February 8, 2005

Site review: ReallyLinux.com

Author: Tina Gasperson

If you're really new to Linux, then ReallyLinux.com will help you navigate the sometimes choppy, sometimes murky waters of change. The site bases its content largely on information from the book "Linux For the Rest of Us," and provides beginner help on a variety of topics, plus a tightly focused selection of message board topics.At first glance, ReallyLinux.com is not all that attractive, but the site gradually draws you in with its content, geared toward newbies. The tone is reassuring but not condescending; you get the feeling that no one is going to censure you for asking a dumb question here.

That's because the site originator and author of "Linux For the Rest of Us," Mark Rais, takes time to fully explain basic concepts in clear language. His "Installing Linux Basics" article, an excerpt from the book, walks users through each step of putting Linux on a hard drive. The only odd thing I saw in this piece was Rais's recommendation that users don't try to have a dual-boot system. "I have to be open and tell you I can not recommend sharing the same hard drive between multiple operating systems, especially when new hard disks are so cheap," Rais writes. But having to buy and install a new hard disk just to run Linux is something that the curious Windows user is likely to shy away from.

But that's just a drop in the bucket of good water. Rais thinks of little details that other writers would probably assume readers knew. In the Basic Linux Commands tutorial, Rais writes, "Just in case some folks were not aware, you MUST press Enter to invoke the command." This is intuitive for those of us who are accustomed to using the command line, but not for those who have been weaned on a point-and-click GUI.

Then there's the more in-depth "Linux Commands for Guru-Wannabees." Again Rais brings it down to earth by mentioning that this is the list he uses to remind himself of the commands that he makes use of most frequently, such as grep, locate, tar, and ps.

The depth of resources at ReallyLinux.com will take more than just one visit for you to absorb. One of the more endearing features of the site is the frequent appearance of characters, uh, authors like Grannie. Most recently she's taken a look at the GIMP and KSnapshot, the KDE app that takes screenshots.

The site has a list of the most frequently visited articles, and at the top of that list is the "Basic Guide to DSL Linux Use," again excerpted from Rais's book. He goes through the process of setting up DSL in both GNOME on Fedora and KDE on SUSE. The guides are quite detailed yet easy to follow and understand, with plenty of relevant graphics.

There's also an overview of the GPL that is good, but has a rather clunky analogy that attempts to explain the concept of proprietary vs. free software using an example of a broken rake, which may leave readers scratching their heads.

In addition to all the tutorials and help files, there are a few opinion pieces and a small selection of links to outside sites that the author recommends. The site has a shopping page with links that lead to a few outside sites and their products, but all the links I saw were frighteningly outdated, such as a link to Soldier of Fortune, a game formerly sold by now defunct Loki Software, and one to OSTG's parent company's old name, VA Linux, which the company discarded in 2001.

Seeing that made me wonder if the entire site was dead, but the message forum is pretty active, with current posts by some of the 200 registered users and by the forum administrator. Topics include Installation Tips, Getting Started with a Web Server, Common Problems, Communicate with Mark Rais, and Which Linux Flavor to Get.

ReallyLinux.com is obviously a companion site to Rais's book, but it's a good one, long on useful information and short on plugs, advertisements, and sales pitches.

Category:

  • Linux
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