Introduction - Linux All-in-One For Dummies, 5th Edition (2014)

Linux All-in-One For Dummies, 5th Edition (2014)


Linux is truly amazing when you consider how it originated and how it continues to evolve. From its modest beginning as the hobby of one person — Linus Torvalds of Finland — Linux has grown into a full-fledged operating system with features that rival those of any commercial Unix operating system. To top it off, Linux — with all of its source code — is available free to anyone. All you have to do is download it from an Internet site or get it on CDs or a DVD for a nominal fee from one of many Linux CD vendors.

Linux certainly is an exception to the rule that “you get what you pay for.” Even though Linux is free, it’s no slouch when it comes to performance, features, and reliability. The robustness of Linux has to do with the way it is developed and updated. Developers around the world collaborate to add features. Incremental versions are continually downloaded by users and tested in a variety of system configurations. Linux revisions go through much more rigorous beta testing than any commercial software does.

Since the release of Linux kernel 1.0 on March 14, 1994, the number of Linux users around the world has grown exponentially. Many Linux distributions — combinations of the operating system with applications and installation tools — have been developed to simplify installation and use. Some Linux distributions are commercially sold and supported, while many continue to be freely available.

Linux, unlike many freely available software programs, comes with extensive online information on topics such as installing and configuring the operating system for a wide variety of PCs and peripherals. A small group of hard-core Linux users are expert enough to productively use Linux with the online documentation alone. A much larger number of users, however, move to Linux with some specific purpose in mind (such as setting up a web server or learning Linux). Also, a large number of Linux users use their systems at home. For these new users, the online documentation is not easy to use and typically does not cover the specific uses of Linux that each user may have in mind.

If you’re beginning to use Linux, what you need is a practical guide that not only gets you going with Linux installation and setup, but also shows you how to use Linux for a specific task. You may also want to try out different Linux distributions before settling on one.

About This Book

Linux All-in-One For Dummies gives you eight quick-reference guides in a single book. Taken together, these eight minibooks provide detailed information on installing, configuring, and using Linux, as well as pointers for passing the vendor-neutral certification exams available from the Linux Professional Institute (LPI) to authenticate your skills.

What you’ll like most about this book is that you don’t have to sequentially read the whole thing chapter by chapter — or even read through each section in a chapter. You can pretty much turn to the topic you want and quickly get the answer to your pressing questions about Linux, whether they’re about using the word processor, setting up the Apache web server, or a wide range of topics.

Here are some of the things you can do with this book:

· Install and configure Linux — Debian, Fedora, openSUSE, Ubuntu, or Xandros — using the information given in this book.

· Connect the Linux PC to the Internet through a DSL or cable modem.

· Add a wireless Ethernet to your existing network.

· Get tips, techniques, and shortcuts for specific uses of Linux, such as

· Setting up and using Internet services

· Setting up a Windows server using Samba

· Using Linux commands

· Using shell programming

· Using the office suite and other applications that come with Linux

· Understand the basics of system and network security.

· Perform system administration tasks.

I use a simple notational style in this book. All listings, filenames, function names, variable names, and keywords are typeset in a monospace font for ease of reading. I italicize the first occurrences of new terms and concepts and then provide a definition right there. I show typed commands in boldface. The output of commands and any listing of files are shown in a monospace font.

The icons to the certification objectives are important after you’ve become comfortable enough with the operating system to consider taking the certification exams. They will draw your attention to the key concepts and topics tested upon in the LX0-101 and LX0-102 exams (both of which you must pass to become certified by the Linux Professional Institute).

Each minibook zeros in on a specific task area — such as using the Internet or running Internet servers — and then provides hands-on instructions on how to perform a series of related tasks. You can jump right to a section and read about a specific task. You don’t have to read anything but the few paragraphs or the list of steps that relate to your question. Use the Table of Contents or the Index to locate the pages relevant to your question.

You can safely ignore text next to the Technical Stuff icons, as well as text in sidebars. However, if you’re the kind of person who likes to know some of the hidden details of how Linux works, then by all means, dig into the Technical Stuff icons and the sidebars.

If you are a novice to Linux, overlook the certification objective icons as you read. Only after you become comfortable with the operating system, and are considering authenticating your skills by taking the LPI exams, should you revisit the book and look for these icons.

Foolish Assumptions

I assume that you’re familiar with a PC — you know how to turn it on and off and you’ve dabbled with Windows. (Considering that most new PCs come preloaded with Windows, this assumption is safe, right?) And I assume that you know how to use some Windows applications, such as Microsoft Office.

When installing Linux on your PC, you may want to retain your Windows installations. I assume that you don’t mind shrinking the Windows partition to make room for Linux. For this procedure, you can invest in a good disk-partitioning tool or use one of the partitioning tools included with most Linux distributions.

I also assume that you’re willing to accept the risk that when you try to install Linux, some things may not quite work. Problems can happen if you have some uncommon types of hardware. If you’re afraid of ruining your system, try finding a slightly older, spare Pentium PC that you can sacrifice and then install Linux on that PC.

Linux All-in-One Desk Reference For Dummies has eight minibooks, each of which focuses on a small set of related topics. If you’re looking for information on a specific topic, check the minibook names on the spine or consult the Table of Contents.


Sometimes I use sidebars to highlight interesting, but not critical, information. Sidebars explain concepts you may not have encountered before or give a little insight into a related topic. If you’re in a hurry, you can safely skip the sidebars.

Icons Used in This Book

Following the time-honored tradition of the All-in-One For Dummies series, I use icons to help you quickly pinpoint useful information. The icons include the following:

 width= The Distribution Specific icon points out information that applies to specific Linux distributions that this book covers: Debian, Fedora, Knoppix, SUSE, Ubuntu, and Xandros.

remember.eps The Remember icon marks a general, interesting fact — something that you want to know and remember as you work with Linux. You might even find interesting trivia worth bringing up at an evening dinner party.

tip.eps When you see the Tip icon, you’re about to read about something you can do to make your job easier. Long after you’ve finished with the first reading of this book, you can skim the book, looking for only the tips.

warning.eps I use the Warning icon to highlight potential pitfalls. With this icon, I’m telling you: “Watch out! Whatever is being discussed could hurt your system.” They say that those who are forewarned are forearmed, so I hope these entities will save you some frustration.

technicalstuff.eps The Technical Stuff icon marks technical information that could be of interest to an advanced user (or those aspiring to be advanced users).

lxo-101.eps When you see this icon, the material or command being covered here is on the LPI LX0-101 exam.

lxo-102.eps When you see this icon, the material or command being covered here is on the LPI LX0-102 exam.

Where to Go from Here

It’s time to get started on your Linux adventure. Turn to any chapter and let the fun begin. Use the Table of Contents and the Index to figure out where you want to go. Before you know it, you’ll become an expert at Linux!

I hope you enjoy consulting this book as much as I enjoyed writing it!