The Linux Letter for June 28, 1999
My grandfather always told me that it was a
lot easier to be "like" an expert than to be an
expert. I always wondered what he meant by that until I joined
the Navy. As a Sonar operator, I had file cabinets stuffed full
of information about submarines and ships, more than a person
could hope to know. But I still had to know all about them. Or
did I? That's when I knew what my grandfather was talking about.
Sometimes it's just as good to know where to
go to find out what you need to know as it is to have
thatinformation in your head. It worked for me in the Navy, and
it works for me with computers. It especially works well with
Linux is very Internet-centric. It's that way
because it's a clone of UNIX, which itself has networking at its
heart. Unlike just about any other operating system, Linux is a
product of the Internet. Most of the development of the
operating system and the accessories that go with it was done
across the world, aided by world-wide networking. Since there is
no single source of information about Linux, it stands to reason
that the best way to find out about Linux would be to open a
browser and surf the web.
That's what makes me "like" an
expert. I usually can't pull an answer to a Linux question right
off the top of my head, but I know where to go to get one. And
after this, you will too!
The grandaddy of all Linux sites is Linux.org.
This site was created over five years ago to help people who
were making the big switch from other operating systems to
Linux. You'll find indexes linked to all of the Linux HOWTO
articles, different distributions of Linux and applications that
run under Linux. This page also lists vendors who sell preloaded
Linux computers and it also provides some good, basic
information on what Linux is. Linux.org is definitely the best
place to start on your journey.
A newcomer to the ranks of web sites devoted
to Linux is Linux.com. This site is operated by VA Linux
Systems, a computer company that manufactures Linux-based
computers. Although the domain has been registered for a long
time, VA recently purchased it in a bidding war that actually
saw Microsoft attempting to buy the domain. Linux.com is a
portal site, with links to news from several web sites that
carry predominantly Linux features. It is very much devoted to
advocacy, promoting Linux as an alternative to Microsoft
operating systems. It also features weekly columns and tips on
getting the last little bit of performance from your Linux
LinuxToday.com is a news site that contains
summaries and links to news stories on other web pages.
Typically, a short summary of the article is available from
them, with a link to the original article on the publisher's web
page. The web site is particularly valuable because it saves you
the time that you might otherwise spend attempting to find the
news that you want to read about your favorite operating system.
Another source for news and information is
32BitsOnline.com. This site features news in a similar vein as
LinuxToday, but also has original content and covers most 32
operating systems, including Windows and BeOS. This site carries
a very balanced view of operating systems as tools to help us
accomplish goals, so you generally won't find one operating
system trumpeted over another.
Of course, if you're looking for programs, two
web sites immediately spring out. Freshmeat.net has been around
for a couple of years. It's not fancy . . . primarily, the web
site is just a list of new applications with brief descriptions
and links to download or to home pages. It does have a good
search engine and well-maintained archives. The site is managed
from Huenstetten, Germany, but is hosted by RedHat Software in
the United States.
Linuxberg.com is part of the Tucows armada of
themed web sites. It features categorized lists of applications.
It also mirrors just about every Linux distribution available.
The site itself is also mirrored to different hosts around the
world, so there should be a Linuxberg mirror near you.
But if surfing the web isn't your idea of
having Linux knowledge at your fingertips, then maybe you need a
book. The best Linux reference that I've seen is Que's
"Special Edition: Using Linux". Now in its fourth
edition, it includes RedHat and Caldera Linux CD-ROMs, as well
as a copy of StarOffice. The book takes you through the steps of
installing the operating system, all the way to tweaking it for
So that, in a nutshell, is how to become
"like" an expert. And for the Internet, being
"like" an expert is usually good enough. After all,
knowing where the information is at is almost as good as having
it in your head!