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Unread 05-11-2006, 02:32 PM   #1
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Linux Q & A

There've been some questions coming up about Linux (and also Ubuntu), so I figured it'd be a good time to start a thread where questions about either can be asked.

This isn't meant to be Linux vs. XP or Linux vs. OSX. I'll do my best to stay away from bashing Windows.

As a side note, I only have experience with Ubuntu Linux (about 6 months worth), and it is now my primary OS (I don't even have XP installed at the moment). Several other CGR members use a different distro of Linux... I think Nate uses Fedora. I'm not sure on the others.

...and there are no questions too 'dumb' to ask. A year ago, I had absolutely no experience with Linux, and would have probably asked very similar questions.

[Ryan] Stickied. [/Ryan]

[EDIT by Patrick] I've gone through this thread and tacked some of the common questions to the bottom of this post. I've seen many good ones, but many of them aren't in good Q&A form. If you have any good advice to add, you can post it here or PM it to me and I'll add it to the list. This thread is doing good, so lets keep it up. [/EDIT]


As an XP user, why would I want to switch to Linux?
1) Linux is infinitely less prone to viruses which can destroy your computer and the data therein.
2) Linux rarely crashes; if it does, it causes no problem except the need to reboot. No "safe mode."
3) The Linux GUI's are more user-friendly and more customizable than XP's start menu and desktop.
4) If there are things on your computer you don't want, you can delete them in Linux; not so in Windows.
5) If you ever plan on buying another computer in your life, Linux is cheaper since it's open-source.
[you have XP on your current computer, but you could purchase your next without it and save $100-150]
Answer by: Nate



With all the different distributions out there, how do you choose which one is best for you?
As of yet, I've only had experience with Ubuntu, and little experience with DSL. I haven't experimented around, as Ubuntu has proved to be easy to learn and use (once I got onboard). Fedora is on my list to try, as well as SUSE, Slackware, and Gentoo, though, I'm hesitant to install anything else on my system for now, and I'm away from high-speed for the summer too. Perhaps the fall semester, I can try some more stuff.

Here's a good reference site to see an estimate on where current distros stand in popularity:
http://distrowatch.com/

As far as distros for beginners, Ubuntu is a great place to start. It's got a great package manager and large community for support. I've heard many good things about SUSE -- there is a free and non-free version (include some proprietary stuff out-of-the-box from my undestanding). Mepis also looks somewhat promising -- it is Debian based (like Ubuntu), and soon, it will be Ubuntu based (I might have to look into this one myself).

The biggest differences between distros are:
-Window managers -- biggest/most popular ones are Gnome and KDE (Ubuntu defaults to Gnome). The choice between the two comes down to preference.

-Package manages -- Ubuntu uses the Debian-based APT package management with .deb files. The other 'biggie' is RPM-based (.rpm), which came out of Red Hat awhile back. Some distros use other package types, and some don't use any packages (everything installed from source). The easiest are package managers take care of dependencies automatically -- some do, and some don't.

-Other -- from what I've seen, most distros don't vary a whole lot from one to another. Some distros provide some better hardware support, some extra tweaks on the window manager, some have better community support, etc.

Each distro does tend to cater towards a different crowd -- some more towards beginners, some towards power users, some for server use, some for desktop use, some for older machines, some for modern machines; the list goes on.

Something you might try are LiveCDs, if you've got the bandwidth and CD-Rs to spare. Burn them, pop them in, and reboot (making sure your BIOS is set to boot from CD). It'll load the distro into RAM, ignoring the HD unless you tell it to, and you can essentially preview that distro. This is great for checking hardware compatability -- if the LiveCD works, there's a good chance the install will work for that distro. LiveCDs are also great for going in and recovering data from when an OS goes bad. Many also come with gparted, a Partition Magic clone. Granted, the LiveCDs can be slower, and any changes you make while in it won't be saved (except editing the HD, of course), they are very handy little tools... and they are just plain cool.

Here are two lists from Wiki:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of..._distributions
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Compari..._distributions
Wiki has some good articles on different distros.
Answer by: tht00



Why do I have to actually login to root to run a certain command instead of using sudo?
As a sort of aside, the reason you can't just sudo the command is because there are two different kinds of commands in Linux, bin's and sbin's, and this command is the latter, and because there are two different modes of being "logged in" as a particular user, permission and environment, and this command, as an sbin command, uses the latter. If you're not "logged in" with the permissions and login environment of root, you won't be able to access sbin commands like modprobe.

Bins can be run in any login environment provided you have the correct permissions.

Sbins can only be run in the exact login environment and user permission necessary.

Basically, you can switch/substitute user (su or sudo) from your loggedin user to root to obtain the root permissions needed to execute a bin command, but if you don't also switch environments (to make the terminal think you're actually logged in as root), you won't be able to execute an sbin command, since they require both the permissions and login environment of root. As long as you've logged in as somebody else, su or sudo will only switch permissions, so you need to either re-login as root or tell su or sudo to switch environments as well. Again, if you don't do this, you won't see sbin commands at all.

The way to fix this is extraordinarily simple... just add a dash ("-") after the su or sudo command.

"su - root" will change both the permissions and login environment to root, then you can run sbins.
Answer by: Nate



Is it possible to install linux on a removeable hard drive? If so, how big should I look for?
Sure -- it should work. It might be tricky getting your BIOS set to boot it properly though.

As far as size, that all depends. On stipped down versions of Linux (something like DSL or Puppy Linux), you could get away with ~5 GB decently. On more modern versions, I'd say no less than 20GB for normal desktop use.

I've got 2 partitions for Linux right now (technically 3, including swap space). One is mounted as root (/) and this is all system file stuff (~5GB filled). My home directory is on another partition (/home), and I've got about 20GB in there filled. (FYI, you don't have to split stuff up at all on different partitions.)

The system + software really shouldn't get much larger than 5GB (minus any large games). 1-2GB of swap space should be plenty (think virtual memory in Windows). So really, then it's up to your preference on how much free space you want and expect to fill up.

20GB should be fine for 'normal' use. More if you plan on putting large amounts of media on it, or simply want the comfort of having extra space. 40GB should be quite nonrestricive, unless you start ripping all your DVDs on it.
Answer by: tht00



What's a good partitioning tool?
gparted works well. It looks and feels very similar to Partition Magic for Windows. There is even a live CD for gparted, so you can partition without installing Windows. You should also be able to use this utility on most Linux live CDs.
Answer by: Patrick



What is a live CD?
A live CD is a special CD which you can boot Linux from. You simply put it in your CD drive and reboot your computer. It will load that version of Linux without putting anything on your hard drive at all. It's a great way to try out a distro of Linux without making any changes to your computer. Some distros combine the live CD and the install CD into one, giving you an easier-to-use installer if you choose to use it. As long as your BIOS supports booting from a disc, using a live CD should be quite simple.
Answer by: Patrick


What are some good apps to use?
Gnome (Window Manager)
Firefox (Web)
Swiftfox (processor specific compilation -- a bit snappier than 'normal' firefox).
Thunderbird (Mail)
GIMP (Photo editor)
Downloader for X (Download manager)
Gaim (IM)
KTorrent (Torrents)
Firestarter (Firewall)
Rhythmbox (Music player)
VLC (Video player)
Open Office (Office suite)
GnomeBaker (Burning software)
K3B (Burning software)
build-essentials (Compiling software -- gcc, g++, etc)
gedit (text editor; I use it to write code)
MonoDevelop (C# programming environment)
Wine (Windows emulation)
qemu/VMware (machine emulation, running an OS within an OS)
Answer by: tht00


Where else can I get help with Ubuntu?
This thread will work, but ubuntuforums.org is a GREAT place for answers.
Answer by: ApparentlyNothing


I'm having problems with my Dell MP3 player. What do I need to do to make it work?
Ok. Looks like you'll need a program called Gnomad. There are a several ways to install it (if you aren't yet comfortable with installing in Ubuntu), and they all accomplish the same task:
(You only need to do one)

1) Open up a terminal (Applications > Accessories > Terminal) and paste the following line:

sudo apt-get install gnomad2

Follow the prompts.

2) Open up the Synaptic Package Manager (System > Admin > Synaptic), find gnomad2, mark it for installation, hit apply.

3) Go to Add/Remove Applications (under 'Applications'), search for Gnomad, check Gnomad 2, hit apply.


Kinda stinks that you need 3rd party applications for this. Many mp3 players (iPod is what I have) will auto mount and act similar to a flash drive. Still, with an iPod, you have to use a program to put songs on it the 'iPod way', but I replaced the Apple firmware with Rockbox (ogg, flac support!) and I can just through songs on there without any additional software now.

There are usually workarounds to get things going in Linux, unless there are no drivers at all written -- you'll find this with some accessories. Not usually a big deal, just do your research before you buy hardware now.
Answer by: tht00


How can I dual-boot with Windows and Linux if I installed Linux first?
Take a look at this article to see how to install XP, and then restore the GRUB bootloader.
Answer by: surferdude9375

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Unread 05-11-2006, 04:07 PM   #2
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I do, in fact, use Fedora. It would probably be helpful to know our desktop environments, as well, seeing as they differ some from distro to distro and in the actual operation of the environment. I use the Gnome desktop environment.

Perhaps we should tack a simple "Q: ***** A: *****" FAQ to the bottom of the first post, and then add the most common / important questions and their corresponding answers as they arise so people don't have to go through the whole thread.
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Unread 05-11-2006, 04:13 PM   #3
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Alright, I'll be the first to ask a dumb n00b question :-D. I want to make another user account on my Ubuntu OS for my little brother. I go to System > Administration > Users and Groups. Then it gives me this error: "Cannot Launch Entry. Details: Failed to execute child process 'gksudo' (no such file or directory)"

What's the problem? Can I fix it? Is there another way of making another user account?

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Unread 05-11-2006, 04:17 PM   #4
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Are you doing that as root (did it prompt you for a password? were you logged in as root?)?
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Unread 05-11-2006, 04:19 PM   #5
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Actually it was right in the GUI interface...right on my desktop basically. Should I try it from the command prompt?

P.S. I can provide a screen shot if necessary.

-chester
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Unread 05-11-2006, 04:20 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jjvacc
Actually it was right in the GUI interface...right on my desktop basically. Should I try it from the command prompt?
Did it prompt you for a password? Are you logged into the GUI as root? Can you log in as root?
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Unread 05-11-2006, 09:15 PM   #7
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If you log in as a normal user and try to do a activity that requires root access it should propt for the password... if not...

open console
su (to get root access)
adduser [newusername}



I run slackware and DeMuDi (a Debian derivitive)
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Unread 05-12-2006, 08:14 AM   #8
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Sounds like there might be a problem with gksudo.

In Ubuntu, you can't log into the GUI as root (as far as I know). Everything is pretty much done with sudo (or su), or gksudo (for GUI permissions).

Try
Code:
gksudo nautilus
just to see if that will work. It should pull up a dialog box prompting for root permissions. Also, can you launch Synaptic? It uses gksudo too. It would probably be a good idea to figure out what's wrong here.

The command alternative, as zek demonstrated, is very similar in Ubuntu, though slightly different.

Either you can do:
Code:
sudo su
adduser [username]
exit
or, with sudo:
Code:
sudo adduser [username]
Quote:
Originally Posted by Nate
I do, in fact, use Fedora. It would probably be helpful to know our desktop environments, as well, seeing as they differ some from distro to distro and in the actual operation of the environment. I use the Gnome desktop environment.

Perhaps we should tack a simple "Q: ***** A: *****" FAQ to the bottom of the first post, and then add the most common / important questions and their corresponding answers as they arise so people don't have to go through the whole thread.
I like your thinking.

I use Gnome. I installed Xfce, but haven't played with it much,
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Unread 05-12-2006, 08:24 AM   #9
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Actually I remembered the PM you sent me about the sudo stuff and tryed that and it worked.

Thanks for all your help guys.

-chester
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Unread 05-12-2006, 09:17 AM   #10
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Hey, look... we're solving problems already.
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Unread 05-12-2006, 10:56 AM   #11
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Alright, another question. (Am I the only linux n00b on these forums? )

Anyhow, here's two situations, and I need a crash course on doing them in both Ubuntu and something normal like SUSE or Fedora.


Anyhow:

Say I boot of a live distro of slax and I want to mount the harddrive(s) that are on the computer so I can access, change and delete files. How do I go about doing that?

Say I want to mount a slave drive on a computer that has linux installed on the harddrive...what is the proper command(s) for that?

Thanks so much you guys..this thread and the people in it rock :-)

-chester
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Unread 05-12-2006, 12:14 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jjvacc
Alright, another question. (Am I the only linux n00b on these forums? )

Anyhow, here's two situations, and I need a crash course on doing them in both Ubuntu and something normal like SUSE or Fedora.


Anyhow:

Say I boot of a live distro of slax and I want to mount the harddrive(s) that are on the computer so I can access, change and delete files. How do I go about doing that?

Say I want to mount a slave drive on a computer that has linux installed on the harddrive...what is the proper command(s) for that?

Thanks so much you guys..this thread and the people in it rock

-chester
To mount stuff from Linux (from LiveCD or an install), find the partition you want to mount using:
Code:
sudo fdisk -l
for me, that gives:
Code:
tom@thtroyer:~/Desktop$ sudo fdisk -l
Password:

Disk /dev/hdb: 163.9 GB, 163928604672 bytes
255 heads, 63 sectors/track, 19929 cylinders
Units = cylinders of 16065 * 512 = 8225280 bytes

   Device Boot      Start         End      Blocks   Id  System
/dev/hdb1               1       10202    81947533+  83  Linux
/dev/hdb2           10203       13490    26410860    b  W95 FAT32
/dev/hdb3           13491       19929    51721267+   b  W95 FAT32

Disk /dev/sda: 40.0 GB, 40020664320 bytes
255 heads, 63 sectors/track, 4865 cylinders
Units = cylinders of 16065 * 512 = 8225280 bytes

   Device Boot      Start         End      Blocks   Id  System
/dev/sda1   *           1        4678    37576003+  83  Linux
/dev/sda2            4679        4865     1502077+   5  Extended
/dev/sda5            4679        4865     1502046   82  Linux swap / Solaris

Disk /dev/sdb: 127 MB, 127926272 bytes
16 heads, 32 sectors/track, 488 cylinders
Units = cylinders of 512 * 512 = 262144 bytes

   Device Boot      Start         End      Blocks   Id  System
/dev/sdb1   *           1         488      124911+   b  W95 FAT32
Partition 1 has different physical/logical endings:
     phys=(486, 15, 32) logical=(487, 15, 31)
The /dev folder allows access to the different devices. /dev/hdb is my 160GB IDE hard drive. /dev/sda is my 40 gig SATA drive, and apparently /dev/sdb is my flash drive. Each device also has partitions, which fdisk also lists. For example, /dev/sda1 is my root directory ( / ). /dev/hdb1 is mounted as my /home directory. /dev/hdb2 is currently just freespace. I'll go ahead and mount it, as an example.

You can't access anything in the /dev directory directly -- it has to be mounted somewhere. This is different than Windows, as everything is automounted for you and given a letter (A:\, C:\, D:\). Some distros do automount stuff for you, like CDs and USB devices, though, you do run into times when you need to do it yourself.

So, I'll take my /dev/hdb2, and you can mount it pretty much anywhere you want. Common points to mount at are /mnt and /media (I think it depends on the distro). So, I'll make a directory to mount it to:
Code:
sudo mkdir /media/stuff
That'll make a place to mount to, so then, use the mount command:
Code:
sudo mount /dev/hdb2 /media/stuff
First parameter is the device partition, and the next is where to put it. Once mounted, you should at least have read access to the folder. If you don't have access to write to it (as a regular user), you probably need to change permissions using chmod (though, NTFS is still iffy and can be dangerous to write to -- you may have to do some tweaking to be able to edit it). I haven't yet mastered using chmod, so this may be more useful: http://www.computerhope.com/unix/uchmod.htm Of course, you could probably just do everything as root to the mounted drive and not have to mess with using chmod.

Really, you should be able to mount anything listed by fdisk using mount. It isn't all that complicated, but it took me a little while to grasp it.

Also, if you need to unmount something, just use 'umount':
Code:
sudo umount /media/stuff
Also, if you want stuff to auto-mount on bootup, you can edit the fstab file, located at /etc/fstab . I've only had to mess with it a handful of times.

So far as I know, this should work in all distros.
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Unread 05-13-2006, 11:08 AM   #13
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Remember, this thread isn't just for technical babble. General questions like 'What is Linux?' or 'Why Linux?' would be great, as I'm sure not everyone knows what it is, let alone understanding all that was said above.
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Unread 05-13-2006, 08:29 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tht00
Remember, this thread isn't just for technical babble. General questions like 'What is Linux?' or 'Why Linux?' would be great, as I'm sure not everyone knows what it is, let alone understanding all that was said above.
Okay, then. As an XP user, why would I want to switch to Linux?
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Unread 05-13-2006, 10:30 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mtlmouth
Okay, then. As an XP user, why would I want to switch to Linux?
1) Linux is infinitely less prone to viruses which can destroy your computer and the data therein.

2) Linux rarely crashes; if it does, it causes no problem except the need to reboot. No "safe mode."

3) The Linux GUI's are more user-friendly and more customizable than XP's start menu and desktop.

4) If there are things on your computer you don't want, you can delete them in Linux; not so in Windows.

5) If you ever plan on buying another computer in your life, Linux is cheaper since it's open-source.
[you have XP on your current computer, but you could purchase your next without it and save $100-150]
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(b) This state or a political subdivision of this state may not create or
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