5 things to do first with Ubuntu

Start off your life with Linux on the right foot by following these few beginning steps.

3. Explore the Community

It has often been said that the vibrant community of users and developers surrounding each distribution is Linux's "killer app," and I think in many ways that is true. Ubuntu is no exception. Not only is there free documentation and live support chat for help with the distribution, but there are also Web forums, mailing lists and a Launchpad-based Q&A system, among other resources.

Even before you have any specific questions, it's a good idea to begin to explore this community so that you know what's out there when you need it. The resources available far outshine what any proprietary vendor's 800-number could ever provide.

4. Try the Command Line

Many refugees from the Windows world arrive on Linux terrified of the command line, and that's understandable--on Windows, it can be a scary thing. Commands can also appear like gobbledy-gook to those not familiar with them. On Linux, however, they are just one more way to get things done, and in some cases it can be a lot more efficient than going through the graphical user interface's menus.

To get to the command-line interface terminal in Ubuntu, go to "Applications" and then "Accessories" and choose "Terminal." Try the command "ls ~" as an example. That simply tells Ubuntu to list the files that are in your home directory. Alternatively, the "man" command is used to display the manual of other commands; try typing in "man man" to get the man page for "man" itself.

Ubuntu's help section on the command line is a nice place to learn about the various commands and what you can do with them. You'll soon see there's nothing to be scared of. You may, in fact, even begin to prefer using the command line for some tasks, as I have. If nothing else, if you ever have to use the command line for some reason, you won't stress out.

5. Visit the Update Manager

Ubuntu will automatically notify you when security updates and software upgrades are available, but you should also be aware of the Ubuntu Update Manager, a simple and easy-to-use application that helps you stay on top of updates. Simply go to "System" and "Administration" and choose "Update Manager" from the drop-down menu. There, you can see any available updates and choose to download them, if you haven't already.

It may be a distant dream at this point, but it's certain that you were not born an expert on Windows or Mac OS X. Rather, you had to learn and get used to them. Same goes for Linux. It may feel a bit different from what you've become accustomed to over many long years using another operating system, but it's actually a lot more logical and straightforward. Don't give up too easily; for a little bit of perseverance, you'll be rewarded with a lifetime of freedom from high prices, malware and lock-in with a single vendor.

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Katherine Noyes

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