[ALUG] Steep Learning Curve

Mark Reid mail at markreid.net
Sun Jan 2 20:32:58 GMT 2011

For myself, I've always learned most by actually using the OS and that's 
applied to the many OSes I've used in the past.  But to do that it's 
usually best to have a stable working installation of the OS to start 
with as troubleshooting installation issues is about the worst thing a 
new user can encounter. I've seen enough of your posts to gather that 
many of your problems have been actually get a working installation of 

In the Windows world computer vendors get around the problem by 
pre-installation as installing Windows can be just as much of a pain as 
installing a Linux distro, a point which most Linux critics have 
forgotten.   I've had experience of installing Linux Mint on one 
computer and Windows XP on another recently.   The XP installation to 
ages and a lot of disks to get it optimised.   Mint installed in about 
10 minutes and it's only blemish was that I couldn't get it to the top 
resolution of my screen without a set of command line tweaks on 
xorg.conf.  I'm astonished no-one has thought of a GUI front end for 
that particular set of tweaks - or have they and I haven't found it yet? 
   That may be a pain to sort out in Linux at the moment, but to my 
knowledge a similar easy tweak isn't possible in Windows if your drivers 
don't have the correct resolution information for you hardware.

So my suggestion is to play around with a working version of Linux first 
before going back to installation issues when you want to start using it 
productively.  This allows you to evaluate it and work out how it 
functions.  When I first started with Ubuntu, I messed around with it 
for months before I abandoned Windows. Like you I was concerned that I 
could cope if it broke down and I had to fix it.  Actually, the issue 
was just learning how it worked as it rarely threw up any issues I 
couldn't find an easy answer to.  There are two suggestions I'd offer to 
get stable evaluation installations.

1.  Install VirtualBox  in Windows or Mac an then install your Linux 
distro on that.   It's a straightforward installation from CD or iso 
file, very rarely throws up any issues and gives you a working distro to 
play with in a sandboxed environment which allows you to test it to 
total destruction without affecting your host OS.  I find that it is 
quite difficult even for a hardened nerd to break a Linux system once 
it's running properly - but it can be done.

2. If you really want a dual booting system, always test your computer 
with a live CD.  If it doesn't work easily out of the box with a live 
CD, it isn't going to do so on an install.  Live CDs give you the 
opportunity to evaluate a distro and gives you the ability to determine 
whether any installation issues are going to appear.

I've never found books about Linux particularly useful.  I have one 
called an Idiot's Guide to Linux  but that's now a bit dated but good 
for learning basic command line stuff.   Another is Linux in Easy Steps 
by Mike McGrath which is Ubuntu based but because of the quick release 
cycle on Ubuntu will always be out of date!

It is a steep learning curve to get used to Linux if you are a Windows 
user (but probably less so for a Mac user), but if you're relatively 
proficient on Windows, you should be able to suss out for yourself 
what's what and pull the info you need to do it from a Google search.

I found the Ubuntu Forums and Linux Forums useful places to go when I 
got stuck as they had beginners sections where I could ask what I now 
realise where dumb questions! Actually this mailing list is pretty good 
for picking up ideas although I was past the dumb question stage when I 
found it.   I also have Ubuntu Geek on my RSS feeds as there's often 
useful articles and software suggestions on it.

Another useful item I downloaded was a diagram of the Linux filesystem 
with a description of what the directories in a standard system did and 
what stuff was stored there.  The filesystem lies at the heart of 
understanding Linux.

Hope that helps.


On 31/12/10 22:12, Simon Royal wrote:
> Hi
> I've been in and out of Linux for a few years. Various distros (Mint,
> WattOS, DSL, Xubuntu, Ubuntu,on various machines and architecture. A
> year ago I used it full time but went to Mac. Now, Im back.
> It is such a steep learning curve. Ive already had a crash course in
> GParted even before Ubuntu was running. While Ubuntu is great and user
> friendly, it is still Linux and requires you to be on the nerdy side.
> Id like somewhere to start, so I can understand the basics and
> underpinnings of Ubuntu. It is no good - with any OS really - having it
> working, but not knowing what to do when it does wrong.
> Are there any good books or websites you can recommend. I know you are
> all here to answer my questions, but I would like to read up and really
> get my teeth into it.
> Simon
> Simon
> --
> --- Twitter:http://twitter.com/SimonRoyal  - LowEndMac:http://tinyurl.com/macspectrum  - Skype: Simon-Royal.
> --- IBM ThinkPad R31 running Ubuntu 10.10&  Windows XP Home. Apple PowerBook G3'Pismo'  running OSX 10.4. Sony Ericsson Xperia X10 Mini Pro running 2.1
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