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Moving to Linux: The Paradigm Shift Explained, Part Three

Novell Cool Solutions: Feature
By Scott M. Morris

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Posted: 21 Sep 2005

In the previous article of this series, I spoke about more of the things that will help new Linux users get used to the platform. In most cases, I am assuming that the user is coming from a Windows-based platform. One of the things we talked about was that Linux was created as a networking platform. As such, it has some great tools like the secure shell to help us administrate remote machines. Another thing to get used to on Linux is the fact that many programs' settings are located in a plain-text file. It's also nice to acclimate onesself to the inherent security of Linux over proprietary operating systems. This time, let's look at more of the nuances of getting used to Linux when upgrading from Windows.

Of the really cool aspects of Linux, one of the most prominent is its configurability. Specifically, I'm referring to the myriad of desktop choices that exist. The two major desktops are Gnome and KDE. There are also others for the daring, including icewm, windowmaker, fluxbox, and many others. However, feel free to try them all (yes, you can have as many as you want installed all at the same time).

Get used to the configurability of Linux. Pick your favorite desktop.

In Windows, the system uses DLLs to share functionality between programs. In Linux, there are package dependencies. Some software packages require others to be installed before they themselves can be installed. These are called PACKAGE DEPENDENCIES. This is one of the things that takes a little practice and patience to get used to. That is, unless you are using SUSE Linux. YAST will automatically calculate these package dependencies and will fix them for you unless you tell it not to.

Software may depend on other software to be installed before it can be installed.

When you are having trouble with your system, it's good to know where to go for help. Previously, I mentioned forums and mailing lists as good sources of assistance. To get much help from these places, you will need to know some information about the problem you are having. One great source of this is your system logs. For SUSE Linux systems, they are located in /var/log. For most of my problems, the most useful log has been messages. You can either open it in a text editor or run tail -f messages at a command prompt. This will show the last few lines of your messages log. It will also output additional lines as they are written to the log. This is a great source for helping nail down the cause of whatever may be ailing your system.

System logs are your friend for fixing system problems.

When I was a new Linux user, I found a great many things that were different for me from what I was used to. I was a bit apprehensive, but gradually learned the ropes. If someone would have told me what to expect, the transition would have been a little easier. This series has been aimed at such new users, to help in the transition from Windows to Linux.

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