1.0 Why Linux?
2.0 Getting a Computer
2.1 Live CD’s
2.2 Finding an old computer
2.3 Buying a new computer
3.0 Installing the Software
3.1 The Options
3.2 Installing It
4.0 Using Linux
4.1 The Basics
4.1.1 How Open Source works
To make a live CD or DVD, first you need to find the .iso file for the Linux distribution that you want to try. A good choice to start out would be Ubuntu. You can download Ubuntu here or buy a CD from Amazon. See our tutorial section for how to make a live cd/dvd. Finding an Old Computer
Another approach would be to find out if your local solid waste authority has an procedures for recycling old computers that people bring in for disposal. Sometimes an old computer can be obtained at the landfill or transfer station for free or a nominal fee.
Finally, an old computer can also be purchased at a Salvation Army or Goodwill thrift store for a modest cost, sometimes.
Ubuntu – Lots of guides, tons of users
Ubuntu is great to start out on because it is very user-friendly and has many, many tutorials and other help avaliable due to it’s huge user base.
Fedora – Great artwork, lots of help though not quite as much
Fedora has great artwork and lots of users as well as using SELinux, which helps secure your system. If you feel fairly comfortable with Linux this is a great distro, although if you still feel you need a lot of help it might not be quite as appealing. Not that it is hard to get help for Fedora! Not for old computers also, though.
Damn Small Linux (DSL) – Small, runs on old computers
DSL is great for an old computer, because it is less then 50MB and requiring very low system specs. If you have an old PC that will not run Ubuntu or other distros, try DSL.
Another question many people have about open source software (sometimes called OSS) is how it works. How do the developers make money? Why do they do it? Well, the answer is they often don’t make money (although they can sometimes, for example selling support or simply accepting donations), instead they do it because they love
free and open software and want to contribute back.
Here is the applications menu. All of your programs are here ordered by their category. You can drag these applications to the desktop to make a shortcut to them or drag them to any part of either menu to make a shortcut on the menu.
At the bottom of the applications menu there is an item “Add/Remove…”. This allows you to add and remove software as the name implies. Just find the application (by category or by searching) and check (to install) or uncheck (to uninstall) the check box and press OK.
Open applications show in a taskbar-like menu at the bottom. To the left is a button to hide/unhide all the windows. Also note that you can see the windows in the workspace switcher.
The places menu provides access to different places on your hard drive. Your home folder is like your My Documents folder.
The system menu lets you change system settings. This is similar to control panel (Windows) or system preferences (Mac).
Fedora presents a very clean and attractive opening screen, with a single shorcut icon for Trash visible in the upper left hand corner of the screen, the name “fedora” in the lower right hand corner, and a horizontal panel across the bottom.
The horizontal panel at the bottom of the screen is like the Windows Task Bar. Iinitially, it shows three icons at the left hand side, followed by four boxes labeled “1,” “2,” “3,” and “4,” and at the far right hand side, icons for a Klipboard, for energy saving control settings, and a clock. Any of these icons can be opened (expanded) with a single left click of the
mouse; other options are typically presented in response to a right click on the icons.
The first of the icons, at the far left, is the K-menu, from which you can access programs and system controls. These are arranged in three overall categories titled: “Most Used Applications,” “All Applications,” and “Actions.” The majority of the Applications and Actions items are headers for groups of related programs, and the sub-menus associated with each header can be viewed by hovering the mouse over each item in the main list, as illustrated in the screenshot below:
Moving to the right on the bottom panel, the next icon encountered is for the Home folder. This is like the My Documents folder in Windows, and it is intended to organize and hold the user’s files. Initially, the Home folder has sub-folders for the
desktop itself, as well as sub-folders for documents, downloads, music, pictures, “public,” templates, and videos. Double
clicking will open any of these subfolders, and navigation back out or back up to the top folder can be accomplished with the arrow buttons in the upper left of the open window (see screenshot below).
If these arrow buttons remind you of navigation buttons on web browsers, that is not entirely coincidental because
the KDE interface contains an application called Konqueror that serves both as your interface for navigating among files on your computer and for navigating among web pages.
The third icon from the left on the bottom panel provides access to information about Fedora. Opening this icon provides access to things like a user guide and useful web links to the Fedora community.
The next four icons labeled 1, 2, 3, and 4 represent virtual desktops that can be in use simultaneously. As with Windows, a desktop can have two or more programs running simultaneously. But with multiple virtual desktops, one can have a different set of programs running on each virtual desktop. For example, Desktop 1 might have a word processor and a spreadsheet running simultaneously, while Desktop 2 might have card game running. This situation is illustrated in the screenshot below.
Notice, in the above screenshot, that the Desktop icons for Desktops in use now suggest the visual appearance of each desktop, as an aid in remembering which programs are running where. Also, the names of all the running programs on all Desktops appear on the bottom panel. Hovering the mouse over each of these names reveals which Desktop the
program is running on, and whether there are unsaved changes in the running program. Programs with unsaved changes cannot be closed without encountering a “save or discard” dialogue box.
The clipboard tool, known as Klipper, is an enhanced version of the clipboard in windows. It is enhanced insofar as it retains multiple items put onto the clipboard (until cleared) and makes it possible to search for items on the clipboard.
To the right of the clipboard tool, is the energy saving power settings control icon. This allows you to control power
management settings for the computer display, as well as some other power control features primarily useful on a battery powered laptop.
Lastly, in the right corner is the clock, which is pretty self-explanatory.
Q: What if I have a problem and need help?
A: Unlike with Windows and Mac OS X you can’t just call a tech support line … and listen to bad music for an hour before getting hung up on (OK, sometimes somebody actually answers the phone, and maybe even speaks English). For Linux users, often the best and
fastest way to get help is to on the Internet. You might find a guide that specifically addresses the issue you are dealing with. Or you might look for a ”forum,” which is a place where you can “post” a question and other people can answer the question. You can continue to talk to those people if they need addition information about the issue or if their proposed solution didn’t work. Most distributions have their own forum or there are general Linux forums, such as LinuxQuestions.org. The Linux community is pretty passionate about Linux, and members of that community are often exceptionally talented individuals (who could make a lot of money working for Microsoft, but choose not to), so the quality of the help you get is often startlingly good.
Another way to get support is to buy it from a commercial company. Canonical, the company affiliated with Ubuntu, offers support over the phone and by email. This type of service is not free though. At time of writing, desktop phone and email support for business hours on weekdays is $250 for one year.
Q: Are their other things I need to know before I start using Linux?
A: For the most part you will discover everything you need to know just by using Linux, but if you do get stuck, go ahead and look for help (see above) or check out one of the tutorials listed on the guides and tutorials page of this website. Here are a few of the tutorials listed there that might help you get started: