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Linux Is Supposed To Be Easy?

Linux is extremely powerful, robust and flexible, which means it must have a significant amount of complexity. Do you think I learnt everything in a day? I don't know who told you Linux was easy, many times other people make it harder than it has to be by thinking they need to understand everything at once.

Some Preliminary Advice

Some recommendations I would give you before you began with Linux:

  • Take it easy. Frustration makes things worse for everyone.
  • Never try anything for the first time in a production environment. Always use test environment. For example, iptables firewall or complex security configurations. Always use a test computer or virtual machine to test the various applications, configurations and settings. It will save lots of time. Recommended virtualization software - Vmware or Xen or VirtualBox
  • Another option is start your journey with with LiveCDs. See the list of all Linux, BSD, LiveCDs and LiveDVDs here.
  • Always refer to hardware compatible list (HCL) and kernel source documentation directory (/usr/src/linux/Documentation/) to check your hardware compatibility.
  • Learn to read and search command man pages and vi / vim text editor. Type vimtutor at a shell prompt. The Vimtutor is useful for people that want to learn their first Vim commands.
  • Don't try to set or create ultra secure servers / services on your first shot. Mess with test system couple times i.e. play for a while until you understand everything. Don't stress out for the perfect solution, it will slow you down.
  • Stay away from advanced stuff until you learn the basic stuff like, ssh, vi text editor, directory structure, log files, searching and greping files, network configuration, package management, patch management, troubleshooting techniques using host, ping, route, ifconfig and other tools.
  • Learn regex and text utilities such as sed, awk, grep and others. It will save lots of time in a long run.
  • Learn to customize your own login environment. This will give you good idea about many configuration options such as ftp, vi, Gnome, Kde, GUI tools and much more. Get a good Linux book, it will be a big help (see below for recommend books).
  • Don't hesitate to ask your questions on the forums and mailing lists. Also help others in the forums when you can. You will be supervised to find out how explaining stuff to someone else helps you understand it better.
  • Learn to automate stuff using shell scripts.
  • When you run into a problem with a configuration, make sure you read:
    • The man pages
    • The info pages
    • Read package README.txt, INSTALL.txt and other files stored in a current directory or /usr/share/doc/package-name directory.
  • Use google / yahoo search engines to do several searches with different terms. My personal experience you may get answer in the forums / websites / mailing lists. Only rarely have my problems not already been answered in the forums.
  • Subscribe to security alert mailing lists.
  • Learn to compile packages using make, configure and other build tools.
  • Once you learnt terminology and basic things, start configuring basic services such as Apache. They idea is simple start by getting something up and visible. Take a time to explore stuff and get comfortable with each service / servers. Always configure one service at a time and get familiar with them one at a time.
  • Don't compare Windows utilities / software with equivalent Linux software. Windows is not Linux or vise versa.
  • Don't try to replace Windows desktop with Linux desktop. Windows desktop has better applications stack. Similarly, Windows can't replace Linux. You need to consider various factors before migrating from Windows systems.
  • Gather experience.
  • Finally, always ignore flame wars such as 'vim vs emacs editor' or 'BSD vs Linux'.

Good Luck!

References / Recommend Readings:

Asus Linux EEE PC Free With Broadband Connection and Bank Account

Asus dominates the market for super small, super cheap Linux / XP based mini-notebook pc. It is believed that they may have sold over 5 million Eee PCs. Now you can grab this PC for free. Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) is running spring 2008 promotion and giving out a free Asus EEE PC for every new account opened with them. Similarly you can signup to T-Mobile's 'Web n Walk' max mobile boradband package for £35 per month ona 24 month contract and get a free USB modem and a free Asus EEE PC ultra mobile PC.

It turns out that people just wanted a regular laptop, but much smaller and cheaper. When Asus came out with its mostly solid state, plain vanilla PC running Linux (and now XP), the masses flocked. And now, Acer, Dell, HP and possibly Sony, as well as a smattering of smaller companies, are rushing their own cheap-and-tiny offerings.

=> Here Comes the Asus 'Freee PC'? (via Slashdot)

Linux Is A Platform For You and Me – Not Just For Specialists

An interesting interview with Canonical chief executive Mark Shuttleworth. He talks about choosing Ubuntu name and in a future undominated by Windows, how Ubuntu hopes to be the provider of a service ecosystem for free software. From the page:

Going to space and seeing the Earth from a distance makes it very clear just how interdependent we are. So I wanted to do something that was really global; free software is a phenomenon that is truly global.

=> Linux is a platform for people, not just specialists

Red Hat Skips Linux Desktop – As It Is Not A Money Maker

Red Hat has no plans to create a traditional Linux desktop software for the end user market, but will continue to place its bets on a desktop for commercial markets as it is not making money from them. From the press release:

An explanation: as a public, for-profit company, Red Hat must create products and technologies with an eye on the bottom line, and with desktops this is much harder to do than with servers. The desktop market suffers from having one dominant vendor, and some people still perceive that today’s Linux desktops simply don’t provide a practical alternative. Of course, a growing number of technically savvy users and companies have discovered that today’s Linux desktop is indeed a practical alternative. Nevertheless, building a sustainable business around the Linux desktop is tough, and history is littered with example efforts that have either failed outright, are stalled or are run as charities. But there’s good news too. Technical developments that have become available over the past year or two are accelerating the spread of the Linux Desktop.

Now I'm just wondering where this leaves Fedora Desktop in the long term? Ubuntu Linux seems to doing well and it is going to lead Linux Desktop market along with other distros. Linux is also getting installed on mobile and many tiny devices.

Linux Market Will Rise From $21 Billion To $49 Billion in 2011

I'm not surprised at all. Linux runs on tiny phone to large server systems. According to IDC researchers (prediction) - spending on the Linux ecosystem will rise from $21 billion in 2007 to more than $49 billion in 2011, driven by rising enterprise deployments of Linux server operating systems.

Linux server deployments are expanding from infrastructure-oriented applications to more commercially oriented database and enterprise resource-planning workloads "that historically have been the domain of Microsoft Windows and Unix," noted IDC analysts in a white paper commissioned by the nonprofit Linux Foundation.

"The early adoption of Linux was dominated by infrastructure-oriented workloads, often taking over those workloads from an aging Unix server or Windows NT 4.0 server that was being replaced," according to the report's authors, Al Gillen, Elaina Stergiades and Brett Waldman. These days, however, Linux is increasingly being "viewed as a solution for wider and more critical business deployments."

=> Linux Ecosystem Spending To Exceed $49 Billion

Open Source Will Quietly Take Over

According to Gartner, almost all businesses will use open source software:

Open-source promoters have welcomed the endorsement by what is seen as a conservative commentator, but predict the changes will go further than Gartner assumes.

"By 2012, more than 90 percent of enterprises will use open source in direct or embedded forms," predicts a Gartner report, The State of Open Source 2008, which sees a "stealth" impact for the technology in embedded form: "Users who reject open source for technical, legal or business reasons might find themselves unintentionally using open source despite their opposition."

=> Gartner: Open source will quietly take over

Open Source Software Developers Make More Money

If you know open source based application development, you can make more money. A report from New York City-based consulting company Bluewolf says IT salaries across the board will continue to rise in 2008:

The rise of open source software in application development puts developers with a specialization in those technologies in a position to ask for a 30 or 40 percent pay increase, Kirven says. "We've gotten more requests from our permanent placement division for open source developers in the last six months than in the last five or six years combined," he says. "It's not as easy as getting free software, someone has to get it up and running. LAMP is everywhere now -- these types of technologies no one heard of 18 months ago are all the sudden becoming a hot commodity."