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Introduction to Linux - A Hands on Guide
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I would just make sure you leave some way to get online. Don't make new Linux installations on every machine all at once. I learned linux at a time when there wasn't much documentation, and users had to know how to tweak the code a bit, or it wouldn't work. But, I had worked on UNIX shells for a few years beforehand, and Linux is kinda the same. I'm not a strong believer in learning Linux before you use it, because you can't.
It's like reading how to take a shower and get ready for work. Now matter how much you read about it, you still won't know until you do it. A ways back I always made a drive image, so if the system didn't boot after one of my brilliant maneuvers, I could boot the rescue system and write the good image back to the drive I messed up.
SuSe Enterprise Linux is packaged with 800 pp. of documentation, and none of it will ever get you out of a jam. I eventually settled on Debian for my desktop system (laptop actually), because it just seemed to work the best, and it has pretty many (~30,000) packages. But I started on SuSE, before Novell bought 'em out.
I use Fedora 17 on another system, and I still use opensuse 12.1 on yet another system. But corporate distros bow to commercial interests and so sometimes exclude packages that have abuse potential but that are quite necessary for doing certain tasks. Debian has no commercial interests, because it doesn't sell Linux. Most Linux distros are debian-based.
YES!, Ubuntu and all its forks are Debian! Ubuntu just pulls a bunch of packages off the Debian unstable branch and covers them with dessert-topping and window-dressing. But no one is supposed to know, especially not Ubuntu users. So don't tell anyone! Debian is for after you've been nursed on Fedora (Red Hat), opensuse, or Ubuntu.
But let's not forget probably the most rock-stable distro of all: Slax! I would use slax if it had online mirror repositories. But it still is really good; a bit tricky for beginners though.
And Gentoo and derivatives (Sabayon) are seriously from a different solar system, but if you like it, Gentoo can't be beat. Mandriva (or the Mageia fork) is a beginner Linux with ~20,000 available packages. In their opinion, it's the best Linux OS out there. And, they say their distro guarantees evolutivity. So, who knows what that might mean?
I don't speak IT language at all, so plain English would be appreciated.
Linux has intrigued me for years, and since Microsoft will no longer support XP Pro in the future, I'm considering going to Linux in the future. What is the best version for older computers? One is a Thinkpad 600X (2545) and the other is about three years old and doesn't have USB 3. Motherboard is ASUS P5G41-M LE/CSM. I also have two old or older WD external HDs. The newer one (WD My Book Essential USB 2.0) does not have a Linux driver available from WD; I have not checked the older one to see if it is Linux compatible.
Where do I go for basic english Linux tutorials? I'd like to learn as much as possible before starting with Linux.
All above suggestions are good. My suggestion. Forget everything you know about using XP. Biggest hangup for new users is Windows experts ,in their mind only.
Basic english tutorials for new cluless Windows to Linux users can be had at :
It's like reading how to take a shower and get ready for work.
It occurred to me just know that I got my start with Knoppix. I burned a bootable CD, stuck it in my windows machine and was amazed at how quickly it boots and how much you are able to do with it. You can take a windows machine with corrupted OS (e.g., missing a boot record) and throw in a knoppix disk, boot it up, and start surfing the web.
I've heard recently that FreeBSD (and OpenBSD) are highly secure -- largely because the OS installs with everything turned OFF. Can anyone comment on how difficult it is to get a GUI set up with FreeBSD? Also, does FreeBSD have an apt or yum type of package management system?