Don't Fear the Penguin: A Newbie's Guide to Linux

Linux has an undeserved reputation for being complex, cryptic, and difficult to use. With this simple guide, you can get started using Ubuntu Linux today.

Ubuntu will read most memory cards, USB thumb drives, CDs, DVDs, and floppy disks with no difficulty. It will even try to mount automatically any Windows partitions it finds on the same machine. Note, however, that this doesn't work both ways: If you're dual-booting to Windows or Mac OS X, the other OS won't be able to read your Linux partitions without additional software.

Ubuntu can also connect to Windows network shares from the Network Browser, which you bring up by choosing Network from the Places menu. You can access other types of network servers--including FTP sites and WebDAV shares--by choosing Connect to Server.

If cross-platform compatibility is your goal, it's important to pay attention to file formats when creating documents on Linux. For example, by default the OpenOffice.org productivity applications will save documents in OpenDocument format (ODF), which Microsoft Office can't read at the time of this writing. You'll need to specify the Microsoft Office format from the Save dialog box if you want to share files with your Windows-bound friends and coworkers.

Occasionally you may encounter a certain Windows application for which no Linux equivalent exists, and that you simply can't live without. In such cases a software package called Wine--available through the Synaptic Package Manager--can sometimes help. Wine is an emulation layer that lets you run native Windows software in Linux. It doesn't work for every application, but the list of supported programs is always growing.

Getting Help

Obviously this guide is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the wide world of Ubuntu and Linux computing. We'll keep updating this and other articles as Ubuntu continues to evolve, but if you're still stumped for now, your best option for further assistance is the Ubuntu forums, where beginners and advanced users gather to troubleshoot (and just shoot the breeze about) their favorite OS.

If you ask for help with a particularly thorny technical issue, you may be asked to post the contents of system logs or configuration files to help the gurus diagnose your problem. That may even involve delving into the dreaded world of the Linux command line (which you can access via the Terminal, under the Accessories heading of the Applications menu). Don't be afraid! Just follow any instructions you're given, but pay attention--the more you learn about Ubuntu, the closer you climb to guru status yourself.

Above all, have a good time. Linux's greatest strength is the community around it, and by choosing Ubuntu you have joined a thriving, growing community of users of one of the most powerful and exciting operating systems available today.

Join the newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection

Tags Linux

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Neil McAllister

PC World
Show Comments

Cool Tech

SanDisk MicroSDXC™ for Nintendo® Switch™

Learn more >

Breitling Superocean Heritage Chronographe 44

Learn more >

Toys for Boys

Family Friendly

Panasonic 4K UHD Blu-Ray Player and Full HD Recorder with Netflix - UBT1GL-K

Learn more >

Stocking Stuffer

Razer DeathAdder Expert Ergonomic Gaming Mouse

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Ben Ramsden

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

Brainstorming, innovation, problem solving, and negotiation have all become much more productive and valuable if people can easily collaborate in real time with minimal friction.

Sarah Ieroianni

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.

Ratchada Dunn

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The Huddle Board’s built in program; Sharp Touch Viewing software allows us to easily manipulate and edit our documents (jpegs and PDFs) all at the same time on the dashboard.

George Khoury

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The biggest perks for me would be that it comes with easy to use and comprehensive programs that make the collaboration process a whole lot more intuitive and organic

David Coyle

Brother PocketJet PJ-773 A4 Portable Thermal Printer

I rate the printer as a 5 out of 5 stars as it has been able to fit seamlessly into my busy and mobile lifestyle.

Kurt Hegetschweiler

Brother PocketJet PJ-773 A4 Portable Thermal Printer

It’s perfect for mobile workers. Just take it out — it’s small enough to sit anywhere — turn it on, load a sheet of paper, and start printing.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?