Where to Start with Linux

By gsquared ·
I am a database analyst working with MS-SQL 2000 on a number of flavors of Windows (both desktop and server). To expand my skill set, I am interested in learning how to set up, build and maintain databases on Linux servers (or FreeBSD or whatever).

I have, over the last 3 months, installed various flavors of Linux, including SuSE, Red Hat, Ubuntu, and Xandros, and FreeBSD (which I do understand is Unix, not Linux, but I'll keep it in the discussion anyway).

The computer these have been installed on is a Pentium D 3GHz with 2 Gig of RAM and more HDD space (SATA 3Gb/s) than I know what to do with. It's my home desktop machine.

Whenever I've tried installing as a dual-boot with Windows Vista, I've ended up with a computer that would boot into Linux, but not Vista. So, now I've given up on that and am interested more in either installing Linux as a single-boot on an older machine, or as a virtual PC.

The problems I run into are all based in the fact that the web pages I can find about setting up Linux, installing software on it, etc., all were written from the assumption that I already know how to do everything.

For example, while playing around (I find playing with a computer is a good way to learn how to use it, before getting into serious use), I tried running World of Warcraft under a system called CrossOver. I gather from the web pages on CrossOver that it's a version (is that the right word) of WINE, and that others have used WINE/CrossOver to successfully run World of Warcraft. I got the game running, but there was no sound and the colors were messed up on characer models (but not on the environment textures) - blue became red or pink, "caucasian" skin became a pale bluish-green (made some of the characters rather odd looking), and movement was delayed oddly (hit the buttons on the keyboard to move, wait a second or two and begin moving) even though other effects (chat, etc.) were not delayed. I could not find any information I could understand on how to fix this problem.

I gave up on WoW and decided to try playing a DVD. The DVD player showed the first frame of the FBI warning about copyrights, and then froze solid. When I closed and restarted the player, it no longer had any controls (play, pause, etc.) on it, just the display window, and that was blank. The top of the display window had an error message in it, but when I searched the web for the error message, it didn't come up in Google, MSN or Yahoo.

I tried to find another video player (in case that particular one was just funky itself), and I found a web page that had a video player in it. Or at least, from the text on the page, it sure seemed like it would, if I could only figure out (a) what to download and (b) what to do with it once it was downloaded.

Thus far, my successes in Linux are limited to browsing the web via Firefox (does that just fine), and opening up OpenOffice to create a word processing doc. I haven't tried the spreadsheet, but I'm pretty sure I could do that if I wanted.

My basic question is: Where do I find some good information on how to get started with Linux if I am totally clueless on it?

I've spent hours digging through web pages that assume I already know everything there is to know about Linux and programs on it. I've spent hours trying to find pages with simple beginner data. All to no avail.

Or do I give up on the web and hit a bookstore for "Linux for Dummies"? And will that be a good place to start?

(I've seen more than enough data on why flavor X of Linux is "the best"/"the only one to use"/"the one to transition to from Windows". I'm not really looking for a rehash of that. If it pertains to my primary question here, then mention it, but it's not what I'm looking for.)

Please, before anyone assumes I'm an idiot or whatever (I've seen statements to that effect in too many Linux message boards whenever a "newbie" question is asked), do realized I have an IQ in the top .1% of the human race (over 150) and I'm very, very used to self-education and usually successful at it.

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In your shoes about three years ago

by Tony Hopkinson In reply to Where to Start with Linux

I was given a PC and Mandrake 9 (now mandriva).
I followed the default install which included MySQL. I learnt the pitiful amount I know about linux with specific google searches on how to do something with the DBMS.

Like navigating to the config files and changing them, perl and bash to execute sql from scripts, chron to schedule them. Then how to access it from perl and use that, how from PHP, how to get apache up...

The key for me was having something very specific that I knew I had to accomplish, that I was familiar with why and what but not how.

Most of my problems were 'this should be obvious' and it was for me in windows or VMS, not necessarily the case under linux though.

150, you must be up there with Deepsand.

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Maybe this will help

by vicpullen In reply to Where to Start with Linux

Games can be stubborn with video and sound configurations in general. Make sure whatever version of DirectX the game requires is compatable with the OS your using.

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You're going about it the right way

by XT John In reply to Maybe this will help

My first experience with Linux was Red Hat 5.1 about 7 years ago. Everybody thought i was crazy when I said this is the wave of the future! It took about a week of tweaking, searching (on my old dialup account) just to get sound, the dual boot set up and the Gnome/KDE desktops looking halfway decent. The distros have come along way since then, but various annoyances remain... setting up wireless on my laptop running Mandriva 2007 for example. All in all, doing taught me alot more than reading Linux books. And the community has grown quite a bit, too... where answers are always available. Good Luck:)

BTW... Mandriva is still my fave to date, and the one I recommend to everyone, especially beginners.

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My suggestion

by TCDood In reply to Where to Start with Linux

I am basically a network guy, but I have Novell, Linux and Windows in my Data Center, that I control. My suggestion is to download VMWARE (server). This is virtualization software. It runs on most all Windows platforms. I did it for a Windows class, and have created multiple VM images for Red Hat, Mandriva, Windows Server, Windows 2000 PRO, and Windows XP. I can open, close and run each and any one of them. You load the VMSERVER ( (Free at VMWARE), ask for 10 licenses (FREE), and install the server software. Afterward you install your image. It is like having a blank disk available to you. You can restrict the Memory, and Disk Size. you can start a session, and then "LOAD" the image. It is saved in a single file. You can start, stop and use it simultaneously with your windows system. You can even log into it, and have it have an IP address, or assign a static address. That way, you are not bogged down with loading/changing drives when you want to change things.

The next suggestion is to find what it is you want to do. You want to learn MYSQL, then load it, and do the research. Buy books? Why, when there is so much on the web. Try to duplicate your database on MYSQL, with one of the distros. My favorite place to go it "DISTROWATCH.COM". you can find every distro known to man. With free .ISO downloads.

I took a linux class, and used "CENTOS" linux. It is a Red Hat offshoot, and you can get thousands of RPM files to load in it comes with EVERYTHING. Works with most standard hardware too.

Going back to VMWARE, you can load an image, save the image (snapshot), mess the image up, and restore to the old image...Takes minutes.

My first outing with Linux Without knowing much, I used a Mandrake Distro (From a magazine giveaway) to set up a WEB and FTP server. I set up a couple of users, loaded my web images, set up a web address, and had it going in about an hour. Don't expect to learn everything, start with something small, and detailed (Like MYSQL). Learn to use the FIND, Change Directories, and where things are (ETC, HOME, VAR, etc.). Then you will know something about it.

Lastly, I joined It is a forum. They have podcasts, and have users willing to share experiences. It is really grass roots stuff. I even went to a local Linux Users Group. What I found surprised me...a bunch of linux newbies...Willing to help. I had a laptop with LInux, and had problems. They loved trying to help me fix it. I ended up changing distros, but so what?? I learned more than just opening a package. Explore, learn.
Hope that helps!!

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I know your pain..

by mikeadams1137 In reply to My suggestion

Just recently the Windows XP Pro PC we use, that runs our file database, has reached the 10 security limit imposed by MS. AKA, buy a server liscence. Despite registry tweaks, work arounds, 10 IS the MAX. I ask my boss about it whom is in Nashville, and his response..

"Are you ready to start learning about Linux and Samba?"

While we decided to go with just restricting users to 10, I've taken it upon myself to learn as much as I can about Linux and Samba, so any information you get, would be very valuable to me too!


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Well...go GUIless

by -Q-240248 In reply to Where to Start with Linux

If I were to want to learn MySQL and how to manage databases, I would avoid any GUI *ix system and head straight for FreeBSD. Right now I run older versions of Redhat and FreeBSD, and I never envoke the GUI portion of RedHat: no need for it. I don't even know why you're messing around in there, and of course it will be buggy.

Use a non-GUI flavor of *IX and install MySQL. YOU can just as easily use a GUI interface on a Windows workstation to manage the *IX box, such as Webmin and PHPMYSQLADMIN to manage the database. Just setup the *IX box, set it and forget it, and manage everything remotely. I also use PuttySSH and SCopy for remote management and file transfers.

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Lemme start here

by jmgarvin In reply to Where to Start with Linux

I would HIGHLY suggest Linux for dummies. I'd also suggest hanging around here and asking your questions. There are a number of us that are into Linux and we can help you out.

1) Wow: I published an article on just this very topic:

2) DVDs: You need Xine and libdvdcss. I'd also suggest getting the Win32 codec just for sanity.

3) Ignore most Linux message boards unless they are moderated or on the distro's site. Also, STAY AWAY from usenet unless you want to filter through millions of flames to get your answer.

4) X: I would point you towards Fluxbox for a lighter weight window manager (it's a lot of config editing to get it how you want it, but I think it's worth it) or Gnome/KDE for a heavy weight Windows like window manager. If you want to use XGL, you'll have to use Gnome though.

If you have any other questions, feel free to email me as well.

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