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Climbing the Linux Mountain

Linux has reached the mainstream of computer users the world over

Sometime between the years 1995 and 2004, Linux reached the mainstream of computer users the world over. No longer was it all about Microsoft or the Mac. Now there was a new sheriff in town, and it was a penguin packing some serious heat.

The average user indoctrinated into the Linux way of computing will no doubt find themselves climbing a mountain at first. Like any new operating system, finding out even normal tasks and discovering what does what constitutes the learning curve process by which we all must understand any system.

Linux is not a black box. There are no super secrets to divine from the interior data of the device. What it is, however, is a consumer-friendly operating system providing multiple ways to do a series of complex tasks most often left to the intermediate user. Linux makes it easier.

For example, to run Firestarter in Ubuntu Linux, click on "Applications -> System Tools - > Firestarter". It may ask for a password, depending on if you are running as root or not. Once prompted successfully, Firestarter opens and then runs in the background.

Firestarter (a form of firewall protection) is just one of many unique applications that make Linux a secure desktop environment. There's also the "built-in" security of root access, which denies anything that isn't given permission beforehand by the user.

Most Linux distributions come with at least three key features: Internet access tools, network configuration tools, and a standard firewall. Such features are welcome in any distribution, but are especially well laid out in Ubuntu Linux.

Making the jump easier are a series of excellent man pages on how to get started using Linux. These are normally accessible at the shell prompt. Each man page describes command usage and switches - extra commands that make a single command more distinct in how the user wants it to perform.

Because Linux is derived partially from Unix, many of the common commands used are largely compatible across operating systems. In both Unix and Linux, commands such as "cp," "grep," "chmod," and "rm" all work essentially the same way. This is a good thing, because when a user wants to use "pico" in Linux and they have previous Unix experience, it just makes sense for the command to work as before.

Climbing the Linux mountain need not be daunting. All that is needed is a little preparation, a bit of online help and, of course, patience. Rome wasn't built in a day, and neither is Linux fully mastered in a day (or a week, for that matter). Taking time to learn what makes Linux great is part of the reason why Linux is quickly becoming the world's premier operating system for computers.

More Stories By Paul Panks

Paul Panks is the author of "HLA Adventure," an adventure game written in Randall Hyde's HLA (High Level Assembly) language. His ultimate intention was for others to eventually contribute to this project, so in May 2003 he released it into public domain, including the source
code, so others could add to the game over time. Paul is a native of Phoenix, Arizona, an avid fan of pro football and creative writing, and became
interested in Linux programming through Red Hat Linux and Fedora Core.

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