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i think unfortunately most instructions are distro-specific, however not always the case.
im sure if you follow the instructions and you succeed, it means of course the instructions worked fine with your current setup and distro.
generally speaking, if the instructions require graphical programs for configuring (or doing whatever to) it is distro-specific. (however, again, this isnt always the case).
if instructions say 'click on the KDE panel', if your on a distro that uses GNOME, of course this instruction wont work on your system. if the instructions involve using common command line tools to perform a task then, obviously, it would work in a large variety of distros.
there is almost always more than one way to perform a task in linux, so with any set of instructions you should be able to perform what it is doing, even if its documented specifically for your distro.
the only real/big differences inbetween every distribution out there is: the desktop/window manager it uses, the specific software and their versions installed, and the package management system it uses. every distro is essentially just a different mix of the three things i just mentioned.
sorry its late and im not thinking as clearly as i should be so this is where i stop.. hope it is of some help!
A Bash command is a Bash command and works in every Bash shell (terminal mode). That is the building block of every Linux. There are a few other shells kicking around and the implementation of BASh shell isn't 100% in every distro but I would say it is close to 95% to 99% for the major components. Therefore operating in terminal mode is pretty safe for every Linux user in a distro foreign to himself/herself.
how to's may or may not be distribution specific depending on what it describes
for ex the location of some config files, how those files are set up etc, etc. in general however they are similar while a how to may only cover a particular distribution some time and effort could lead to the same result in another distro
Oh, and trust me Phil459, the command line IS fun.
Over time, I've slowly seceded from graphical configuration protocols to command-line ones. The command line is a time-consuming beast to tame, but the payoff is great.
In time we shall know but since Linux is built by building blocks with Bash commands the knowledge with it will never die but will be for life.
I survive in 100+ distros using Bash commands common to all of them. The only possible method to boot all these systems is to work in the Bash shell.
Many distros disallow a root log in to the GUI and so GUI is limited to the ordinary user status. For example one cannot see the content of a system file or edit it and system-related commands are not answered. In Bash shell one can obtain root privilege and hence the acccess to use every part of the distro.
I am also having a fling with the BSD and Solaris systems based my limited knowledge of Bash shell.
Learning a bit of the Bash shell can really make a LInux user go far.
Personally I don't think a user know the real power of Linux if he/she doesn't use the Bash shell.