What can I do with Linux

10 important tips for Linux beginners

This article is not intended to be a user guide for Linux. There are very recommendable sites with good instructions on the Internet. You can find a couple of links to these pages at the end of the article. I am assuming that you have already learned a little about Linux and have perhaps already tried one thing or the other.

It takes some time to find your way around Linux very well. About as long, who would have thought, as under other operating systems. The more you work with Linux, the sooner you will get to know and appreciate the real advantages of this operating system.

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In the following I would like to recommend a few tips for working with Linux. As a beginner, they are a good orientation aid for the first overview. Do not let yourself be confused by the fact that we keep talking about console commands and commands that have to be entered via the keyboard. Even if you prefer to use the mouse, you will find these tips useful. If you keep this in mind while working with Linux, you can easily avoid most of the biggest accidents that can happen to a Linux user and get an idea of ​​"what makes Linux tick" pretty quickly.

Tip 1: Do not work as root permanently - sudo instead of su

The root directory of Linux is, as the name suggests, the root directory in which all other directories are arranged. It is obvious that this area has to be protected from changes by normal users, because it contains system files that are important for operation as well as the directories of all users.

Below this, in the “/ home” directory, each user with their own account usually has their own directory. Normally he only has the rights that allow him to access files within this directory.

On a system with several users, an administrator usually takes care of system maintenance, for example installing programs and other tasks. However, usually only one user is installed on one's own PC, who of course has to lend a hand from time to time to make changes to the system.

It is precisely for this purpose that a user can be granted temporary root rights. There are two ways of doing this under Linux:

  1. With the command “su” on the command line you take on the role of root, do the work and switch back to the normal user after entering “exit”.
  2. With “sudo” you get root rights for the execution of the next instruction (s) for a short time. If the instructions have been carried out, you automatically switch back to the normal user.

What do you think, which option is more likely to protect against unintentional changes to the system?

Right, with “sudo” you are already on the safe side. Because with “su” you would be root until you end the fun with a courageous “exit”. You can quickly forget that and screw up the system really nicely. And don't think that this can only happen to beginners. Even “old hands” are sometimes not quite there.

Tip 2: Only do something as root if you have understood what you can do with it

Remember: If you have a rough idea of ​​what you are hammering into the keyboard, you as root are always just one keystroke away from wrecking your entire installation. In the vast majority of cases, the system assumes that root knows exactly what he is doing.

If you like Linux, sooner or later you will probably discover the convenience of console operation too. That is great! I can only recommend.

But don't just run any command sequence you might find anywhere on the internet. Until you really understand what a command line sequence or script does, be careful.

If you want to experiment a lot, we recommend a virtual Linux installation as a guest system in Virtualbox. This is a Linux installation within a specially protected area. Here you can test everything in peace without endangering your basic installation.

Tip 3: Do not store any user data in the root directory

The root directory contains many important system files. You should not create any files here yourself - unless you know exactly what you are doing and why.

You can store as many files as there is space in your own home directory. The root directory is usually only managed by the system and is taboo for normal users!

On the one hand, you may endanger the system; on the other hand, it is quite possible that files saved outside of the home directory will simply be overwritten when the system is updated.

Tip 4: On Linux everything is a file that can (mostly) be read

Perhaps not so important for beginners, but very practical if you get used to it right from the start: Everything under Linux is one file. This means that all inputs and outputs of the Linux system take place via the file system. As I said, not really important for beginners but good to know and easy to remember. At the latest, if you need more extensive system information, this knowledge could be very helpful to you.

Tip 5: Learn the most important console commands

When I started to work intensively with Linux about twenty years ago, the graphical user interface of the system was anything but mature.

Accordingly, I was probably not the only one who was happy when, after a few years, more and more really well-functioning desktops appeared. The world seemed all right again, because now you could finally “work properly with Linux”.

To make it short: Today desktops under Linux are better than ever and equipped with every conceivable and unthinkable convenience. Today, however, I prefer to work almost exclusively in a terminal or directly at the console.

Most of the small tasks, installing programs, setting up, deleting or searching through my archive, researching and writing texts, I can do just fine without graphic support. If I have to use the mouse every time, it feels like it takes me twice as long and I just don't really get going.

Whether the more intensive occupation with Linux commands and the use of the terminal is worthwhile for the individual certainly depends on whether one only uses Linux in his spare time or needs it for some productive use.

But I am convinced that everyone who uses Linux for the long term will benefit from it sooner or later. So I can only recommend looking at one or the other Linux command every now and then. Good candidates to start with are frequently used commands like ls, man, df, cp, mv, less, and nano. (In the forums and portals linked below you can find a lot of information about the use of Linux commands.) You almost automatically get a deeper insight into how the individual components of Linux work and how they work together.

Tip 6: period - or where important files are hidden

If you have to reinstall the system, you usually not only want to transfer your own data to the new system, but also the settings of programs that have already been installed. The question often arises as to where these settings can be found.

Linux uses a special property of the file system for this: folder and file names with a preceding dot are usually neither displayed in the file manager nor listed in the console or terminal with the corresponding command. In order to display these files, you have to select the option “Show hidden files” in the file manager or enter a corresponding command extension in the console (e.g. “ls -all”).

In this way, the settings of the programs used by the users and other configuration files are hidden from the user and protected from unintentional changes. For example, if you have installed Firefox or the Thunderbird mail program, you will almost certainly find a folder with the name “.firefox” or “.thunderbird” in your directory. This contains all files of the respective programs necessary for the configuration, which you can easily copy to the new system.

For many other programs, the settings are saved in a corresponding file in the “.config” folder, which you can also copy if necessary.

Tip 7: Linux software from software sources

The use of fixed software sources is often surprising for beginners. Most users download Linux as a complete distribution (Ubunt, Mint, Debian, Suse, Redhat, etc.). Additional programs can be downloaded in the form of so-called packages from the package sources (repositories) of the distribution manufacturers on the Internet. The package sources are mostly coordinated with one another and with the respective distribution and are maintained and updated by the manufacturers.

The package sources of the various distributions usually differ greatly from one another. So it makes no sense to want to install packages from another distribution on a Linux installation of a certain distribution. (There are exceptions here, such as the de-distributions directly derived from Debian, which can usually also install pure Debian packages.) The provision of updates and upgrades are also handled differently by the various manufacturers. Some manufacturers place more value on up-to-date software, others more on stability.

If you want to use Linux in the long term, you should find out more about the distribution in question. All available complete and live distributions are certainly suitable for beginners to try out. There are even special distributions for music, graphics or photo editing and much more. Linux is Linux, but there are differences between the distributions and in the long run you should try to find the one that meets your needs.

Tip 8: Only install third-party programs if you can trust the source

In addition to the distribution sources just mentioned, there are of course other sources with Linux software. You can even download the source code of most programs and compile them yourself. It's not even that difficult. But unless you're in an unstoppable urge, put it off until later, when you've gotten to know Linux better. Because external installation sources should be treated with caution.

I think Linux is very safe, but if you get software from unknown sources onto your own PC, you can get into trouble very quickly under Linux too!

Tip 9: If something doesn't work right away - logs and error messages

A major reason for switching to Linux was troubleshooting Windows, which made me obsessed. (If you live in a region of our beautiful country where this term is not used: I was completely unnerved! - But joking aside, Windows was and is a wonderful operating system. After twenty years of Linux, I'm just no longer compatible with it ... :)

Linux creates important log files for essential system components at startup and during operation. These are located in the file system under / var / log and can be viewed with a text viewer (e.g. tail, cat, less, more etc.). The log behavior of the system can be configured. As a beginner, you probably won't have much to do with it. But after a while you will also find that these files contain valuable information about the state of the system. If at any time you should ask for help in a forum about a real problem or a very specific question, you can assume that a reference to a corresponding log file will appear here. Then you know ...

Tip 10: Ubuntu is Linux but Linux is not Ubuntu. This also applies to other distributions

Linux has matured very well over the years. Today's distributions allow virtually anyone to install Linux in a matter of minutes. Despite important differences, the operation hardly differs from that of other operating systems. However, you won't learn how to use a new operating system in a day.

If you have problems installing, if a program steadfastly refuses to do it, and Linux still puzzles you after weeks, don't blame yourself or Linux. Reach out to a forum, describe your problem, and ask for help with a few kind words.

Try to provide additional information that is as relevant as possible so that they can help you. If you z. B just write “suddenly the monitor just stays black and flashes somehow so funny ... you will probably hardly be able to help. But if they explain the matter a little, e.g. Ubuntu 17.10, graphics card changed, then no more picture, the specs are pricked up. And you can rely on it: there are sometimes real experts among the forum participants.

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