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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.
For more advanced trainees it can be a desktop reference, and a collection of the base knowledge needed to proceed with system and network administration. This book contains many real life examples derived from the author's experience as a Linux system and network administrator, trainer and consultant. They hope these examples will help you to get a better understanding of the Linux system and that you feel encouraged to try out things on your own.
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There is no best, nor are some distros harder than others, with the exception of perhaps LFS. What one person finds simple others may find difficult. For example some people like Gnome others like KDE. It is all a matter of taste and how much you really want to learn. You can install pretty much any distro especially the ones that come with everything but the kitchen sink and never have to learn anything.
If you are still on windows I would suggest install VMware and playing with several distro and different desktops.
Ubuntu, OpenSuse, Mandriva, Mint,Fedora,Dreamlinux, PCLinuxOS, even Debian would be good places to start. Puppy and DSL are small distros that you can run inside windows as well.
If you really want to learn how things work go with Debian or Slackware, then if you really want to get down to the nuts and bolts try LFS.
A few tips: learning to really use the power of Linux involves reading, trial and error. Keep at it until you get things to work they way you want them to. Tweaking is half the fun.
Linux is not Windows. Please get that part firmly embedded in your mind right away.
Once you come to accept that simple fact it becomes much easier to learn how to use Linux.
Google is your friend. There are some very good books available for learning, although anything you need to learn can be found on the net.
Some things to think about before jumping into Linux:
* Why do you want to try Linux?
* What experience do you have with computers?
* Do you like to tinker with your system and its OS or do you just want it to work?
* What access do you have to the internet : dialup or broadband
* Does the thought of using the Command Line intimidate you?
Now if you really want to learn Linux, here's a little advice:
1. Start off with a LIVECD to get a feel for things.
2. When you are ready, install a reasonably newbie friendly distro.
PCLinuxOS, Mandriva, SuSe, Ubuntu and Fedora are good choices.
3. Set up a dual-boot. That way you can boot into Windows when you want and use Linux when you want.
4. Forget everything you ever thought you knew about Windows.
5. Start with a clean slate and an open mind.
6. Accept the fact that the CLI is far more flexible and powerful than a GUI. Learn how to use it.
Learn the Linux command line. Write shell scripts. Linuxcommand.org has a great tutorial.
7. Read the man pages for the various programs.
8. Read ALL of the documentation available for the distro you choose.
9. Accept the fact that it takes time to learn a new system.
10. When trying to address a problem or figure something out:
a) search the LQ.org forums
c) Read How to ask smart questions before posting in a forum.
d) Use the IRC channel for your distro.
11. Stick with a distro for a while until you've actually learned how to use it.
12. Do not get discouraged if things don't always work. If something isn't working correctly learn WHY it isn't.
13. Always remember Linux doesn't assume you're stupid, unlike windows.
14. Go to your local LUG (Linux Users Group) for help.
I struggled with the same question about 3.5 years ago... read stuff on the Internet, and converged on Fedora. Been happy so far. BUT: Fedora needs some customization for your specific purposes. For that, you need to be fairly comfortable working with Linux/Unix command prompt. If you're not so used to a command prompt and prefer a desktop environment, then some of the other distros that people have mentioned might be more friendly to you...
I've always enjoyed Ubuntu. It runs very stable and quite quickly, which on my crappy computer is astounding. If you want something a little prettier you could try Kubuntu. I've always been taught (and found from personal experience) that Ubuntu is a great platform for anyone new to Linux because it has a really easy to navigate GUI and it's very stable. However, like everyone else has said it's important for you to just get a number of them and decide which one YOU like the most.
Just another thought, though. If you really want to jump in and be forced how to use linux quickly, you could try using a distro without a GUI (only command line). Something like ArcLinux would work well for that purpose.