Getting started with Linux ... but how and where?

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Getting started with Linux ... but how and where?

Postby winklaus » Thu Feb 07, 2008 9:22 am

When visiting this forum I have the feeling that I understand next to nothing - even though I thought I am a fairly experienced user. Not with Linux, though, I am ready to admit. I noticed that others have this problem, too. I am eager to find out more but I just do not know where and how to start? Any good suggestions for a website or book on Linux? The real question might be: What exactly do I need to know to play around a little with my XO (to get started changing settings etc.)?

Thanks for helping...

Klaus
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Re: Getting started with Linux ... but how and where?

Postby Caliban1 » Thu Feb 07, 2008 10:52 am

When you find out, Winklaus, would you pass the information on to the rest of
us? Much appreciated,
Caliban1
I'm especially interested in going from Sugar to Python, having just bought a fun book entitled
Python Programming for the Absolute Beginner, 2nd ed. from Thomson Course Techology Books
(at Barnes and Noble). It includes a CD for installation of Python on Windows as well.
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Re: Getting started with Linux ... but how and where?

Postby ektoric » Thu Feb 07, 2008 1:57 pm

Winklaus,
I wasn't going to reply to this, not because I didn't want to help, but because I really don't have a good answer for you! :cry:

Its kind of like asking a mechanic, "how did you learn how to fix cars?" You'll find that almost all of them had a passion for cars and... well, just tinkered! Once you start tinkering, you start asking specific questions and are able to search online. If you ask "how do I fix cars", you won't get a good response because it's just too broad. If you ask "my car does _this_ when it's idle, what could be wrong?" and you'll get better hits.

So..um..that's why I didn't want to respond, because I'm not really helping you out here :roll:

And it's much easier to learn by doing when there's something specific you're trying to do. So, perhaps we can start by doing that.

To start playing with your XO, just, well, push buttons! See what happens! You mentioned something about changing settings. What settings do you want to change?

Caliban1 wrote:I'm especially interested in going from Sugar to Python

I'm not sure what you mean by that. Sugar is to Python, as Windows is to Visual Basic (omg, what a horrible analogy.. /shoot self. I can't believe I just compared python to vb.). You don't "go from windows to vb".

If you want to start programming in python and play around, the Pippy Activity is what you're looking for.
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Re: Getting started with Linux ... but how and where?

Postby franco » Fri Feb 08, 2008 2:04 am

Winklaus,

There are a couple dozen linux commands that are helpful to do much of what is discussed with linux in the forum.

Either build a text file or keep a notebook. I started with the latter and that was tedious. I then switched to a text file on my PC with its Notebook program. Notebook is easily searchable with ctl-f.

I give each entry one or more keywords that I am likely to search under. So one entry is simply:

LINUX COMMANDS

Sometimes I cut and paste helpful posts by others into my notebook, paring them down to only the parts I need.

When you see a linux command used, before you use it yourself, just do a simple search in google like this: ls linux command. Look at the results and pick find an entry that gives a simple explanation.

ls is the command to give you a file listing in your current directory. Most of the linux commands you will need have their own help files in the XO.

For instance, in Terminal, type ls and see what you get.

Then type ls --help [note: all linux commands are followed by a space, even though it may not look like a space in the forum posts.]

You will then see some of the options for the ls command. You don't need to copy or know all the options. Only a couple are useful for a beginner. Look to see what the options people use when they write posts in the forum with linux commands or if you see commands on the wiki site (wili.laptop.org).

So a notebook entry for a complete novice would look like this initially:

ls [gives me a directory listing of my current directory]
ls -al [gives me a verbose listing, with date/time, file size, and file permissions]

What directory are you in? Try the pwd command.

As you use commands, you will not have to refer to your notebook.

You may want to pick up a Linux for Dummies at the bookstore for a reference book.

And finally, keep the current OLPC build (two files) on an SD card or USB drive so that you can restore your XO if you screw it up. When you get fairly confident with some linux commands, you can then do a practice install of something like Midnight Commander (search the forum on this). Remember, if you screw up your operating system, it is easy to restore but you may have to re-install your extra-OX programs.
If I give advice it is usually because I did it / tested it successfully on my XO. I will warn you otherwise.
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Re: Getting started with Linux ... but how and where?

Postby winklaus » Fri Feb 08, 2008 4:47 am

Thanks franco,

that's exactly what I was looking for. I had actually started copying commands and ideas into a file as a reference and I am going to get a book like Linux for Dummies today to get started (Do I have to look out for a book especially covering Linux Fedora or doesn`t that matter?).

Two specific questions though:

1) Why do I have to save my current 656 build on an SD card / USB stick when I can download that from this site at any time? (And how would I download it from my XO directly to an SD card anyways, i.e. how do I identify the specific file and how do I download that using which commands?)

2) I would like to install Abiword instead of Write according to this workaround (http://wiki.laptop.org/go/Workarounds) :

Installing Abiword Word Processor
The "write" activity is a nice little introduction to word processing but it isn't really up to snuff for serious writing. It also doesn't, to my knowledge, save files in a format other word processors like Word or OpenOffice can read and write.

I did a bit of looking for something a bit more full featured but still small enough for the OLPC and found Abiword. [[3]] Its still pretty small but is closer to a full word processor and can share documents with many other larger word processing programs. It took a bit of fiddling to get installed but it works a treat on the OLPC once installed.

For some reason python comes with an older libabiword installed. In order to install the current abiword you must first remove this.

Below are the step by step instructions for getting Abiword running on a G1G1.

Go to the terminal activity and type su to get permissions to install software
type yum remove libabiword
type yum install abiword
Thats it! After that, type exit to leave super user mode and then abiword to run the word processor.

Jeffpk 12:47, 23 January 2008 (EST)


I have the feeling that the commands listed above would not lead me anywhere as something is missing (for example where would the abiword file come from?). Who could walk me through this workaround in detail?

I guess this is one of the specific issues ektoric was "asking" for 8)

thanks

klaus
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Re: Getting started with Linux ... but how and where?

Postby Sarah Elkins » Fri Feb 08, 2008 10:53 am

Klaus,

What's holding you back from just *trying* it and seeing what happens?

Failing that, what's holding you back from looking up yum in Wikipedia or Google (or the forums here, for that matter) to understand how that command will get you the abiword file?

I don't mean these questions harshly. I don't understand the hesitance. Do you just need more assurance that yes, those commands really will work, as written? Do you not trust your ability to look stuff up online (where people have already written a lot of stuff about yum and other Linux stuff) and come back here to ask about the specific parts you don't understand?
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Re: Getting started with Linux ... but how and where?

Postby winklaus » Fri Feb 08, 2008 1:00 pm

Sarah,

I guess people approach problems in different ways. I would like to be led the first few times before I start doing everything myself, starting from scratch. My feeling is: I have searched and looked things up more than I have ever done before trying to figure out something. The thing is, you need to be educated to some extent to be able to search well and here we are again: I guess I just need some starting help.

Thanks

Klaus
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Re: Getting started with Linux ... but how and where?

Postby ektoric » Fri Feb 08, 2008 1:10 pm

winklaus wrote:(Do I have to look out for a book especially covering Linux Fedora or doesn`t that matter?).

Winklaus,
In general, no it does not matter which flavor of linux you get for your reference book. But if you happen upon one that specifically uses the fedora distribution as a base, there are a few advantages.

Linux is great in that it's so flexible. Unfortunately that flexibility comes at a cost. There are certain conventions that almost all applications follow (having all your configuration files in /etc), but there are no hard fast rules for which directory under /etc you might find the configuration you're looking for.

So if you have fedora book, it may tell you exactly the directory layout you want. Or if you're familiar with the concepts, then you can search around the likely places. But I suppose that's a chicken and egg scenario 8)
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Re: Getting started with Linux ... but how and where?

Postby ektoric » Fri Feb 08, 2008 1:17 pm

winklaus wrote:The thing is, you need to be educated to some extent to be able to search well and here we are again: I guess I just need some starting help.

Are you looking for a Sesame Street approach where each day we introduce one linux command and bang on it from all different directions? :P

"Today's word is ls! It stands for "list" directory! You can see all the files in a directory by typing ls!" :twisted:

Seriously though, it's hard for most of us (or at least me) to describe how to "start from scratch" because its kind of an evolutionary process where you start off just tinkering! Have fun by just poking around and see what happens! Feel safe in the safety blanket that it is extremely hard for you to do something that would actually render the XO completely dead. We can almost always just use a USB and fresh install some corrupted system. So don't worry about messing things up and have fun toying with it!

---
"Well, it just so happens that your friend here is only mostly dead. There's a big difference between mostly dead and all dead."
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Re: Getting started with Linux ... but how and where?

Postby 4ofakind » Fri Feb 08, 2008 2:00 pm

This link will get you started with the shell. Learning the shell is the most important aspect to learning Unix/Linux.

http://www.ee.surrey.ac.uk/Teaching/Unix/

Cheers!

Oh. Btw, if you want to try out python, it can be used interactively by typing python in the shell. You can exit python by typing exit().
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Re: Getting started with Linux ... but how and where?

Postby Lace » Sat Feb 09, 2008 1:10 am

I had the same feeling as Winklaus when I first started poking around under the surface. For me the Rosetta Stone was the book "Beginning Fedora: from Novice to Professional" by Shashank Sharma (ISBN 978-1-59059-855-9), $40 list, $30 on Amazon. I found the book very approachable even though I had no prior background in any kind of ?-nux. This edition covers Fedora 7, from which, as I understand it, the XO system derives, so I figured that was good. The book includes a CD with Fedora 7.

What was valuable to me were the middle chapters -- 13 through 17, 28 through 30, and some of the reference stuff in the back. Working through these very readable chapters with my XO at my side to try things out was a useful investment of 4-5 hours. There is coverage of:
  • what a shell is (essentially, the environment you enter when you use the terminal activity)
  • using the command line (incl. basic commands for listing, copying, moving, deleting files)
  • structure of the file system (to figure out how things like /usr/share/fonts fits in or finding the USB stick in the file system)
  • editing text files ("vi" always behaved mysteriously for me until I read this chapter)
  • a section called "Cool Shell Tricks" that gives some hints about the power of Linux lurking inside the XO.

The rest of the chapters you can ignore as they have to do with things like installing Fedora and using office applications.
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Re: Getting started with Linux ... but how and where?

Postby sambot » Sat Feb 09, 2008 3:01 pm

4ofakind: the site you included looks very interesting. Help. What do I do when I download the tar file? It sits in my Journal looking full of letters that mean nothing to me. I can't download to my pc 'cause it refuses to unzip files.

After spending hours looking through posts, and understanding 5% of them I have managed to download opera & flash, both of which work somewhat. Although I do appreciate comments that users should paly around with the linux environment, some of us are quite hesitant to go willy nilly through the terminal environment. Yes, we can reflash the XO, but I couldn't even begin to do this as the reflash download times out,even using a hi-speed connection.

I really appreciate suggestions & help from the more experienced linux user, and yes, maybe a separate forum for sesame street style learning could be a great learning tool. (Off to try ls).
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Re: Getting started with Linux ... but how and where?

Postby Sarah Elkins » Sat Feb 09, 2008 3:28 pm

Klaus,

Yum is a Linux command-line tool (suitable for Terminal) that can install and uninstall packages. When you tell it to install a new package (such as AbiWord), it goes out onto the Internet to find the latest stable version of that package, looking in pre-defined places (you don't have to tell it where to look). You could have it look for cutting-edge not fully-tested packages instead, but you'd have to put extra stuff in your command to make that happen. So as long as you have a good Internet connection, the set of commands in the example you gave (for changing from Write to AbiWord) should work.

Does that help?
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Re: Getting started with Linux ... but how and where?

Postby 4ofakind » Sun Feb 10, 2008 12:57 am

sambot wrote:4ofakind: the site you included looks very interesting. Help. What do I do when I download the tar file? It sits in my Journal looking full of letters that mean nothing to me. I can't download to my pc 'cause it refuses to unzip files.

After spending hours looking through posts, and understanding 5% of them I have managed to download opera & flash, both of which work somewhat. Although I do appreciate comments that users should paly around with the linux environment, some of us are quite hesitant to go willy nilly through the terminal environment. Yes, we can reflash the XO, but I couldn't even begin to do this as the reflash download times out,even using a hi-speed connection.

I really appreciate suggestions & help from the more experienced linux user, and yes, maybe a separate forum for sesame street style learning could be a great learning tool. (Off to try ls).


Go to the terminal, and type tar xvfz unixtut.tar.gz, after changing to the directory the file is in. The tutorial will be in the unixtut directory one level below your working directory, after you do this.

Really though, as long as you are not the root user when practicing with the shell, you can't do much damage to the system itself. Practice making a few diectories, and moving files about. Think of it as a game. It can be fun. :)

P.S. Nothing wrong with Sesame Street learning. Whoever said this had to start there as well, and has forgotten how important learning fundamentals are.
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Re: Getting started with Linux ... but how and where?

Postby sambot » Sun Feb 10, 2008 4:22 pm

4ofakind wrote:Go to the terminal, and type tar xvfz unixtut.tar.gz, after changing to the directory the file is in. The tutorial will be in the unixtut directory one level below your working directory, after you do this.


Dumb beginner question I know, but how do I go the directory the file is in? I tried cd directory and got no such file or directory. Can you give me really basic directions?

And as for the so-called Sesame Street directions/command of the day, like just type in ls, all I got was the log of the wget flash installation. That was interesting but not the least bit illuminating.
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