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Introduction to Linux - A Hands on Guide
This guide was created as an overview of the Linux Operating System, geared toward new users as an exploration tour and getting started guide, with exercises at the end of each chapter.
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First, add a user account with adduser (or useradd, depending on your setup) and set a password for the user with passwd <username>. Unless you did this when you installed. You generally don't want to login as root.
The logout as root and login as the new user. Now, if you've installed X, type startx, and you should get a desktop.
Distribution: Lots of distros in the past, now Linux Mint
What distro are you using? (Note, this is an important thing to mention in future posts.) You may have a number of problems, or it may just be a newbie thing. (We've all been there, by the way.) Try typing 'startx' at that prompt. Hopefully, that will send you into X-windows/Gnome/KDE. If so, you should manage better from there. If you know (guessing doesn't work so well with linux) that you installed gnome or kde (or both), you can also try 'gdm' or 'kdm' respectively. If startx doesn't work, you're probably not going to have luck with gdm or kdm. If the screen goes haywire, hit ctrl+alt+backspace to shut down the X server.
On the other hand, if none of that works, you haven't installed or properly set up your distro for x-windows (the gui linux uses). Depending on your distro, this may be as simple as a one line command, or it may be easier to reinstall, and pay more attention to the options available. Most distros expect that you will want x-windows, so they install it as part of a standard install.
There is a possiblity, if you're using one of the "expert" distributions (debian, gentoo, slackware, and others) that the distro doesn't assume you want a gui (a gui on a server is a waste of resources, in case you're wondering why not). In those cases, especially for a newbie, it might be easier to try another more "newbie friendly" distro. Otherwise, you're in for a lot of reading, and probably as much frustration.
Linux is actually pretty easy to use, and once you've gotten used to it, you'll wonder why you put up with some of the other stuff for so long. Part of that means that you'll have to unlearn a few habits (like reinstalling when something breaks--in linux, chances are your problem is a couple commands or mouse clicks to fix|but at first, it's probably better to worry more about getting a working system, so ignore it for now, but keep it in mind). If you like the power of the PC, you'll probably find the time you put into linux to have an incredible return on your investment.
If you're using Mandrake, Redhat, SuSE (the big three), and startx doesn't work, chances are there was a problem during your install, or not enough stuff was installed.
Since you have done it before you may want to pay particular attention to what software to install. If you have room select them all, the ones on the left. Leave the ones on the right like they are, they are server stuff. Do not uncheck any though. Make sure you go through the configure part during the summary. Especially the monitor and network part.