Ten lessons Linux rookies need to learn

Ten lessons Linux rookies need to learn

Summary: A few basic facts could be all that stands between a novice user enjoying the Linux operating system and a very bumpy ride, says Jack Wallen

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  • Windows 7 Start menu

    2. It's not Windows
    Many new users aren't really aware of a difference between Windows, Linux and Mac. But what they do need to know is that they shouldn't invariably expect Windows-like behaviour. That expectation almost always leads to trouble. Of course, you don't need to explain every difference between the operating systems, but you do need to prepare them for any unfamiliar machine behaviour that you think they are likely to encounter.

    Image credit: Dong Ngo/CNET News

  • C Drive

    3. There is no C
    Windows users are used to a file-system structure that never really made sense. Linux, on the other hand, has a perfectly logical directory hierarchy — a fact new users need to understand. There really is only one main directory they need to know about: /home/username, where username is their name.

    Most modern distributions create certain directories in the user's home directory: Documents, Pictures, Music and Video. The purpose of these subdirectories is obvious, and new users only need know where they are located. They also need to know that their home directory is the only place on the file system where they can save files.

  • Gnome application installer

    4. Installing software is a different process
    This issue can trip up the new user more than any other. PC users are used to searching for software on the internet, downloading the .exe file, double-clicking it, and waiting for the software installation to complete. So they have to understand that Linux distributions come complete with their own special tool that will do all of that for them.

    All they have to do is open the add/remove software tool — such as the Ubuntu Software Centre, PackageKit or Synaptic — search for a piece of software, and install it. New users tend to love the sheer volume of software available. Naturally, some of it is useless, but most of it is good and serves its purpose.

    Image credit: Polishlinux.org

Topic: Operating Systems

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  • I support a bunch of Windows users at work, and a mix of Linux and Windows users outside of work, mostly as favours. My observations are :

    "Most of the computer tasks people perform today are done through a web browser"
    In my experience, this is not true. Most of the "tasks" with problems that I am ask to sort out are games, next comes office suite and finally web browser.

    "There is no C"
    Most Windows users I speak to have no idea what "C" means. They know "My Documents" at home, or the "N drive" (or other random letter) at work.

    "you do need to prepare them for any unfamiliar machine behaviour that you think they are likely to encounter"
    You mean like a machine that doesn't randomly crash? :) I am work on my XP box which constantly forgets the mouse has buttons that click. It's an o/s fault which cropped up after some update. I'll have to re-install one day.

    "Installing software is a different process"
    Not really, they still get me to do it for them.

    "It's free - it can't be any good".
    Most home users think that all software is free; they just download whatever they want from Pirate Bay and ask me to sort it out when it doesn't work. I quick re-install from the OEM disk is my answer to this.
    openhgs
  • Excellent article and I agree with you on these points that you bring up. What I've found is that those that have been using Windows for many years, expect GNU/Linux to be Windows. GNU/Linux is not Windows, just as you mention. Most users that are migrated from Windows to GNU/Linux can click on menus and open applications just the same, without any problems. I especially prefer the Gnome 2.x desktop for new users and have found they can easily find what they need. But finally one of the largest bonuses for me, is the support after they start using GNU/Linux. First, I don't get those calls anymore about malware, system corruption, and all of the failures I did when they had Windows. And that's good for both of us. Also, when there is a feature or program that is not installed, they are able to install it without calling me just as you mention. In the case that they want me to install it for them, I can ssh in and do it while they work, or I remote in with VNC and do it that way, and give them a quick demo. I use Fedora which all of the software is usually included within the distribution which makes adding software super easy. This also prevents the users from installing malware which used to happen on Windows quite frequently.

    Overall, if the user can move to GNU/Linux, it is well worth the effort to get there.
    Chris_Clay