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Old 02-15-2008, 08:31 PM   #1
Tomás Ó hÉilidhe
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Migrating from Windows, trying to settle in


I've been using Windows for the last fifteen years. I'm the kind of user that likes to have a feel for their operating system, to know how it works and to have the knowledge to do all kinds of stuff with it. When I started out working with DOS nearly two decades ago, I was playing around with autoexec.bat and config.sys, doing stuff like adding "DEVICE=ANSI.SYS" and then changing my DOS prompt font colours.

From years of working with Windows, it's second nature to me to navigate thru stuff like Control Panel. I also know a lot of the under-the-hood stuff, liek how programs use the system registry to add items to context menus (e.g. when you right-click a zip file and it gives you options for WinZip). And just for extra insight, I've written Win32 GUI programs and used the Win32 API.

So anyway, now it's 2008 and I'm gonna have to move away from Windows eventually. You see how bad Vista is today, just imagine how bad their next OS is gonna be. It's time to evacuate the building.

So I've every intention to migrate to Linux completely. I first tried out Ubuntu for a week or two but I got pissed off with it for two reasons:
1) The fonts were all messed up (might sound like a small problem but it got more and more irritating every day).
2) I was sick of the safe-guards put in place, like how you have to jump thru loops to log in as root.

I'm the kind of user that has my own machine, just mine, nobody else. It's a laptop actually. I want to be logged in as root, and that's the be all and end all of it. Also, I want automatic login as root. There's people who are blue-in-the-face telling you not to do that but I don't care, I want root and that's it.

As any new person to Linux will tell you, I haven't a clue what distribution to use. They all use the same kernel though, right? Well that's really the main thing that matters to me. I got books out of my library today for learning Linux, and one of them in particular taught me loads of command line stuff, it was great! Another one of the books just showed you how to do everything thru KDE, but to be honest I wasn't bothered reading it.

So anyway, I want to reach a proficiency in Linux that I currently have in Windows. I want to know the under-the-hood stuff. I want to know what config files do what, and where they are. I've been told that Slackware is the best distribution for this, but I don't see how it can be that different given that all distros use the same kernel.

I have Slackware 12 on DVD, and I installed it there about a week ago. When I booted up tho, my wireless card wasn't recognised, nor was my soundcard, and also the KDE skin was like something out of the Tellytubbies. Being a complete novice and not having a clue how to install drivers or change skins, I just wiped it and installed Backtrack 3 beta. The main attraction that Backtrack had for me was its KDE skin... I mean it's nice, real nice. Also I've got a growing interest in networking so I'll probably come to start using all its nifty little programs with time.

What's the relationship between Backtrack and Slackware? Is Backtrack just Slackware with a few different programs shipped with it? While I'm asking the question, what exactly makes distros different? I mean if two distros use the same kernel and also both use KDE, then exactly what part of them is different?

Anyway I'll hurry up, I have questions:
1) Similar to how I have my wireless set up in Windows, how can I enter the essid's and WEP keys and then just select one from a list when I boot up? I've tried using "Wireless Assitant" in Backtrack but it doesn't seem to work very well. Interestingly tho, things always go like clockwork when I take the manual route of using ifconfig, iwconfig and dhcpcd. What's the best way of automating my wireless?
2) Installing applications... God this is pickle. I got used to using apt-get in Ubuntu and I thought it was fantastic. When I moved to Slackware, I hadn't a clue how to use slapt-get, and it took me about an hour of web surfing before I found anything that even midly resembled an explanation of how to use it. Also there's the method of downloading a tarball, doing configure, make, and make install. Which method is preferable? If I use slapt-get instead of manually downloading the tarball, then will the application be added to some sort of "upgrade" list so that later on I can just do "slapt-get --upgrade" and everything will get upgraded?
3) What's the story with start menu items? In Windows, when you install something, the setup program sticks a link in the start menu. In Backtrack tho, it doesn't seem to do this. Does the user have to do this themselves? If so, what's the best way of going about this? I'd like to have icons too specific to the application.
4) Now this one is going to sound utterly stupid... but where can I find the programs I've installed. I installed OpenOffice earlier on today but I still haven't found out where it is on my hard disk or how to run it.

And here's some other minor little things:
1) Is KDE really the best window yokie to use? If you have a Linux application, then will it run on all distros and on all window yokies, or will it only run on a particular window yolkie, or perhaps only on a particular distro? I really like the KDE skin in Backtrack, and I HATE the one that comes by default in Slackware. Does anyone know of some other nice KDE skins?
2) I can't get my microphone to work in Skype... anyone had this problem? I'm running an x86 laptop, Intel Core Duo 1.86 Ghz that has mostly Realtek hardware.

Can anyone suggest a good book that will teach me all about Linux, all about the command line commands, all about the config files?

Hoping to be a Linux pro one day. . .

Tomás
 
Old 02-15-2008, 09:29 PM   #2
swampdog2002
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Hi Tomas, and welcome to the Slackware forum. I believe that you will find the Slackware distribution to your liking, as you seem to be the type of person (from your post anyway) that is familiar with command line parameters and configuring system files manually. I have personally used Slackware for about 9 years now, beginning with 7.0. As such, I am still learning new aspects each day, and have quite away to go before I would consider myself a Slackware "guru" of sorts. Anyway, you have quite a list of questions, so I shall attempt to offer answers to what I can (in the order they appear above):

1. To set up wireless cards in Slackware, you will need to utilize a program called ndiswrapper to set this up for you. Ironically, I was just looking through the forum for guidance on this as well, as I just bought a Linksys WPC54GS wireless card for my laptop, and wish to set this up. I have no experience as of yet with ndiswrapper, but know that it will be needed to properly configure your wireless card in Slackware.

2. Slackware uses a package manager called 'pkgtool' to manage installed packages. Slackware packages are in .tgz format, and are typically installed by typing 'installpkg' from the command line, and 'removepkg' to remove them form your system. By default, Slackware will not resolve dependencies for packages, but there are other applications (such as swaret) that offers this ability to a certain extent. The best thing to do with Slackware packages is to read any documentation that may accompany packages that will inform you of required dependencies, and then install them separately. It can be somewhat of a daunting task, but I have gathered from multiple posts that many Slackware users are not fond of package managers that automatically resolve package dependencies for their systems.

3. Sometimes, packages will not create menu entries for your windowing environment by default, and you will have to perform this action manually. For example, I use GNOME, and when I need to add a menu entry for a particular application, I would have to navigate to the Menu options from Preferences, add an entry to the particular category desired, associate an icon (if necessary) with the shortcut, and either select a command to run to execute the binary or just navigate to the binary itself, and then finish the process by accepting these additions. The majority of the Slackware packages that I have downloaded from places such as www.linuxpackage.net, however, seem to add entries to the menu of whatever environment you are using, being KDE or GNOME and the likes.

4. If you need to locate applications on your system, you can simply use either 'locate' or 'slocate' and then enter the name of the program, and a listing of files will be returned that should show something similar to what you are looking for. There are more advanced ways of doing this, however, so perhaps someone else can offer more assistance to you in this area. From what I have seen, most packages that I have installed outside of a default Slackware installation are installed in either the /usr/bin or /usr/local/bin directories on the system.

And for the second part...

1. I don't have any experience with Backtrack, so I cannot comment on this. Most applications written for Linux have either a package available for most distributions out there, or you can download the source and compile this specifically for your system. There are applications out there, such as alien, that can convert packages to other formats, such as a .deb package to a .tgz. Also, as you may have seen in the Slackware postings, there is a package called src2pkg that will attempt to create a Slackware package from a particular source. You may also be able to find a specific Slackbuild file to create a package for you. You can check out www.slackbuids.org for more information on what is offered there. To find KDE themes other than the default one, check out www.kde-look.org for quite a selection of themes for KDE.

2. I have not used Skype before, so I cannot offer assistance to this are. Sorry.

For Slackware, you may wish to look at the Slackware Handbook. The link to this book online is at http://www.slackersbible.org/.

I hope this helps to get you started in some direction. I believe that you will find Slackware to be a very stable and reliable distribution for the majority of your needs. Have fun
 
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Old 02-15-2008, 09:44 PM   #3
AceofSpades19
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I am sorry, but automatically logging as root is like leaving your doors unlocked and your windows open 24/7. Logging in as root is bad enough, but auto logging in is horrible. You don't need to be root all the time, and plus you can easily screw up your system
Backtrack is a security oriented distro that should only be used as a livecd
 
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Old 02-15-2008, 09:50 PM   #4
Peacedog
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Hi, just adding to post #2, for the wireless card it depends on the cards chip whether you'll need ndiswrapper or not. As far as software for Slack goes you may want to head over to Slackbuilds. Most if not all of the software and builds there will eliminate your menu problems and once your packages are built you can manage them with pkgtools as mentioned above. Hope that adds some useful info.
Good luck. ;-)

I second the motion of running as root as a dreadful idea.
Good luck. ;-)

Last edited by Peacedog; 02-15-2008 at 09:54 PM. Reason: Clarity
 
Old 02-15-2008, 10:41 PM   #5
hitest
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Please don't run as root 24/7, that is a bad idea. Create a regular user and add your regular user to plugdev, cdrom, audio, video, wheel. You can also add your regular user to these groups by opening up a text editor and editing /etc/group. It is much safer to grant your regular user root access only as needed. For day to day operation you don't need to run as root all of the time.

#adduser

Welcome to the LQ forums Thomas:-)
 
Old 02-16-2008, 01:11 AM   #6
shadowsnipes
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Well it sounds like you already got a lot of you questions answered, and I'm sure by now you can already see how various Linux distros can be different. I'll try not to repeat too much of what was said already...

As said previously, based upon how you describe yourself a distro like Slackware does seem to be a good fit for you. I recommend you backtrack from Backtrack and go back to Slack

Slackware is a no-nonsense, Keep It Simple Stupid distro. It is easy to tailer to your needs and it doesn't get in your way. Plus, once you know how to do things manually in Slackware, you can apply that knowledge to other distros.

The first thing I would recommend you do is download a pdf of the Slackbook and print it out. Read through it and keep it handy in case you ever need it. Also, skim through Slackware Linux basics. After you've done this a lot of you questions will have already been answered. Even if you decide Slackware is not for you, you will have already learned more about administering a Linux system.

Second, if you ever have any questions about any of this stuff, search the LQ forums. More than likely there is already a thread out there that answers your question. If there isn't, this community will do our best to help you out and help you learn. Welcome to the community! Now on to some specifics...

Window Manager/Desktop Environment (WM/DE)
In Windows you have explorer. In Linux you have tons of options! KDE is by no means the only one! Just keep in mind, though, that ALL of them are very customizable. So, even if they look ugly at first, you can change them to be how you want. After reading the slackbook you will see that Slackware comes with a few choices installed by default. Check them out and see what you think. There are many more out there that aren't installed by default, so keep this in mind. Check out this poll/discussion on what desktops slackware users use.

After that, you need to decide what you want your desktop to look like. Here are some questions you should ask yourself...
Do I want a tiling window manager?
Do I need desktop icons?
Do I want it to be primarily mouse driven or keyboard driven?
Do I want fancy desktop effects?
Do I want to configure it through a GUI or a text config file?
Do I need lots of GUI tools to manage my system?
Do my favorite GUI programs work better in a certain WM/DE?
Does the WM/DE work well on my system (is it too slow or unresponsive)?

Software Management
Slackware pkgtools are simple and elegant. I really suggest you download some slackBuilds from slackbuilds.org and read them. Also, check out how to write a slackbuild. From seeing how automated scripts compile and create packages, you will know that it is very simple.

If you don't feel like compiling your own software there are many package repositories such as http://www.linuxpackages.net/ where you can simply download them.

For security updates, I recommend you head over to slackware.com and subscribe to the security mailing list. When you get an email that says there is an update, simply download it from your favorite mirror and install it using installpkg - super easy and no-hassle.

Other Package Managers
If you prefer something like apt-get (does dependency checking for you, downloads stuff for you, etc), there are things similar to that on Slackware. However, I don't recommend you use them until you are familiar with the basic package system first. I think you will find you like it better the more you use it. Another reason I say this is because you say you like knowing what it going on in your computer. If you use something like portage, swaret, apt-get, etc you might be tempted to just install stuff without giving it much thought.

The whole root issue
I would never recommend this, but if you want to do it, it is your choice. I know coming from Windows you are probably used to the inconveniences that can occur when not being logged in as admin. The 'runas' command works like crap from all my experiences. However, in Linux, the story is very different. It is quite convenient to run your desktop as a normal user and then su - to root to handle your admin tasks. I usually use my fourth virtual desktop for all admin tasks and I keep a root terminal running on it with a custom screen session (that also helps me to keep tabs on my logs). Besides, if you run as root all the time, you will be tempted to handle root-like tasks in the GUI, and that breaks the spirit of you trying to get 'under the hood' of Linux.

However, if you want root to auto-login, you could even hack the startup scripts to simply bypass the login process. I actually have a boot option that allows me to boot my Slackware box into media player mode, which basically just boots right into a nice command line music player (herrie). I hacked the startup scripts so that it can skip a lot of unnecessary things in that mode and as a result my computer boots into a nice (chrooted) music player in a few seconds without requiring anyone to login! I've talked about this before on other threads as I've been doing this for years. I'll probably do a full-blown thread how-to on it in the near future. The point is, with Slackware (and Linux in general), if you don't like something, you can change it however you want.


I could write books on Slackware, Linux, and various how-tos, but it would be a waste of time as there is already so much information out there. Use this forum, your search engine of choice, and wikipedia as starting places to find sources for you to learn more from. Most importantly, just play around with stuff. Break it, if you must. You will probably learn a lot from fixing it. If it is totally trashed, don't worry. You can install as much as you want and not worry about license issues.

WELCOME TO LINUX!
 
Old 02-16-2008, 07:35 AM   #7
Tomás Ó hÉilidhe
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Thanks everyone for your replies, you're very kind

What's the issue that everyone has with root? I imagine that the only difference between being root and not being root is that you don't get errors saying "You don't have the rights to do this, contact your administrator blah blah". I'm not that kind of person that goes around shooting themselves in the foot so I don't see why I need a stabilisers on my Linux bike? Another thing is that I hate putting in passwords. My machine has one password, a BIOS password when it boots up, and once that's entered the machine is wide open, just how I want it.

Is a ".tgz" the same as a ".tar.gz"? So instead of doing:

tar xvzf blah.tar.gz
cd blah
./configure
make
make install

, I just go:

installpkg blah.tar.gz

That right?

I have a quick question about Thunderbird. I downloaded the .tar.gz from the Mozilla site. I then did
tar xzvf thunderbird .tar.gz
cd thunderbird

Within the thunderbird folder, there was no sign of a configure or a make file. There was however an executable file called thunderbird so I clicked on it and the Thunderbird program opened up. Does this mean that Thunderbird doesn't have to be installed? Where should I move the Thunderbird directory to? I've been told that you're supposed to put program files in /opt but I'm not sure. Is there anyway I can integrate it into the upgrade system so that I can do "slapt-get --upgrade"?

You know how DOS has the autoexec.bat for doing stuff at startup, well where does all the startup stuff happen in Linux? Specifically I'd like to see the files where:
1) My drives get mounted
2) My network settings get set

At the moment my drives get mounted as /mnt/sda1, /mnt/sda2, /mnt/sda3. Is it wise to change them to something more intuitive? Maybe something like /mnt/sdaDOS, /mnt/sdaWin, /mnt/sdaLinux? How would I go about doing this?
 
Old 02-16-2008, 09:04 AM   #8
Hangdog42
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Quote:
What's the issue that everyone has with root? I imagine that the only difference between being root and not being root is that you don't get errors saying "You don't have the rights to do this, contact your administrator blah blah". I'm not that kind of person that goes around shooting themselves in the foot so I don't see why I need a stabilisers on my Linux bike?
The short answer is that the danger of being root all the time is that if someone gains access to your computer through nefarious means, it is MUCH easier to turn it into a zombie under their control. It is also MUCH easier to bork your entire system. Linux is not Windows, it works differently, and if you try to apply Windows-think to Linux, you will cause yourself more headaches than necessary. Step back and learn the Linux way, which includes running most stuff as a normal user.
Quote:
I'm not that kind of person that goes around shooting themselves in the foot so I don't see why I need a stabilisers on my Linux bike?
It isn't an issue of needing stabilizers so much as an issue of security. I'm perfectly comfortable that I could run as root 24/7/365 and not damage my rigs. I don't because of the security risks. I'm not afraid of me, I'm afraid of them.
Quote:
Is a ".tgz" the same as a ".tar.gz"?
Sometimes it is and sometimes it isn't. If you've downloaded a Slackware package, then it is a binary that can be installed with installpkg or pkgtools. If it isn't a Slackware package, then some people do use .tgz as shorthand for .tar.gz. Basically you need to pay attention to what you're downloading. As for your Thunderbird example, yes, it was distributed as a binary. However, for reasons of maintenance, you probably want to use the Slackware package so that you can manage your software with the usual tools like pkgtools.

Quote:
You know how DOS has the autoexec.bat for doing stuff at startup, well where does all the startup stuff happen in Linux? Specifically I'd like to see the files where:
1) My drives get mounted
2) My network settings get set
In Slackware, most of the scripts for this are in /etc/rc.d. You'll probably want to do some reading in the Slackware book and in other sites to understand how all those files interact.

Quote:
At the moment my drives get mounted as /mnt/sda1, /mnt/sda2, /mnt/sda3. Is it wise to change them to something more intuitive? Maybe something like /mnt/sdaDOS, /mnt/sdaWin, /mnt/sdaLinux? How would I go about doing this?
You can mess with how drives are mounted in the /etc/fstab file.
 
Old 02-16-2008, 09:13 AM   #9
hitest
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Smile

Quote:
Originally Posted by Tomás Ó hÉilidhe View Post

I have a quick question about Thunderbird. I downloaded the .tar.gz from the Mozilla site. I then did
tar xzvf thunderbird .tar.gz
cd thunderbird
You can install the packages from Mozilla, but, there are pre-built packages for Slackware for TBird that you can install using:

#installpkg packagename.tgz

The benefit of using a slackware package is that it makes upgrading to a new version of Tbird very simple, neat using:

#upgradepkg newpackage.tgz

The Slackware packages are built to integrate nicely into your Slackware system. You can get a Slackware package for Tbird at slackware.com.

With regard to running as root. That is a bad habit that is a hangover from your Windows days. Linux is a multi-user OS. You say you're not in the habit of shooting yourself in the foot? You're doing this right now running as root. Running as a regular user will help to prevent evil code and hackers from gaining access to your system. Note that I said "help". There are other best practices to follow in keeping your Slackware box secure, but, running as a regular user and not as root is an important first step.
But, if you want to run as root, hey, sure go ahead:-)
 
Old 02-16-2008, 12:01 PM   #10
BCarey
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To elaborate a little on package management:

To keep your system as clean and manageable as possible, it is best to always install packages with pkgtools (installpkg, upgradepkg, etc.). It has been pointed out that this makes upgrading easy. Just as important it makes uninstalling easy (removepkg). It also means that everything installed on your system will be listed in /var/log/packages in simple textfiles. So if you want to know, as you did earlier, where the heck it put those open office files, you just need to look in the file called "/var/log/packages/openoffice-...". Or, if you want to know what package filename belongs to you can just "grep -r filename /var/log/packages". Etc.

You should know about some repositories for SlackBuilds (the best way to create a package for software you need to compile). Check slackbuilds.org, slackware.com/~alien/slackbuilds, and slacky.eu. Using SlackBuilds is as easy as putting the files and source in a directory and typing "sh program_name.SlackBuild". There is also a wonderful tool called src2pkg which can be used to easily (usually) create a package from source.

Regarding slapt-get and the like, you will get heated discussions on its virtues and drawbacks. If control of your system is important, personally I would avoid it and just use pkgtools.

Brian
 
Old 02-16-2008, 12:27 PM   #11
Tomás Ó hÉilidhe
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I still haven't found OpenOffice on my hard disk... anyone know where it is? In Windows, normally I'd search for "*open*.exe" or "*office*.exe", but I don't know how to search for executables in Linux.

Plus OpenOffice hasn't shown up in my KDE menu even though I heard it's supposed to put itself in your KDE menu... ?
 
Old 02-16-2008, 12:39 PM   #12
hitest
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tomás Ó hÉilidhe View Post

Plus OpenOffice hasn't shown up in my KDE menu even though I heard it's supposed to put itself in your KDE menu... ?
Try logging out, then log back in again, or re-boot. Then your KDE menu should have the icons.
 
Old 02-16-2008, 12:41 PM   #13
Hangdog42
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Quote:
I still haven't found OpenOffice on my hard disk.
OpenOffice isn't part of a standard Slackware install. However, that would be a good reason to introduce yourself to the Slackbuilds site. There is a Slackbuild script for OpenOffice there (along with a link to the right OO download) and running the Slackbuild script will make a Slackware package for Open Office that you can install using the normal tools. The install via Slackbuild will also put the proper menu in KDE.

Quote:
but I don't know how to search for executables in Linux.
My favorite way is the which command. So running which swriter would tell you where the OO writer program is installed. Other commands to learn would be find and locate.
 
Old 02-16-2008, 12:44 PM   #14
BCarey
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tomás Ó hÉilidhe View Post
I still haven't found OpenOffice on my hard disk... anyone know where it is? In Windows, normally I'd search for "*open*.exe" or "*office*.exe", but I don't know how to search for executables in Linux.

Plus OpenOffice hasn't shown up in my KDE menu even though I heard it's supposed to put itself in your KDE menu... ?
Did you try "locate openoffice" as swampdog suggested? You could do "locate openoffice | grep bin" to see just the binaries. "Executables" in linux do not have an exe extension. They are usually located in /usr/bin or /usr/local/bin (or /bin or /sbin or /usr/sbin, ... depending on the distro and the nature of the program). Had you used the SlackBuild or package from slackbuilds.org it would have put it in the standard place (/usr/bin on Slackware) and do the kde integration for you. And as I mentioned you could have looked at the listing in /var/log/packages to see where the binary files were put and what they were called.

As long as "executables" are in one of the standard places, you could use "where" or "which" to find them. But of course you would need to know the name, which in this case is not intuitive (they have names like oowriter2.0).

Brian
 
Old 02-16-2008, 01:25 PM   #15
hitest
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Ah......I think I misunderstood your post, Thomas. I thought that you had already installed OO. Probably the easiest way to install OO would be to download the package from Robby's site and use the #installpkg command. After you download the package then open up a root shell prompt and use this command

# cd /home/yourusername/yourdownloaddirectory

#installpkg OOpackage.tgz

You can find OO here:

http://rlworkman.net/pkgs/

Robby's package nicely integrates into your menu.

Last edited by hitest; 02-16-2008 at 01:29 PM.
 
  


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