10+ mistakes Linux newbies make

New desktop users can make plenty of mistakes (as can anyone). But knowing which mistakes to avoid, from the start, helps prevent a LOT of frustration. Here are some of the most common Linux desktop mistakes I see new users make.

1: Assuming they are using Windows

Although this might seem way too obvious, it’s not. The average user has no idea there are even different operating systems to be had. In fact, most average users couldn’t discern Windows XP from Vista from 7 (unless they are certain Windows 7 was “their idea”). Because of this, new users might believe that everything works (or doesn’t work, as the case may be) as it does in Windows. Make your end users aware that they are using a different operating system — and that it works differently.

2: Trying to make exe files work

Unless you have done your homework and installed WINE, double-clicking those .exe files simply won’t do anything. And when that happens, your end users are going to be upset. I have seen many an end user download an app made for Windows assuming that it will work for Linux. Make it clear to users that Linux, like Windows, will only run applications made for that operating system. This, of course, is tossed out the window when WINE is involved. But new users won’t be using WINE anyway.

3: Choosing the wrong distribution

One of the biggest problems for users is choosing the wrong distribution. Imagine being a new user and selecting Gentoo or Slackware or Fedora! Yes those are all good distributions, but any of them would send a new user running away in fear. If you are in the initial stages of helping a new user out, do yourselves both a favor and choose the distribution carefully. Consider the user’s ability, needs, and hardware before you make that selection. Don’t just jump on board Ubuntu because everyone says you should. A lot of distributions out there are made specifically for new users. Give them all a close examination before making the choice.

4: Not finding software

Because so many new Linux users are migrating from Windows, they think software can be had from the same channels. Most of the time, this is not the case. The new user needs to become familiar with their package management tools right away – especially tools like Synaptic, Packagekit, and Ubuntu Software Center. Each of those tools is a mecca of software where users can most likely find all the applications they need.

5: Sending OpenOffice documents to Microsoft Office users in the default format

I see this so often. New Linux users are proud of the strides they have made but dumbfounded (and sometimes turned back to Windows) because the people they share files with can’t read their formats. Remember, Microsoft products are not good at getting along with other operating systems and other applications. Make sure your new users are saving in file formats that are readable by the Microsoft equivalents.

6: Avoiding the command line

I can’t, for the life of me, figure out why people completely avoid the command line as if it is the most complex tool there is. I know people who can work absolute magic with Photoshop but can’t seem to type a simple rm command at the command line. Why this is I will never know. New users shouldn’t shy away from the command line. Knowing the command line isn’t essential anymore, but it will make them more capable users.

7: Giving up too quickly

Here’s another issue I see all too often. After a few hours (or a couple of days) working with Linux, new users will give up for one reason or another. I understand giving up when they realize something simply doesn’t work (such as when they MUST use a proprietary application or file format). But seeing Linux not work under average demands is rare these days. If you see new Linux users getting frustrated, try to give them a little extra guidance. Sometimes getting over that initial hump is the biggest challenge they will face.

8: Thinking the Windows directory hierarchy translates to Linux

There is no C:\ in Linux. Nor do you use the “\” character. Nor should you use spaces in filenames. These are common mistakes new users make. Trying to map out Windows to Linux, directory for directory, is impossible. You can get as far as C:\ = / and maybe Default User = ~/, but beyond that you’re out of luck. Make sure new users understand that everything starts at / and their most important directory is their home directory (aka ~/ aka /home/USERNAME/).

9: Skipping updates

I have been burned with Windows updates many times. Need I bother mentioning the update from Explorer 7 to Explorer 8? Very rarely has a Linux update fubar’d a system of mine. In fact, I can’t remember the last time it has. So I am always up to date on my systems… and with good reason. Those updates bring new security patches and features to software and should be applied. Having an installation with a security hole is not what your users need, especially on a machine that houses important information.

10: Logging in as root

I really shouldn’t have to say this. But just in case, be sure to tell your users DON’T LOG IN AS ROOT! But… just in case they must… DON’T LOG IN AS ROOT! Instead, have them open up a terminal window and either “su” to root or use “sudo”. And just in case you didn’t hear me the first time, DON’T LOG IN AS ROOT!

11: Losing windows to the pager

The pager is one of the handiest features of the Linux desktops. But over and over, I’ve seen that new users don’t quite understand what the pager is for and what it does. Because of this, they will “lose” their windows from the desktop. Where did it go? It was there a moment ago! I guess it crashed. No. More than likely, they moved it to another desktop. Another desktop? You see where this is going? Help the new user understand what the pager is and how useful it can be.

12: Ignoring security because it’s Linux

A big part of me still wants to boast and say, “In the 12 years I have used Linux, I have never once had a virus or worm or been hacked.” Although that is true, it doesn’t mean I should ignore security. I have witnessed the effects of a rootkit on a Linux machine. They aren’t pretty and data will be lost. Tell your users that they can’t ignore security just because they’re using Linux. Security is crucial, regardless of the OS.

Reliance Datacard EC121 on Ubuntu Linux

You will need to activate your phone using Windows and the bundled software. Once this is done you can connect to the internet using Ubuntu or MacOSX.

apt-get install wvdial

Edit your /etc/wvdial.conf and add the following

[Dialer Defaults]
Init1 = ATZ
Init2 = ATQ0 M1 L1 X3 V1 E1 S0=0 &C1 &D2 +FCLASS=0
Modem Type = Analog Modem
ISDN = 0
Abort On No Dialtone = False
New PPPD = yes
Phone = #777
Modem = /dev/ttyUSB0
Username = <username>
Password = <password>
# Baud = 460800
# Stupid Mode = 1

By default the username and the password is your phone number.

You can now connect to the internet by running sudo wvdial

200 Linux Commands for Newbbies

About 200 Linux commands for serious newbies. To get more examples on how each command is used, use this command:

#>man commandname

Where commandname
is an command you pick from the table below. If no manual exist, then
that command is most likely unavailable for your Linux distro. Ignore
it and proceed with other commands.

alias Create an alias
awk Find and Replace text, database sort/validate/index
break Exit from a loop
builtin Run a shell builtin
cal Display a calendar
case Conditionally perform a command
cat Display the contents of a file
cd Change Directory
cfdisk Partition table manipulator for Linux
chgrp Change group ownership
chmod Change access permissions
chown Change file owner and group
chroot Run a command with a different root directory
cksum Print CRC checksum and byte counts
clear Clear terminal screen
cmp Compare two files
comm Compare two sorted files line by line
command Run a command – ignoring shell functions
continue Resume the next iteration of a loop
cp Copy one or more files to another location
cron Daemon to execute scheduled commands
crontab Schedule a command to run at a later time
csplit Split a file into context-determined pieces
cut Divide a file into several parts
date Display or change the date & time
dc Desk Calculator
dd Data Dump – Convert and copy a file
declare Declare variables and give them attributes
df Display free disk space
diff Display the differences between two files
diff3 Show differences among three files
dir Briefly list directory contents
dircolors Colour setup for `ls’
dirname Convert a full pathname to just a path
dirs Display list of remembered directories
du Estimate file space usage

echo Display message on screen
ed A line-oriented text editor (edlin)
egrep Search file(s) for lines that match an extended expression
eject Eject CD-ROM
enable Enable and disable builtin shell commands
env Display, set, or remove environment variables
eval Evaluate several commands/arguments
exec Execute a command
exit Exit the shell
expand Convert tabs to spaces
export Set an environment variable
expr Evaluate expressions
factor Print prime factors
fdformat Low-level format a floppy disk
fdisk Partition table manipulator for Linux
fgrep Search file(s) for lines that match a fixed string
find Search for files that meet a desired criteria
fmt Reformat paragraph text
fold Wrap text to fit a specified width.
for Expand words, and execute commands
format Format disks or tapes
free Display memory usage
fsck File system consistency check and repair
function Define Function Macros
gawk Find and Replace text within file(s)
getopts Parse positional parameters
grep Search file(s) for lines that match a given pattern
groups Print group names a user is in
gzip Compress or decompress named file(s)
hash Remember the full pathname of a name argument
head Output the first part of file(s)
history Command History
hostname Print or set system name
id Print user and group id’s
if Conditionally perform a command
import Capture an X server screen and save the image to file
info Help info
install Copy files and set attributes
join Join lines on a common field
kill Stop a process from running
less Display output one screen at a time
let Perform arithmetic on shell variables
ln Make links between files
local Create variables
locate Find files
logname Print current login name
logout Exit a login shell
look Display lines beginning with a given string
lpc Line printer control program
lpr Off line print
lprint Print a file
lprintd Abort a print job
lprintq List the print queue
lprm Remove jobs from the print queue
ls List information about file(s)
m4 Macro processor
man Help manual
mkdir Create new folder(s)
mkfifo Make FIFOs (named pipes)
mknod Make block or character special files
more Display output one screen at a time
mount Mount a file system
mtools Manipulate MS-DOS files
mv Move or rename files or directories
nice Set the priority of a command or job
nl Number lines and write files
nohup Run a command immune to hangups
passwd Modify a user password
paste Merge lines of files
pathchk Check file name portability
ping Test a network connection
popd Restore the previous value of the current directory
pr Prepare files for printing
printcap Printer capability database
printenv Print environment variables
printf Format and print data
ps Process status
pushd Save and then change the current directory
pwd Print Working Directory
quota Display disk usage and limits
quotachec k Scan a file system for disk usage
quotactl Set disk quotas
ram ram disk device
rcp Copy files between two machines.
read read a line from standard input
readonly Mark variables/functions as readonly
remsync Synchronize remote files via email
return Exit a shell function
rm Remove files
rmdir Remove folder(s)
rpm Remote Package Manager
rsync Remote file copy (Synchronize file trees)
screen Terminal window manager
sdiff Merge two files interactively
sed Stream Editor
select Accept keyboard input
seq Print numeric sequences
set Manipulate shell variables and functions
shift Shift positional parameters
shopt Shell Options
shutdown Shutdown or restart linux
sleep Delay for a specified time
sort Sort text files
source Run commands from a file `.’
split Split a file into fixed-size pieces
su Substitute user identity
sum Print a checksum for a file
symlink Make a new name for a file
sync Synchronize data on disk with memory
tac Concatenate and write files in reverse
tail Output the last part of files
tar Tape ARchiver
tee Redirect output to multiple files
test Evaluate a conditional expression
time Measure Program running time
times User and system times
touch Change file timestamps
top List processes running on the system
tracerout e Trace Route to Host
trap Run a command when a signal is set(bourne)
tr Translate, squeeze, and/or delete characters
tsort Topological sort
tty Print filename of terminal on stdin
type Describe a command
ulimit Limit user resources
umask Users file creation mask
umount Unmount a device
unalias Remove an alias
uname Print system information
unexpand Convert spaces to tabs
uniq Uniquify files
units Convert units from one scale to another
unset Remove variable or function names
unshar Unpack shell archive scripts
until Execute commands (until error)
useradd Create new user account
usermod Modify user account
users List users currently logged in
uuencode Encode a binary file
uudecode Decode a file created by uuencode
v Verbosely list directory contents (`ls -l -b’)
vdir Verbosely list directory contents (`ls -l -b’)
vi Text Editor
watch Execute/display a program periodically
wc Print byte, word, and line counts
whereis Report all known instances of a command
which Locate a program file in the user’s path.
while Execute commands
who Print all usernames currently logged in
whoami Print the current user id and name (`id -un’)
xargs Execute utility, passing constructed argument list(s)
yes Print a string until interrupted
.period Run commands from a file
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