by Jose Maria Laveda
You have Linux installed. Now you can tune it.
I take a break to welcome you to Linux, consider yourself cheered ;).
The starting point is where you just managed to install LINUX by yourself or with some pal that came to your place with a CD on his pocket, seized your machine and when he ended by stepping by some colourful displays (principally blue ones) and without your intervention, has asked for a pair of system passwords. After all this he booted the box and you have seen a message something like this:
Welcome to Linux xx.xx.xx
And then he told you "you have it installed", and then taught you some commands and how to shutdown the system leaving you "Alone against danger".
Maybe the first thing that got your attention about LINUX was hearing it was "free". Well the truth is that the sources are copyrighted but LINUX is sheltered under a license that allows copying, distributing and using it with no costs, though it has some deeper aspects that for the time being we don't need to mention. This license is called "GNU General Public License" and covers a lot of software that you'll encounter often in the Linux and UNIX world. In fact, you may already have used GNU bash, GNU Emacs, GNU gcc etc... There are similar licenses like MIT (Massachussets Institute of Technology) and BSD (from Berkeley University) which generally allow you the same free access to source codes (although they have some serious limitations on the use you can make of the software).
But hey!, here is also where misunderstandings begin. You will often hear the argument that "LINUX IS AN UNSUPPORTED OPERATING SYSTEM..." to which one replies that there are companies that give support to whatever technical problem you may have with LINUX. Furthermore there are zillions of ways to obtain help for any Linux problem.
You'll also hear that it's OK for students, at universities, people with no resources, "gurus", fanatics of Computer Science; and other "tribes" but of no application to the mainstream. To this I would suggest you consider some of our users: NASA, private corporations, some administrations, internet providers, labs, hundreds of thousands if not millions of individual users, plus publishers, hospitals, ... and on and on. Clearly not all of these fit the stereotype of computer guru or fanatic.
I'm not going to recommend one to you nor will I say which one is worse or better, with time and as soon as you begin to move on this world you'll hear enough comments about this or that distribution on the basis of which to have arguments over which one you need. Do not mistake the operating system version (Kernel version) you are using with that of the distribution, although you'd be understood if you say Debian 1.2.xx, Red Hat 4.x, Slackware 3.0, etc. (as this refers to the Distribution, not the Kernel).
The X Windowing System (XFree on the implementation you are going to use with LINUX or just X11) will allow you to run many important programs. Can you imagine running WordPerfect on your display? Well it's a reality, although in that case you'll have to spend some money. But there are tones of Kilobytes devoted to applications in this wonderful environment (both public domain and not) that you may enjoy.
If you already have the system configured, no problem then. But if you're not that lucky, don't be alarmed even when you see the message warning about the risks of misconfiguring the graphic environment .
With the help of the proper docs and some other helping hands, you'll configure the environment with ease. The most recent distributions include a list of hardware with which to simply select to configure your system.
You have to take into account that what you actually are
going to configure is the Server, so you'll begin to hear words
as CLIENT/SERVER, window manager, etc.. I'll just say that X
Window is developed with the Client/Server philosophy in mind,
where you basically have a software that manages your hardware
and recieves requests (messages) from the clients (that is, the
programs you'll be using) to draw displays, buttons, scrolling
bars, menus, etc..
Normally, you'll have access to the Internet by means of a provider (ISP from now on) that assigns you a dynamic IP when you connect to it. With a Hayes compatible modem and your LINUX you have everything you need. Using the chat program to send to it the AT commands needed and with the PPP you have open doors. (Remember that this protocol has two parts: one in the kernel and the other outside it, I say this so that you don't go paranoied configuring files related with the software while not correctly compiling the kernel, thought you would not, certainly, be the first one ;)
Linux is becoming so common that most of the ISP themselves already have instructions on how to connect Linux users to their network (and if your ISP does not, require it!).
Talking about internet in any Linux box you have at your disposal, you will also have mail programs (pine, elm, mailx,..), news readers, browsers (Netscape, Mosaic, Arena, Lynx...), and all the basic Un*x commands such as: ftp, telnet, ping...
This brings me to the end of this mini-introduction to the operating system about which you have heard so much. No doubt, you are more than ready by now to work with your "Linux box" on your own. My intention has been to help you by-pass that initial fear we all have of everything new. LINUX IS EASY, it just requires some patience and lots of illusion. With a little effort we can have all our work sorted out with free software.
Author's Note: The cunning reader will comprehend that it's very difficult to try to compress all resources about LINUX information in a mere article, so I offer my excuses beforehand. THANKS FOR YOUR UNDERSTANDING!
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