A beginners guide to getting started with Linux

So you’ve made it here
Great, that means you have heard about Linux, and you have made the first step by doing a seach for “A beginners guide to getting started with Linux”. Well done! Let’s get started ūüôā

How User Friendly is Linux for beginners?
Most Linux distros are available as a Live CD, which means you can start your computer with the CD in the CDROM drive and run it from there to try it for a while and have a play with your new chosen distro without having to install it, also it will NOT change anything at all on your computer whatsoever. So your Windows is completely SAFE.
Any good Linux suggestions for beginners?There are so many Linux distributions, and so many tastes, that it is impossible to tell somebody which is best for them and their computers. However, you can begin with the most popular which are easy for beginners to run and install. It’s like choosing a car for yourself, your partner, and your mother, each person has different needs and knowledge about cars. Distrowatch is a long established Linux website, and can give you a taste of what’s available from it’s Top 100, and also which are the most popular based on page-views. The current Top 5 as of Sept 2012 are:

Top 5 on Distrowatch.com:
1 Mint
2 Mageia
3 Ubuntu
4 Fedora
5 openSUSE

Other new-user-friendly distributions are:

Getting Information About Linux Distributions
Many new users have forgotten this skill. Go to the main website of your distro and also
the support forum and USE-THE-SEARCH-BOX. They all have them, and remember Google is your friend.
Be prepared to take notes, print information and sign up on a support forum.
Social networks are also teaming with experienced Linux users, go to Facebook, Twitter and Google+ and do a search for “Linux”. make friends with Linux users, ask questions to everybody using the #linux tag.

A Few Extra Notes Before The Impatient Ones Dive In Feet First

a) Linux Distros are downloaded as an iso file and will need to be burned to a cd or dvd as an image NOT data. Most CD/Dvd burners have the option to burn as an “image”.
b) Linux images should be burned at the slowest possible speed. Each burner will vary, try with 4X to start with.
c) Not ALL distros work on ALL hardware, although Linux comes with 1000’s of hardware drivers preinstalled or easily available. So you may have a problem with you 8 year-old “no-brand” USB webcam you bought at the market ūüôā
d) Use Google or a Forum Search for a “How to Install [Distro] Guide”, most distros will now offer you a step-by-step installation¬†program that will do it all for you anyway, all you have to do is answer a few questions on the application by clicking Yes or No.
e) If in doubt at any stage whatsoever, ask on the forum, or friends on Google+ Twitter or Facebook.

Linux Forum Do’s and Don’ts
There is a little netiquette involved on many forums, and each has their own way of doing things to keep the forum friendly, helpful, organised and easy to use. Forum communities are like little towns; everybody knows eachother, you will always be welcomed with¬†open arms, there will be hepful and not so helpful advice, young and old, novices and experts, and probably a village idiot too! ūüėÄ

Forums will be run by a team of Administrators and Moderators, some are friendly and blend in as members, others are like the Gestapo on a power trip with their new found position. In general they are all there to help maintain order and support with different degrees of efficiency.

DO try and find an “introduction thread” and post a “Hello everybody, i’m new to Linux”. See what kind of welcome you get from staff as well as members.

DO read the forum rules. Some are long winded while others are short and to the point.

DO use the forum Help button which will provide a guide on forum use and features.

DO look at the various sections and post in the right place.

DO use the Forum Search, your question may already have been asked and solved and even have a Howto guide.

DO be prepared to help yourself, you get far more respect and quicker help if you can show that you have tried.


DON’T expect an answer within 5 seconds. Forums are run by volunteers with jobs, families and lives outside of the forum.

DON’T whine and complain. Stick to the point and stay positive, you will have everybody jumping in to help you.

DON’T double post your problem a second time or in different sections, you will not get helped any faster.

DON’T post useless information. “My screen is black”. State what your hardware is, and try to remember any error messages.

DON’T post attention-seeking exagerated titles. “[Distro] broke my computer!!!!!!!!! going back to Windows!!!!! AAaaaaah!”.

Linux Checklist
Ok, so, you have got a list of possible Linux distros, you know how to look for information and help. What now?

  • Go and buy a pack of good quality blank cd’s/dvd’s.
  • Head over to Distrowatch.com and read up on the Top 10 distros.
  • Start downloading your chosen Linux distro images.
  • Burn the images to cd’s
  • Insert in one into the CDROM drive and reboot the computer.
Nine out of Ten times, you will wait about 2 minutes and will be at a Linux desktop. You will be able to play and experiment without having to worry about any adverse effects whatsoever on your already installed Windows system.

That’s it !! Welcome to the wonderful world of Linux


New Debian Mirrors

New mirrors closer to Debian users
From: Debian Project News

The Debian mirrors team, together with our sponsors, is happy to announce three new mirrors: in Russia, provided by the National Research Nuclear University MEPhI whose administrators are pleased to provide a full Debian mirror to Russian users; in Vietnam, provided by MAYCHU; and in Malaysia, provided by the Multimedia University of Malaysia. 

For other countries, the full list of mirrors is available online, as well as the experimental redirector which will automatically take into account these new mirrors. There are still countries lacking good connectivity to a Debian mirror; sponsors interested in hosting are invited to contact the mirrors team.

Kde Panel – Moved clock and system tray, cannot move them back

Kde Panel – Clock Moved
So you are new to Kde and accidentally do something, a mouse click or whatever on the Kde Panel, and all of a sudden, you have your clock on the left, your open windows have disappeared, and your system tray is now in the middle of the panel.

How to get it all back to normal

  • 1. Right Click on the panel and choose “Unlock Widgets
  • 2. Click the Golden Cashew Nut thingy (Panel Tool Box) on the right
  • 3. Now when you mouse over the panel widgets, a cross appears and allows you to move each thing.
  • 4. Start with the clock, move to the right, and when you want to position it, wait for a greyed-out box to appear on the panel and then drop it.
  • 5. Repeat with all the other stuff you messed up, close the golden cashew nut, and lock widgets.
  • 6. Now control yourself, and your mouse, and stop clicking every damn thing on the desktop ūüôā

Set Vim in Terminal as Permanent Default Text Editor

I use Vim on every distro for text editing, so I like to make sure that it is the Default text editor both in the Terminal and the Gui Desktop.

How to set Vim as default system wide, issue the command and choose Vim:

sudo update-alternatives –config editor

Which gives me this output:
You can see that Nano is currently set as default so I choose number 3 to set vim.basic

There are 4 choices for the alternative editor (providing /usr/bin/editor).

Selection    Path                Priority   Status
* 0            /bin/nano            40        auto mode
1            /bin/ed             -100       manual mode
2            /bin/nano            40        manual mode
3            /usr/bin/vim.basic   30        manual mode
4            /usr/bin/vim.tiny    10        manual mode

Setting the Terminal Vim as the Gui Text Editor:
Most desktop environments and distros have one of the top 3 terminals and text editors set as default, so we are going to create a little Bash script to tell the system to use our terminal Vim text editor instead of the system’s default Gui Editor:

D/E        TERM                    EDITOR
Xfce       xfce4-terminal         Mousepad
Gnome   gnome-terminal      Gedit
Kde        konsole                 Kate

1. Create the script:

 vim vim-gui

 2. Add this with your particular terminal:
Leave it as it is for Gnome, Xfce, Xterm, etc but remove the quotes “” from [vim $ARGS] for konsole.
Thanks to penguiniator for pointing that out in the comments ūüôā

gnome-terminal -e “vim $ARGS”

3. Save and Quit:


4. Make script executable:

 chmod +x vim-gui

5. Copy script to your scripts directory (/home/USER/bin)

 cp vim-gui /home/rich/bin/

 6. Set it as the default editor from your desktop:
Open your file browser; Dolphin, Nautilus, Thunar etc, right click on any text file and select “Properties“.
Now look for the “Open With” option, and select “Add” or “Use Custom Command” and navigate to your vim-gui script in /home/USER/bin.

You can do this for any files you wish to open with Vim in the terminal by default.


Search and Replace text with Vim

Search and Replace with Vim
My main use of Search and Replace on vim would be for urls and country mirrors in my sources.list. If you find a particular mirror is running a bit slow (very common for me in Spain with the Spanish Debian/Ubuntu mirrors), then you can change all of them in one go to a faster mirror like this:


This will replace all instances of the Spanish (es) Debian mirror for the (fr) French mirror which is usually faster. 

The :substitute command searches for text, and replaces it with different text. The g flag means global, each occurrence in the line is changed, rather than just the first.

:s/foo/bar/g ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† Change each ‘foo’ to ‘bar’ in the current line.
:%s/foo/bar/g ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬†Change each ‘foo’ to ‘bar’ in all lines.
:5,12s/foo/bar/g ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬†Change each ‘foo’ to ‘bar’ for all lines from line 5 to line 12.
:’a,’bs/foo/bar/g ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† Change each ‘foo’ to ‘bar’ for all lines from mark a to mark b.
:.,$s/foo/bar/g ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† Change each ‘foo’ to ‘bar’ for all lines from line (.) to line ($).
:.,+2s/foo/bar/g ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† Change each ‘foo’ to ‘bar’ for line (.) and the two next lines (+2).
:g/^baz/s/foo/bar/g ¬† ¬†Change each ‘foo’ to ‘bar’ in each line starting with ‘baz’.

Source: http://vim.wikia.com/wiki/Search_and_replace


How to create uncrackable, easy to remember passwords

Xkcd and Password Strength
If you’ve never read Xkcd before, then you should start now, it’s hilarious if you are a bit of a Geek.
Apart from the humour, there are some awesome cartoons which adhere to the old adage “Many a true word spoken in jest”, and probably one of my favourites is “Password Strength”, as it’s true as well as funny.

Click to enlarge:

Source: http://xkcd.com/936/

Enable Spell Check in Vim text editor

I use Vim for all system file editing,and also for writing scripts. Sometimes i’m logged into my server and as there is no desktop there are no gui apps, I use Vim to send out a quick tweet to twitter via Twitvim. I also compose Mutt emails with Vim, so therefore having a spell check is pretty handy.

To enable Spellcheck in Vim, you need to edit your Vim config file:
vim .vimrc

And add these lines with your language to it:

syn spell toplevel
set spell spelllang=en_us

Using multiple Languages:
As I use both English and Spanish, I created two copies of my .vimrc file and called them vispellen and vispelles (ENglish and ESpanish) and then wrote two little Bash script so I can type “ven” or “ves” in the Terminal to interchange the different config files.
ven script:

# This copies vispellen with English spell check to .vimrc
cp vispellen .vimrc

ves script:

# This copies vispelles with Spanish spell check to .vimrc
cp vispelles .vimrc

Very basic I know, but it works.

Vim Spellcheck command basics:

]s  move to the next mispelled word
[s   move to the previous mispelled word
zg   add a word to the dictionary
zug   undo the addition of a word to the dictionary
z=   view spelling suggestions for a mispelled word

More information:
Just type :help spell in Vim.