For those of us n00bs...

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For those of us n00bs...

Postposted on Tue Jul 19, 2011 1:06 pm

I recently read Mr. Morgan's blog post regarding Ubuntu, and I must say that I am intrigued. The time has come to wipe my lap-top hard-drive (months of ignoring the call to clean and maintain have made my Windows install painfully slow). I am now considering installing a version of Ubuntu or other Linux OS... the problem is that I havn't a clue as to where to start. As a total n00b in this regard, I am wondering if any gerbil geniuses here can provide some much needed advice.
Where should I start... which version should I consider... what do I need to know... what should I be aware of...?

Thanks
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Re: For those of us n00bs...

Postposted on Tue Jul 19, 2011 1:21 pm

I am mostly a noob myself when it comes to Linux. However, I have installed Ubuntu a couple times only to go back to Win7. I just got done installing Mint in a VM to try it out and see how I like it. I have always gone back to Windows mainly just for quirks of the way things work differently between the two OS.
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Re: For those of us n00bs...

Postposted on Tue Jul 19, 2011 1:26 pm

If you want to dip your toes in the Linux pool, I would recommend starting with Ubuntu.

The 10.04 version is their Long Term Support (LTS) release, which means it gets more testing and is supported with security patches for 3 years from release date. 11.04 is the latest bleeding edge version; non-LTS releases get only 18 months of security patches. Given that 10.04 has been out for over a year, the amount of time remaining on either one for security patches is about the same at this point.

How new is this laptop? If it is less than 3 years old, I'd recommend going with the 11.04 to improve the odds of all of your devices having drivers bundled with the installer. Otherwise, my recommendation would be to go with the 10.04. Reviews of the new Unity desktop (rolled out with 11.04) have been rather mixed. You could still go with 11.04 and use the "classic" GNOME desktop with it instead of Unity; this will give you support for newer hardware, but a desktop environment that is closer to what you're accustomed to with Windows.

Fedora may also be worth a look; I don't have any experience with the newer Fedora releases though, having switched over to Ubuntu/Debian about 3 years ago.

Installation should be pretty straightforward. Start by downloading the ISO of the distro you've chosen, and burn it to a CD. Then boot from the CD. It's quite similar to installing Windows from a retail/OEM CD... except you don't need a CD key, and there's no product activation. :wink:

Just make sure you've got another functional system with an Internet connection handy, to help answer any questions that come up.
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Re: For those of us n00bs...

Postposted on Wed Jul 20, 2011 8:48 am

You need to start here http://fedoraproject.org/en/get-fedora-options. I recommend Xfce. :)

Being serious now.

You need to first make a list of applications you need and the functions they provide. Once you have the list, you can find alternative applications, and see if they meet your needs. Alternativeto.net, OSalt.com, and Linuxalt.com are good resources for finding equivalent software. This will keep you from being totally baffled when you boot up for the first time.

Next you need to get a list of the hardware in your laptop, and check to see if the hardware is supported. The FreeBSD HCL is a good source, and the Linux Foundation's Openprinting Database is good for printers. (I realize FreeBSD isn't Linux, but if they support the hardware, Linux will most likely support the hardware.) Intel hardware and HP printers are supported really well. Broadcom and Realtek are hit and miss. Nvidia FOSS drivers are good and getting better, and I haven't tried any ATI/AMD drivers. The proprietary graphics drivers are a pain, especially on Fedora, so if you're think you might want to use them Linux Mint Debian Edition, or OpenSUSE, would be worth a look.

Of course you could just install it blindly and see what happens. :) This is usually pretty fun, and you learn a lot, if you have the time. I have good memories of dedicating large amounts of time to endeavors like that.

Lastly, read/work through a beginner tutorial. The real beauty of Linux, and all other Unices, is their command line and simplicity. (Excluding iptables from that statement. >:| ) There are so many tools, that I rely on for my job that I would be very frustrated if I didn't have a Unix box somewhere. Config files are text files, which makes backing up easy, and installs can be fixed with a live cd and a text editor. Unix permissions aren't as fine grained as Windows, but then again, I haven't had a chance to mess with ACLs yet. If you're shying away from the command line, you're really missing out on most of the *ix experience.

FreeBSD 8.2 HCL
http://www.freebsd.org/releases/8.1R/hardware.html

Openprinting Database
http://www.linuxfoundation.org/collabor ... abaseintro

Introduction to UNIX
http://www.doc.ic.ac.uk/~wjk/UnixIntro/

UNIX Tutorial
http://www.ee.surrey.ac.uk/Teaching/Unix/unixintro.html

Beginner's Guide to the Vi editor
http://acs.ucsd.edu/info/vi_tutorial.shtml

VI Tutorial for Beginners
http://www.webmonkey.com/2010/02/vi_tut ... beginners/

DuckDuckGo search "Unix Introduction"
http://duckduckgo.com/?q=unix+introduction

DuckDuckGo Search "linux tutorial for beginners"
http://duckduckgo.com/?q=linux+tutorial+for+beginners

DuckDuckGo Search: "vi tutorial for beginners"
http://duckduckgo.com/?q=vi+tutorial+for+beginners

MJM Personal Fedora 15 Installation Guide
http://www.mjmwired.net/resources/mjm-fedora-f15.html

Fedora Project Wiki
http://fedoraproject.org/wiki/Fedora_Project_Wiki

Fedora Solved
http://fedorasolved.org/

Fedora Forum
http://www.fedoraforum.org/
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Re: For those of us n00bs...

Postposted on Wed Jul 20, 2011 9:01 am

Ubuntu 11.04. Drop in a boot CD, make sure your network cable is plugged. And you'll be shocked how simple OS setup can be. Everything works right out of the box.

Next step, click on big bag with stuff. Type VLC, install. As soon as progress bar completes you got a full system.

The only shame is that some software doesn't work under Linux. You can't install Canon EOS drivers for instance. Skype is limited, games mostly doesn't work. But if not for these problems, Ubuntu 11.04 would be my primary system.
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Re: For those of us n00bs...

Postposted on Wed Jul 20, 2011 10:51 am

Flatland_Spider wrote:...

Beginner's Guide to the Vi editor
http://acs.ucsd.edu/info/vi_tutorial.shtml

VI Tutorial for Beginners
http://www.webmonkey.com/2010/02/vi_tut ... beginners/

...

Seems to me that expecting a *NIX n00b to pick up vi as part of the initial Linux learning curve is a bit much. Don't most distros include nano as part of the base install these days? Yes, I know vi is much more powerful (and FWIW I do prefer it to nano); but it can have a rather daunting learning curve for people accustomed to GUI-based text editors.

I'd save vi for the "intermediate" course. :wink:
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Re: For those of us n00bs...

Postposted on Wed Jul 20, 2011 12:26 pm

If you're going to spend any significant amount of time connecting to other systems and/or using a lot of terminal sessions at once getting to grips with screen is an absolute must.

I'd recommend jumping to Fedora or CentOS as a beginner...too many things can be fixed by simply Googling with Ubuntu without ever understanding what you're doing.
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Re: For those of us n00bs...

Postposted on Wed Jul 20, 2011 12:42 pm

just brew it! wrote:Seems to me that expecting a *NIX n00b to pick up vi as part of the initial Linux learning curve is a bit much. Don't most distros include nano as part of the base install these days? Yes, I know vi is much more powerful (and FWIW I do prefer it to nano); but it can have a rather daunting learning curve for people accustomed to GUI-based text editors.

I'd save vi for the "intermediate" course. :wink:


They do. :) He's also going to have a full GUI environment with Gedit, or something, as a fallback. If he was going to do something crazy like install Arch Linux or a BSD which dumps you onto the command line and makes you edit lots of text files, I would mention nano or ee, but he's talking about Ubuntu. He might as well learn the Unix CLI the "correct way". ;)

The modelness of vi is pretty weird. You can explain vi to a new user in about six sentences, depending on how they are parsed.

@skialex25:
Something else you could do is install a distro to a USB drive. It would let you boot into a portal environment where you can make persistent changes, and it would be more convenient then a disc. This assumes you're computers can boot off of USB ports.
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Re: For those of us n00bs...

Postposted on Wed Jul 20, 2011 12:45 pm

TheWacoKid wrote:I'd recommend jumping to Fedora or CentOS as a beginner...too many things can be fixed by simply Googling with Ubuntu without ever understanding what you're doing.


...so you're saying that with Fedora you're not going to get help when you need it? Right. Good idea for n00b.

I'd go with Ubuntu 10.04 myself, for the reasons JBI enumerated. If you want a more get-your-hands-dirty approach, then IMO you should go with Debian instead; you'll get the same nice package management, but it doesn't hold your hand quite so much.
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Re: For those of us n00bs...

Postposted on Wed Jul 20, 2011 12:52 pm

Flatland_Spider wrote:The modelness of vi is pretty weird. You can explain vi to a new user in about six sentences, depending on how they are parsed.

Yeah, the main issue is that it was one of the first "full screen" editors (dates back to... what... mid-'70s?), and therefore still retains some of the modal UI paradigm of an old school line-by-line editor designed to be used on hardcopy Teletype terminals!
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Re: For those of us n00bs...

Postposted on Wed Jul 20, 2011 1:41 pm

The GNU Linux (unix) command line is truly wonderful, but the operating system is also pretty darn usable without ever touching it. And it should be.

But it will continue to be a problematic platform for as long as many major mainstream applications continue to ignore it. Adobe. Autodesk. Turbo Tax. And so on. The open source community cannot replace those. It's too high of a wall to climb. It'd take millions of programmer-days to do it. There aren't enough open source programmers to go around, and most of the best programmers are already working for Adobe, Autodesk, Microsoft, Apple, Google, and so on.

As a infrastructure platform, GNU Linux is fantastic and fully competitive with pretty much anything.

As a desktop OS, it has some very certain limitations.

In my opinion.
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Re: For those of us n00bs...

Postposted on Wed Jul 20, 2011 1:51 pm

Flatland_Spider wrote:You need to start here http://fedoraproject.org/en/get-fedora-options. I recommend Xfce. :)


That entirely depends on hardware specs. I would not use Xfce unless I had lower-end hardware. Even most modern integrated graphics will run Gnome or KDE fine and they just look better.

FWIW, I've used Fedora since it came out and RedHat before that. I have tried and like Ubuntu...but having used Fedora for years, I prefer the feel of it.
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Re: For those of us n00bs...

Postposted on Wed Jul 20, 2011 2:57 pm

Flatland_Spider wrote:You can explain vi to a new user in about six sentences, depending on how they are parsed.

Ok, I'm listening...

I tried that editor, and holy cow it gets in a way. I opened the fstab file, I need to insert something, started typing and whole lots of stuff starts happening. Why?!!!

Resorted to nano and mcedit, and no more unexpected crap. And unexpected crap is the last thing you want to do when you edit system files.

And honestly, even though I'm geeky type, CLI gets old. You need your OS to do stuff. OMG I can haz editz the MBRzzz with Hex editorz!!! gets old really fast.

What Ubundtu did right is that everything works out of the box, but you can still Alt+Ctrl+F1to do some messy stuff if you need it. And things like ifconfig, iptables, fstab, grep etc. are really super powerful and super efficient. But messing with console all the time stinks for primary OS. I tried Mandrake 9.x, Mandrake 10.x, Fedora ?.x, Ubuntu 6?7?.x and none of those systems lasted longer than few days.

Manual sound card installations, kernel recompilations for something, flaky SMB shares and NTFS support, that thing is what makes Linux stay below 1%. And Ubuntu is the only distribution that is trying to change that trend.

Insert CD, install, everything works - Firefox, Flash, LibreOffice. VLC, Skype is 2 clicks away and there you go, full blown OS with hardware accelerated interface and zero system configuration.

All other distros, IMHO, are only good for servers where programmers/administrators ssh into and do the maintenance/deployment stuff. For everyday use I don't want to see that AT ALL!

Don't scare people away with all those hardcore server distros. You can learn everything about Linux through Ubuntu while using it as a primary OS, while other distros are mostly for experimenting and tinkering with stuff that doesn't allow you to do most primary tasks effectively.
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Re: For those of us n00bs...

Postposted on Wed Jul 20, 2011 3:57 pm

Madman wrote:
Flatland_Spider wrote:You can explain vi to a new user in about six sentences, depending on how they are parsed.

Ok, I'm listening...

I tried that editor, and holy cow it gets in a way. I opened the fstab file, I need to insert something, started typing and whole lots of stuff starts happening. Why?!!!

Resorted to nano and mcedit, and no more unexpected crap. And unexpected crap is the last thing you want to do when you edit system files.

And honestly, even though I'm geeky type, CLI gets old. You need your OS to do stuff. OMG I can haz editz the MBRzzz with Hex editorz!!! gets old really fast.

What Ubundtu did right is that everything works out of the box, but you can still Alt+Ctrl+F1to do some messy stuff if you need it. And things like ifconfig, iptables, fstab, grep etc. are really super powerful and super efficient. But messing with console all the time stinks for primary OS. I tried Mandrake 9.x, Mandrake 10.x, Fedora ?.x, Ubuntu 6?7?.x and none of those systems lasted longer than few days.

Manual sound card installations, kernel recompilations for something, flaky SMB shares and NTFS support, that thing is what makes Linux stay below 1%. And Ubuntu is the only distribution that is trying to change that trend.

Insert CD, install, everything works - Firefox, Flash, LibreOffice. VLC, Skype is 2 clicks away and there you go, full blown OS with hardware accelerated interface and zero system configuration.

All other distros, IMHO, are only good for servers where programmers/administrators ssh into and do the maintenance/deployment stuff. For everyday use I don't want to see that AT ALL!

Don't scare people away with all those hardcore server distros. You can learn everything about Linux through Ubuntu while using it as a primary OS, while other distros are mostly for experimenting and tinkering with stuff that doesn't allow you to do most primary tasks effectively.


There's a post worth quoting. IMO, GNU Linux needs to be 100% usable (i.e. configurable and maintainable) from the GUI (and Ubuntu is pretty well there). We're past the point where having a GUI is "squandering resources" even on servers.
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Re: For those of us n00bs...

Postposted on Wed Jul 20, 2011 4:00 pm

I prefer pico/nano - I'd been using pico since the late-90s and if not pico, at least nano is included with every distro. I have pico on my Ubuntu 10.04.2 LTS install, which I used to manually alert the system to the presence of my wireless card. I don't boot into it very often, but it's been extremely easy to set up (the wifi is a Ralink and I just had to add device IDs to the included open source drivers since it's newer than 10.04, though I could have downloaded a binary driver install that I didn't feel like messing with). nVidia's drivers are a pain (oddly enough) because you have to figure out how to boot to a command prompt, rather than into X, to install them. I don't remember having to do that with Radeons in the past, at least, once AMD got their Linux drivers up to a better level of quality.

Still, as has been pointed out, it needs to be configurable from the GUI to be 100% mainstream ready. For non-bleeding-edge hardware, it probably is.
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Re: For those of us n00bs...

Postposted on Wed Jul 20, 2011 5:15 pm

I'd like to thank you gerbils for the feedback. This certainly gives me a place to start, and it looks like I have my work cut out for me. Should be fun. Thanks again.
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Re: For those of us n00bs...

Postposted on Wed Jul 20, 2011 5:18 pm

I've tried mandriva before, and give it a thumbs up for ease of use. You can do everything via gui, documentation is fairly decent, and it doesn't seem like a big step away from windows.
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Re: For those of us n00bs...

Postposted on Wed Jul 20, 2011 10:46 pm

flip-mode wrote:...

As a infrastructure platform, GNU Linux is fantastic and fully competitive with pretty much anything.

As a desktop OS, it has some very certain limitations.

In my opinion.

In my opinion, that's a very reasonable opinion! :wink:

It pretty much all hinges on whether you need any of those Windows apps with no close Linux equivalents, or are an avid PC gamer. If the answer is "no" on both counts, Linux is an *excellent* desktop OS. Virtualization (or emulation under Wine) can be a solution to running Windows apps on Linux; but it doesn't work well for all apps, and if you go the virtualization route you still need a Windows license.

I'm quite happy with Linux on the desktop, but my use case (both home and work) is more amenable to Linux than many other people. And at work I do still need to keep a Windows VM running all the time to run MS Outlook, since our corporate e-mail is hosted on an Exchange server and I have yet to find a decent Exchange client on Linux (no, Evolution is *not* up to the task).

[SDG]Mantis wrote:Even most modern integrated graphics will run Gnome or KDE fine and they just look better.

Yup, I'm running GNOME on a Radeon IGP right now. Even got dual-head working! :D

Madman wrote:I tried that editor, and holy cow it gets in a way. I opened the fstab file, I need to insert something, started typing and whole lots of stuff starts happening. Why?!!!

Resorted to nano and mcedit, and no more unexpected crap. And unexpected crap is the last thing you want to do when you edit system files.

Once you know how to use it, I'd say vi is no more likely to mangle your files than any other editor, and you can actually accomplish most editing tasks faster with it than you can with an editor like nano. The problem is that pesky "once you know how to use it" part! Its UI is totally alien compared to anything else that has been designed in the past 25 years, so I can see how it would be rather non-intuitive for most people.

Madman wrote:And honestly, even though I'm geeky type, CLI gets old. You need your OS to do stuff. OMG I can haz editz the MBRzzz with Hex editorz!!! gets old really fast.

Depending on what kind of "stuff" you're talking about, CLI can be more efficient. Some tasks are more visual, while others are better handled with CLI.
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Re: For those of us n00bs...

Postposted on Thu Jul 21, 2011 12:12 am

just brew it! wrote:Yeah, the main issue is that it was one of the first "full screen" editors (dates back to... what... mid-'70s?), and therefore still retains some of the modal UI paradigm of an old school line-by-line editor designed to be used on hardcopy Teletype terminals!

I think modal editing is annoying to most people; I mean, if you think about it, the hated caps-lock is a relic of modal data entry. Enter caps mode, type caps, leave caps mode. Same story with vi/vim: edit mode, type data, exit to command mode. It can be efficient if you're used to it, but I don't necessarily think it's more inherently more efficient than using chorded modifier key sequences for commands (i.e. shift -- to extend the caps lock analogy) in modern editors, as some vi fans claim.

That being said, the vast majority of non-Java programmers at work seem to use either vim or emacs as their text editor of choice. Cultural momentum IMO.
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Re: For those of us n00bs...

Postposted on Thu Jul 21, 2011 8:16 am

[SDG]Mantis wrote:That entirely depends on hardware specs. I would not use Xfce unless I had lower-end hardware. Even most modern integrated graphics will run Gnome or KDE fine and they just look better.


Gnome and KDE looking better is subjective, and Xfce is not really for low power computers. Xfce is more of a middleweight DE. If you want lightweight, Fluxbox and Openbox are better solutions.

Xfce is clean, simple, and more Apple then Apple. It works exactly the way I think it should, and it just sits there being unobtrusive while managing my windows. I can set it up like the CDE, which I can't do with the others.

Yeah, KDE doesn't work well without acceleration; the experience is horrible otherwise. Gnome has Nautilus, which is the one piece of software I actively hate.
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Re: For those of us n00bs...

Postposted on Thu Jul 21, 2011 8:28 am

Flatland_Spider wrote:If you want lightweight, Fluxbox and Openbox are better solutions.

LXDE is also pretty reasonable; I use it in a couple of Debian VMs at work where I'd like to have at least a minimal GUI, but need to keep the memory footprint low so that I don't need to dedicate a lot of the host system's RAM to the VMs.
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Re: For those of us n00bs...

Postposted on Thu Jul 21, 2011 8:31 am

It is reasonable. I just haven't used it that much. I think I've booted into it twice.
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Re: For those of us n00bs...

Postposted on Thu Jul 21, 2011 9:47 am

flip-mode wrote:There's a post worth quoting. IMO, GNU Linux needs to be 100% usable (i.e. configurable and maintainable) from the GUI (and Ubuntu is pretty well there). We're past the point where having a GUI is "squandering resources" even on servers.


Linux is 100% configurable from the GUI. The vendors have done a good job of creating tools to make configuration easy, and there is Webmin too.
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Re: For those of us n00bs...

Postposted on Thu Jul 21, 2011 10:30 am

Flatland_Spider wrote:
flip-mode wrote:There's a post worth quoting. IMO, GNU Linux needs to be 100% usable (i.e. configurable and maintainable) from the GUI (and Ubuntu is pretty well there). We're past the point where having a GUI is "squandering resources" even on servers.


Linux is 100% configurable from the GUI. The vendors have done a good job of creating tools to make configuration easy, and there is Webmin too.

Now we just need to get more users into Linux. As soon as market share will climb above 5%, there is a hope that big apps will start having Linux versions too.

But to reach those 5%, it's very important that CLI stays hidden for mainstream user. Even though many tasks can be done quicker through CLI.

I'm not against CLI and I use it a lot, but, IMHO, it has been the enemy number 1 that has made sure Linux is a niche product up until today.
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Re: For those of us n00bs...

Postposted on Thu Jul 21, 2011 1:14 pm

bthylafh wrote:...so you're saying that with Fedora you're not going to get help when you need it? Right. Good idea for n00b.

I said nothing of the sort.

Generally the support forums for Fedora are a bit more technically oriented (IE: rather than "Just do this to fix it" they tend to lean more towards "this is what's wrong, and this is what you need to do and why").

I can't stand helping people fix their broken Ubuntu installs because "the internet told me to run this command and it broke stuff".
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Re: For those of us n00bs...

Postposted on Thu Jul 21, 2011 2:30 pm

skialex25 wrote:... what should I be aware of...?


stay away from samba. It kills brain cells.
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Re: For those of us n00bs...

Postposted on Thu Jul 21, 2011 3:08 pm

just brew it! wrote:Seems to me that expecting a *NIX n00b to pick up vi as part of the initial Linux learning curve is a bit much. Don't most distros include nano as part of the base install these days? Yes, I know vi is much more powerful (and FWIW I do prefer it to nano); but it can have a rather daunting learning curve for people accustomed to GUI-based text editors.

I'd save vi for the "intermediate" course. :wink:


FWIW as part of a basic introduction to *nix the Army presents a five day course and one of those days includes lessons on vi.

I'd note that vi generally blew the minds of my students, but the majority of them endured. So perhaps not intermediate, but not quite as easy as say learning what the cat command does.
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Re: For those of us n00bs...

Postposted on Thu Jul 21, 2011 3:10 pm

Madman wrote:
Flatland_Spider wrote:You can explain vi to a new user in about six sentences, depending on how they are parsed.

Ok, I'm listening...


"vi filename" to open a file
There are two modes to vi: Command mode (which is the default on startup), edit mode.
Use "h", "j", "k", "l", or the arrow keys to move around in command mode.
When you get to the place where you want to edit, "i" enters edit mode while exiting command mode.
Press the Esc key to leave edit mode which will return you to command mode.
In command mode, ":w" writes the file, ":q" quits, ":wq" writes then quits.

That's was pretty much my first introduction to vi.
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Re: For those of us n00bs...

Postposted on Thu Jul 21, 2011 4:02 pm

I cannot honestly believe that someone would recommend vi to someone just starting out in linux. It's complex, arcane, and totally unnecessary for anything anyone (new) is likely to do in a modern linux distro.

The modern distros are designed to be easy to get into, easy to understand, and present all of the flexibility of linux in GUI displays. I honestly think installing ubuntu is FAR easier than installing windows these days.

The _only_ reason to recommend even nano to a user is if X11 doesn't kick on properly at boot, and you need to fiddle with the xorg.conf.

This is coming from the perspective of someone who:
  • Uses vim every day at work (I'm currently a firmware developer for a major hardware company)
  • Has an extensive library of vimrc source files
  • Has had patches accepted into the main vim source tree
  • Almost certainly knows more vim tricks than you do :)

Vim is fantastic, but it's a crappy way to introduce people to the *NIX world. (and it's available on windows too... so it's not as if it's even linux specific)
Last edited by Kiruwa on Thu Jul 21, 2011 4:37 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: For those of us n00bs...

Postposted on Thu Jul 21, 2011 4:06 pm

flip-mode wrote:But it will continue to be a problematic platform for as long as many major mainstream applications continue to ignore it. Adobe. Autodesk. Turbo Tax. And so on. The open source community cannot replace those. It's too high of a wall to climb. It'd take millions of programmer-days to do it. There aren't enough open source programmers to go around, and most of the best programmers are already working for Adobe, Autodesk, Microsoft, Apple, Google, and so on.


This is only a problem if you need those apps though. I can't imagine a high percentage of people use Autocad on their personal computers.
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