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Author Topic: Best resources for learning Linux  (Read 4015 times)

tseipel

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Best resources for learning Linux
« on: May 18, 2015, 08:18:14 am »

Good morning,

I am hoping someone could recommend resources (i.e., books, online web courses, websites, etc.) for learning Linux. I am a Neuroradiologist (i.e., village idiot) with a background in biologic sciences. I have no formal computer science training but know how to read and can count on both hands.

Any help/advice would be truly appreciated.

All the best,
Tim
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mwillems

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Re: Best resources for learning Linux
« Reply #1 on: May 18, 2015, 08:54:36 am »

I found this book to be an excellent "first serious book" on Linux: http://shop.oreilly.com/product/9781593273897.do

Full disclosure, I had some antiquated background with command line interfaces (DOS-era scripting) and programming (C and Pascal) before reading the book, but I think it would still work well as a first book for someone without that background.

It's not just about the command-line, it's also a great orientation to basic linux systems concepts as well (the directory structure, file permissions, filesystems, mounting, etc.).  Being comfortable with the command-line is (in my opinion) crucial to being at ease with Linux as many of the GUI tools leave something to be desired, especially when things don't go as planned.

Most importantly the book is unusually readable, which is nice.  You'll need a working Linux installation to start using it, but with some of the more user-friendly distros (like Mint) that shouldn't be too tough.  If you have more specific needs I may be able to recommend some other books too.  

The single best source of online information about the behavior of specific linux programs (as opposed to linux in general) is (in my opinion) the Arch Linux wiki.  I always check there first when I have issues with a specific program or utility, and it's much more up to date than similar wikis for other distros.  If you're not running Arch, you may need to "translate" some of the advice for your distro, because every distro does things a little differently so it's worth checking your distro's wiki or forums first as the advice will be directly applicable if it's there.  But if you come up dry at your distros support forums, you'll probably find something on the Arch wiki.  I wouldn't recommend trying to run Arch as a first distro, though (although you would learn a lot trying).  
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tseipel

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Re: Best resources for learning Linux
« Reply #2 on: May 18, 2015, 09:26:13 am »

Thank you very much for your reply. I will scoot on over to Amazon and pick this up.

All the best,
Tim
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leezer3

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Re: Best resources for learning Linux
« Reply #3 on: May 26, 2015, 09:40:40 am »

What are you actually trying to achieve?

It's entirely possible to use Ubuntu or Mandriva (Or plenty of others, but IMHO those are the two easiest) entirely from the GUI, and never go anywhere near the terminal.
On the flip side, there's Gentoo which will throw you in off the deep end, and expect you to roll everything from scratch.

Whilst I agree in principle that a working knowledge of the command line is a very good thing, don't get hung up on it.
Unless you're looking to roll a completely custom stripped down system, someone, somewhere will have written a step by step guide to it :P

My personal advice would be to install a system, and try using it on a daily basis. When you find something that doesn't work, or isn't what you're after, *then* head out and look for the solution.
Before long, you'll find that yourself anticipating the steps in the guide, and that's when I'd start trying to read long books.

Much of the beauty of Linux is the ability to go your own way when things don't suit you :)

-Leezer-
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mwillems

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Re: Best resources for learning Linux
« Reply #4 on: May 26, 2015, 10:22:07 am »

It's entirely possible to use Ubuntu or Mandriva (Or plenty of others, but IMHO those are the two easiest) entirely from the GUI, and never go anywhere near the terminal.

To offer a counterpoint from my own experience:  at one point I installed Linux Mint, which is about as GUI and user-friendly as it gets.  I immediately encountered multiple issues that could not be resolved in the GUI (i.e. within 24 hours).  None of the posted solutions on the Mint or Ubuntu forums (Mint is Ubuntu based) worked to solve the issues.  I flailed around trying how to's for days.  Ultimately, I had to read a book or two before I knew enough to fix those issues, which were created by the pre-configuration options done by the distro and were essentially unique to Ubuntu/Mint, which made general documentation (or Debian documentation) useless.  The user-friendly distros do tons of preconfiguration that is designed to help, but can make it much harder to figure out what went wrong when you have an issue.

I spend a lot of time on various linux support forums, and a lot of the questions come from people who don't know what file permissions even are because the GUI hides all of that from them.  They pick up terrible, dangerous habits, like just adding "sudo" when a command doesn't work to see if that fixes it (I can't tell you how many times I've seen "I downloaded this random script from the internet, and it threw an error, so I tried running it with sudo").

I've fooled around with a half-dozen distros (including Ubuntu), and I had a miserable experience "just using the GUI".   The various Linux GUI tools are just too hit or miss on a lot of basic functionality.  I've had to do console configuration for: wireless adapters, hotplugging external hard drives, multiple monitors, 3d graphics card drivers, laptop suspend/hibernation handling, power management, network shares, and I could name a dozen more basic areas which are essentially "plug and play" on Windows or OSX, but the Linux GUI tools left me hanging.  To be clear: all the things I mentioned sometimes work out of the box with the GUI tools (depending on hardware and distro), but sometimes they really don't work out of the box with the GUI tools at all.

Don't get me wrong: installing Linux and trying things out is important and necessary.  You'll learn a lot by paddling around, and no matter how many books you read, you'll need to read and follow the occasional online how to's because there's so much "stuff" in the Linux world; you'll never learn all of it.  But I think it's better if you have some idea of what's happening in general, so you don't just start using sudo as a swiss army knife or reinstalling the OS to undo configuration changes that the GUI lacks the tools to undo.

Everyone has to find their own way though, Linux is definitely all about choice  ;D
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JimH

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Re: Best resources for learning Linux
« Reply #5 on: May 26, 2015, 10:30:15 am »

mwillems,
I think you deserve your Linux Merit Badge now.  You've demonstrated skill, determination, persistence, and many other great qualities in your work and your assistance to others.  I'm not kidding.  I mean it.

Congratulations!  This is the first Merit Badge we've ever awarded and you earned it!

Jim



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mwillems

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Re: Best resources for learning Linux
« Reply #6 on: May 26, 2015, 10:52:00 am »

Thanks Jim, I'll e-wear it with pride!  I'm flattered, but I still have a long way to go to catch up to Bob or Hendrik  ;D

There are a few other folks over here who probably deserve one too (like Awesome Donkey for all the myriad stickies)
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leezer3

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Re: Best resources for learning Linux
« Reply #7 on: May 26, 2015, 11:06:11 am »

I don't disagree at all with the fact that things sometimes don't work, and that blindly following guides/ sudo'ing things can get you into very serious trouble fast :P
There's the classic sticky on the use of rm that is somewhere on most Linux forums....

Seriously though, over the last few years things have come on a great deal in terms of the out of box experience for the big distros, but you're what I'd class as a power-user.

A large proportion of users wouldn't know what 3D accceleration was if it bit them, and similarly relatively few will be using funky USB wireless cards.

Take the basic paradigm of an office user who just wants to boot, run a few spreadsheets / word and browse the internet.

Most distributions will install and boot to a graphical desktop, which provides these in a form analogous to Windows, and never worry about the issues you mentioned above, even though they may well be present :)

Trying to point this type of user to the command line and a scripting manual isn't helpful, or IMHO desirable- If they don't notice it, don't try to fix it.

-Leezer-
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mwillems

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Re: Best resources for learning Linux
« Reply #8 on: May 26, 2015, 11:28:38 am »

I don't disagree at all with the fact that things sometimes don't work, and that blindly following guides/ sudo'ing things can get you into very serious trouble fast :P
There's the classic sticky on the use of rm that is somewhere on most Linux forums....


I think I know the one you mean  ;)

Quote
Seriously though, over the last few years things have come one a great deal in terms of the out of box experience for the big distros, but you're what I'd class as a power-user.
A large proportion of users wouldn't know what 3D accceleration was if it bit them, and similarly relatively few will be using funky USB wireless cards.

Your point is well taken, but for the record, the wireless card I couldn't working get was inside a brand new laptop (i.e. integrated realtek wireless), and broken 3d acceleration means games (and some web content) don't work, so most users would notice in a hurry if 3d acceleration was busted on their system. My issue came up when I was trying to run a game on Steam that was Linux-native (i.e. I wasn't using wine or anything funky).  Trying to use the built-in wireless in a laptop or run a game isn't (or shouldn't be) power user stuff. 

Of course, I've had no end of trouble trying to do actual power user stuff too (i.e. trying to get any remote desktop software to work with Mint, or to get 3d acceleration running in virtualbox), but I deliberately left that out because that's not "normal user" stuff.

Quote
Take the basic paragidm of an office user who just wants to boot, run a few spreadsheets / word and browse the internet.
Most distributions will install and boot to a graphical desktop, which provides these in a form analogous to Windows, and never worry about the issues you mentioned above, even though they may well be present :)

I basically agree as long as you don't throw games or laptops into the mix (or flash-based web content).  Add any of those things and you're rolling the dice on whether it will work right out of the box.

Quote
Trying to point this type of user to the command line and a scripting manual isn't helpful, or IMHO desirable- If they don't notice it, don't try to fix it.

-Leezer-

The title of the book is misleading; it isn't just a scripting manual.  It covers a lot linux system basics, like the filesystem and file permissions, and "everything's a file".  Stuff that's good to know if you never even look at the command line.  The back third of the book may not be so useful to the average user (although it might in some circs), but the front parts are something I would heartily recommend to any linux user.
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