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An Introduction to Linux for Beginners

Learning new things can be fun and exciting. If you’re ready to step out of your comfort zone a little, Linux can offer you a whole new perspective on what it means to be an operating system.

The prospect of getting into Linux can seem daunting at first. Especially for those who have spent most of their lives using the very user-friendly Windows operating system. However, once you discover the Linux world, it will be ready to welcome you with a host of free and open source software that you can use on any personal computer.

You have to ask yourself the question, “Why would I use Linux?” If you are already using a specific operating system, such as Windows or Mac, does that make sense?

Think of it as gaining a new skill set. Learning Linux adds another arrow to your quiver of computer knowledge. Learning about a subject is never a bad thing. It is also obvious that Linux is more secure than most other operating systems. Not to mention, there is a demand for UNIX / Linux users in the workforce.

Introduction for Linux Beginners

There are hundreds of active Linux distributions and dozens of different desktop environments available to run them. Everything works differently on Linux than on Windows and Mac, including everything from software installations to hardware drivers.

It is not necessary to understand every little Linux tidbit before you start using it, but this is not a beginner’s guide unless it touches on a few key things that can help you in the long run. The first of them is “What is the core?”

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Linux Kernel

All operating systems have a kernel. The operating system kernel is an essential component of the kernel that provides basic services for everything in the operating system.

In Linux, the kernel is a monolithic UNIX-like system that turns out to be the largest open source project in the world. Simply put, the kernel is the heart of the entire operating system.

Don’t give up your current OS

You don’t have to give up Windows or MacOS to run Linux on your computer. Some Linux distributions allow installation via USB stick or dual boot for more flexibility in use.

This means that both Linux and your day-to-day operating system can coexist side-by-side on the same machine.

Open source

In the case of Linux, open source essentially means a free alternative to operating systems like Windows and MacOS. This also means that users can modify and redistribute the operating system as their own distribution.

Linux will allow you to avoid most of the distractions, weaknesses, and vulnerabilities that both of the aforementioned operating systems encounter on an almost daily basis.

Linux Shell

The shell is basically a user interface for Linux. You enter commands into the shell, and then it executes those commands while interacting with the Linux operating system.

The Linux shell can use many different command languages, the most famous of which are BASH or Bourne Again SHell. Each language tends to have its own syntax, so it’s best for a beginner to pick one and stick with it.

You would also find it helpful to avoid using the GUI (Graphical User Interface) and use the command line instead. This will introduce you to the internals of Linux and provide additional skills that can help you further.

Select Distribution

Choosing a distribution that suits your needs and criteria is the first step on your journey into the Linux world. Unlike Windows and macOS, there are literally thousands of different distributions to choose from.

A Linux distribution will take the Linux kernel and combine it with other software to create a complete, working operating system. The software you add can vary greatly – web browsers, desktop environments, basic GNU utilities, and more.

The most popular options are detailed in DistroWatch, which is a great place to find the right distribution for the job.

For someone with Windows experience, Ubuntu can start. Ubuntu aims to eliminate many of the rough edges of Linux. However, today many Linux users have begun to favor Linux Mint, which comes with Cinnamon or MATE desktops, which are slightly more traditional than the Unity desktop in Ubuntu.

However, you don’t have to pick the single best version at launch. Just stick with one of the more popular options and you should be fine. Each distro will have its own website, so you can go to one of them to download the ISO disc image you’ll need to get started.

Burn ISO Image

Burning an image does not require any special knowledge and only requires making a decision on DVD or USB. We recommend that you opt for the USB option as most laptops and desktops nowadays have ditched DVD drives. A USB 3.0 drive is also more versatile, convenient, and faster booting than a DVD drive.

To write an image to USB, you need a special program to make it work. Rufus, UNetbootin or Universal USB Installer are the ones most recommended by the Linux distribution community. If you’ve chosen Fedora as your first distribution, Fedora Media Writer is by far the easiest way.

Boot Linux

Now that you have the image, it’s time to download it. Plug the USB (or insert DVD) with the distribution of your choice into your computer and restart it. It should boot directly, but if it doesn’t, you may need to change the boot order of the BIOS or UEFI firmware.

Most computers currently use UEFI, but just in case, you’ll want to check. You can usually enter the BIOS or UEFI of your desktop by pressing the Del or F12 key before Windows boots.

It is also possible that you may need to disable Secure Boot in order to boot Linux on a Windows 10 computer. Usually, the more popular distributions do not have problems, but if you choose one of the lesser known versions, you may have to do this before booting.

Chances are, you don’t even need to install Linux on your computer. Instead, most distributions allow for a live environment, which means that you can run Linux entirely from an image boot device. This is great for newbies as you can play around with the user interface and desktop to get a feel for what Linux has to offer.

After you’ve had your day and want to leave your Linux desktop, you can simply restart your computer and remove the image device.

Reasons to Install Linux

The main reason for installing Linux is that running it “live” means that everything you configured in the settings was installed additionally, and the files you created will not be supported. Every time you remove the boot device from the image from your computer, it is all erased.

Installing Linux is just easier. Until then, play with other distributions until you find the one that works best for you and install it. You can uninstall your current operating system and replace it with Linux, or create a more flexible choice and use a dual boot configuration.

The installer is in a live environment.

Linux Desktop

Most Linux distributions come with the Firefox web browser already included. Other installed apps are likely to differ depending on the distribution, but adding additional apps is just a few clicks away.

You can expect your desktop environment to have all the standard bells and whistles: application menu, sort of taskbar or dock and taskbar. Don’t be afraid to snap your fingers and ruin something.

If you’re not too keen on what a desktop has to offer, almost all major distributions let you install any desktop after you’ve installed Linux. Some distributions are optimized for a specific desktop, but changing it to suit your needs is essential to work with Linux. You can even have multiple desktops to choose from if you have the required disk space.

If you ever need help with the setup, there will be plenty of documentation on the main distribution sites that can easily get you on the right track. There are simply too many to list here.

Installing additional software

You can install additional software on your Linux distribution of choice without having to install Linux. The main thing to worry about is that installing software on Linux works very differently from installing software on Windows.

There is no need to open a web browser and search for a specific download. Instead, you will need to find a software installer on your Linux system to make the additions.

For example, if you choose Ubuntu or Fedora, you will be able to install the software using the GNOME Software Store App. It’s literally titled “Software” so it’s not hard to find it.

The Software Manager provides software repositories specifically designed to work with your Linux distribution of choice. This software will be tested and provided to you by the Linux distribution. Think of it as an app store full of free and open source software to choose from. Just know that when you think about Google Play and the Apple App Store, Linux did it first.

If you cannot find the application you are looking for in the software manager, you may have to go outside of the Linux distribution and get the application directly from the official site.

Driver Installation

Most of the required hardware drivers will be built into Linux. The only closed source drivers you might want to purchase are graphics performance optimization drivers (AMD, Nvidia) and Wi-Fi drivers. This is not necessary, and whatever comes with Linux should be sufficient.

Some distributions like Ubuntu and Linux Mint will recommend drivers for their hardware drivers as needed. In addition, there are other distributions that will not help you install closed source drivers at all. If you need specialized drivers, consult your distribution’s documentation for help.

That said, Linux should be pretty close to the Windows experience, especially if you’ve opted for a GUI system like Cinnamon or GNOME. You can find all the most popular Linux programs that you would otherwise use on Windows.

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