Top 5 mistakes made by Linux first-timers

Are you new to Linux? Then don’t let these common missteps spoil your first experiences.

Tux the penguin is used as the Linux mascot

Tux the penguin is used as the Linux mascot

With the arrival of Ubuntu 10.10, the list of reasons to try Linux for your business just got a little longer. The free and open source operating system is now more user-friendly than it's ever been before while still offering the many security and other advantages it has over its competitors.

If you're among the legions of new Linux users out there, congratulations on making a smart move! Now that you're on your way to a lifetime of freedom from high costs, vendor lock-in, constant malware attacks, and the many other disadvantages associated with Windows and Mac OS X, you should be aware of some of the classic mistakes Linux newcomers sometimes make.

None of these should be deal-breakers, by any means. Nevertheless, an early heads-up can help prevent unnecessary frustration. Without further ado, here are five key things you should avoid when starting out with desktop Linux.

1. Expecting Windows

Humans are creatures of habit, so after years of using Windows -- or Mac, if that's the case -- it's hard not to expect what you're used to every time you use a computer.

Ubuntu and recent Linux distributions have incorporated many user-friendliness features from their Windows and Mac competitors in recent years, so there is actually going to be quite a bit of similarity these days -- much more than there used to be. When it comes right down to it, though, even consumer-ready Maverick Meerkat isn't Windows, and you shouldn't expect it to be.

This is not--I repeat, NOT--to say that things are harder. Linux is not more difficult to use, especially if you're on a modern distro like Ubuntu. It is, however, different. It might take you a little bit of time to get used to its slightly different way of doing things. Don't let that put you off -- a small learning curve will gain you a lifetime of advantages.

2. Running as Root Unnecessarily

One of the big differences between Linux and Windows is that Linux users don't typically have "root," or administrator, access. That's a very good thing for security, and it's something you should take care to preserve by not running as root unnecessarily.

That said, you should not fear running as root, either. There are some tasks that require root privileges, and for good reason. Just make sure you do it only when necessary.

3. Using Google to Find Software

If you're coming to Linux from Windows, for example, you're used to the hunt-and-peck approach to finding new software packages online -- and then, doubtless, paying dearly for them. One of the beauties of Linux, however, is that it makes this process much easier -- not to mention generally free.

Most every Linux distribution has a package manager, and that's one of the first things you need to find. In Ubuntu, it's the Ubuntu Software Center, and it is your friend. With the package manager, you'll be able to find just about any software you need, and probably for free.

4. Fearing the Command Line

It's a testament to how far Linux -- and operating systems in general -- have come that many people have never had to use a command line. With distributions like Ubuntu Maverick Meerkat, you still won't have to, for most purposes.

Don't live in fear of the command line, though. It's no more difficult to type in a few short commands than it is to click through the necessary screens in a GUI, and it can be both faster and more effective. I'm not saying you need to seek it out, necessarily, but if something comes up that requires it, don't stress out.

5. Giving Up Too Easily

Change can be hard, no matter how simple the technology you're changing to might actually be. It's important to remember that you weren't born knowing how to run Windows or OS X, either -- you had to learn and get used to it.

Same goes with Linux. It might feel a little different from what you're used to, but that doesn't mean it's hard or bad -- it's just different. Stick with it just a little longer, though, and you'll soon stop noticing the areas where it's different from Windows or Mac. Stay a little longer, and you'll start seeing that many of the ways Linux does things actually make more sense. After that, it won't be long before you can't imagine going back.

Follow Katherine Noyes on Twitter: @Noyesk.

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags open sourceLinuxoperating systemsunixsoftwareWindowsnon-WindowsMac OS

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

Katherine Noyes

PC World (US online)
Show Comments

Cool Tech

Toys for Boys

Family Friendly

Stocking Stuffer

SmartLens - Clip on Phone Camera Lens Set of 3

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Brand Post

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Aysha Strobbe

Microsoft Office 365/HP Spectre x360

Microsoft Office continues to make a student’s life that little bit easier by offering reliable, easy to use, time-saving functionality, while continuing to develop new features that further enhance what is already a formidable collection of applications

Michael Hargreaves

Microsoft Office 365/Dell XPS 15 2-in-1

I’d recommend a Dell XPS 15 2-in-1 and the new Windows 10 to anyone who needs to get serious work done (before you kick back on your couch with your favourite Netflix show.)

Maryellen Rose George

Brother PT-P750W

It’s useful for office tasks as well as pragmatic labelling of equipment and storage – just don’t get too excited and label everything in sight!

Cathy Giles

Brother MFC-L8900CDW

The Brother MFC-L8900CDW is an absolute stand out. I struggle to fault it.

Luke Hill

MSI GT75 TITAN

I need power and lots of it. As a Front End Web developer anything less just won’t cut it which is why the MSI GT75 is an outstanding laptop for me. It’s a sleek and futuristic looking, high quality, beast that has a touch of sci-fi flare about it.

Emily Tyson

MSI GE63 Raider

If you’re looking to invest in your next work horse laptop for work or home use, you can’t go wrong with the MSI GE63.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?