back to article The netbook newbie's guide to Linux

Thanks to their design as appliances, you can get down to useful work straight away with any of the new breed of Linux-based netbooks. But sooner or later, a fair few folk come up against the unfamiliarity of Linux. And, like the legendary tribe of pygmies, you may find yourself jumping up and down in the head-high long grass …


This topic is closed for new posts.
  1. frymaster

    Very clear :)

    It's pitched just a leetle bit below my level but this is very well put together :) There's nothing I hate more than guides that basically say "to do x, perform magical incantation y" and don't explain what's going on

    more of this sort of stuff, please (even if this specific series is unlikely to tell me, personally, anything)

  2. Anonymous Coward

    Root password...

    Actually the reason Acer do not supply the root password for the AspireOne is that the user configures that on the initial boot of the laptop.

    So - no security hole, just good practice not to supply 1000's of laptops with the same root password !

    What an astonishingly high standard of research must have gone in to this article.

  3. Steve

    Good article

    As the title says - very interesting.

    Whilst I have nothing against Linux (use it on a few servers I look after), the article does highlight the problems with it still.

    Windows XP or Vista (possibly earlier versions too), you just go to "Network" and it lists the computers. Double click and you see the shares. Double click the share and you see all the files.

    All in the GUI.

    I'll check back in another couple of years to see if Linux has grown out of stupid names for it's applications, different apps that do the same thing depending on the distro and provides a GUI for the VAST majority of interaction the user will do.

    P.S. Not flaming - just a bit disappointed that even something as simple as browsing to a fileshare on the Linux netbooks can still be so tricky for newbie users. One day soon the manufacturers will get it right and actually spend some time refining these sort of things and put their changes back into the community.

  4. Steve
    Thumb Up


    Finally someone is writing an easy to follow guide to Linux command line, keep it coming!

  5. Arnold Lieberman
    Gates Halo

    If this is what n00bs have to do...'s no wonder the return rate on Freetardix netbooks is higher than the Paytard ones.

  6. CN Hill

    All well and good

    I learned DOS about 20 odd years ago. About 16 years ago, when Windows 3.1 came out, I no longer had to remember obscure commands, switches, and the rest of it, or go delving into thick manuals to work out exactly what it was that I needed.

    I know a lot of you don't like Windows on principle, but command lines! For heaven's sake, haven't we moved on past this? I'm sure I could go back to raw coding in bytes if I had to, but the world has moved on. It's time Linux did.

  7. John Imrie
    Thumb Up

    Spaces in usernames and passwords

    If you have a space in your username or password you can do one of the following

    1) put a \ before each and every space

    sudo mount -t cifs -o user=bid\ mead,pass=whatever // /mnt/mountpoint

    2) put the paramater inside ' characters

    sudo mount -t cifs -o 'user=bid mead,pass=whatever' // /mnt/mountpoint

    Thumbs up for a good beginners guide though

  8. Peter Methven

    Steve ...

    Steve, just for your info the issue isn't with "linux" itself, its with the interaction between windows and linux. Samba allows a linux machine to talk a "filesystem" which isn't native to the "operating system" and to share a linux native filesystem in a manner that windows can understand. I think thats actually pretty impressive!

    Simply put windows uses SMB/CIFS and most unix systems use NFS, unfortunately no windows user ever sees the need to setup windows to talk NFS, but linux users often have a need to talk SMB/CIFS.

    If you have all linux machines then the network file system (NFS) which can be native to most operating systems (including windows if people configure it) is one of the most straight forward networked file systems you can use. (in my opinion).

    There are also gui file systems which will happily go off and see windows file shares, however for what ever reason the notebooks such as the acer one and asus eeepc have gone with other applications.

    But I agree with your point about too many applications to do the same thing, its both a credit and a curse to GNU/LINUX.

  9. The BigYin

    This is why Linux fails

    You *need* to go to a command window to mount a share? How very 1980s.

    How you you send an email? Tap the network cable in Morse code or something?

    No wonder Windows leaves Linux in the dust.

  10. Mark
    Gates Horns


    As opposed to "iEverything" and "WinThingumybob"?

    Looking for a reason (however moronic) to disallow Linux.

  11. Steven Raith


    The only reason that the netbooks are a pain in the arse to browse network shares is because the manufacturers use shitty implementations.

    Find an Ubuntu box, go to Places, Network... and lo, see the local Windows machines around you.

    It's faster than Network Neighbourhood as well in my experience.

    Don't confuse Linux with "Linpus" or any of the other manufacture sponsored installs.

    That's like saying all cars are slow because all you have driven is a 1.1 Fiesta Popular Plus. It's crippled because it's for idiots, the larger, real versions are far nicer to use.

    Steven R

  12. James Le Cuirot


    I mostly skimmed through this since it's nothing new to me but it seems like a good intro to the command line. Having said that, it's giving Linux a bad name. I don't know about what's pre-installed on the AA1 but there are GUIs to do all of these things, including the "Network" thing that Steve mentioned above. I don't use any of them but that's just me. I live on the command line.

  13. Tony Smith, Editor, Reg Hardware (Written by Reg staff)

    @Steve Raith

    Netbooks are not for idiots, Steve, simply people who want to do basic computer tasks.

    A fair few of them have become enthused enough to learn more about Linux but get put of by smart-arse forums that tell you you're a dick because you've not been running Debian for the last ten years, or writing your own programming language. I know this isn't what you're saying, but just do a search on almost any Linux-oriented forum and you'll find many, many examples.

    This piece - and the other parts of the series to come - was inspired by my frustration with that kind 'holier than thou, clever that thou' attitude, which is worse because it alienates the very people Linux ought to be trying to get on its side.

    Time to grow up, folks - or just have done with it and state that Linux is only for the chosen few, and we can leave you all in your happy little OS apartheid.

    BTW, I have a netbook. And I'd love to try a "larger, real version" of Linux. The snag: bits of the hardware stop working when I do. Again, something the Linux community needs to address - we're not all kernel and driver coders.

  14. Greg


    This puzzled me too. Never used the Aspire 1 or any of the other netbooks, but my Linux distro of choice (Ubuntu) behaves exactly as you would expect - all in the gui, browse shares on the network. Simple as a simple thing. I'm amazed the Aspire doesn't have something similar, maybe someone else can enlighten me.

    To be honest, my first thought when I started reading the article was "why are we straight into the terminal" - I can only assume that the Aspire either doesn't have, or hides, the gui tools for the applications being discussed. Don't get me wrong, it's an interesting article, but maybe a bit scary for a new user coming from Windows.

  15. Rob Beard

    Pretty good article

    It's nice to see some tutorials on how to do these things.

    To be honest, the majority of people who would probably buy these mini notebooks for web browsing wouldn't even think of connecting to network shares. It's a bit disappointing to see that Acer didn't include some sort of tool to connect to Windows shares in the GUI, but then with things like Ubuntu Netbook Remix coming out, those who want to do things like this will be able to.

    @ CN Hill

    Sometimes using the command line can be MUCH faster than using a GUI. I often just crack open a Terminal (or on Windows a command prompt) as what I do is quicker and easier using the command line than using the slow lumbering GUI (yes, that's on Windows too!). That's just me though, I can understand that some people just can't be bothered with terminal windows.


  16. Mark
    Thumb Down


    "Again, something the Linux community needs to address - we're not all kernel and driver coders."

    Not really.

    Something the linux community CAN address, but not something they NEED to address.

    Oh, and someone tell me how to get Windows Vista to see






    Windows "server" my arse.

  17. Douglas Lowe

    @Tony Smith

    The Linux community generally addresses hardware compatibility issues as quickly as it can. It's the hardware manufacturers who drag their feet and don't provide the same level of support that they provide Windows users.

  18. Mark Honman
    Thumb Down

    Keeping it simple

    This emphasis on the command line does a disservice to Linux systems. As an old-timer I usually dive into the command line because it works consistently on just about any kind of Unix system (another big advantage of *nix).

    However with the rise of netbooks the friends who just want to do a bit of internetting get the horrors when I explain the quick way of doing things.

    So, any takers on how to do useful stuff on a netbook without command-line magic?

    Here is the first step to AA1 bliss without the command-line

    hit Alt-F2 to get a dialog in which you can specify the program you want to run.

    Type xfce-setting-show and press Enter

    Click on the Display icon and on the Advanced tab (I think... our AA1 has a bat flattery) tick "Show root menu on right-click".

    You can now right-click on the AA1's desktop to get a menu of all installed programs.

    From the System submenu, there is a Package Manager GUI that can be used to download and install programs.

    Newly installed programs can be accessed from the right-click menu. Putting programs in the Acer menu is text editor stuff, unfortunately.

    Other niggles with the article...

    so what about no root login... that's so 20th century. Open a terminal window and type "sudo su" and the world's your ostrich.

  19. Christopher Martin

    Way more complicated than necessary?

    I run ubuntu - and as I remember, acquiring full compatibility with Windows shares was just a matter of asking Synaptic nicely for the samba package, and then using Nautilus almost identically to how I would have with Windows Explorer back in those days.

    I think either your chosen distro is seriously lacking some features, or you're actually Mr. Ballmer infiltrating El Reg to scare newbies away from linux on their netbooks.

  20. Francis Fish

    I get by with Ubuntu Wubi inside Windows

    Like the series and think it's a very good idea, by the way. Lots of these Linux appliances are appearing and they can really fly with some help. Back to my point though.

    Wubi meant I didn't have to mess with my windows install, it runs native 64 bit, and it just works with all my devices. So when I need to do some work with my iPhone I can boot windows and it just works too.

    I also recommend the newly-published "Ubuntu Kung Fu" if you want to get Ubuntu to work well, lots of the tips work fine for all Linuxes.

    I do think that you still have to mess with Ubuntu too much - to get the sexy 3D desktop (on a machine that can't run Vista!) and a Mac-like interface (using AWN manager) with all the nice rendering took quite a bit of digging and reading Linux journal. The default Gnome install with the awful desktop backgrounds is horrible. Took a good couple of weeks of messing about to get it looking as good as I knew it could.

    So, the appliance manufacturers have tried to make their machines not look like an advert for dog poo and start with a decent-looking desktop that doesn't need messing with to be productive. Good on 'em.

  21. Kwac


    So Windows leaves Linux in the dust because it uses command line?

    Surely the paytards have clicked on 'Start', then Run' types 'cmd' followed by

    'sfc /scannow?

    Or do they just take their box down to PC World to let a 'professional' sort it out?

    Must confess, I don't use command line in linux much, just click like the Windows' users.

  22. Steve

    RE: @Steve's

    Thanks for the replies everyone (other than Mark who can go do one)

    Fair point that it's the implementation rather than the platform itself regarding having to mount file shares.

    Though I do stick to my other two points... (YUM? Why not "Updater" or "AppMgr" if your aiming for the mainstream user...?)

    It's a shame that OEM's are doing this, as it's tarnishing the name of Linux. Ironic that an open platform is this limited out the box when it comes from these particular builders....

  23. Anonymous Coward

    What you HAVE to do?

    Try to keep on thread, guys, this is a basic introduction to the command line - why drag GUIs into it?

    Note the first paragraph - see where it says that it takes a linux aficionado an effort to get to the command line?

    No, you don't have to use the command line to mount a share, but you can CHOOSE to do so if you know how/what you are doing. This article is an attempt to remedy the ignorance endemic amongst those that have little knowledge beyond 'turn off your computer and turn it back on again".

  24. Anonymous Coward

    /mnt is *temporary* mount point

    "We'll start by creating an empty directory, the 'mountpoint'. In accordance with long Unix tradition, this belongs under the /mnt directory"

    Maybe under the old days of Unix but according to the Linux Filesystem Hierarchy Standard

    "/mnt : Mount point for a temporarily mounted filesystem


    This directory is provided so that the system administrator may temporarily mount a filesystem as needed."

  25. Charlie van Becelaere

    @CN Hill

    I also am a former DOS user (I even have the I heart DOS bumper sticker from PC Computing to prove it). However, it's the odd day that goes by where I don't open a command window in Windows (XP) to do something.

    Frankly, I'm tired of the "choose something from the menu" model - I'm much more of a "tell the PC what to do" kind of guy. I think command lines are here to stay, even if they're only infrequently-invoked options within a GUI.

  26. Winston Smith

    About that editor...

    Nice article, and the series promises to be a big help to new users who want to get a little more out of their machine than the manufacturer had in mind. But there was one little shock towards the end:

    "I don't need to tell you how to use [vi] here, because the MSI Wind Suse Linux implementation comes complete with all the Unix man - for 'manual' - pages. If your machine is an MSI Wind, just type man vi."

    Now, I've been using vi in various forms for 15 years, and I happily (even evangelically) recommend it as a very powerful text editor. But to tell a Linux newbie (whom you assume has not previously used "less") to try using vi with ONLY the man page as a guide... Well, I can't think of anything that will drive the poor n00b away from Linux any faster than that. The mode-switching alone may invoke cold sweats when he tries to escape (literally) from an inscrutable tilde-filled screen.

    Of course, vi *can* be learned, and learned very well, but I think that this particularly gentle reader would be better served by a link to a vi usage guide or tutorial. This was the first good option I could find in a hurry:

  27. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

    Good intro to the command line, but there are GUI's too

    At last, a reference to Wikipedia on the register without saying wackypedia. At least one person at vulture central has seen that there are some good articles there.

    By all means, introduce people who are interested in command lines to less, but consider <shift><page up>.

    @CN Hill: Linux has GUI interfaces for almost everything. For some purposes, the command line is a better choice. As far as I know (I have not used MS software for about a decade) Microsoft have taken the choice away from you, so you cannot easily perform some tasks from a command line interface in Windows. Next time you are suffering from the death of a thousand mouse clicks, remember that I could accomplish the same task in seconds from the command line.

    Linux forums can be unfriendly to newbies. There are several possible reasons. A small minority of penguinistas do not want a bunch of computer illiterates encouraging malware authors to target Linux. Sometimes a script kiddie is being rude to hide his ignorance or to feel superior. The most common reason is that the newbie has not demonstrated any effort to look for existing solutions. Unfortunately not all penguinistas point newbies at

    If you want things to happen automatically, without having to reach all the way over to the mouse, then the command line is to first step to learning how to create scripts. Here are some resources I wish I had found when I first met the command line:

    When you read the manual, it is displayed by a program called 'less'. Learn what you can do with less by typing: "man less"

    The next step is to learn what you can do with the manual. Type "man man".

    Command names can be a bit cryptic, but that last page should have told you the solution. Try: "man -k cifs"

    The GNU project has issues with the man pages. They prefer the info pages. Type "info info" to learn how to read them. If you know vaguely what to do, but need a reminder of the details, the man pages are the best choice. If you are exploring unfamiliar territory, the info system is more useful.

    Very often, newbies (and Gurus) collect together related infomation into a tutorial (a HOWTO). Check out the Linux documentation project ( Before diving into one of the documents (find the right one in, check the date. If the one you are interested in is two years old, you can safely assume that no-one has updated the HOWTO because modern software tools have made the task trial.

  28. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Application Names

    yum, apt-get and rpm may be not be useful names but it's all a matter of what you know. Why isn't Power Point an application that has something to do with plugging my laptop in? Or Excel as a training tool? Or Word as a dictionary... perhaps it is a dictionary with a bit of bloat. Visual Studio can't make movies. Skype, Firefox, Chrome, Outlook Express, lots of program names aren't that descriptive.

    All that aside, good start to a series of articles. Hope the focus broadens.

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    it doesn't mean run this command as root, it can mean that, but it doesn't have to.

    man sudo

    Terminal first, oh no, straight to console or the bootloader command line.

    Gosh, people have unix heroes, oh no, it is all gone horribly wrong :)

    Your hero should be your library, and you mad man && grep skillzs, not some piece of meat.

    If this is your first night with unix, then you have to code.

  30. Anonymous Coward

    wipe it

    or you could just wipe it and install what should have been on in the first place:

  31. Mark Abbott

    Really a newbie guide?

    It seems that the people who like and understand the article are used to Linux. Those who don't like or understand the article aren't Linux experts. So it seems that this newbie guide is only useful to non-newbies...

    Why on earth are we looking at terminal and command-line stuff for the first article? How about a guide to summarise the differences between the various flavours of Linux used on netbooks? How do they compare with Windows? Why choose Linux over the Win XP version?

    Or how about a guide on how and where things are stored (e.g. the equivalent of My Documents or Applications)? How to install new programmes? For example, what's the difference between installing programmes in Linux vs Windows or Mac? Or what's the difference between user and root?

    But most importantly, why can't we have at least one newbie guide to Linux that doesn't mention terminal? It just gives people the fear.



    The article is good as an article, but I'm not really sure who it is aimed at. People who want a simple point-click, know-nothing-beneath-the-bonnet interface get exactly that from the netbook manufacturers.

    People who want a more Linux-y experience will probably install Ubuntu or one of the other full-featured "proper" Linux distributions. Who would actually want to tinker about in the command line of the netbook's restricted distribution? And why? OK, I know that some people will, but are they likely to need an article like this?

  33. tardigrade

    Needs perspective.

    Reading this article made me concerned that it would simply just be jumped upon by WinTards as another reason to justify labelling Linux as being backwards and hard to use, because it deals with setting up a network share via the terminal. Sure enough the usual comments are in evidence here.

    It may have been a good idea to point out first that the majority of distro's automatically pick up Windows networks in the GUI from the get go. Then point out that picking up a non platform file system automatically is something that a supposedly fully featured Windows Server hasn't a hope in hell of doing. But thanks to the software on your little SCC, it can do this and provide the ability for any Windows PC or server to access the Linux filesystem without installing client software on the target computer.

    Then go on to say that the instructions show you how to do so on a distro that does not feature this in the GUI as standard. You could then point out that even with this feature lacking initially in the GUI, the OS is still far more able and featured for network tasks than the network crippled Windows XP Home. Which is a valid comparison for a minimal striped down Linux OS that runs on Netbooks.

    You could then, if you felt boisterous enough, explain how to set up the little SCC as a Windows domain controller network web, ftp, webdav, cvs, svn, email, proxy, spamfilter, virus scanner, file and print server.

    This might go some way to deflecting the more ill-considered comments about how one particular Linux distro on a netbook can't automatically see a non native file system from a different OS...

    ...then point out again for good measure that Windows can't do this anyway without the Open Source software that your SCC is using.

    Thank you.

    Do I have a chip on my shoulder about this?

    Yes. Pass the Ketchup.

  34. Anonymous Coward

    noobie guide

    aye - right.

    sorry - in all fairness a very good introduction but yes, why dive straight into "terminal" when a fully functional linux operating system can be achieved without resorting to anything more complicated than icons and data boxes (AKA ubuntu 804 as per my test box)

    problems? one possible dilemma springs to mind - after installing the operating system how does one install a network card ... in the event that linux can't access it? thereafter how does one ensure the best updates to make the most of sound and vision. THAT would be an eminently suitable "chapter one" for linux noobies. [yes, I know about the "try before you install" option that will retain extra drivers for use during the final install... what if I install without putting windows in first?]

    I was lucky, ubuntu recognised my mobo sufficiently to be online as soon as I installed (and noticed the network activation icon). oh... I did try centaur but baulked before the installation began and had already chosen to avoid fedora after seeing a mate spend so much time typing lines in terminal that require half a dozen "tab" presses. Can't comment about Suzie or RedHat - feel free to enlighten me.

    I am a troo noobie in a linux environment, despite (or perhaps because) I taught myself DOS (initially version 3... then 6) 28 years ago when it came on a single floppy disk and have suffered the many fold insults of upgrading to windows 3.11, win95, win98, 98SE* (bypassed 2k and millennium editions within seconds of seeing them in [in]action) and finally embraced XP circa SP2 when I was unable to access the full potential of growing hard disk sizes. I ain't changing lightly - I'm fed up to the back teeth of the crap and bloat that erupts from Redmond. I am obliged to keep XP running purely for entertainment purposes but as of last week I made the commitment and am now searching out the maximum number of ways to use linux on a day-to-day basis and thus to be reliant on M$ only for the things that absolutely cannot be obtained elsewhere.

    Two things I ask... a true "noobieguide" to take me by the grubby sweaty hand and lead me to the promised nix ... and a piece of incredibly brilliant coding that can emulate a windows operating system, capable of taking windows drivers, windows software, directX9/10 and thus accept large windows-dependent games.

    * win98SE - the first OS after DOS that I liked AND liked me hence my reluctance to shift

  35. jake Silver badge

    vi? Not vim?

    > If your machine is an MSI Wind, just type man vi.

    Thus promptly killing any interest a noob might have in learning about UNIX-like operating systems. Let's face it, the man pages are mostly useful if you already know the basics.

    Besides, these days vi is usually a link to vim, so instead try `man vim` ...

    Disclaimer: I learned vi in 1980ish, at Berkeley. It's been my go-to text editor ever since. I'm typing this in vi, on an IBM Model M keyboard, attached to an IBM type 3151 terminal, which is in turn is plugged into the serial port on my laptop's docking station, providing a bash prompt running on Slackware.

    Why? Because I've been a Slack user since 1.0, my fingers know vi, my fingers LOVE the Model M for touch typing, and my eyes really appreciate the 3151. No distractions between brain and ASCII in ~ ... I'll save to ~, then copy/paste to the browser on the console when I'm ready to post. Geekish? Absolutely ... but it gets worse. I actually have a login that I use for serious writing that uses vi as my shell ...

  36. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    These articles are for the Linux people

    not the newbies.

    It gives a chance for the slightly older newbies to pontificate about why they didn't get the help they think they deserved, but instead put that onto the new newbies to deflect attention from their little RTFM worn ear drums.

    If you want to learn the command line start each line with man <space> then a random letter, <tab> a few random times, hit <enter> then read all that appears and repeat.

  37. Dave

    Why YUM?

    YUM = Yellowdog Update Manager

    Yellowdog is/was a Linux distribution aimed at PowerPC systems. Based on RedHat.

  38. Darren7160
    Thumb Up

    Education and Constructionsit Learning

    Education is my primary focus. From there I use it as a means to help people learn what they need to know. Whether it is at work or with something such as using a computer. This usually entails an overview so a person is able to see how things relate to, rather than describing the forest by detailing individual trees.

    I appreciate the intro to the Terminal. I have often been frustrated when instructed to go to the Terminal and do something that I don't understand.

    However, I would love to see a regular article that begins with an overview of the system and how they relate, then the individual parts and then onto higher level tasks.

    For example, though I have been using computers since the VIC 20 I have yet to really understand the file structure of Linux. It just doesn't make sense because with c:\ I know that I am (most likely) seeing a physical drive from its root. If I want to know where programs are I can look in c:\programs, etc.

    I lost my Windows Vista install (no great loss, but a loss none the less) because I screwed up not understanding how Ubuntu and Windows can coexist on a hard drive because of the confusing file structure and terminology. I am not saying that Linux is a bad structure or anything, just confusing to someone who has no previous knowledge of it as is coming at it from a DOS/Windows background.

    I can install a program and it doesn't load an icon on the desktop or appear on my start menu I know I can go to the c:\programs directory and look for a directory that has the program I just installed and drag the application to my desktop... When I somehow manage to install a program from a distribution not loaded with my Add/Remove it is 50-50 whether or not I will be able to get it on my Applications menu. OppenOffice 3.0 is an example. I was able to load it by installing it from copying and pasting the process from someones tutorial on the internet... but it didn't "update" 2.4 it just loaded it onto my computer somewhere. I was able to finally get it (sort of) on my menu, but I could not figure out a way to see associations from 2.4 to 3.0.

    These types of things need to be addressed. An overview of Linux, its file structure, what the different directories and how they work, etc. Then getting into the Terminal to do things to the system.

    I love my Ubuntu I have loaded on my Acer Aspire 5100 and enjoy tinkering and learning... but the frustration of people assuming we have knowledge we don't posses is frustrating.

    My point is, in education, I never assume that a person has the requisite knowledge. In person I can ask, in writing I presume that they don't. The same with Linux. I would really love to see a weekly article starting from the beginning. Just like the old days when computer magazines would give tips and tutorials on how to use programs.

    Good article.

  39. Jonathan

    Way Beyond Newbie Level

    I really don't think that this article really is suitable for newbies, perhaps people who are new to Linux but can program Windows programs in their sleep? I don't think the average user at the moment even understands how command prompts work, let alone all of the complex instructions offered up here. I certainly wouldn't be giving this guide to my father and tell him to go for it.

    As much as I like Linux, the entire OSS movement seems to design everything so that a high level of technical knowledge is necessary to even use the software, it seems like with no motivation to make things stupid-proof (I.E. big corporate paychecks) we don't bother.

    Also I really can't fathom some of the comments on this, in my experience with Linux I find I need to keep a terminal window open nearly all the time, to say that the GUI tools allow you to do everything is the exact opposite of my experience. I also use Windows and I would say that my incidence of using the terminal in Windows is probably about once a month, far from nearly constantly like in Linux (Fedora 9 right now).

  40. Cody

    Very strange article

    Very strange article indeed. First off, there is no reason for the average new user with this machine to EVER use a terminal. So it is completely weird to start out with this. Second, you don't even tell them, having decided for some bizarre reason to get into the terminal, useful information about it. If you are going to teach the terminal, fine, but start with simple stuff and move up. Pipes, for Heavens' sake! This is simply ridiculous.

    Third, you show a very strange mixture of the sophisticated and the totally uninformed. Like, Linpus is just a variant of Red Hat, which you don't seem to realize. You are puzzled by Xfce, which has been around for ever and is probably the third after KDE and and Gnome, and anyway not much different from Gnome.

    It would be much more helpful for the average user of these boxes to explain to them how to use Linpus in GUI mode. Then mention to them that there is such a thing a a terminal, and Scott Graneman's excellent little book is the best introduction to it, if you really do want to go there. I realize that the Register audience is probably not the one to direct this to. But you are falling between two stools. Its way too sophisticated for the naive user. And its not what someone who knows much about computing needs.

    This, by the way, is experience talking. I know ladies of bus pass age who are happily using linux on these machines to write letters, collect recipes, email, shop, look at pictures of their grandchildren, all the usual stuff, and wouldn't ever think about getting acquainted with terminals or pipes. And quite right too!

  41. Anonymous Coward

    No root shell? really? NOT!

    so... nobody saw the OBVIOUS root shell ?

    anyone ??

    since we have a command that can execute other commands with root-level access, and we have a command prompt....

    sudo bash

    ring any bells ?

  42. Mark

    martin, elreg an tardigrade

    tardigrade, to be fair they are now pointing out how bad vista is if you go to the netbook roundup, so they aren't clueless. You might have been better off mailing the author with suggestions.

    elreg/martin, problem is most notebooks have been half-arsed configured by retailers who have to use Linux to get the "from £170!" ticket but don't want to have many people buying linux (they probably lose some MS kickback on a linux sale. So a noob needs to know how to undo the damage. Unlike Vista Lite, at least you *can* undo the damage.

    And if someone is going to be scared at the command line, how comethey claim they NEED Photoshop or, worse, Excel (or the VBA which is FAR scarier than a command line)?

  43. Anonymous Coward

    Consumer software?

    Although linux distros are an interesting 'toy' to play with I really do not think it is yet 'Consumer ready' to launch a coup against M$ windows. There are too many fanbois slagging windows off and saying how great Linux is, but no one seems to be making an effort to make it user friendly for the average user. In my 'world' everyone uses Office and windows (2000 or XP) so there is not the interest in changing to a different OS. At least Windows is almost install and use out of the box. Ubuntu, which I have installed on an old laptop seems to come the clsoest so far.

  44. Richard Hebert

    About Dave

    Sorry to hear Steve.We all need a Dave in our lives.

    A spot check. A reference. I call Philippe my sanity check.

    Loosing a friend is always hard.

    From all of us, to his family and yourself our sincere condoleances.

    The article is nice. But what we forget at times as readers , is the

    people behind the keyboards.

    All the best , and by all means , find a new " sanity check "

    God do you ever need one :)


  45. Wortel

    First things first

    My condolances, I am sorry to see a great mind leave this world, your friend will be missed Mr.Bidmead.

    Now as for the rest of you lot, yes you the complainers!

    Linux IS NOT Windows, get used to that fact already! sheesh, it has been 17 years already!

  46. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Bloody good article

    Bloody good article, sadly below my level now, but I wish I had had access to this sort of thing when I was learning Linux. Instead I had to deal with the sort of smug wankers who presumed that because I used Windows I had no idea what a command line was (I have one open all the time and batch scripting was part of my job at the time), or those that diliberately made the system appear more complex than it really was, presumably the linux-geek version of a cock extention.

    The linux community can be like a worldwide clique, if you don't use linux or unix you often can't get in except by learning by yourself to the level whereby you are accepted. Oh, and don't even think of being critical in any way... This attitude has put off a lot of people I know from getting into linux.

  47. Dave Bell

    Some of us are forgetting the key point.

    This is for people who have bought a small, cheap, computer. That machine, and the installed OS, is the starting point.

    And this filesharing setup is a simple, useful, example of how to use the command line. There might be a GUI utility, but you can build onwards from this installment towards a shell script, which can be set to run when you click on an icon.

    Frankly, if I had one of these machines I wouldn't give a monkey's what your favourite Linux might be able to do. I'd want to know how to use what I've got.

  48. Morten Bjoernsvik

    Replace the distro

    I replaced Xandros with Opensuse11 on my eee901, Everything works except bluetooth and the four upper left special buttons. I really recommend you install a popular distro on it instead of the crippled factory installed one.

  49. wibble
    Thumb Up

    Not another MS vs Linux flame

    How many 'newbie' netbook users read The Reg! This article seems to be aimed at MS 'power users' looking to try an alternative OS.

    My 'better half' (like most people) is an INTERNET user, she has never seen the command line and probably never will. She tried Vista and found it 'to in my face' and so I installed Ubuntu. I've had to 'support' it myself by explaining why she should click the 'update thingy'.

    This type of article is needed as some people need more knowledge and the 'community' is not always the best place to get that. I bet Dave would have taken the time to explain to the 'newbie' that MS are not the computer or the internet.

    One criticism, if you have X-window type GUI installed, use another editor. vi(vim) is not a good starting point. gedit or kate can be started from the command line but will give the user a much more familiar interface.

  50. William Towle

    Go Go Gadget CLI

    @CN Hill, "All well and good"

    <quote>command lines! For heaven's sake, haven't we moved on past this? I'm sure I could go back to raw coding in bytes if I had to, but the world has moved on. It's time Linux did.</quote>

    This meme needs to move on. As long as there is a requirement for cross-platform-standard tools such as {if|ip}config/trace{route|rt}/ping/netstat (etc), there will be a command line on both Windows, Linux. and so on from which to run them. There is *nothing* "stuck in the past" about this being the way things are.

    @Flocke Kroes "Good intro to the command line, but there are GUI's too"

    <quote>By all means, introduce people who are interested in command lines to less, but consider <shift><page up>.</quote>

    ...except you can't guarantee all terminals/terminal emulators have scrollbars or scrollback buffers. You do have a better guarantee that 'less' (or at least 'more') is around. Hence, in an article highlighting how cross-platform the Linux command line facilities are, that's what you get.

    // (multiple) thumbs up to the article, except I've picked my doppelganger again

  51. Mark

    Fanboi count

    There are a hell of a lot more windows fanbois slagging Linux off for "having weird names" and "I don't want to compile my kernel to get a printer to work" bullshit. So if the number of fanbois slagging off the competition is indicative of a failing market member, Windows is WELL out of the park.

  52. Jeremy Allison

    Don't need to use mount.cifs - use the GUI

    As one of the authors of mount.cifs it is insane to tell newbies to use this tool.

    Linux distributions these days include Gnome or KDE, and libsmbclient, the SMB browsing and file/print sharing service is integrated directly into Nautilus, the file browser for Gnome, and Konqueror, the file browser for KDE.

    Just bring up the GUI file browser and click on 'Network', for heavens sake.

    Jeremy Allison,

    Samba Team.

  53. Jase

    ....This is not what a netbook noobie wants....

    I bought my first PC 20 years ago and was a happy DOS user, then Windows came along and now, I use XP on all my machines at home and the wife has a Macbook. I bought an EEE 901 Xandros, not because I wanted to learn Linux, but because I want a little book sized thing for travel and for use at work through 3G as we are locked down in the office. I don't want to be faffing about with constant security updates or cleaning crap off of it or shelling out for yet another copy of NAV or bending over to pay for another copy of MS Orifice or using a 'borrowed' copy that MS uses as an excuse to interogate my PC whenever an update is required. In short I want a turn it on - turn it off thing for browsing, skype and a little light document editing when I'm away from home. The list of stuff that the 901 doesn't appear to have (or it may just be me) that I actually want on it is very small: An app for unrarring spanned rar files, a bit torrent client and drivers for a 3G modem other than the now discontinued Huawei E-220. Now even the 3G bit is unnecessary as I stupidly bought my 901 just before the 901 HSUPA thing was announced and quickly returned it so I can get the new one without worrying about 3G drivers and having a dongle sticking out the side. So the moment someone in the UK actually starts selling the new one I'll have that. I just want to be able to find/install a couple of little apps.

    When I was 21 I lived in the states and I bought an old Chevy Impala I'd do all the routine maintenance, change the oil, set the points with a dwell guage, fix whatever broke myself etc etc. 21 years later I know that somewhere underneath my car there is a sump plug but I don't give two cans of cold wee where it is as I just want to drive the thing. It's the same with a netbook. If Linux is ever going to break the MS hegemony, someone that wants to install a couple of little apps shouldn't have to fart around with command line interfaces and spend years nerding about developing an intimate understanding of the unique geekperating system installed on each PC.

    So, the beginners guide should be a beginners guide to Linux netbooks, not a beginners guide to the Linux CLI. Explain the file system rudiments, how to get to the advanced GUI, how to install an app. And, for those of you telling everyone that they should install Ubumtoo and ridiculing the less knowledgable, ask yourselves how you'd feel if the petrolhead next door told you you had to remap the ignition advanced curves on your Mondeo so you could fit a child seat in the back.

  54. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    That was possibly the wrost 'about linux' article I have ever read. It was both patronisting to the reader and self congratulatory to the author, right from the use of != in the title bar (very few Windows users would understand what this means, it's not something that is used in Windows.) through 'the problem is with you not us', to the 'don't expect proper support it's not a commercial system' crap. If you want to put Windows users off Linux without even trying it, posting that article would be the way to do it.

    Oh and the bit about RMS and Linus Torvalds not making money from increased useage of linux, priceless.

  55. Philip Nicholls Silver badge


    I cannot believe (and hope I did not miss it after scrolling quickly through previous posts) that nobody responded to the mention of the Fukarwi pygmies at the beginning of this piece. Allow me -

    40 (yes f.o.r.t.y.) years ago one would sing Rugby Songs in which the said tribe would be identified. Alongside Eskimo Nell, Barnacle Bill et al.

    One's natural delicacy prevents him from elucidating further.

    I do not know what is more troubling : That a Geek Hack pretends to have been a rugby player or that none of those who posted a response even knew.

    Zigga Zagga Zigga Zagga Ra Ra Ra

  56. Gordon Henderson

    My wife has one ...

    My wife bought one from the local Acer shop in South Brent (Moortek) It was 2nd hand, but the original owner had only had it a day. Anyway, it didn't seem quite right, so I re-flashed it from the supplied DVD and it asked for a password - which turned out to be the root password later on.

    She's yet to use the command-line... As a geek, I found it and had a quick poke around, then left her to it. su works to get to root and it has vi. (vim). As a Debian man, I'll re-read this article to find out a bit about yum, but the only thing I want to install on it is Ekiga - to see if it'll use the webcam as a video phone.

    Everything else "just works" for her. She can plug in her USB keys, camera flash card, it's on the home Wi-Fi, printers, etc. The only thing she has a gripe about is the same as the rest of us - why no Linux BBC iPlayer! But the streaming one works just fine, and she can catch-up with the Archers from the BBC R4 listen-again site...

    I'm now looking at re-building her XP desktop box with a Linux system - maybe xubuntu, but maybe I'll wait for a *ubuntu or Debian Lenny if it will come with openOffice 3...

  57. W

    Sudo perspective get | some

    These obscure broken netbook versions of Linux intentionally reduce a fairly powerful computing device to the level of "toy". Attempting to contort these locked down Linuxes into a fully fledged OS misses the point entirely by making a "normal" user feel less in control of their machine by requiring scary command line stuff.

    Yes, Windows has it's failures. And the "toy versions" of Linux are an attempt to solve 'em by introducing compromises for the "free internet machine with yer mobile contract" crowd.

    Beyond the "netbook as internet appliance" requirements, XP is the (mostly) decent compromise. A compromise that only costs circa £20 for the in-built license fee (an 512MB is perhaps advisable). Not a huge price to pay for a fully functional familiar OS that doesn't make the user feel resort to the call of "We're the Fukarwi".

    If you absolutely must have a "full" Linux OS, it would seem that Ubuntu gets the nod.

    But overall, Linux brings relatively little to the table for fairly clued-up, but non-geek, users. Serious security issues are no longer as clear cut as they were (and these days are ever more closely related to the user than the OS).

    So as an OS, I use Windows. Sue me.

    The version is largely irrelevant. But for the record, I use Vista on my Dell laptop cos it came with it and hasn't annoyed me to the point of me bothering to go through the upheaval of a re-install. XP was on my Dell desktop and has done it's job for 5+ years without the need for a re-install (but will soon get one).

    On hearing that Linux is a good option on older machines, I heavily researched and tried a few of the usual suspects that would support an old spec machine and tried 'em on an old hand-me-down Compaq laptop (Xubuntu, Fluxbuntu, Puppy, DSL, PCLinuxOS). Wireless support (even after faffing with forums and "fixes")? No dice. Experiment over. Back to Win98 and a mildly useful wireless machine.

    I gave it my all and really wanted to fall for Linux, but it didn't hook me at all. Whereas each version of windows has allowed me to dip right in from an original base of no knowledge and find my way around in a relatively pain-free manner.

    Personally I believe that the interface of 95/98 to be wholly sufficient for the tasks we're doing today. To me, pre-95 was a manageable wrestle. But post-98 windows has just been about adding a whole load of gloss but little user / technical functionality (i.e. things such as USB, Wi-Fi, internet, some extra (annoying) pre-defined MyDocs folders, a rationalised "system file tree" and other minor bits and bobs).

    It's still simply about a Desktop, a File Manager/Explorer, a Control Panel for Settings and some progs that sit on top. That's it (my biggest Vista bugbear is their attempts to re-introduce the aborted, superfluous Active Desktop).

    Anyway, about those progs...

    I use a host of FOSS/FS/OSS like Firefox/Opera, Foxit, doPDF, OOo, Paint.NET, avast!, CCleaner, Inkscape, AdAware, Inkscape, S&D, Inssider, vistumbler, Pidgin, Irfanview, Apache2Triad, GIMP, etc... they all do a really good job in comparison to paid for alternatives.

    The key thing is that many of the above are OS agnostic. So why faff around with Terminal command lines in this day and age?

    Say what you like, but I'm far from being a n00b. Remember - there are folk out there who:

    -don't know the slightest difference between a jpeg, a gif, a bmp and proprietary layers-compatible files (not got png licked yet).

    -have a basic understanding of what a pdf is or how to create one (or even whether it might be possible).

    -know how to attach files to an email and what Cc: and Bcc: mean.

    -understand the basic concept of shared network folders.

    -know what an SSID is (or which few wireless channels are useful because of others overlapping).

    Without knowing the difference between a .doc and a .jpeg (my boss, for example - "I just double-click on it") do we really expect folk to willingly dip into a Linux command line?

    They won't even know that it's a version of Linux. Just that it's "a weird basic version of Windows."

  58. Wortel


    Touché on the details, but hey, any pessimist will find something to gripe about any day of the week.

    Point of the whole silly debate always going on is every bloody time something Linux comes up, everyone starts comparing apples and oranges again, and they shouldn't - plain and simple. An apple is an apple, an orange is an orange, it's not going to change.

    I work with, and support both Windows and Linux. Heck i'll do Mac support too, what does it matter in the end? none of those camps gain or lose anything if you use one or leave one or go to the other completely, or whatever.

    Personally I think Torvalds will be the last person on earth to care!

    Do you really think Torvalds, Jobs or Ballmer care about which side you choose? what's in it for them if and when you do?

    You'll have to answer that one carefully if you do not want to sound like you are nitpicking, you already made one mistake commenting about gain.

    Thing is, when it comes to support, it does help if a person in need of help for any OS and it's tools/apps asks politely and doesn't get impatient shortly after asking :p

    Us volunteers are only human after all, too.

    Learning takes patience, and time, and those are two things people don't seem to have anymore.

  59. Sim

    I installed windows on my 901

    After two weeks of using my eee 901 with the linux os I got frustrated with Linux and installed an nlited version of windows XP.After finding how to open up the full linux user interface instead of the default crippled "simple" interface that the eee comes with I was getting on ok with using the command line - and the eeeuser forum was a really helpful resource . However I just needed to do stuff -more quickly -I kept finding myself in situations like "how do I make a new shortcut on the desktop" and having to research and find the appropriate commands-so I went for the windows os option with which I am more competent.I will install a better version of linux on a USB stick or SD card so I can carry on learning Linux -but as yet I have been too busy.

    By the way my first windows install on the eepc was win2k but some of the available drivers are not up to scratch (wifi -no native win2k support ) or not working (webcam -usb support for XP is better than the w2k version) - so I stripped a load of crap out of a copy of winXP with nlite and installed that -works great,boots up quickly,and all the special function buttons on the eepc work as intended.

    Linux does seem to have improved its usability a lot since I last dabbled a few years ago but I am not sure if it is yet a good choice for an average user who just wants to use their computer to do stuff .You do do have to have a determined attitude and actively want to learn. The initial learning curve is quite steep for users who are only used to the windows way of doing things .

    [poorly drawn heart icon cos I love my laptot]

  60. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    I just removed ubuntu-eee from my EEE 701 on account of it not being fit for purpose.

    I had used the previous version very irregularly for a few months and updated to the alleged "Gold Release" 2 weeks ago, and I have to say: If I have to mess with Fstab before I can mount an SD card, and if I have to make a choice between working volume controls, and a working shutdown command, it is not a "Gold" release. No doubt I could "Easily" fix these things by running a few terminal commands, but why should I? I'm not a developer. I mostly use a computer as a tool, and as such, I need it to work properly. I'm not interested in reconfiguring the entire OS every time I install a piece of software, or want to do something like turn the speakers down.

    The EEE range isn't a diverse H/W environment, and only the atom processors represent any form of new hardware. The fact that in more than a year, ONLY paid linux distributions can be counted on to function fully and reliably out of the box when installed on one doesn't really say anything wonderful about open source development.

  61. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Windows on AA1 which way would you do it?

    Was having some probs with the AA1 getting the video playback to work I have installed about 5 media players including VLC which doesnt load and still cant get successful playback of an DIVX AVI File.

    Really wanna get Windows put on this little machine now and have all the drivers ready was just wondering if any one has done it and if so what method did you use and how successful were you. I mean you have to boot from external CD Drive which I dont have so Pen Drive it will have to be, anyone used this method?

    I dont hate linux but it has a lot of work to do to still become completely user friendly to the end user as far as having a desktop environment is concerned. Ubuntu is heading in the right direction, however for ease of use windows is still the prefered choice I am afraid.

  62. GrahamT
    Thumb Up

    Keep at it Chris

    OK, it's not perfect, but it is a good effort. Like others I think recommening vi is a bit ott. I use it myself but would never try and show my wife, or fairly clued-up son how to use it.

    I bought my wife a AA1 and the only thing I had to do was replace the naff email client with Thunderbird (she has separate personal and work email accounts/inboxes and the embedded email client doesn't support that - everything goes to the same inbox). That needed a fair bit of Linux/XML knowledge and could have been easier. It is a piece of cake on Ubuntu, but then Linpus is not Ubuntu. (unfortunately)

    As she uses Firefox, Thunderbird and MS office on her XP desktop, she has no issue with using Firefox, Thunderbird and Open Office on the AA1. She is the target market for the AA1 and likes it the way it is - if it were mine I would have installed Xubuntu on it by now, but I (like most ElReg readers) am not the target market.

  63. Mark

    re: timing

    "Installed an nlited version of windows XP"

    I hope you realise that the only support you'll get is from newsgroups.

  64. Mark

    re: Windows on AA1 which way would you do it?

    Install it and if it doesn't work, then Windows isn't ready for it either.

    You now have a nightlight.

    PS hope you have some guarantee that XP will be supported. Or you can fit 1GB of memory in your netbook for Vista Basic.

  65. Mark

    re: timing

    "If I have to mess with Fstab before I can mount an SD card"

    You don't.

    On every Linux system this year or last has either used automount or installed a "USB Pendrive" icon that you click on to mount and open and right click to close safely.

  66. Colin Millar

    Get over yourselves

    I wish the majority of the Linux community would stop being so bloody precious and really run an 'open' community.

    I already build my PCs as appliances. I'm quite willing to try something new - it would be a lot cheaper if nothing else. Like others on here I coped with DOS in various incarnations to the degree that I miss it now that it has been reduced to cmd I have struggled with batch file syntax and mastered it to some degree with the assistance of online communities.

    Last pc I built was a HTPC and I was going to go with Myth until I met the Linux forums. Ended up with xp/GBPVR because I figured it was going to take me more time than I was willing to spend to find where to get some real advice as opposed to pages and pages of patronising terminal tossers.

    Next appliance on the list is a home office PC. I hope I'm going to be able to use a linux platform to run OpenOffice but I wouldn't bet on it.

    We don't all want to know everything about man or info but we need to know its there. We don't need to know how to do everything at once. What we need is a reliable source of info as a starting point and linux community is about as useful as Wikipedia in that respect - I know there's lots of good info in there somewhere but there's no QC so its easy to get misled and make your life a whole lot harder than it needs to be.

    More articles like this please - there's nuggets in the feedback too such as from Flocke - thanks for that link.

    However Wortel's - - is part of the problem - not part of the solution

  67. spegru

    Doesnt help Linux adoption

    Strikes me that netbooks appeal to two main user types.

    1. Linux fans and hackers with a high degree of expertise and above all INTEREST in getting things just-so

    2. Simple users who are happy to use them just as they cam ie as Appliances

    Other types of mid range users who want to install applications etc as they do in windows (ie just click setup.exe) and for them to 'just work', may be frustrated.

    This article although well intentioned is likely to put such people off, by diving straight into command line incantations. The next installment needs to focus on what can be done out of the box and move gradually towards introducing the principles of Linux such as package managers & repositories, together with some well explained examples, such as connecting to 3G dongles and installing Skype (on the Acer). A key thing could be to explain the capabilities of Linux and similarities to other OSs.

    Command line? Not in a newbie guide surely.

  68. W

    "Linpus is not Ubuntu" - GrahamT

    "Linpus is not Ubuntu" = LNU?

    A new fork where every repository app name must be a recursive acronym and begin with "Ln".

  69. Outcast
    Thumb Up

    Missing desktop icons

    @ Darren7160

    Press alt + F2

    Then enter the name of your proggie.

    I just installed LMMS and it did what you described... Just do what I mentioned.

    Now for some real fun... Press CTRL + Alt + F2

    As far as the article is concerned. It's pretty good actually.

  70. Mark

    @Colin Millar

    Get over yourself, Col. What makes you think anyone else cares what you think when all you can talk is negatively.

  71. Wortel
    Gates Halo

    @Colin Millar

    "I wish the majority of the Linux community would stop being so bloody precious and really run and 'open' community."

    Who exactly? don't judge the book by it's cover please.

    "However Wortel's - - is part of the problem - not part of the solution"

    And which problem would that be? you're not telling, following the closed source Redmond model that is about as bloody precious as it gets :p

    Either way, it was only an example. I would not be surprised if a complete 180 degree to that page exists elsewhere online. This is the Internet, after all.

    On a more serious note however, you said there is a need for a reliable source of information as a starting point, and in reply to that I will hand you an example, two places:

    Linux Questions being the more general forum, Mandriva Users being, of course, Mandriva specific.

    There are also specific forums for Ubuntu, OpenSuSe, Fedora, Redhat, Gentoo, Debian.. you get the idea. It's really not any different in comparison to Windows in that respect, there are endless amounts of places for your choice of OS/Program.

    Do mind however, that coherence, reliability, detail and most of all usability is determined by the individual. So if you find resources lacking, lend a hand will you? Thanks.

  72. Colin Millar


    oneandone is just another whinge and doesn't give any practical help - it's just part of the wasteful flame wars

    And open vs closed source is a meaningless distinction for people who just want to use PCs and not adopt a new religion

    My point is - I'd love to get away from Windows because I can see the advantages but I don't want to spend every waking hour doing it.

    I'm not asking for Linux to look like or feel like windows - I don't mind using a command line - I'm not asking for the idiot's guide and I'm keen to learn new stuff - I would just appreciate it if such a large part of the linux community didn't spend most of its time treating linux noobs like something they stepped in.

    Having said that - I rarely have a need to use Windows/MS user forums which is just as well - the few times I have been on them I found them to be pretty much the same as linux forums in terms of attitude - but with a much lower degree of knowledge.


    You think I am talking negatively? I'm a potential customer spelling out what I would need to adopt a product. You are typical of a large part of the linux community's response - if you don't like the way we do it we don't care.

  73. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I have noticed this

    only the code is open, hence open source software, we all jealously guard our designs, protoypes, pseudo code and decryption keys.

    But, you are free to take a gander at the code, if your little wee brain can comprehend what it is doing - we all forgot years ago, and just use our closed source templating systems to generate the incomprehensible gibberish, where if you just change one character will ensue it won't match the hashing checker for execution :)

  74. Mark

    @Colin Millar

    "My point is - I'd love to get away from Windows because I can see the advantages but I don't want to spend every waking hour doing it."

    Why do you think you would? Once it works, it REMAINS working. Much more so than Windows. If the driver is GPL'd then it will remain GPL'd and will be updated for the latest kernel.

    Do your shopping as an INFORMED customer. Done once: works.

  75. W
    Thumb Up

    For Truth

    "[...] open vs closed source is a meaningless distinction for people who just want to use PCs and not adopt a new religion"I'm not asking for Linux to look like or feel like windows [...] I'm keen to learn new stuff [...] I'd love to get away from Windows because I can see the advantages but I don't want to spend every waking hour doing it." - Colin Millar

    And that's pretty much the Linux conundrum in a nutshell.

    Firefox took flight because, even though it was free, IE6 was so appallingly bad for coders and users, with no need to learn a new interface. And (especially with a few select plug-ins) Firefox improves matters for 99% of time spent browsing. Remember, though: for all that, it's still a minority "in the wild".

    OOo is rightly taking small chunks out of Office because it's pretty much fully compatible with MS Office, it's "good enough" for 90% of users, and it's free. But it's got a long way to go before it undermines the business model of MS Office. We'll have to wait and see.

    iTunes and WMP are both objectionable in their own way, but they pretty much "just work". But both are free and there are no realistic all-in-one alternatives because it's very difficult to undercut something that's already free.

    The world is turned on to free versions of AVG and avast! because after a year of the desperate bundled bloat "free trial" of Norton/Symantec et al, subscribing yearly in order to let it continue to noticeably hog resources, frequently fail to spot nasties, and generally cause more harm than good is far from appealing.

    These crippled/toy netbook Linuxes are an interesting attempt to circumvent the need for Windows, but they're too limiting for anything beyond internet browsing. Yet the hardware is entirely capable of much more.

    Call it devious licensing if you like, but the fact remains that XP /on a netbook/ comes in at around £20. True facts. And that £20 negates what is - let's be brutally honest here - the key "selling point" of Linux: it's free. Because, yes, while Linux is free, the value I put on my time will very quickly exceed the £20 spent on XP if I'm having to wrestle with the idiosyncracies of a toy Linux or choose from the forest of much-of-a-muchness "full version" variants. (K)Ubuntu seems to get the nod as the best entry-level flavour, but it would seem that even that is far from being totally comfortable with being poured into a netbook.

    NB: Any talk of Linux being more stable / more secure / requiring less hardware has effectively been null and void since XP SP2, for yer average desktop/laptop users using yer average defences and encountering yer average nasties. Naive n00bs installing all manner of p2p clients and suchlike will always come a cropper in the end.

    At the end of the day, installing an App and dipping your toes in the water is one thing. One thing that can be easily undone. But installing an exotic new OS, buying a system with a non-Windows OS, or even re-installing the existing OS requires a leap of faith that most folk aren't willing to take. cf: "...if you're still having problems and all else fails, consider re-installing Windows" as a common troubleshooting line. It's just not something to be entered into lightly.*

    Admittedly, whilst not /quite/ annoying enough to warrant me going out, buying XP and replacing it, Vista is pushing MS's luck somewhat. Though, minor niggles aside, it is both stable and entirely usable (in my experience) so it'll stay put for a while yet.

    *For example: If I was told that it'd be possible to fundamentally re-install Linux but leave all my Apps and Docs in situ, THAT would be a possible selling point.

  76. Wortel

    @Colin Millar

    I think you are missing the point, but anyway. Good luck Mr.Millar, perhaps another day.

  77. jake Silver badge


    "For example: If I was told that it'd be possible to fundamentally re-install Linux but leave all my Apps and Docs in situ, THAT would be a possible selling point."

    Uh ... You can. Most of your other points are similarly misinformed.

    Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt.

    --Abe Lincoln's updated Proverbs 17:28

  78. Mark


    yes you are being netgative.

    when linux didn't work on 3D you needed 3D. When linux couldn't work with graphical UIs without delving into a text configuration, you needed it do detect for you. When it didn't support more hardware than Windows, that was what you needed. When Photoshop wouldn't work, you NEEDED that. When printing wasn't easy, you NEEDED easy (it's the same system that Apple use in Mac OS X).

    You make things up that are wrong that may once have been true but are no longer. And whatever you deem missing from Linux *that's what you need*.

    You're not a customer.

  79. Neoc
    Thumb Down

    Missing the point

    I read most of these comments, got sick of the same mistake and stopped about half-way down to write this note:

    Read the article again - this isn't an article on how to configure Linux, this is an article on HOW TO CONFIGURE A SCC (which happens to use Linux).

    I have two EEE P900s - one is still pretty much set up the way ASUS did (my wife's), one has had the bejeesus modded out of it (mine). No, I didn't install Ubuntu or XP on it, the idea was to see how much I could configure what was available out of the box.

    So if you want to argue the merits of Linux Vs Windows, go right ahead - but you'll only be missing the point of these articles.

  80. Glen
    Thumb Up

    Great Article - Thanks!

    Had a weekend playing with an AA1 that I borrowed. Being a complete linux n00b, I followed the advice in the "Ten Tweaks" article to get it doing exactly what I need.

    This article tells me why some of that stuff worked - please keep it coming!

  81. Dan Atkinson
    IT Angle

    10 print "thank god for GUIs"

    20 goto 10


    Sorry. I will keep following these articles. I just don't have a command prompt mind.

  82. W

    Retry: Sudo perspective get | soms

    >I wrote: "For example: If I was told that it'd be possible to fundamentally re-install Linux but leave all my Apps and Docs in situ, THAT would be a possible selling point."

    >You wrote: "Uh ... You can. Most of your other points are similarly misinformed. Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt."

    -Uh... I suspected you can. That's why I used that example. And that's the point: The disparate "Linux community" is no match for the established MS position.

    -My research tells me that Linux has some key benefits over Windows. But too much Linux evangelism focuses on anti-MS FUDdubious half-truths. And it's hamstrung by its shortcomings (even though the problem is may well be external to Linux, c.f. broadcom wireless chipsets and the inelegant "solutions").

    -It might be a good fight. But look how well Firefox has done. Modestly, even with the widespread evangelism and IE6 fail on it's side.

    >You wrote: "Most of your other points are similarly misinformed."

    -Care to expand on this?

    -Also, re: "So if you want to argue the merits of Linux Vs Windows, go right ahead - but you'll only be missing the point of these articles." - Neoc. I see what you're getting at, but it all comes back to the following question:

    Q: Hello there, 90% of computer users, would you like:

    a) Windows + it's failings + it's familiarity and ubiquity for ...£20?

    b) SCC Toy Linux + hunting for and reading these walkthroughs if you want to break out of the locked down interface ...for £0?

    c) Real Linux +

    Me? Lazy?

    Maybe, but when was the last time you changed your car's tyres? Or did you just whip it into KwikFit and pay the £20 service charge on top of the material cost.

    Bought any novels lately? Or, instead, do you prefer to note down stories that folk have told you in a blank notebook?

  83. W

    Two questions:

    1) What's Linux's "USP"? (Other than it being £20 cheaper. Bonus points for coming up with something other than "it runs on marginally cheaper hardware").

    2) What's Linux's "killer app"? (One that's unavailable on Windows)?

  84. Paul W

    Location, location

    Should it not be Where the fukarwi?

  85. Mark

    re: Two questions:

    1) A secure efficient Operating system that doesn't pretend it owns your computer.

    2) Linux. There's no "killer app" on Windows either. Photoshop just HAPPENS to be Windows only, but that's only a fluke. And with Wine/Crossover you have CS3 anyway. Games? Buy a gamestation. Office suite? They all work the same. Enterprise leve, Linux is a SERVER as in "will serve to other machines". Windows is NOT A SERVER. It's a Windows central point of failure. It won't "share" with anything other than other windows boxes (except under uncertain circumstances and will punish you with instability for daring to stray from The Path).

  86. Mark


    "Uh... I suspected you can. That's why I used that example. And that's the point: The disparate "Linux community" is no match for the established MS position."

    Uh, why didn't you look, then?

    When you back up your HOME directory on windows, where do your game configurations go? Registry. Which isn't any good. So Windows is not worthy of your interest either.

    Except, for some weird reason, it is.

  87. jake Silver badge


    >>You wrote: "Most of your other points are similarly misinformed."


    >-Care to expand on this?

    No. The truth is out there, if you care to look for it. Remember, there is a learning curve for any complex system and there ain't no such thing as a free lunch[1]. I'm not interested in spoon-feeding anyone who isn't paying me.

    >The disparate "Linux community" is no match for the established MS position.

    Inertia and public ignorance does not equal "better".

    > when was the last time you changed your car's tyres?

    If you mean actually swapping old tyres for new on the same rims, about six months ago (I don't trust the local dealers with the real magnesium mags on the Sunbeam Tiger and Pantera). If you mean "rotate", about two weeks ago. I did oil changes, tune ups, filter changes and etc. on all our cars and trucks over a weekend. Including the big boats (1959 Owens Tahitian 40 & 1965 Monk Sedan Cruiser 52 [I like big old wood boats. Sue me.]), the Kenworth that we tow our 12-horse trailer with, the water truck and all three tractors. I did all the small engines last weekend (motor cycles, quads, chainsaws, weedeaters, lawn mowers, outboard boat motors, etc.). Also load tested the batteries on everything. Winter is coming, you know.

    >Bought any novels lately?

    No. I have a full life of my own. I don't need to immerse myself into a make-believe world invented by somebody else. I don't watch so-called "reality TV" either. Life's too short.

    >1) What's Linux's "USP"?

    Freedom to do what you like, when you like, with the software installed on your computer. Including giving it away --or-- selling it.

    >2) What's Linux's "killer app"?


    I do still use Windows for one thing ... AutoCAD. That box is air gapped away from the network. Everything else is FOSS ... I don't even use Excel anymore. It's not that I have a religious opinion of Windows vs FOSS, it's just that FOSS causes fewer problems in the long run. If Windows caused me fewer issues, I'd use Windows.

    No, I'm not a gamer ... well, Wumpus, Nethack or Adventure occasionally, just to make my nieces & nephews eyes cross ;-) ... The Internet itself is enough of a game, IMNECTHO.

    [1] Thanks, Robert A. Heinlein

  88. W


    Re: the jake & mark show ...

    - I don't really do gaming that much either (and when I do, it's not on a PC).

    - I don't do novels or reality TV either (copy that on the "make-believe world" front).

    - I use AutoCAD daily (sadly no real compatible penguin equivalent).

    - I use Photoshop occasionaly, tried GIMP but found Paint.NET+plug-ins more suited to my needs).

    - I applaud your auto skills (I really do - kinda sadly, I didn't inherit any from my dad's considerable repertoire).

    - I don't flat-out deny any of the Linux positives mentioned (although the security claim really does cloud the issue - the user is as much at faulty than the OS & Linux users are invariably more savvy). But they alone aren't gonna convert folk from Windows in a hurry.

    - I would never claim that ignorance and/or inertia are ever better (but merely state that it's the way things are, for better or^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H worse).

    - I'd be all over Linux like a rash, like I am with many other FOSS apps that are superior to any proprietary trash. But I, and many other folk less inquisitive than me, have found the learning curve for Windows to be, initially, much more forgiving and haven't quite found Windows to be too limiting. Yet. As we all know: it's getting there with elements of Vista.

    ...Linux (and loads of other FOSS) is undoubtedly coming on in leaps and bounds with each passing day.

    I want to believe. Fight the good fight and I'll be watching from the fringes like a scaredy, but enthusiastic, coward.

    Over and out. :-)

  89. Mark


    Well your definition of "superior" is "the same as what I know but better". But if you're better, you're not the same.

    Kind of a hard act to manage.

  90. Bill Gould
    Gates Halo


    ^ Just what the subject says. Windows for me.

  91. E

    @CN Hill

    As a windows user I often use the command line.

    It is often faster, example: 'move *.foo d:\some\other\place" is faster to type than running explorer, selecting all the .foo files, copying and then pasting them elsewhere.

    Searching files for strings can be done easier on the command line too.

    When you Windows box refuses to see a Windows server or printer in explorer, you will fix the problem faster with the net command line program.

    I could go on...

    You say "For heaven's sake, haven't we moved on past this? ... the world has moved on". Wrong: it has not, unless someone has written a GUI program that always DWIM.

  92. matt


    I'm probably to far down to be read by any sane person :) However to mount a windows partition in Ubuntu Hardy you just go "Places -> Network" hehe. couldn't be easier

  93. W

    Careful now...

    >"Well your definition of "superior" is "the same as what I know but better". But if you're better, you're not the same. Kind of a hard act to manage." - Mark

    Nah. Substitute "same" with "similar, forgiving learning curve" and "better" with "sufficient perceptible real-world benefits" and you'd be closer.

    *For many many folk* these crippled Linuxes may well manage the former, but before long, they'll fail on the latter. (If these netbooks came handily pre-installed with a proper Linux then I'd be more inclined to go balls-deep penguin. Can't be doing with a baptism of fire though.)

    *For me*, "proper" Linux just about has the latter but the stumbling block is the former. When my desktop gets it's snarled 6yo XP installation re-installed in the next few weeks, I'll be going back to have a poke at PCLinuxOS and/or *buntu in due course, and exploring dual boot options. Walk before I run and all that, eh?

  94. Mark

    re: Gamer

    Buy an XBox/Wii/PS3.

    No SecurRom to deal with. Returns actively endorsed (Play and Trade), making them effectively CHEAPER than PC games.

    Oh, and a much smaller box.

    Not to mention that all the big names want to move OUT of the PC market for games.

  95. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    This tech stuff is way beyond me, but as an anthropologist I am interested in the genealogy of the nomadic Fukarwi tribe. They were part of the original migration out of Africa that occurred several hundred thousand years ago and led to the dispersal of the human race across the planet.

    All that we know is that having solved the problems of navigation they changed their name to Hoofukarwi, reflecting another deep philosophical problem that perplexed them.

    DNA analysis suggests that remnants of this tribe established themselves in what today are known as the British Isles. It is also known that a great leader, the blessed Jakee, arose in their midst and showered them with magic tokens, thus solving the ancient philosophical conundrum concerning their identity. As a mark of respect for the wisdom of the goddess, the tribe have adopted a new name: Wenohoowear.

  96. Mark

    re: Careful now...

    You want the same as you currently have from Linux.

    But why change (even if it's only "install and copy my personal files" just so you won't use Windows? So it HAS to be better than windows (or you're a zealot who will change just to be away from Windows).

    But that breaks the "same as I have" requirement.

  97. Mostor Astrakan
    Gates Horns

    Honestly, if Windows is so user-friendly...

    Then why does the guy sitting next to me at work have a full-time job guessing the applications everybody has on their systems? As is the Windows users' wont, he's using something third-party and expensive to do it because MS hasn't implemented a package manager that anyone wants to use. I hear a lot of low-level swearing.

    Compare and contrast. On my Linux boxen, I can get a full report on all of them in a minute or so. Using commands that someone here has now explained to the newbies.

  98. John

    Former DOS person's Saga

    Installed Ubuntu - fine

    Soon wanted to edit conf file. Access denied, search forums - need to be root user. Search forums - how do I become root? Use sudo command - but how i do run text editor with root privileges? search forums. Several hours later finally find answer with mental note most advice on forums incomprehensible, patronising or just plain wrong.

    Install USB mike - doesn't work. It does after many hours fiddling (don't ask me why because I didn't take notes)

    Installed scanner and webcam but it took a couple of hours (still issues with controlling webcam - wrong exposure but probably get there one day)

    Network drives - yes could see them in nautilus (though it took a while to find out how make it remember them for next time) but I wanted to open stuff from applications

    Thus I got into all this fstab stuff - many hours later finally mounted my server so that this works (none of the forum articles actually worked)

    Music - having conquered the fstab issue I can finally play my mp3s (though not with Rhythmbox which is a waste of space for an idiot like me)

    TV - Kaffeine is great except the recording doesn't work. Somebody suggested Myth to record - trying to install it screwed up kaffeine but finally tracked down various remnants of myth and got Kaffeine working again. Waste of an afternoon

    Myth is the classic Linux issue - may be wonderful and do 18 things nothing else does (including guessing you want coffee, popcorn) but it's useless if you can't make it work (I can't).

    I am an ex DOS person (batch files, HMA etc.) with reasonable hardware and networking knowledge but I have spent days doing things which take me minutes in Windows. The harsh truth is I cannot recommend Ubuntu to friends and family yet

  99. zyxyzx

    What this guide isn't ....

    is an introduction to linux newbies. It's a step by step (mostly) guide to help people who've bought a new netbook to "get it to see my internet and windows machine".

    In that it does the job fairly well, although I'm curious as why vi was considered sufficiently straightforwad for a new user that it didn't need any instructions. Even with experience I still find it quicker and easier to just fire up gEdit.

    I think realistically the netbook makers could have simply made a little initial config script for new owners to change things like the default smb.conf workgroup entry without needing to immediately dive into using a command line shell. It would only take about 10 minutes to do it as a simple shell script after all.

    Beyond that I think many people miss the point of these netbooks, and that's to use a quick and dirty laptop for browsing the web, checking your emails, and knocking out a letter in oooWriter. It's not supposed to run a fully fledged copy of the latest OS with max graphics and all the latest game ports, much like all those XPembedded PCs we're supposed to shipping - or so Microsoft keeps telling me.

    Now I sit and await the flames.

  100. Mark

    "Installed Ubuntu - fine"

    And why did you need to edit a conf file? Ubuntu has a GUI for editing any conf file you need to write to.

    I smell BULLSHIT.

  101. Mark

    Using vi

    vi doesn't depend on X working. So if everything is fubar, you can still vi.

    And for very simple occasional use of vi, the command set is VERY small:

    ESC : get out of input mode

    i: insert (do into input mode)

    ":" : get into command mode

    dd: delete a line

    ARROW KEYS: move about

    dl: delete a character. you'll learn which one it's deleting

    w: write the file

    q: quit the file

    q!: REALLY quit the file, even if vi thinks it unwise

    That's all.

    No "Open is under FILE" or "Edit->Abandon changes to undo all changes and exit".

    A very minimal set of vi commands gets work done. And works ANYWHERE with a command line on linux.

  102. Anonymous Coward


    "Photoshop just HAPPENS to be Windows only, but that's only a fluke"

    If I'm not mistaken it was a Mac programme originally ported to Windows. And it wasn't a fluke, it's called "selling". It may be availble for Linux one day, just as soon as enough people are willing to part with cash for it....

  103. Frumious Bandersnatch

    who the ... ?

    Ah, I see. Carry on!

  104. Mark

    You're right Stu

    But Mac isn't why "PS CS4 isn't on Linux" is a problem for "Windows users" , so I figured it pretty much tangential. Heck, PS on Mac uses a GIMP-like multi-window interface, so no retooling needed for the UI.

    Plenty of people say that they would use Linux if it had PS ("GIMP's a stupid name" or "It isn't ready for CMYK so I can't use it") so the demand is there. Plenty of people BUY Linux and Occulus makes enough money over the cost of licensing to make porting a game to Linux and selling it a job that pays.

    So the "free as in beer" bit is no reason not to sell on Linux.

    Unless adobe are afraid that PS will not compete with GIMP, despite the name and all that...

  105. Christopher Martin

    Killer app: the package manager

    Getting quite offtopic now, but in response to the "killer app" question - for me, it's the package manager. Synaptic, apt-get, yum, whatever comes with your distro of choice. Saves me from having to download an installer, put up with its inane "install wizard" prompts, etc, etc. Dependencies are automatically installed. In a single command and a matter of minutes (possibly seconds), I can have virtually any application I'd want. And then Update Manager keeps them all patched. Uninstall/purge is just as easy, and unneeded dependencies are automatically removed. It all can be done through a gui if you'd like. It makes Windows/Mac systems look downright archaic.

  106. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @Every waking hour

    It is not because it is complicated - it is addictive :)

    Come join us...

This topic is closed for new posts.

Other stories you might like