Language Selection

English French German Italian Portuguese Spanish

Discovering Linux - The Experiences of a Linux Newbie

Filed under

Discovering Linux - The Experiences of a Linux Newbie

August 2006

I have been using computers for years, mostly for gaming and Office apps, and I've been faithfull to Microsoft all this time. I had heard a lot about linux, and had tried some of the opensource software on my XP-laptop, such as OpenOffice. The thought of a free alternative to Microsofts costly products really appeals to me, and I decided to find out for myself what the fuzz was all about.

A few words about me and what I was looking for in my OS. I am from Norway, in my mid-twenties and I study at the University (not computer science). I have very limited technical knowledge, and I was looking for an Easy-to-use distro. My test computer is not exactly brand new; Pentium III 533 MHz, 128 MB RAM, 12 GB HD, ATI Rage 128. Also, it does not have an internet connection, so every time I need isos, software or support, I have to use the other computer, a newer model with XP.

I downloaded several distros on my XP computer and made installation discs. At first words like partitioning, swap drive, root drive and bootloader meant nothing to me, but after some time and some failures I sort of got hold of the installation process. The biggest shock for a Windows user like myself was how painfully frustrating software installation was. Compiling from source and keeping track of dozens of dependencies is a bit more challenging than simply double-clicking the setup-icon in windows. From browsing various Linux forums, I get the impression that some regard this as a good thing. Due to security reasons, it seems. I strongly disagree so far. It seems that software installation is made a lot easier with tools like apt-get etc., but all these seem to require an internet connection.

This is what happend when i tried to setup a distro on my own. I really liked the look and feel of ubuntu, and decided to make an effort to make it work like I wanted (restricted formats etc). I tried to compile gstreamer-files I had downloaded, but was unable to do this. It seemed Ubuntu didn't have a compiler preinstalled (what is a compiler?). I browsed the web, and was able to install gcc from the install CD, but still I couldn't install gstreamer. Seems I lacked dependencies. I downloaded all the dependencies that was listed, but when I tried to install these, it seems I lacked dependencies for the dependencies. It was at this time I uninstalled ubuntu.

Because I found it difficult to add software, it was very important to me that the distro worked out-of-the-box. Also, I don't even know what a config file is, so no manual editing of config files, please. What I ideally want from a distro is:

# A good looking, clean and tidy, functional desktop.

# It needs to work reasonably fast on my rather old computer.

# It needs to play MP3, AVI and other popular formats out-of-the box.

# A few games and a lot of preinstalled software.

# I prefer if it has AbiWord. OO is very slow on my PC (This is not a big issue).

# gcc should be installed by default.

# Perfect harware detection.

# A working sound recorder (the was a problem with a surprisingly high number of the distros)

Distro by Distro

1. Xandros (open edition)

+ Easy installation

+ Good looks. Easy to navigate for a Windows user.

+ Plays all formats by default.

+Working sound recorder

- A bit too windows-ish.

- Free edition lacks features, such as speedy CD-burning.

- Too many ads, too few apps.

- No Live-CD

2. Linspire (5.0)

- The liveCD is way to heavy for my system. No installation possible.

3. Mandriva (One)

+ Looks and feels great. Very intuitive.

+ Plays restricted formats.

+ The easiest installer and partitioning tool I have seen.

+ A lot of preinstalled software.

- Sound recorder won't work on my system.

- No games.

4. PClinuxOS

- Boring look.

- Graphical installer barley works on my system.

- When installed, X won't work. Somthing to do with ATI 128 Rage?

5. Ubuntu (6.06)

+ No. 1 when it comes to look and feel.

+ Good software selection by default. Nice games.

+ Great community support.

- Graphical installer don't work on my system

- MP3, AVI etc. don't work by default.

- Sound recorder won't work.

6. Fedora (5)

+ Looks and feels nice

+ A lot of good software installed.

- Text-based installer uses three hours to install the system-

- MP3, AVI etc. don't work by default.

- No sound recorder.

- Very slow on my sys.

7. SUSE (10.1)

- Won't work on my system.

8. Mepis

- Crappy looks. Menus need cleaning up.

- Difficult installation.


The concept of open-source, free software is very appealing. Many of the Linux-distros are very good, but I still haven't found one that fits my needs perfectly. Also, my needs will propably change as I become more aquainted to Linux. At this time, my favourite distro is propably Mandriva One, though it would've been Ubuntu if they had had support for restricted formats.

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.

Welcome to the jungle

Going down to paradise tty
where the installs clean
and the desktop's pretty...

Being or have been in the same position, all dressed up in the Linux trunks, goggles, snorkel, rubber ring and inflatable arm bands, ready to take that dive into the Linux ocean only to find you're still stood on the beach and the boat sailed long ago, I can sympathise.

I had a quick install and click about with Mandriva one, it was ok but I definitely preferred (K)Ubuntu. I managed to break everything else, but then, I am a happy clicker and I do like to prod things to see what happens (not wise to prod a blue spotted ray in the red sea, they don't like being prodded and the sting is akin to having a limb amputated with an acid edged plastic comb!).

There are reasons why restricted formats are not installed by default and I can understand them but it's relatively painless to get them installed. If you decide to give it another go... and I'm sure you will, you can install Automatix, run that and you'll have all the video, mp3, nose streaming you could wish for, plus a few extra bits for good measure. But you will need t'internet connection for it to work though, as with most installs, although from the ones I tried Suse was pretty complete but a tad slow on the older lappy, pIII 550, 512MB Ram and a naff trident video card.

Automatix dwells in its cave-like lair and can be found at:


It's taken a while for an installation to settle down on my laptop, now using Kubuntu, but I think if I didn't have to use it for work then I would have tried a few more and complained about those too. Complaining is a right when you're a grumpy old sod with a texting zombie, comatose, teenage daughter that visits once a month and does nothing but sits on the sofa with a face like a wet weekend and smoke pouring from her thumbs on the phone keypad.

Give it time and installations and you'll get the 1000 yard install stare, the true sign of a veteran Smile
I can just about see things at 1000 yards with military spec binoculars but I'm sure it will come. One install at a time.

Why not VMWare your laptop and install with an Internet connection to get the most out of any distro or even dual boot it? Grub/lilo. You'll probably find that you'll be weaned away from MS the more you use Linux. I use it less and less these days. Don't forget, it’s the path of the righteous man and beset on all sides by the evils of MS. Ah, I seem to be turning into an MS basher, I must have been linuxified.

More in Tux Machines

Red Hat and Fedora

  • Red Hat – the open source conglomerate
    As successful companies grow, they accumulate products; new ones are developed and additional ones are acquired. Managing diverse portfolios is a challenge, not least when it comes to putting it all together on a single presentation slide to make it appear there is an overall coherent product strategy.
  • Ericsson Embraces Red Hat OpenStack Platform
    Ericsson and Red Hat today announced a broad alliance to work together on network functions virtualization (NFV) products. And the telco infrastructure provider will now support the Red Hat OpenStack Platform. Ericsson already has a longstanding distribution partnership with Red Hat that includes Red Hat Enterprise Linux and Red Hat JBoss Middleware. The existing distribution partnerships define not only commercial terms, but also joint support models, co-engineering and certification testing, and joint go-to-market collaboration.
  • Raleigh's Red Hat teams up with Ericsson
    Open-source software firm Red Hat (NYSE: RHT) has teamed up with Ericsson (Nasdaq: ERIC) on what the companies are calling a “broad alliance” aimed at transforming the information and communications technology market. Red Hat, headquartered at downtown Raleigh’s Red Hat Tower, announced that its new partnership with Ericsson would allow the duo to deliver fully open-source and production-ready cloud infrastructure, spanning OpenStack, software-defined networking and software-defined infrastructure.
  • FCAIC in the House
    The job is like many other roles called “Community Manager” or “Community Lead.” That means there is a focus on metrics and experiences. One role is to try ensure smooth forward movement of the project towards its goals. Another role is to serve as a source of information and motivation. Another role is as a liaison between the project and significant downstream and sponsoring organizations. In Fedora, this means I help the Fedora Project Leader. I try to be the yen to his yang, the zig to his zag, or the right hand to his right elbow. In all seriousness, it means that I work on a lot of the non-engineering focused areas of the Fedora Project. While Matthew has responsibility for the project as a whole I try to think about users and contributors and be mechanics of keeping the project running smoothly.
  • keepalived: Simple HA
    We have been using keepalived in Fedora Infrastructure for a while now. It’s a pretty easy to use and simple way to do some basic HA. Keepalived can keep track of which machine is “master” for a IP address and quickly fail over and back when moving that IP address around. You can also run scripts on state change. Keepalived uses VRRP and handles updating arp tables when IP addresses move around. It also supports weighting so you can prefer one or another server to “normally” have the master IP/scripts.
  • What does Factory 2.0 mean for Modularity?
    This blog now has a drop-down category called Modularity. But, many arteries of Modularity lead into a project called Factory 2.0. These two are, in fact, pretty much inseparable. In this post, we’ll talk about the 5 problems that need to be solved before Modularity can really live. The origins of Factory 2.0 go back a few years, when Matthew Miller started the conversation at Flock. The first suggested names were “Fedora Rings”, “Envs and Stacks”, and Alephs.
  • varnish-5.0, varnish-modules-0.9.2 and hitch-1.4.1, packages for Fedora and EPEL
    The Varnish Cache project recently released varnish-5.0, and Varnish Software released hitch-1.4.1. I have wrapped packages for Fedora and EPEL. varnish-5.0 has configuration changes, so the updated package has been pushed to rawhide, but will not replace the ones currently in EPEL nor in Fedora stable. Those who need varnish-5.0 for EPEL may use my COPR repos at They include the varnish-5.0 and matching varnish-modules packages, and are compatible with EPEL 5, 6, and 7.
  • Installroot in DNF-2.0

Security News

  • Security advisories for Thursday
  • More information about Dirty COW (aka CVE-2016-5195)
    The security hole fixed in the stable kernels released today has been dubbed Dirty COW (CVE-2016-5195) by a site devoted to the kernel privilege escalation vulnerability. There is some indication that it is being exploited in the wild. Ars Technica has some additional information. The Red Hat bugzilla entry and advisory are worth looking at as well.
  • CVE-2016-5195
    My prior post showed my research from earlier in the year at the 2016 Linux Security Summit on kernel security flaw lifetimes. Now that CVE-2016-5195 is public, here are updated graphs and statistics. Due to their rarity, the Critical bug average has now jumped from 3.3 years to 5.2 years. There aren’t many, but, as I mentioned, they still exist, whether you know about them or not. CVE-2016-5195 was sitting on everyone’s machine when I gave my LSS talk, and there are still other flaws on all our Linux machines right now. (And, I should note, this problem is not unique to Linux.) Dealing with knowing that there are always going to be bugs present requires proactive kernel self-protection (to minimize the effects of possible flaws) and vendors dedicated to updating their devices regularly and quickly (to keep the exposure window minimized once a flaw is widely known).
  • “Most serious” Linux privilege-escalation bug ever is under active exploit (updated)
    While CVE-2016-5195, as the bug is cataloged, amounts to a mere privilege-escalation vulnerability rather than a more serious code-execution vulnerability, there are several reasons many researchers are taking it extremely seriously. For one thing, it's not hard to develop exploits that work reliably. For another, the flaw is located in a section of the Linux kernel that's a part of virtually every distribution of the open-source OS released for almost a decade. What's more, researchers have discovered attack code that indicates the vulnerability is being actively and maliciously exploited in the wild.
  • Linux users urged to protect against 'Dirty COW' security flaw
    Organisations and individuals have been urged to patch Linux servers immediately or risk falling victim to exploits for a Linux kernel security flaw dubbed ‘Dirty COW'. This follows a warning from open source software vendor Red Hat that the flaw is being exploited in the wild. Phil Oester, the Linux security researcher who uncovered the flaw, explained to V3 that the exploit is easy to execute and will almost certainly become more widely used. "The exploit in the wild is trivial to execute, never fails and has probably been around for years - the version I obtained was compiled with gcc 4.8," he said.
  • Hackers Hit U.S. Senate GOP Committee
    The national news media has been consumed of late with reports of Russian hackers breaking into networks of the Democratic National Committee. Lest the Republicans feel left out of all the excitement, a report this past week out of The Netherlands suggests Russian hackers have for the past six months been siphoning credit card data from visitors to the Web storefront of the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC). [...] Dataflow markets itself as an “offshore” hosting provider with presences in Belize and The Seychelles. Dataflow has long been advertised on Russian-language cybercrime forums as an offshore haven that offers so-called “bulletproof hosting,” a phrase used to describe hosting firms that court all manner of sites that most legitimate hosting firms shun, including those that knowingly host spam and phishing sites as well as malicious software. De Groot published a list of the sites currently present at Dataflow. The list speaks for itself as a collection of badness, including quite a number of Russian-language sites selling synthetic drugs and stolen credit card data. According to De Groot, other sites that were retrofitted with the malware included e-commerce sites for the shoe maker Converse as well as the automaker Audi, although he says those sites and the NRSC’s have been scrubbed of the malicious software since his report was published. But De Groot said the hackers behind this scheme are continuing to find new sites to compromise. “Last Monday my scans found about 5,900 hacked sites,” he said. “When I did another scan two days later, I found about 340 of those had been fixed, but that another 170 were newly compromised.”
  • Thoughts on the BTB Paper
    The Branch Target Buffer (BTB) whitepaper presents some interesting information. It details potential side-channel attacks by utilizing timing attacks against the branch prediction hardware present in Intel Haswell processors. The article does not mention Intel processors later than Haswell, such as Broadwell or Skylake. Side-channel attacks are always interesting and fun. Indeed, the authors have stumbled into areas that need more research. Their research can be applicable in certain circumstances. As a side-note, KASLR in general is rather weak and can be considered a waste of time[1]. The discussion why is outside the scope of this article.

Android Leftovers

Debian-Based Parsix GNU/Linux 8.15 "Nev" Gets First Test Build, Ships GNOME 3.22

Today, October 21, 2016, the developers of the Debian-based Parsix GNU/Linux operating system proudly announced the availability for download of the first test build of the upcoming Parsix GNU/Linux 8.15 "Nev" release. Read more