February 15, 2010

How to Learn about Linux


How to Learn about Linux


Gaining knowledge on the popular UNIX version

While it may seem odd to read an article on “how to learn about” something, as both an academic and technical trainer for over 25 years, I have discovered that many technologists often do not have a plan for how to increase their knowledge and experience in a technical discipline as vast and varied as the Linux operation system (OS). This article will suggest a methodology for a systematic approach to studying the Linux OS in order to provide some order over the simplified search engine approach of  “search, link, read, re-search, link, save” taken by many beginning students of any technical discipline.

In order to build a building, and architect does not begin by just drawing the building’s shape or layout, he/she must understand the function, use, and future of the building that they are being asked to design. Using this concept, learning in a systematic manner also requires some preparation in recognition that any new area of knowledge needs a solid foundation and set of goals & objectives to increase the chance of a successful experience. New knowledge must have mental conditioning and planning or it quickly becomes chaotic and disassociated – very difficult to build upon or use in future applications of the knowledge.

Let’s begin with a specific set of steps that a presumed Linux beginner, a fictitious techie named Todd, might consider in his journey towards becoming a knowledgeable, yes, even an employable Linux expert. Using Todd as our subject will aid in understanding this article and the subsequent ones in this series supporting the linux.com group, “Linux+ Certification Central” comprised of those seeking to improve their Linux knowledge and experience culminating in their successful passage of the CompTIA Linux+ certification. Here are the suggested steps:

Step 1: Define your goals and commitments for obtaining Linux OS knowledge

Step 2: Determine an appropriate timeline for obtaining your Linux knowledge

Step 3: Develop a knowledge framework using Linux applications (Zim Notes, TomBoy, etc)

Step 4: Discover Linux knowledge resources: placing them in the Step 3’s framework

Step 5: Deploy your plan for systematic study of the Linux OS from Steps 2-4

Step 6: Demonstrate your knowledge by testing, measuring, and experimentation

These steps that can be used to learn any complex area of knowledge will be specifically applied to the obtainment of Linux knowledge that Todd has decided he needs to procure. The rest of this article will address the preparations that you will need to follow this series of articles thereby improving your Linux knowledge without losing your way in the almost overwhelming amount of Linux information currently available to anyone with an Internet connection.

Linux Knowledge Preparation

To begin Todd’s systematic study of the Linux OS, I suggest that he begin with the following physical activities necessary to provide the foundation for a successful study experience:

1.  Download and correctly install a Linux DESKTOP distribution; SERVER distribution comes later.

     I would suggest that Todd use either Ubuntu, Fedora, or openSUSE distributions.

2.  Establish himself, Todd, as the administrator of that installation.

Please do not use a work or employment platform for this requirement since he will need to modify, alter, change, and “play-with” the installation during his knowledge journey.

3.  At linux.com, Todd should register for membership (without charge) so he can utilize one of the best Internet Linux resources for Linux OS knowledge.

4.  Using his new Linux installation’s application manager, find and install a knowledge categorization tool such as Zim Desktop Wiki, BasKet Notes, or Tomboy to name a few. I have found Zim Desktop Wiki particularly useful in categorizing new areas of knowledge.

5.  Install, and familiarize himself with a solid text editor (gedit, vim, emacs, etc) with scripting support.

These steps should prepare Todd for his new journey into learning about the Linux OS over the next few months. Todd should ensure that he is willing to commit time, effort, and personal resources towards this project of knowledge acquisition since all the preparation and good intentions are useless without a will to succeed at his discovery of the Linux environment.

Realistically, Todd should plan for about 1-2 weeks to complete the preparation steps outlined above using the resources at linux.com as his first Internet stop. I have supplied Todd with the following URLs into the linux.com website that will assist him with his learning preparation.

Resources from linux.com:

Installation of an appropriate Linux distribution: suggestion Ubuntu, Fedora, openSUSE – these are solid intermediate distribution that have all the flavor of the Linux OS without being too expert-oriented with respect to installation and management. If you do not have a favorite, I would suggest Ubuntu 9.10 due to the significant amount of community support and documentation on this particular distribution.

Ubuntu download

Fedora download

openSUSE download

Each of these sites, obviously not at linux.com, provide the appropriate installation instructions, tutorials, and documentation for the distribution that Todd will need to successfully create a working Linux environment.

Once Todd has completed these preparatory steps, he will be ready to begin his systematic approach to learning about Linux as the next set of articles will assist him in accomplishing. Remember, Todd should learn how to use, move around in, play with, update, download new software into his new Linux environment as precursors for setting the foundation of his new knowledge discipline.