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Debunking Common Misconceptions Among Linux Newbies

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The following list is derived from my personal experience, both as a former Linux newbie, and in the dealings I have had with other Linux newbies. Linux newbies often have a lot of misconceptions about what Linux is, and about how they should learn it. These statements are meant to contradict some of those misconceptions.

The only realistic way to learn Linux is to use it. Though this may seem like an obvious point, I have met a number of Linux newbies who did not seem to grasp the concept. These people often want to "dual-boot" Linux and another operating system, or to put Linux on a spare computer, so that they can "play" with Linux every once a while without going outside of the safety of the other operating system that they already know.

Trying to learn Linux by "playing" with it once in a while is like trying learning to ride a bike by walking next to it. To become proficient in Linux, you need to depend on it. Nothing will improve your Linux skills like knowing that you need it to send your next e-mail or to finish your next homework assignment.

You do not get software in the same way as you do for Windows and Macintosh computers. With the Windows and Macintosh operating systems one typically finds software by buying a CD off of a shelf, downloading it from a malware-infested freeware site, or copying it illegally through peer-to-peer networks. In Linux, you rarely install software this way, and it is generally considered a bad idea to do so.

Almost every Linux distribution available has what is called an online software repository. An army of magical geeks and programmers find or make programs and put them into this repository. They examine each program in the repository as best they can in order to make sure the programs are safe to run on your computer and free of software bugs.

These repositories usually contain thousands of programs. All you have to do is learn how to use the "package management system" that came with your Linux distribution, and then you will be able to install and use all these programs for free. The package management system downloads the software from the repository and installs it on your computer for you.

There is a difference between an operating system and an interface. With operating systems such as Windows or Macintosh, the operating system has a certain well-defined "look and feel", which can only be altered slightly. Things such as the location of menus and the way icons behave is characteristic of the operating system itself. This is called the operating system's "desktop environment".

In Linux, however, there are many different desktop environments available for you to choose from. Most Linux distributions come with a certain desktop environment by default. But if you don't like it, you can simply install a different one.

Do not allow yourself to become frustrated just because you come across an interface you do not like. Linux is highly customizable, and it can ultimately become whatever you want it to be.

The command line is not a bad thing. For those of you who do not know what I am talking about, a "command line" is a special tool on your computer. It allows you to tell your computer what to do by typing commands instead of by clicking on icons or menus. Nearly every operating system has one - some just hide it a little better than others.

Some people are deathly afraid of the thing. Really, however, it is not all that bad. I have used mine for years, and I know a lot of other people who have as well. In fact, you can use it to accomplish a lot of cool things that are very difficult to accomplish without one.

But in any case, if you pick the right Linux distribution you may never even have to use the command line. Or at least, very rarely.

Linux is for gamers too. Too many people believe the popular myth that there are no or very few computer games available for Linux. Actually, there are many games available, in a large variety of genres and styles. There are First-Person-Shooters (FPS), Role-Playing Games (RPG), arcade games, puzzle games, strategy games, flight simulators, and other games. Just run online searches for a list of "top linux games", or ask the nearest Linux fanatic what his favorites are.

Often these Linux games do not always have quite as high a resolution or quite as many features as their proprietary, commercial counterparts, but any gamer can have a satisfying experience if he is willing to patiently experiment with the various Linux games that are available.

Furthermore, due to special "emulator" technically written for Linux, it is sometimes possible to play Windows games on a Linux computer.

There is help available. You can certainly learn how to use Linux without any help if you really want to. But you do not need to. Strange as it may sound, the are literally thousands of people who "hang out" at online forums and chat channels for no other reason than to find people who need help with Linux (and to increase their own knowledge). Learn how to communicate with these people, and they will be able to answer nearly all the newbie questions you have.

Furthermore, there is online documentation scattered across the Internet for nearly every Linux distribution and program available. And if you are lucky enough to know a Linux fanatic personally, he or she will more than likely be glad to provide you with whatever resources you need to help you get set up.

The first experience is not always the characteristic one. I once talked to a man who gave up on Linux after only a single attempt. As he provided me with more details, I came to find out that he happened to have chosen the most complex and technically-oriented Linux distribution available. There are many other distributions that are much easier to use, but he was not aware of that.

I knew another person who told me that he hated a particular Linux distribution. As it happens, he was using a version of that distribution which was almost ten years old!

If your first experience is a little rough for some reason, do not "throw in the towel". Talk to someone with more experience to see if you are doing something wrong. Or try a different desktop environment. Or try a different Linux distribution.

Linux is an operating system of ideals. What is ultimately most important about Linux is that it is an operating system constructed of Free and Open-Source Software (FOSS). The entire FOSS movement is predicated on the idea of intellectual freedom. FOSS advocates believe that ultimately nobody "owns" a piece of software, and that people should be free to copy, distribute, and modify software without the legal restrictions and intellectual fetters imposed on them by copyright and patent holders.

Since most of the commercial software world does not think this way, Linux has always been something of an "underdog". Linux is a great operating system, and constantly improving, but it is not perfect. People who understand where Linux is headed are more apt to be patient when there are a few bumps along the road. Someone once said that "an ideal is still a useful thing, even if it is never fully realized."

The content of this article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 United States License, per the author.



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  • Sean Said:


  • Anka Said:

    well, I'm running right now a Linux version of Steam on my Arch Linux with some 20 games (e.g., Dota) in it, and Wine with another Steam with about 30 games including all Mass Effects and Dragon Ages, Front Mission etc., all of them quite playable. Oh, almost forgot about EVE Online and WoW. Am I doing something wrong?

  • rob Said:

    Linux is becoming more and more 'for gamers'. Both AMD and Nvidia have been putting our drivers rather regularly for linux. Now Steam has jumped into bed with Linux to. It is becoming an alternative for gamers as well, to some degree. Also, Fantasy Grounds II a table top gaming emulator over TCP/IP now works in linux. To find other games compatible with linux click on the linux section in Steam's windows app. The linux games section is right beside the search bar within the steam app.

  • Said:

    What to Look for in a Hard Drive That You Are Purchasing? When you are going to buy laptop hard drive, it is extremely important to look for one that is going to be fast and large enough to accommodate all of your files and data needs. It
    Yeah, it's just what I need, I'm about to have a new one
    I always use Dell Hard Disk Drives, what about you, guys?

  • Said:

    What to Look for in a Hard Drive That You Are Purchasing? When you are going to buy laptop hard drive, it is extremely important to look for one that is going to be fast and large enough to accommodate all of your files and data needs. It
    Yeah, it's just what I need, I'm about to have a new one
    I always use Dell Hard Disk Drives, what about you, guys?

  • Said:

    What to Look for in a Hard Drive That You Are Purchasing? When you are going to

  • Dinsmoor Said:

    >what is Metro: Last Light >what is Serious Sam 3: BFE >what is Counter Strike: Source >what is Left 4 Dead 2 >what is Amnesia >what is Brutal Legend >what is Dota 2 >what is Garry's Mod >what is Team Fortress 2 >what is Wargame: AirLand Battle >what is Kerbal Space Program >what is any game that runs the unity engine All the HL and HL2 games, Cubemen, Killing Floor, Portal, Dungeon Defenders, Don't Starve, FTL, and those are only some of the ones JUST in my steam library. Try harder.

  • Benjamin Brown Said:

    To say that the command line is "special tool" would be incorrect. the command line exist as the first way to accept user input with the GUI and interfaces coming later in the run processes. The command line was the only way to enter user input back in the day and before that it was a punchcard, just be glad you don't have to grab a paper punch card everytime you boot into safe mode :)

  • John Said:

    linux isn't for gaming yet, it's 3 years since i first used linux, and i still love it, but to make it not dual boot or make it my primary OS, this is not happening not in near future or far far future beause the way i see it no one is paying desktop linux the attention we user want, you will feel the most stupid person in this world if you buy a new laptop with intelSRT and intel rapid start technology or dual graphics card. (i know how to setup, get my point, don't give me a solution). if these things gets supported they will take so much time that at that time you will be already so much frustrated with linux.

  • rajii Said:

    I've used Linux for 12 years and just yesterday made my first symbolic link I in probably 5 years, and it was a kick. I had to refresh my know-how, but that took a quick minute and in a short time I had a different codec working in Asunder, a fine music encoder. Linux knowledge needs to be used. Tdday I'm giving an old Dell laptop to a guy, and there is a new version of SuSe on it. No huge expectations, but it's there.

  • Larry Kapusha Said:

    My experience with the first point in this article I can't use Linux as my only, or even my main OS because I can't run Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, etc. I don't want to make my OS to run programs that weren't made for it, but that doesn't mean I don't need them... so, that's why I use Linux just to "play with it". I guess Linux doesn't have to be for everybody.

  • Doctor Whoves Said:

    And we all know there are no alternatives for Photoshop and illustrator. It's a fixed point in the kernel/softwaremanagement-continuum which makes unpossible to make or search for such an alternative online.

  • Larry Kapusha Said:

    I don't know if that was sarcasm or not (because there are a few "alternatives") but the only good alternative to an Adobe program would be Blender (an alternative of Adobe Premiere Pro)... the rest is just "Ok, I know it's not as good as the Adobe version but at least it's free" and that might be enough for some people or some ocations, but they are not worth switching the OS. Even worst, some alternatives like Blender and GIMP are available for Windows so I don't see myself using Linux as my main/only OS. There's the Malware factor but I would be giving up a lot if I make the switch.

  • Kirito Said:

    The fact that few viable Linux alternative to the commercial software Adobe Photoshop currently exist has nothing to do with the Linux Kernel. And it is not "unpossible" for more viable alternatives to be made in the future. (And saying "we all know" at the beginning of your sentence doesn't inherently make what you say any more valid, by the way)

  • Mat Said:

    Wow ! Now i understand why i have an ipad ,its like an early learning toy ! From what i almost understand linux is more like apple os than windows ? After 3 windows pcs going the same way im not a big fan ,worms ,malaware,spyware ,virus ,ok! Violance insues ! Will linux transfer dvd,cd information ,picture load ,and work with social media as well as apple ? If so im sold !

  • DixieSister Said:

    Not a computer geek so question may seem stupid but, The Command Line is that something you need to know how to write code to use? If so I would be screwed. I'm really just seeing if this OS is better then the others. Does anyone know if the system comes with a firewall and Virus protection? Please, any true info would be appreciated.

  • NBrown Said:

    Hello I see from the posts Linux is doing many games now, awesome but my main concern is multimedia. I have a 2000 Watt Crown/JBL setup on Windows 7 That sounds better than most venues. I do sound at 24bit 192Khz output on a Creative HD Titanium card. I use Winamp and have to have a player with separate video and visualizer windows. I use Core AVC for .h264, using the built-in flac decoder in winamp, Use ffdshow for .mp3 and Lav filters for everything else. Can I match this setup in any flavor of Linux and can it also run all the Games like alll Quake series Doom Series ME series DA series. That would be sweet.

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