February 16, 2001

Web review: The ultimate guide on Linux for beginners

Author: JT Smith

- by Tina Gasperson -

The next time you get an email from some desperate student that says something to the effect of, "I'm doing a research project on Linux and it is due tomorrow. Please tell me everything you know about it, and hurry!" instead of hitting the delete key, you can pass the poor kid the URL to this site. You mean you never get emails like that? I think teachers nowadays must assign research projects the day before they're due, instructing students to simply "get the information from the Internet." Today's eighth-graders, knowing only how to use their Hotmail account's forwarding feature, and having missed the lecture on research techniques because they were in the bathroom putting gold rings in each other's ears sideways, have adopted this practice en masse. So be expecting the email -- because you know you left your address sitting on Slashdot last time you posted. Either that, or your home page shows up at the top of the search results list for the question "how do i find info about linux" (On msn.com, of course.)

Today's spotlight site is called "The Ultimate Guide On Linux for Beginners." It doesn't have a fancy domain name of its own, or a fancy interface, or slick design. It's rather hard on the eyes, actually, because it's done with a black background and small type. That makes some of the page elements difficult to read, even when you've set your default font size fairly large.

If you can get past that (if that even bothers you -- I hear some of you actually favor black backgrounds with white words), and if you really, really like to read, you may find, like I did, that there is quite a bit of good background information here about Linux -- what it is, where it came from, how to get it, what to do with it once you acquire it.

Copious masses of verbiage drip from these pages. Surely no middle-school Linux research paper would be complete without swiping a few paragraphs from the "What is Linux?" page, or the "History of Unix," or "Linux Development." (With appropriate credit given, of course. In no way am I advocating the blatant ripoff of the fruits of someone else's labor and creativity.)

The site even tiptoes around the subject of system administration, delving into basic Linux commands, the shell, file system structure, and a short piece on rebuilding the kernel -- as well as an overview of administrative tasks like motd and password files. The most informative and interesting part of the site for me was the section on Internet installation of Linux.

"Ultimate Guide" also links to major Linux sites and distributions. More interesting, though, is its affiliation with a Linux webring; a cursory examination of its contents revealed lots of uncharted territory in our favorite subject matter (OK, my favorite subject matter -- I don't like Natalie Portman or Quake.)

There's also a large guestbook, and open access to very detailed site stats -- which revealed that something like 98% of the visitors to this site are running some flavor of Windows and browsing with Internet Explorer or AOL. We can only hope the message gets through.

Go visit "Ultimate Guide" and see what you think.

Do you know of a site worthy of the spotlight at Newsforge? Send me the URL and a brief description. A couple of weeks ago, we featured several "build your own computer" sites, and was promptly deluged with a bunch of emails telling me which ones I'd left out. I'm putting together a "build your own computer, part 2" story, so if you know of a good how-to site, share the wealth.

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