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Punkie 05-29-2003 03:53 AM

An interesting newbie approach to Linux

My name is Punkie ;) and I'm a newbie to Linux. (AA meetings voice)

I have tried several times to install and learn Linux, but ... I've discovered I have a funny problem :) It's not that I don't like reading manuals...

What happens is... I download a distribution of Linux, install and, since I have no idea what I need and what I don't need, I'll install it fully. What I end up with is a working Linux system, X Free and a gazillion programs I have no clue to what they're useful. Now... for a beginner in Linux (or at least for me) it is much scarier to configure some 2000 programs that my full installation of Slackware put on my hard drive, than if I was to install and configure each program at the time, take a day, two or even three days in order to figure out the program and the best way to configure it for my system.

Why Slackware? I have a friend of mine, who told me about pretty much all the popular distributions out there, and taken the time to explain the differences between them. I have tried RedHat and Mandrake, but (funny enough) they feel... too much like Windows to me. So I settled for Slackware (the last distribution I have installed), because (after warning me about it being harder to learn and configure) he mentioned that this way I'll learn how a UNIX/Linux OS really works.

This is actually what I want to do with my Linux: learn how it works, be able to configure it and tweak it as I wish.

Now... I put it in my mind that, if I would start out with a very, very minimal Slackware system, and then add software to it, it would be a lot easier for me to start learning. Taking it from 0 and going up will help me understand the usefulness of each software and configure it "one at the time". For example: I read about installing a new program. This program needs... 4-5 other software packages in order to work; I will give up the idea of installing this software until I have all the other 4-5 packages installed and configured and at least a general idea of what they do.

I am not totally new to computers. I have used computers since I was 9 years old, and I have seen different hardware, OSes and hardware. I have seen MS-DOS 3.0 and up, with its command prompt, Windows from 3.1 to XP, and have loved playing with them and learning them. I do not claim to know them fully, but I do know a lot about them, and can even administer a very simple network. However, as I think of MS-DOS, I actually appreciated learning about all the programs/commands that came with the OS, as it gave me a good knowledge about what each of them does. This is what I'm trying to achieve by installing Linux from scratch.

I have had experience with Linux shells and I was even able to create a few scripts in Bash, so I know a few basic things about the shells. I believe I will not be totally lost with a stripped system.

To most of you the idea will seem foolish, but I am quite convinced that I will be able to learn, maybe at a slower rate, about Linux and its possibilities.

What I'm asking you is: If you are a Slackware user, or have the possibility to help me dress up a list of minimal packages I need to install from the Slackware 9.0 CD, it would be greatly appreciated. I would love my system to boot up, have the least possible tools, be able to compile C/C++ software (and if it's not impossible, have a network connection and access to the Internet; I am connected through a Ethernet card to my ADSL modem which does not require any configuration, it's "Always on" and has a dynamically assigned IP). I know it's possible to have a Linux system as small as 100 MB.

I appreciate your help on this strange approach to learning a new OS.

neenee 05-29-2003 04:08 AM

hmm. i do not want to sound unhelpful, but when
installing slackware, and using the menu method of
selecting packages to install, descriptions and the
headings of the packages will tell you what they are
for, if another package requires it, and if the package
is important or not. as for 100mb; i am not sure that
can be done; maybe with an earlier version of slack-

good luck on your quest though.

Punkie 05-29-2003 04:18 AM

I did try following the newbie mode. What I ended up with was a system that was unable to compile programs, programs that worked in "full install" not working... I found some descriptions are rather vague, and I noticed software that required other packages to be installed didn't automatically flag them as required.

The 100 MB size was just a... figure of speech if you want. The size of this system wouldn't be so important (I have reserved 3 GB for my Linux system); what is important for me is that I start with only a few programs and as little configuration as possible in the beginning.

hegobald 05-29-2003 04:44 AM

Try Free/Open Bsd, I know its not linux, but you learn alot.
Each have excellent documentation on the homepages.
The ports-system is wonderfull, takes care of dependencies for you.

Hangdog42 05-29-2003 09:26 AM

I think a minimal install that would meet your needs would be the A, D and N series. A gets you basic Slackware, D gets you the compiliers and N should get you network connectivity. It will be a plain console installation though since no X windows will be installed.

Steve Cronje 05-29-2003 11:02 AM


Now... for a beginner in Linux (or at least for me) it is much scarier to configure some 2000 programs that my full installation of Slackware put on my hard drive, than if I was to install and configure each program at the time, take a day, two or even three days in order to figure out the program and the best way to configure it for my system.
Here is another approach that just may work for you. Use Knoppix to install to HDD. You will end up with Debian. From there you can trim the distro to your hearts' content. After THAT you may find it easier to install, say Slack, from scratch.

But you'll still have to read the manual :D


PhilD 05-29-2003 12:02 PM

If you really want to learn the underside of the OS check out Linux from Scratch (LFS). It walks you through bootstrapping the compiler and libraries and on through the process of compiling and configuring every last program. It also explains the importance of the directory structure and other elements of the Linux OS.

I haven't tried this yet, but I have everything downloaded for it. I am just waiting for a few weeks of free time to start. It looks like a real adventure!! If you really want to learn this beast, check it out!



Punkie 05-29-2003 02:19 PM

:eek: WOW!

Hey, Linux From Scratch seems to be exactly what I wanted to obtain!

Thanks a million for the link and for letting me know about it!

Also lots of thanks to the people who answered my question; I promise that, if Linux from Scratch doesn't manage to fix my curiosity, I will try all of the other options you listed.

Now you gone and done it :rolleyes: And I'll be back with questions on how to fix my system and such ;)

PhilD 05-29-2003 02:30 PM

Your welcome,

If you need help, (I won't be much) there is a LFS forum on this site under the Distros . There are several people on here that are running LFS. Enjoy and post with update as you progress!


dryhte 05-30-2003 06:07 AM

One word of warning, though... LFS is really hard to install unless you already have a working install of Linux on your computer...

Azmeen 05-30-2003 06:55 AM

As a fellow newbie (although I did use Linux on and off since about 5 years ago, but never consistently), I'd advise you to stick with Slack for about a year or so. I too am seriously considering setting up LFS, but in order to do so, I must understand Linux to let's say intermediate level.

You started off at about the same junction as me... MS-DOS. I loved it... it thought me to do a lot of neat stuff. However, what DOS lacked was online (as in the OS, not on the net) documentation. Something that Linux has an advantage in. The man pages are pretty extensive I must say!

And as opposed to MS-DOS (or Windows at that), Linux does not have hidden commands... every command is documented, it's only whether you use it or not. And don't let me get started on choice... it's definitely because of freedom of choice that I decided to fully migrate to Linux (at least at home) this year... believe me, you wouldn't believe how Linux has matured over five years (when I first started using Red Hat 5).

Anyway, welcome aboard OSS Linux! ;)

Punkie 05-30-2003 02:02 PM

dryhte , thanks for the warning, I do have a working (well, fresh install) version of Linux running on my machine.

Thanks, but I had received my welcome to Linux a while ago ;) Along with long letter from my ISP replying that what I was doing wasn't quite legal. :P Bad start, but ended up having a great relationship with my ISP after all. (And no, I'm not a cracker/hacker).

The problem is the amount of time I have been using it. I actually started using Linux when I got my first ISP some 9 years ago... I accidentally crashed its BBS to prompt (it was a neat system), and discovered Linux (well, Free BSD). I decided to learn what you can do with it, but upon trying to install it on my home machine, the lack of software, colorful games and lack of support for my graphic card, I have given that up in the next year.

Funny how you can forget things in 8 years though...

However I have started getting fed up with Microsoft's fun policies. XP's licensing scheme just topped it all up.

Now, if I can only convince the game makers... and my wife... ;)

PhilD 05-30-2003 02:07 PM

:D the game makers may be doable... The wife.... Well, I am still working on that after 4 years. :tisk:

She will come around sometime this millennium! I hope!


fancypiper 05-30-2003 02:07 PM

Hm.. I see no one has mentioned Gentoo.

I learned more from installing and running Gentoo than from all other distros I have used.

I haven't tried LFS, however.

Juniper34 07-22-2003 01:44 PM

Slackware verses Debian
I am fairly new to linux myself and want a ground up approach. From what I have read so far both Slackware and Debian are good base approaches. But I wanted to know which is better. The Slackware sounds like it has become more user friendly. And Debian is noted as the one hard to install. So which one would I learn most from while not being tied to distrobution nuances.

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