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[GUIDE]Beginners Guide to Linux + Easy Installation Guide !!


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Linux- sometimes referred to by the press as 'Windows NT's worst enemy'.

Wired Magazine once called it 'The greatest story never told'. This is a

perfect definition because the story behind Linux is indeed a great one, yet

it is unknown to so many people. Let's start at the beginning.


Back when 'Stayin' Alive' was still topping the charts, and Microsoft was

a spec in the world of computers, AT&T produced a multi-user operating

system and labeled it 'UNIX'. Throughout the years, UNIX caught on and

many different versions of it began to come out. A popular one, called

'Minix' (mini-UNIX) was available for use at The University of Helsinki in

Finland. A student at the University named Linus Torvalds believed he

could create an operating system superior to Minix. In 1991 he started

his new operating system as a side project, but it soon developed into a

full-time hobby until 1994 when the first official version of the

operating system was released.


You're probably now saying 'so what's the big deal about Linux? Isn't it

just another operating system?' Absolutely not! First of all, Linux is

released under something called 'open source license'. Open source is really

more of an idea than a thing. Linux is released with all the source code and

files that it was made with. This means a few things. Anyone who is good

at programming can mess with the Linux code and release his own version of

it. This also means that even though if you buy Linux in a store it will

cost money, you're not paying for the actual Linux itself. Your money goes to

the price of packaging, the extra software that comes with the operating

system, and technical support. The second, and most important reason that

Linux is a big deal is because it's a much more stable operating system than

Windows. It runs on any system; even bottom of the line 386's from before

Linux even came out. Programs running under Linux almost never crash, and in

the off chance that one does because of bad programming by the program author,

it will not take the operating system down with it. Another important reason

Linux is good is that it is secure. It is much harder to bring down by a

hacker than Windows is (for further reading, read the 'Basic Unix Security

Guide' by R a v e N at blacksun.box.sk). This is just an extremely short list

of the reasons why Linux is so great. For further reading check out



This tutorial is for Windows users who want to migrate to Linux. This is

written for Redhat or Mandrake Linux (the two most easy-to-install and

user-friendly Linux distributions), but the information here will most probably

help you with whatever distribution you are using. The only problem with this

is that Mandrake and RedHat are relativley simple to install, and some other

distrobutions are much more complex. I highly suggest you buy Linux-Mandrake

rather than RedHat. Mainly because it is cheaper and comes with more

software, but as you read through this tutorial, you'll see more reasons why I

recommend Mandrake.


The first thing you're going to have to do with your new operating system is

install it- but you can't do that so quickly.


2.0 - Preparation


If you already have Microsoft Windows on your system and you want it to

co-exist with Linux, you are going to have to create another hard drive

partition. What a hard drive partition is a totally separate part of a

hard drive. If two hard drive partitions weren't physically part of the

same disc, they would be two different hard drives. Anyway, the reason

for this is that Windows and Linux are totally different in the way they

access hard drives and handle files. If they are using each other's hard

drive space the two operating systems can conflict and cause major problems

for your computer. Well, as I was saying, you need to create a hard drive

partition reserved for Linux. There are MS-DOS programs that do this, but

they are "lethal" partition making programs. By this I mean that while making

a new partition, they can destroy or at least corrupt files on another

partition. If you want to make a partition for Linux, without killing your

Windows files you need a "non-lethal" partition program. If you get

Linux-Mandrake, a "non-lethal" partition program is included with it (this is

just one of the reasons why I recommend Mandrake over RedHat).


Well with all this talk of partitions and hard drives, you must be wondering

roughly how much hard drive space you'll need for Linux. If you want the

complete system with everything, you'll need about 1.5 gigabyte+ hard drive

space. However it is possible to productively run a full Linux distribution

(there are "miniature" Linux distributions that range from around 2 to 35

megabytes, and there's also Trinux, which runs from two 1.44MB floppy disks!

Get it from www.trinux.org) to with as little as 150 megabytes. Trust me, you

don't want EVERYTHING. Linux comes with tons of software you'll probably won't

need. For example: Linux comes with a variety of network servers - a web

server, a Sendmail server, a telnet server, an FTP server etc'. If you choose

not to install something and then regret, you can still get it later off the

original installation CD.


So anyway, if you have sufficient hard drive space, and a "non-lethal"

partition program, you're ready to proceed to the next step: installation.


***Even if you're using a "non-lethal" partition program, I suggest you

backup your Windows files just in case something goes wrong.***


3.0 - Installation


Now that your computer is ready for Linux, you're ready to install it.

When you bought the software, it probably came with a few CD's and a disk.


The disk is boot disk for the Linux installation program. You pop in the

disk, reset your computer, the installation program begins, and you're

ready to install Linux. The only thing is that the installation program

will take a while to load since it's from a disk.


**The stuff on the disk is probably just a duplicate of some of the stuff

on the first CD. If your computer is capable of booting from a CD (and

most newer ones are, otherwise, check your manual) then instead of putting

the disk in your computer then rebooting, put in the first CD as it will

load much quicker. Of course, you'll need to mess with your BIOS

configurations first, but that's no big deal. Hit del when your computer

boots up (after it tells you how much RAM you have) and mess around with it

until you can find out how to make your computer attempt to boot from your CD

drive first. This differs from different BIOS systems.**


3.1 - Ok..You're finally ready to install Linux.


The first few questions the install program asks you are self explanatory,

just things like your language and stuff. One thing you might get stumped

on is when you are prompted on whether you have any SCSI adapters or not.

An SCSI adapter can be anything such as a mouse, printer, scanner, etc. It

all depends if you have an SCSI controller. Chances are, you don't have any

SCSIs, but check your manual to be sure. Also, if you are completely sure

that your copy of Microsoft Windows is properly-configured, you can quit the

installation program at any time, return to Windows, run control panel, click

on system and find out all the information you'll need about your system's


3.2 - More Partition Stuff


The next thing you might have trouble with is a dialog box that appears

asking you some questions about your hard drive partitions. The name of

the dialog box should 'Disk Setup'. There should be three buttons on the

bottom of the box. One labeled 'Disk Druid', another labeled 'fdisk', and

the last is the back button. Since you already set up your partitions,

select 'Disk Druid'. If you originally only had one partition with

windows, then the top of the screen should look something like this:


Mount Point Device Requested Actual Type

hda1 ??MB ??MB Win95

hda2 ??MB ??MB Linux Swap

hda3 ??MB ??MB Linux Native



Mount point should be blank.

'Device' is the name of the partition

'Requested' is the amount of hard drive space you wanted for the partition

'Actual' is the amount of hard drive space that is really in the partition

'Type' is what's in the partition



**The 'requested' and 'actual' sections for the 'Linux Swap" type should

be the amount of RAM you have.**


**It looks confusing, but in reality if it is simple. Don't worry if your

screen doesn't look exactly like my diagram, it probably won't.**


What you should do now is select the 'Linux Native' section (by pressing

tab to get to that part of the screen, then using the arrow keys) and then

press tab again until the 'edit' button is highlighted. Pressing spacebar

will bring up another dialog box. In the space provided, put a slash (/)

then press OK. Now you're back at the main screen. Press tab to get to

OK, and then press spacebar.


**what you're actually doing here is telling the computer to put the root

directory, signified by the slash, in the Linux Native partition. The

root directory '/', is similar to 'C:' in DOS/Windows.**


Next you come to a screen asking which partitions to format. Select the

one that 'Linux Native' is in. You should select the '/dev/xxxx/'

partition where 'xxxx' is the name of the device that the Linux Native

partition is under. This is where you put the '/' on the last screen. If

the Linux Native partition device was hda3 then choose '/dev/hda3', if it

was hda6, then choose '/dev/hda6', you get the point.






3.3 - Selecting What to Install


Suppose you had three hard drives on Windows - c:, d: and e:, and you

want to install Linux on d:. Windows assigns the letter c to the first

hard drive it finds that has a DOS/Windows file partition, d to the second

DOS/Windows-compatible hard drive etc', so this might help you out

determining which device to choose. Also, if you turn d: into the Linux

hard drive, it will disappear from DOS/Windows, and e: will turn into



You're not finished yet, but take a sigh of relief, the hardest part is

over. Next comes the screen asking which packages to install. Some of

the most important ones are selected already. If you have a lot of hard

drive space, select all the other packages. Otherwise, just select the

others that you think are important. Definitely select 'KDE' and 'GNOME'.

Those are window manager programs for the X-Windows system (a GUI - Graphical

User Interface), and we'll deal with them later. Anyway, newer versions always

come with new software and/or updates for old software.


Press OK and the Linux installation begins!


3.4 - Misc. Configurations


After everything has been installed, you are prompted for more things.

The first should be what resolution your monitor is. Most people would

like to use the same resolution they use on Windows, so if you don't know

which resolution you were using until now, switch back to Windows,

right-click on your desktop area, click properties and find the settings

tab. You should see your current resolution there. This would probably be

the same resolution you would want to use on Windows. If you want a higher

resolution, consult your monitor's manual to find out how high you can go.


Next is the mouse configuration. If your mouse is not on the list, select

'Generic PS/2 Mouse'.


There are more such as clock set and time zone but those are

self-explanatory. After this, comes the services screen. These are the

things that will startup when you run Linux. Then it will prompt you for

if you want the X-Windows interface to run when you start Linux. If you are a

Linux newbie (and you probably are, unless you weren't reading this guide), I

suggest you do this. X windows is the GUI system, as explained before.


The last configuration is the printer. This is self-explanatory.



3.5 - Configuring Users


Ok...you're almost done; the configurations are pretty much finished. Now

you will be prompted to create a password for the root operator. Even though

it is still very popular on single home users, Linux is a multi-user operating

system. Even if you'll be the only person using your computer, having a

multi-user system is quite benefical. For example: you can use a

less-privileged user to prevent yourself from doing stupid things and messing

things up. You can run sensitive software which can be broken to (say, some

sort of a server. For example: a Sendmail server for outgoing mail if you're

planning to let people sent mail from your machine, or a web server if you

want to serve a website off your computer) as a less-privileged user, so if

someone will manage to exploit some hole in this software, he will have very

limited privileges (up to what the program needs to run properly) and he won't

be able to do much, or nothing at all in most cases (he won't have read

access to password files, he won't have write access to the website's files

so he won't be able to alter them etc'). On any UNIX-based system (and there

are many) the main user is called 'root'. The root has supreme power over the

system and supreme power over all the other users. In fact, he has unlimited

power (unless he or another root-privileged user chooses to impose access

limits, but root-privileged users can always restore their rights to the



My root password is a particularly simple one. Mainly because I am the

only one who uses Linux on my computer (and besides that I trust my own

family!) and that my Linux system is not connected to the Internet (so

hackers [or crackers I should say] would have no way to get into my

system). Make your password anything not to complicated that you'll

forget it, but something that is very hard to guess.


After you're done making a password for the root user, you're prompted to

create an unprivileged, or ordinary user account. You make the user name,

credentials, and password. It may seem pointless at first to create

another user- especially an unprivileged one if you are the only one who

is going to be using Linux. However there is a big advantage to it. As a

root user, you can do anything to the system, including seriously messing

it up. Nothing will stop you because you are root. An ordinary user

account is like security so if you mess up, the system will stop you.

3.6 - Booting Configurations


Next you are asked if you want to create a boot disk. I strongly recommend

this because it will put the Linux boot stuff on the disk, not your computer.

If you put the Linux boot stuff on a computer with windows, it may conflict

with the windows boot stuff in case you ever reinstall Windows (go to

blacksun.box.sk/byteme.html and read #18 for a good example).


The Linux 'boot stuff' I'm talking about is a program called 'LILO'.

That's short for 'Linux Loader'. Anyway LILO installs itself to the boot

sector of the computer. The problem is that Windows also installs stuff

to the boot sector. LILO can install over Windows and let you choose to

either boot up Linux or Windows whenever you start up your computer. If you

choose Windows, it'll use Windows' "boot stuff".


Anyway, in my opinion, when the install program asks you to create a boot

disk, click Ok, then follow the directions to create a boot disk. Oh yeah,

by the way, when you make a boot disk, it puts LILO on that disk. When it

asks you to install LILO, just press Skip (unless you want to install

LILO, which most users will).


Congratulations! You're done installing Linux! When the installation

program ends, take the installation boot disk out of the drive. If you

booted the installation from CD, don't forget to take that out too.



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(Because in the first post i wasn't allowed to write more,the rest is here.)


4.0 - Running Linux


I bet you're glad to finish that installation! Now you're finally ready

to run the system. If you decided to create a boot disk, insert that into

the disk drive. If you decided to install LILO, just sit tight for now.

Regardless of what you did, reset your computer. If you used LILO, you

will get a prompt to load Linux or Windows. If you used a boot disk, the

system will startup automatically.


After the system starts up, the will get prompted for a user name and

password. This will look different depending on how you configured it in

the installation. If you chose to start the X Windows GUI automatically,

the username and password screen will look like it does in Windows (well,

sort of. X-Windows is much cooler, unless you're using some lame version of

it or some lame window manager). If you chose not to load the X Windows

interface at startup (like most advanced users will), you'll be presented

with a text-based interface. The text-based interface (the command console)

is much faster than the graphical system, but this also means you cannot view

any graphics until you start X-Windows (this is a good time to mention that

most people just call it X). Anyway, you can always run a command console

from an X window (usually called an "XTerm", which stands for X Terminal).

Anyway, the login screen will look pretty much the same regardless of

whether you are using RedHat or Mandrake.


If you're wondering what to type in the username box, that's easy. Your

username is 'root' (remember?). The password is the one that you selected

at installation.


5.0 - Using Linux


5.1 - Intro To The Console


Even though you'll probably be able to do everything with ease using the X

Windows GUI, there is still some stuff you should know. First off, don't

rely on a GUI for everything! That is very important because you will

learn a lot by using the console. The console is more powerful and can do a

lot of things you would REALLY like if you'll just grab a good basic Unix book

and start learning. After you do, you'll find yourself often opening an XTerm

window to run some console commands which you cannot run from X. If you

selected to start the GUI interface when Linux loads up, there are still lots

of ways to get to the console.


The console prompt should look somewhat like this (if you're logged in as root):



The first part identifies who you are, and the '#' is the actual prompt.

Any almost and UNIX type system, the '#' means you are root. On non-root bash

consoles (BASH - Bourne Again Shell. BASH is the most popular text-based

shell. Confused? Don't worry, we'll get to that in a second) this will be

replaced with a $. Anyway, you can change the prompt, but we won't get into

that now.


5.11 - Shells


You use a shell everytime you're in the Linux console. What a shell is,

is the program that communicates between you and the Kernel (the kernel is

the core of the system). Let's think of it as an interpreter for for two

people who are trying to have a meeting, except they don't speak the same

language. One speaks English and the speaks, oh let's say Hebrew (about half

the members of Black Sun Research Facility (blacksun.box.sk if you don't

know the URL yet. Also, if you havn't noticed, I'm a member of BSRF) are from

Israel). To communicate with each other they need a guy who speaks both

English and Hebrew. If the English guy wants to tell the Hebrew guy

something, he tells it to the interpreter in English, and then the

interpreter tells it to the other guy in Hebrew, and vice versa. Well

anyway, getting back to the subject, this is the case with Linux. Your

language is the Linux commands, and the Kernel speaks it's own very complex

language. When you want to talk to the Kernel, you tell shell in your

language, and the shell tells it to the Kernel in it's language. On any Linux

system, there a few shells. Some of them are:









The most popular and powerful shell is 'bash' (borne again shell). We

won't go that much into shells, because you don't need to know that much

about them just yet.



5.2 - Navigating The File System


The most important thing to know when using the console is how to navigate

the file system without a graphical program.


The first thing to understand about this is that the bottom directory, the

directory that everything else is a subdirectory of is '/'. It's like

'C:' in Windows.


Ok, you start at the console and as a default you're either in your home

directory (every user has a home directory which contains his personal

configurations files). Now you want to navigate to another directory. But

wait, you don't know any other directories! You'll a directory listing for

this, right? To do this type 'ls' at the prompt. 'ls' is the equivlant to

'dir' in MS-DOS, and stands for list. You'll get a list of files and

folders. To make the list a bit more readable, try ls -Fla. The -a shows

files which start with a period (for example: .Xclients-default). The -l

displays file permissions and displays everything in neat columns. The -F

option adds a / after a directory and a * after an executable file. I also

suggest using ls -Fla --color to let the system color-code different files

(may not be available on some systems).


Anyway, now that you what directories there are, you need to know how to

get into them. Luckily, you use the same command as you you use in

MS-DOS, the 'cd' (change directory) command. Let's say you're at the

bottom directory, '/' and you want to get to '/root'. You simply type

'cd root'. There is no need to type 'cd /root', because you're already in

'/'. Now let's say you want to get to '/root/bin'. This would be done by

typing 'cd bin'. There is no need to type 'cd /root/bin' (the "full path" of

the directory), since you're already in '/root'. Instead, you can use a

"relative path", which is a path that is relative to the current directory

you're in. Type pwd to find out where you are (pwd stands for print working



Now let's say you're in '/root/bin' and you want to get to '/usr'. You would

type 'cd /usr'. This is to signify that the 'usr' directory is under '/', not

'/root/bin', or even '/root'. Got it? Ok, just one more thing. If you're in

a subdirectory, and you want to get to the top directory, just type 'cd ..'.

Let's say you're in '/root/bin', and you want to get to '/root'. You could

just type 'cd /root', but hey, '/root' is five characters! If you want to

save precious miliseconds, just type 'cd ..', since '/root' is the directory

in which '/root/bin' is a subdirectory of. So in other words, . is the

current directory, .. is one directory above, ... is two directories above



5.3 - Basic File and Directory Commands


There are lots of file and directory commands in Linux, but we'll start

with directory commands because they're easier. First off, you have

'mkdir'. 'mkdir' stands for make directory and the context is:


mkdir the_directory_you_want_to_make


Some rulse apply. If you're '/', it will make the new directory under

'/'. If you're in '/usr', it will make the directory under '/usr'. Of

course though, if you're in '/' and you want to make a directory called

'stuff' under '/usr', you would simply type '/usr/stuff'.


The next command is the 'rm' command. It works with files and direcotires

and is used to delete some, it stands for 'remove'. If you want to remove

a file called 'this.gif', you would go to the directory where that file is

and type 'rm this.gif'. Or let's say again you're in '/' and 'this.gif'

is in '/usr', you would type 'rm /usr/this.gif'. It works the same way

with a directory.


Next are the 'cp' and 'mv' commands. They're both relativley simple, but

we'll start with 'cp'. 'cp' stands for copy, and is used to copy a file

from directory to another. The context is:


cp /directory_where_it_is/filename /directory_where_you_want_to_copy_it


Of course if you're already in the directory where the file is, all you

need to type is:


cp filename /directory_where_you_want_to_copy_it


'mv' works the exact same way, except it moves the file instead of copying

it. This means it deletes in from the original directory and puts it in

the new one.



5.4 - Finding and Viewing Commands


To find a file, oyu use the 'find' command. It then followed by the

directory where you want to start looking, then the '-name' arguement to

say that you're searching for a filename. Next you type the name of the

file. Let's say you're looking for the 'this.gif' in the '/usr'

directory, the context would look like this:


find /usr -name this.gif


The find command doesn't stop at filenames, it can also search a file for

a paticular string of text. It has the same context as the find file

command except you put quotes and asteriks around the string of text. So

if you wanted to search the '/usr' directory for a file containing the

string 'hello', you would type


find /usr -name "*hello*"


Ok, once you find a file, you want to view it right? Well, you could open

the file with a text editor, but we haven't learned to use tetx editors

yet, and anyway if the file you want to view is important you might

accidently change it and save it using a text editor. That's what the

'cat' command is for. Let's say you want to view a file called

'stuff.txt' in '/root'. You would navigate to the '/root' directory and

type 'cat stuff.txt'. Or from any directory, type 'cat /root/stuff.txt'


-= For more commands, buy a good basic Unix book =-

5.5 - linuxconf


There are lots of commands in Linux for configuring everything to user

passwords, networks, and the message that comes up when you start Linux. With

so many things to configure, luckily there is one program that does it all.

Just type 'linuxconf' at the command prompt, and you'll be brought to the

Linux Configuration program.


5.6 - Mounting

5.61 - Mounting Drives


In Linux, drives not only have to be physically mounted to the computer, but

mounted in software too. In the KDE and GNOME GUIs, you can easily mount a

CD-ROM or disk drive by clicking on the 'CD-ROM' or 'Disk Drive' icons on the


5.62 - How to mount


Remember earlier in this tutorial when we went over how a hard drive partition

is almost like a separate hard drive? Well, just like a separate drive,

partitions also have to be mounted. The main use in this is being able to

mount Windows partition and access Windows files in Linux. Obviously, Windows

software will not run under Linux but there is still a use for accessing

Windows files in Linux.


Let's say you can't use the internet in Linux. You ISP only allows to

dialup with software and they don't make it for Linux, you're not used to

Linux yet so you don't want to use the net in it yet. This is a down

point, but it doesn't mean you can't download Linux files to use. All you

have to do is download the files in Windows and access them in Linux.


To mount a windows partition in Linux, yhe first thing you must do is

create a directory in Linux where you will mount the windows partition to

reside. Go into file manager (it should be under utilities no matter what

distribution you're using) and create a new directory under '/'. Call

anything, I suggest calling it 'windows'. Now exit file manager and go

into 'terminal' (should also be under utilities). Terminal will give you a

command prompt just like MS-DOS. This is what you would have to do

everything from if there were no X Windows GUI. The command to use is

simply enough- 'mount'. But don't type it just yet, you need to give the

system more info. The full command is


mount -t vfat /dev/xxxx /yyyyyyy (yes there is a space between 'xxxx' and '/')


Or mount -t vfat32 /dev/xxxx /yyyyyyy in case this is a FAT32 partition.


Where 'yyyyyyy' is the directory you just created, and 'xxxx' is the device

name of the partition where Windows resides. It is usually hda1 or something.


There, now just go into file manager and click on the directory you created

and you will have all the files that are on your windows partition.


When you're done, don't forget to unmount the drive by typing:


umount /dev/xxxx /yyyyyyy


Each time you want to access your windows files, just mount the partition

(unless they're set for automount. Edit /etc/fstab, find the line that

represents your Windows partition and look for a place with says noauto. If

you find the word noauto, change it into defaults. If you don't, your

Windows partition will probably get automounted whenever you boot-up Linux).

When you're done with them, just unmount the partition.


5.7 - Runlevels


While Windows is booting, have you ever pressed the F8 key? Well, if you

have, you're probably familiar with a screen that pops up giving you a

list of ways you can load Windows. There's safe mode, command prompt,

step-by-step confirmation, etc. Linux has something just like that, and

they're called 'runlevels'. There are six runlevels in all, and some are

pretty much the same. A runlevel is a list of commands to load-up as soon

as you start up Linux (there's a mini-tutorial about runlevels at

blacksun.box.sk/byteme.html). Your default runlevel is probably 5. If you

configured the GUI to start up when you boot the system, and if your default

runlevel is 5, then that is the runlevel configured to boot the GUI when it

starts up...simple, right?


Well anyway, if you use linuxconf to change your default runlevel to 2 or

3 or something, then you change it so that the GUI won't start as soon as

the system boots....all without touching the actual runlevel. When you

want to change it back, just use linuxconf to set the default runlevel

back to 5.


Now let's say you only want to load it without the GUI coming up once.

Instead of having to change the configuration in linuxconf, and then

changing it back, you can load Linux into another runlevel. Suppose You

want to load runlevel 2...not for any paticular reason, just because it's

not configured to load the GUI when it boots up, and well, you like the

number 2. To do this, as soon LILO comes up (whether it's on your

computer, or your boot disk), you have the option to type something next

to 'boot:'. Just type 'linux x'. 'x' refers to the number of the

runlevel, in this case the number 2, so you type 'linux 2', and press

enter. This will load Linux without loading the GUI. When you restart

Linux, it will load the default runlevel again.


For an interesting runlevels-related local hack, read the Byte-Me mini-tutorial

about runlevels at blacksun.box.sk/byteme.html.



You are now officially a Linux user. Check out www.linuxlinks.com for

links to some great Linux sites. The best way to learn about Linux is by

messing around with it. In an hour of playing with Linux you can learn a

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