me), however, as in NT, some programs will misbehave and "hang" on their own. You can pull up one of several programs similar to the taskman in NT and kill the offending process there, however, if it is the X-Window program itself which is hung up, you'll need to know how to do it from the command line.
  3. The one thing that is consistent across every distribtution is the command line. It's nice to be able to pull up a shell window (similar to an MS-DOS window) and start typing away.
  4. Nothing beats the speed of the command line.
  5. If you access your machine remotely with telnet, the familiarity with the command line and the myriad of programs available (on an average install >300) allows you quickly and without the need for a slow X-Window type interface (pc-ANYWHERE,timbuktu, VNC, etc.)
  6. this list is nowhere near exhaustive.
So, if you're still reading here is what I would suggest:
  1. Make a list of all your hard-ware, especially noting your monitor make and model number, your video card model, sound card, CD-R or CD-RW, zip drives, NICs etc...
  2. Obtain a copy of the latest distro of your choice (or use your cd that you now have -- it's free, so it doesn't really matter) -- BTW, Mandrake 7.0 is in most opinions by far the easiest to install matching, if not surpassing a Win95 install -- not up to NT 4 though.
  3. Back up your important data (I cannot over emphasize this) While I've only lost data once while I was installing a boot loader program which wiped away a partition table, it was enough to make it my mantra to backup before touching anything on your MBR or partition table.
  4. Install that puppy.
  5. After logging in MAKE AN UNPRIVILEGED USER and use that account 99.99% of the time. From the command line, it's easy (the latest distros encourage you to do this during the install) (>useradd nameyouwant).
  6. log out and log back in using the unprivileged account
  7. Ask questions. We like to answer them because they may be something we had to learn once, or something we haven't done yet. Either way, a questions is only an opportunity which you give us (users a little ahead on the path) to grow in our knowledge base.
  8. Join a LUG if there is one near you. If there isn't join a LUG mailing list. You can find out more about LUGs in your area in our Linux User Groups section.
If you have any more questions, pass them at me. I'll do my best or pass it along to someone with more experience.

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