Beginners Linux: "Forget Laymans terms, DO YOU SPEAK ENGLISH?"

Posted by vorkragresh on Apr 17, 2007 2:41 PM EDT
LXer.com; By Brett L. Antoine
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Ever wonder what the heck someone means when they tell you you need to open a Konsole and "su to root"? Or "All you need to do is JED that file."? Here are some explanations to and locations of some useful items.

Hello everybody, The Linux newby here with a few items that I would have found useful when I was first starting out. Linux is chock full of applications and functions that are, for the most part, extremely useful in your everyday Linux life. The problem can be, where are they and how do you use them. While I will not even ATTEMPT to teach you how to use all of them, here are a few locations and what some of the acronyms mean.

JED (My text editor of choice). You can think of this, or the text editor of your preference, as one of the most useful tools in Linux. In my Opinion of course. You will find that there will be quite a bit of time when you are first getting you system setup and running to your exact desires spent editing one file or another. One of the greatest things about Linux (again in my opinion) is that you can almost always open the file in a text editor, make the needed changes, save the file and POW! after a quick reboot (if required) the changes are done. I think I spent more time in JED than any other single application in Linux, with the possible exception of xWindows. Of course, I am fairly new to linux and I spend as much time in JED fixing things that I broke as I do breaking them to start with. But again, with the rare exception, if you break something, it is not the end all, simply re-edit the file and try again. JED is used by simply typing "jed filename" assuming you are in the directory where the file resides if not, "jed path/filename".

A few handy keys for me were;
Alt-F opens the File menu
Alt-S Saves the file
Alt-X Exits back to the command prompt.

I have used these three to such an extent that I will most likely need to replace the springs in those keys soon. Another completely under appreciated item is the ever useful MAN page. Now women, do not start writing those email flames just yet. The MAN page (short of Manual) should usually be your first resource to help you solve any problems you are having with a file, application, program in linux. I am not sure about all flavors of Linux, but I know that Slackware 11 using the 2.6.20.4 kernel MAN pages have for usually been of help to me. The MAN page will show you the command line option available, if any, and the general function of the item you list. If you don't know, "man filename or program name or even function name" if there is a MAN page you will see it, if not Linux will politely tell you there is no MAN page for this item.

I am sure there are about one million items I am forgetting or some built in feature of the items listed that I did not list. Please remember that I am not attempting to train new Linux users, just to shed a little light on a possibly dark corner. One that stumped me for a while was "Ok now you need to type 'su' to login as root." This is only ever called on if you are logged in as a user and need to make a change to an item that is generally root level access only. The 'su' means Super User. This makes the user, for the duration of the su session, the root user of the system. You will type "su" at the command prompt and will be immediately prompted for a password. This prompt is not interested in your user password in the slightest. In order to access the root level access you have to put in the root user password here.

I don't know how many times I goofed that one before I asked why it never let me use SU. One thing to remember is that you should (for the sake of good general use habits) always type "exit" when you are done with su. I know you can just click the Close button on the Konsole, but don't. It's a bad habit that may give you problems when you are using the command line and can't remember how to get out of su mode and back to yourself. One other item that had me is the correct terminology for all the parts of Linux. Let me look at a few and tell you what "I" use as a general rule of thumb.

The Kernel - this IS Linux. This is the base level core of your Operating System. Your kernel is (to an extent) the DOS (Disk Operating System) of your computer. It tells your computer what hardware it has, how to work it and and where to put it. Compiling your own Kernel is the biggest personalization you can possibly make in Linux (see the above about opinion :) ). Compiling your own kernel makes your system, for all intents and purposes Unique. For Slackware the commands to do this and the process involved are fairly simple and easy to understand. We will assume you have installed and are at the command prompt following a login as root. we need to proceed to /usr/src/linux (which seems intuitive to me and I always remember as /User/Source/Linux). Here we will use the handy command "make menuconfig".

This will bring us to a GUI for selection of the items we wish to add/remove/modify at the core level of our linux system. I will not go in depth here as I am supremely unqualified to do so. Let's move on. After you complete your additions/removals/changes, you hit "Exit till you are prompted with "Would you like to save the changes to your kernel?" you select the appropriate one and are back at the prompt. Usually there will be a text message telling you that you need to "make" or something to that effect. At this point best to let you check LinuxQuestions.org for further kernel options as again, I am a newby myself and only know what is appropriate for my type of Linux and kernel version. Ok where was I? Oh yes..

Distribution - This is the type/flavor of Linux you are using. It consists of one or more pre-complied kernels, the applications and commands packages and the window manager packages that are specific to that type/flavor of Linux. Which should you choose? How long is a piece of string? There are many and only you can decide which is right for you. I can only name a few myself. SUSE, Slackware, Gentoo, Ubuntu, Red Hat, Minix, and many many others. Please don't flame me if I forgot your flavor. This is basically the entire package that you will be using.

xWindows - This is a somewhat tricky term. X-Windows is the graphical interface that looks like Microsoft Windows. Sort of. It is actually a reference to the Linux Windows Manager. Of which there are several types included in some (or all I am not sure here) types of Linux. Slackware comes with several, only a few that I can remember at any given time. KDE (my personal favorite), Gnome, Enlightenment and more.

My this has gotten more long winded than I had planned. I will wrap things up for now and begin putting together another bunch of notes for what I hope, will be a continuing set of easy to understand help stories for people new to Linux.

Note from the writer: Any and all items listed above are to be read as follows,

A. The opinion of the writer only and NOT the gospel of Linux.
B. Not to be considered anything other than reference material. The writer is not a GURU or even and experienced Linux user.
C. The above is intended to give some small new user insight from the authors perspective.

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A follow up after the Smackdown from on high. :) vorkragresh 4 1,333 Apr 19, 2007 10:04 PM

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