Linux Learning Options
The Week Links Sep-15
One of the things I get to do is introduce people to the GNU/Linux operating system.
It’s arguably one of the best parts of my job, because it opens a whole new world of software and possibilities.
We teach Linux in the classroom because it’s the single-most-used web server OS on the planet, and it isn’t giving up that spot soon.
My personal history with Linux spans 18 years (I haven’t quite been with it since the beginning.) Today, I use whatever’s right for the job, but I’ve got some insight to share for newcomers to the Linux community.
For my own story in brief:
- 1998 - I installed Slackware 3.5 for the first time on a 486, which took a stack of floppies, and gave me a non-graphical IRC and ICQ client to talk to my friends while my brother was on the main PC.
- 2002 - I installed Gentoo after I got out of the dorms and began my life of breaking changes. I used Gentoo regularly on my laptops for the next six years, until a hard drive crash during midterms convinced me to return to the simplicity of Windows XP.
- 2009 - I installed Xubuntu on my old laptop after returning from South Korea. It was a fun experiment, but hardware issues plagued me (as well as a fully functional Windows gaming laptop that was far more enticing.)
- 2011 - I installed Arch on a new Netbook that I used for school. It was a lot of fun, and helped me learn more about Linux than twelve years of puttering around gained me.
Around 2011, things began to go off the rails. It was at this point that I was actively supporting servers for several web clients, running project servers at home on commodity hardware, and that I started to play around with VirtualBox for experimentation.
Today, my personal laptop is a ThinkPad that runs Ubuntu 16.04, I manage several servers using a combination of CentOS and Ubuntu servers (not my choice to mix environments.) I teach CentOS. Play games on my laptop using Steam. And have a handful of Raspberry Pi’s around the city in use with either OSMC or OpenELEC.
If YOU are looking for some resources on how to learn Linux, here’s where I would send you:
- The Linux Foundation Introduction to Linux Course on edX
- CentOS Homepage - go grab CentOS 7
- RHEL/CentOS 7 Installation Guide - in-depth guide to installing CentOS 7 (ignore the subscription stuff)
- RHEL/CentOS 7 System Administrator’s Guide - in-depth guide to managing CentOS 7
- Server World HOWTOs - the Cheat Sheet for common admin tasks
- DistroWatch - go find your next flavour
I recommend learning with CentOS 7, because it’s standard and accessible. Many Linux jobs will require you to know Red Hat syntax (like CentOS or Fedora,) so it’s best to get off on the right foot.
But it’s up to you, and your goals. I use Ubuntu on my desktop these days because it just works and is reasonably up to date. But if I were installing a new server, I would use CentOS or another Red Hat derivative (my AWS instance is Amazon Linux) for the familiarity and stability.
Ultimately, I moved away from Arch because I couldn’t be bothered to tweak every configuration on my system: the same reason I moved away from Gentoo almost a decade earlier. If you want to fine-tune your experience, go dig into Arch. The Arch Wiki is one of the best communities on the web, and its Installation Guide is top-notch. Even a new user can reasonably learn how to set up the system.
So I think my advice is: jump in, the water’s fine. Whether you’re going for the easy road with Linux Mint or elementary OS, or diving into the deep end with something like Kali, you’ll find that there’s lots of support if you learn how to find it. And learning how to find things is the most important skill you’ll gain from using Linux.
Good luck, and have fun.