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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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I am new to Linux but want to be an expert. I have the time and the motivation and hopefully the ability to do so.
My main topics of interest is shell programming, networking and administration.
What I need is a starting point. I need a reference for good book(s) ,ebooks,and tutorial websites.
Most importantly I need to practice on something. I don't have a spare machine to install Linux on so I want to find/create a bootable CD that I can use.
I know there are several versions of the Linux OS. Any suggestions which one will be the best one to achieve my goals?
There isn't a Linux distribution that is generally the best. But as you said, you need a live CD or DVD. Just plunk it into the drive, restart and the system's up and running, you'll just have to edit your BIOS settings so that the CD Drive boots bedore the hard drive. A good live CD/live DVD would be Knoppix (latest version: 4.0.2).
To get an idea how Linux works and to learn lots of Linux commands, click here. Nice lesson archive with a touch of humour here and there. Enjoy..
Distribution: Fedora (workstations), CentOS (servers), Arch, Mint, Ubuntu, and a few more.
If you are not handling software packages (most probably you would not, since you are going to use live CDs), most of the usage is very much the same. All core UNIX utilities are usually the same. Recommending a distro is not straight forward. But most probably you'd better try Knoppix first (or Mepis), since it is one of the most popular live CDs around. It'll be easier to find help.
GUIs may differ, but don't get decieted by the looks. Linux doesn't have freezed GUIs. They are usually very flexible. So better not to choose a distro because the wallpaper and the theme look nice.
Anyway if you are really interested in Linux and you have the enthusiasm it takes, try any of the above. Non are scary.