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  Linux Newcomers

 by Bruce Gordon 2003-03-31
Note: This was originally posted to the mailling list, but has been made available here by permission

In the interests of new users of linux, I'd like to propose a link to add to the bglug site.

[edit: 2005-10-14 - link is currently dead, so here are some alternates]

In the past year, I've found that there is a great deal of info out there to encourage people to move 'towards' linux, but very little to help them once they arrive.

To someone who has recently done it, I can assure you that it's akin to jumping off a platform onto the roof of a high speed train. Once on you have to find a way in (with no tools) and once inside, you find the train literally packed with people all speaking very rapidly in a totally non-western and foreign language.

Imagine for a minute that you've never read a line of code in your life... What are you going to make of this?

better ! pout ! cry
better watchout
lpr why
santa claus <north pole > town

cat  /etc/passwd  >list
ncheck list
ncheck list
cat list | grep naughty >nogiftlist
cat list | grep nice >giftlist
santa claus <north pole > town

who | grep sleeping
who | grep awake
who | egrep 'bad|good'  {
         be good

It seems familiar enough, and you know it's important enough to involve your presents... but what 'is' going on?

In order to ease people past this experience, the past couple of years have seen a great deal of (commercial) effort in trying to reproduce the 'windows experience' on linux, but I think this misses the point entirely. I don't see the 'not' in the recent 'Linux-is-not-windows' for example.

And even I can see from my very limited viewpoint, that many of the more important and powerful aspects of linux are slipping away (or hidden) from the new user under the sheer weight of hype, eye-candy and the 'we'll take care of it for you' member clubs.

I think this is a shame. Linux is not really that hard, does take time, and in return offers a freedom and power that no other operating system does. The freedom to decide for yourself about what your computer should do and how it should do it. Not only that, it gives you the tools to make it possible. The problem for the newcomer is not only how to use them, but how to find them. And even more importantly where to begin.

As a new linux user with nothing more than several years of pointing-and-clicking with a dysfunctional paperclip as a guide, I found that almost all introductions to linux made entirely unreasonable assumptions about the level of skill and knowledge of the user (ie. I didn't know anything) and I'm sure I'm not alone in this.

It took me a year of constant searching, miles of text only pages, five books, several false starts, lots of interesting sidetrips and more than one sleepless night before I literally 'stumbled' across this site.

The short of it, is that it starts at the beginning. And it goes more or less to the end.

When you finish there are hundreds if not thousands of wonderful resources that you'll actually be able to go out and use. It's clear, concise and reasonable. And it's worth reading every page.


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