Three of the Internet’s best places to get started with Linux

by Tina Gasperson
This is for people who want to learn the basics of Linux at home, on the
Internet. You don’t have to be a “learn all alone” kind of person to do it this
way — there’s plenty of human help out there. These three venues offer current, interactive,
real-life Linux help for real people.Newchix

The Newchix
mailing list
is an offshoot of the popular LinuxChix community built around
female Linux users. There is no set curriculum or structure to this beginner’s
forum — just bring your questions and join in. The LinuxChix lists have a
reputation for polite repartee that is rare in tech discussions of any kind, and
the Newchix list is no exception. All questions are welcomed and treated with
care by experienced and not-so-experienced members of the list. The membership
is mostly female, but men are welcome.

List traffic is moderate but growing. Previous topics have included “firewalls,”
“Mandrake install problem,” “cannot load desktop manager,” “baud and bps,” “does
Linux crash?” “about downloading Red Hat,” and “PCMCIA card config.”

Obviously, this is a Mandrake-specific site. But because it is geared to
beginners, go ahead, pick up a copy of Mandrake and get busy installing. This is the best site out there for current docs and tutorials. I’ve used this site extensively to find out
which files to edit, how to edit them, what programs I need to install and when; and also to learn about .rpm packages and the dependency game.

There’s no “step-by-step” installation guide here, but that’s one of the nice
things about Mandrake (and many of the other distributions) — the process is so
automated you won’t need that kind of help. If you get stuck on X configuration,
you will find help for that here.

A nice feature is the interactive discussion forum, which in itself serves as a
nice, big archive of solutions. You should search the current posts before you
ask your question, because it is likely someone else has had the same problem
you’re having.

Basic Linux Training

Henry White and Anita Lewis run this low-key mailing list and Web site
that is the best free program on the ‘Net, dedicated to the Linux newbie who is
willing to do some studying to learn the basics. They’re so low-key they
didn’t want us to give them too much publicity because “idle-curiosity seekers”
take up too much bandwidth, according to Henry White, and he pays for that
out of his own pocket. So, no visiting unless you’re a serious newbie who’s
ready to learn!

They’re tolerant of all questions that come up on the “BLT” list, and don’t
allow flaming or “RTFM”
comments. But don’t expect to get your hand held too much — after all, this is
Linux, and you have to be ready to read up.

Potential students should be
prepared to wait; the class size is limited and there’s usually a backlog of
registrants, says White. Once you’re in, you’ll get two or three lessons at a
time to work through on your own. The mailing list is for lesson-related
questions or other difficulties.

From the site: “Basic Linux Training is a
brief, introductory level course written specifically for those coming from a
DOS/Windows background, without any knowledge of Unix or programming. (Those
coming from Apple/Mac are welcome and should get a lot out of this course
despite the orientation. Just be aware that Mac users have always been rare on
the mailing list so you’ll almost certainly have to supplement this course with
other Mac users who have Linux installed.) The course is designed to be used
with virtually any introductory Linux textbook, and is vendor and distribution