I have a confession. I’ve worked with everything from BASIC to Windows 2000, but I’ve never administered UNIX systems.

“You should try it”
So you can imagine my resistance when an office pal and cycling mate encouraged me (repeatedly) to try Linux. Since the mid-80s, the closest I usually got to command-line computing was placing a telephone call. But I kept seeing Linux systems receive rave reviews.

Excited by all the hoopla surrounding the open-source OS, I couldn’t wait to boot up my first Linux distribution. That was unfortunate, because I never got it to work properly.

Just 16 months ago, Red Hat didn’t agree with my laptop’s sound card or my desktop machine’s run-of-the-mill NIC. The great open-source movement hadn’t found time to make the OS work with the Ford Tauruses and Chevrolet Luminas of the computing world.

Six months later, I tried again with a different machine. I ran into similar troubles.

Call me crazy, but I keep going back for more. I am intrigued by what Red Hat and the Linux community are attempting. Creating and distributing an inexpensive operating system maintained by volunteers is a noble effort. Someday, the Linux community and Red Hat’s staffers may get all the bugs worked out.

Until then, there are a few trusty resources you can use to solve the problems that inevitably arise. Medium to advanced users can find help in the columns my colleague Jack Wallen edits every week for TechProGuild.

Sometimes, though, an interesting conundrum arises. Take my own case: I consider myself to be fairly proficient when it comes to computers. I’ve been hammering on them for almost 30 years. My dad, a 30-year IT pro himself, brought one home when I was five or so.

Thus, I had baggage. I couldn’t just ask simple, basic Linux questions; such inquiries might result in my being labeled a “newbie.”

I had to find another resource. Thank goodness for O’Reilly & Associates.

Texts that make a difference
If you understand Windows but haven’t worked with UNIX or Linux, O’Reilly & Associates has two books for you. I recommend you read Learning Red Hat Linux first. Written by Bill McCarty and published in 1999, the text (shown in Figure A) often refers to working with an outdated copy of Red Hat Linux (included on a CD-ROM).

But I don’t care.

McCarty, a university professor by day, does an exquisite job explaining complicated Linux processes and procedures in a manner that Windows professionals will easily understand. For example, he compares Linux man pages to the DOS help command.

Figure A
Learning Red Hat Linux retails for $34.95.

McCarty wastes no time getting to the nitty-gritty, either. He describes clearly how Windows addicts can easily configure Samba to enable resource sharing between Linux and Windows systems. Inevitably, most corporate networks will boast hybrid environments, so the knowledge you will learn is sure to prove handy later.

From installing Linux to mastering the X Window system, from configuring Samba and Apache to learning the bash shell, McCarty simplifies the many concepts our experienced Linux friends often assume we understand. And that’s where the real value of the book comes into play; it’ll keep you from asking fundamental Linux questions again.

The second O’Reilly book is titled, appropriately enough, Running Linux. Originally published in 1995 and updated regularly until 1999, the book (shown in Figure B) is a virtual Linux bible.

Figure B
Running Linux sells for $31.95 on Fatbrain.com.

Unlike McCarty’s text, I have not read Running Linux cover-to-cover. Instead, I use it as a reference tool for solving stubborn issues.

The authors, Matt Welsh, Matthias Kalle Dalheimer, and Lar Kaufman, don’t assume you’ve only worked with Windows. Furthermore, the second book doesn’t limit itself to explaining just Red Hat.

Running Linux covers everything from the history of Linux to setting user permissions to configuring networking settings. The book describes video card configuration, print service management, and software and kernel upgrade procedures.

You’ll also find valuable tips on how to:

  • ·        Work with Perl.
  • ·        Write CGI scripts.
  • ·        Manage documents and graphics.
  • ·        Debug misbehaving applications.
  • ·        Send and receive e-mail.
  • ·        Understand XFree86 setup.
  • ·        Save time with popular commands.
  • ·        Configure different window managers.

If you can’t find the answer to your Linux questions in Learning Red Hat Linux or Running Linux, rest assured. You can pop the same question to your Linux friends and colleagues without fearing retribution.
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