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Basic Linux Tips and Tricks, Part 1

Who This Article Serves

  • September 30, 2007
  • By A. Lizard

This article is intended for people who have some computer expertise, even if it's Windows-only. At a minimum, you should be comfortable with the MS-DOS command line in Windows and have done a bit of Windows Registry editing to give you some experience with configuration files.

If you're totally unfamiliar even with the MS-DOS command line, you need to find in-person help of the sort this article can't provide; I recommend finding a local Linux User Group by either posting on Craigslist or checking the bulletin boards at a local college in the Computer Science department to find people to walk you through the basics and provide in-person handholding if you need it.

You should also get a For Dummies book or similar novice-oriented information for your specific distribution.

This article is largely specific to Debian and it's derivative distributions (usually called "distros") like Ubuntu, though the principles should serve users of RPM-based distros (i.e., Fedora, Red Hat Enterprise Linux, openSUSE, or SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop/Server).

This article is not a full treatment of Linux troubleshooting. A full treatment of Linux troubleshooting would be a rather long book, even if it were distro-specific.

What's here are some notes on resources and methods I've found useful in the last three years in keeping my systems running, to give novices some idea what to do once one gets "under the hood" of one's computer at a application/OS level. I emphasize the information one generally needs immediately when something goes wrong that you don't want to spend hours looking for, assuming you know you need that specific information.

In most cases, the truth is out there, most often in a canned solution you can use and find via Web search. Less often, you'll have to ask via forum or via mailing list.

Sometimes, there is no good answer. For instance, if nobody has written a driver for a printer or scanner, for instance, you're outta luck and your option is to do without, find a peripheral that is supported, find somebody willing to write a driver, or write it yourself.

But even this can be an improvement on waiting for MS to come up with a solution for a Windows environment. You've heard of Vista?

In general, the best way to stay out of trouble in Linux is to research any hardware you were thinking of buying for a Linux box or the box itself to make sure somebody somewhere has a Linux driver for it before buying.

Though I regard running a Debian-based distro as helpful in staying out of trouble, apt-based packaging results in more reliable and easier to use program installation than rpm based packaging. The rpm-based installation package is something Red Hat has said it will fix so hopefully, this situation will change in future.

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