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back to article The Netbook Newbie's Guide to Linux

Book Reader True to its name, a netbook makes a very decent ebook reader. Here's the freely-downloadable Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, complete with original Tenniel illustrations, as it appears on the MSI Wind: wind as ebook reader This is the PDF version of the original 1866 edition, downloaded from GASL.org. There's a …

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Linux

Proceeding carefully

Just a suggestion here, it may be a good idea to tell people how to backup their Netbook to, say, a USB HDD.

E.g. if there's a builting for the EEE PC, use it by...

Then a little bit about how to keep rolling backups (and especially how to get the "as it was brand new" image).

If you use "dd", how to get this image back on the netbook (since you have to have enough of an OS to run dd to put the image back on the machine) and other little fiddles.

Brought up because of the cutout section about installing mplayer 1.0 and the "proceed with caution" ending.

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Linux

Debian multimedia

http://debian-multimedia.org/

They have a repository with the good mplayer in as well. Their faq will tell you how to add. though of course they're aimed at debian rather than ubuntu (mostly compatible, AFAICT).

So what you've done by adding stuff to the apt sources list is told it to pick up software from there in addition to the ubuntu sources. Where both contain the same packages it will use the one from the the source higher up in the sources.list by preference.

Usually it's pretty safe to add new ones in. I've not had problems. I'd recommend finding a source (like debian-ultimedia) that has the right mplayer in by default, rather than having to specify versions on the command line though.

Personally I like VLC, though I've noticed on my eee901 that it can't keep up with the framerate of a full-res DVD rip like smplayer can.

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PDF reading

How does the generally brilliant Foxit Reader perform on these beasties for eBook duties? Linux version currently in beta.

http://www.foxitsoftware.com/pdf/desklinux/

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Anonymous Coward

Help with help

Great article in a great series that should hopefully get a wider customer base into the penguin fold, but in your “Help of Help” bit I think you have hit a major problem in the igloo. Help forums for new users should NOT have the folk tagged as experienced knowledge vaults calling the new boy on the block a “luser” or suchlike for not knowing something that to a long-term user is very simple and so on! Problem resolution is along the lines of: see problem; mutter %*&#; read manual; scratch head; try something in manual; scratch head; go to forum and search for answers; read through previous posts where a newbie gets slated repeatedly by wiser heads; decide to not poke above the parapet and try more stuff yourself; give up and move onto next distro. Since I haven’t tried every single flavour of Linux out there I will apologise in advance if there is one where this doesn’t happen!

This is somehow acceptable, possibly as the software is free and so you are basically asking for a HUGE favour from the powers to be who had a hand in building the Omega OS, whereas if you shell out cash for software, suddenly you can have nice, polite customer help from a company who on the surface are willing to help you, even though underneath they probably loath and despise you in your ignorance, but since they need your continued good custom, they at least try to help you out a bit, whilst all the time have a modicum of respect and distinct lack of calling you by a condescending name. Every year seems to be the Year Of The Linux Desktop, but unless you treat your customers with some humility then you are never going to get the necessary traction to get to that goal. These gurus do happen to know more about this particular OS than the newbie with the problem, but maybe the newbie has other interests and areas of speciality outside of building an OS? I do databases for a living but I tend not to mock the senior Java guy on a project because he didn’t design his data model to the 5th Normal Form before unravelling back to the 3rd for the physical model… likewise he tries not to laugh at my risible attempt at anything beyond Hello World!

I applaud the fact that there is even a book about it, but surely the so called helpful resources should be a bit more helpful and maybe a little bit more understanding? Apart from being new at Linux they know nothing about the person requesting help – they may well a teenage kind playing about with new software for kicks, it may be a fellow IT professional who happens to work in another area, it could be the head of Mensa who designs brain surgery techniques in his day job… or it might be the CTO of a Fortune 50 company looking to maybe spend his multi million dollar budget on a new OS for the company. That’s the person you could be turning away from Linux by your attitude.

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IT Angle

Big PDFs Not a problem for me

running ubuntu 8.10 using the document viewer (evince) 2.24.1

Bugs tend to get fixes pretty quickly in open source as anyone can make the fix.

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Linux

@ac

Have you tried calling microsoft support recently?

They're nice and friendly, provided you give them your cc number first.

You can call canonical with your cc number too, and get the same thing.

If you want it for free, ask for it nicely, and in this context that means trying to find out for yourself first.

I don't really think that's too much to ask.

And remember, you're not a customer, you're a user.

Customers get the friendly bit from Canonical / RedHat / Novell whoever. See note about *paying*, above.

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IT Angle

re: Help with help

OK, so when someone asks you "How do I run Internet Explorer?" and this is the 300th person whose asked, how do you act?

Like if they were a six-year-old asking "Why?".

If someone can't be bothered to try to read themselves why should someone who isn't being paid read the instructions out for them?

(see also "Have you tried turning it off and on again?" and "Is it plugged in?" from PAID SUPPORT techs. How do you think they'd react if they weren't getting paid? They aren't too happy with it when they're getting paid (and therefore only the few hundreds in the company is asking dumb questions).

Now either you ignore dumb questions or you tell them to RTFM. Either way someone who wants to say "SEE! They're all elitist thugs!!!" is going to say it whether they are ignored or insulted.

So if you can't please anyone, might as well please yourself.

(Bonus question: if you had to pay £35 per question after the third one, what do you think would happen to the "How do I press the Any key?" queries?)

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Wow, four posts before the FUD starts

@AC

Firstly, I know you haven't tried any flavour of Linux, and secondly you certainly don't work in IT as you would know that the article referenced is applicable to anyone asking questions in a support forum, even those provided by large commercial database vendors.

But then you probably ended up shilling for a living as you're probably one of those kind of guys I've seen in Sun's Java forums. You know the kind who post their college homework questions in full and getting all huffy when people suggest that perhaps the poster should really have a go at coming up with a solution and then asking specific questions about the problems they hit rather than bleat 'but i have to hand it in tomorrow, so just send me the finished answer please'

BTW, ever taken at look at how requests for help are handled in similar forums for Microsoft products? I think you'll find open source forums are actually a lot friendlier and helpful, even to people who haven't read the 'Smart way' article.

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Linux

Penguin Colonies

@Anonymous Coward:

"a ... series that should [I hope] get [more people] into the penguin fold ..."

That metaphor doesn't work, because penguins don't live in folds - that's sheep. Actually, not being domesticated, they don't live in man-made structures at all. I suppose "penguin enclosure", as at the London Zoo, would work. Otherwise, if you're after a collective noun for penguins it's any of:

colony

crèche

huddle

parcel or

rookery

http://www.rinkworks.com/words/collective.shtml

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Flame

Re: Help with help

As AC above said, a big issue with the Linux Netbooks is the fact that it's throwing users in at the deep end. The sad thing is, that the majority of the Linux Netbooks get XP installed (Asus claimed over 75% get XP installed on the Eee's within the first three months) and

They need to provide quality and easily accessible technical support for all the stupid questions Joe Bloggs off the street will ask. But lets face it, burying it on a site which needs trawling through a dozen pages of Google to find is not helpful.

Part of the issue is every Netbook maker sticks on some different distro. All well and good, but to the uneducated user...they see XP on one, and something on another, and something else on another, and something else again. Until the Linux community can unite behind one distro which holds all the Netbooks and Desktops (yes it'll never happen as everyone loves there Suse or Redhat or Debian or whatever), but all that does is fragment the mind of Joe Public buyer. They don't like choice, it scares them. Even more so when its something new and will cause them to think.

No wonder many of the Netbook makers are looking or have gone XP only. And no, its not MS paying them off, it's simply the users want it.

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@AC

"Until the Linux community can unite behind one distro which holds all the Netbooks and Desktops (yes it'll never happen as everyone loves there Suse or Redhat or Debian or whatever), but all that does is fragment the mind of Joe Public buyer."

The linux community?

Why is it the problem of the "Linux community"? Pray tell?

It's the netbook vendor that has the responsibility to pick a decent distro and provide support (or not, up to them). Nothing to do with the linux community.

And Joe Public knows nothing about distros, he's never heard of them and has probably only just heard the word Linux. All he gets upset about is "I can't figure out how to put my Word on there" or other such issues we hit in this MS-centric world.

Bah, I don't really care. Linux is making huge inroads into the commercial desktop market now, and that's much more important. because when you're at work you *have* to use whatever you're given, and learn to make it work.

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Anonymous Coward

@Re:Help with help

The general public doesn't care what OS is on their netbook, just as they don't care who wrote the firmware for their DVD player, so long as it retains the exact same interface they can and do use in their sleep. It's not being scared of 'nix that's the problem, there is simply no good reason to spend time, even 5 minutes, learning a different interface when they already know the one on XP. Novelty and supporting the underdog aside, Linux only makes sense for someone used to using it if talking about PC-like uses instead of dedicated mission specific non-PC uses. The OS is only the means to the end, not some kind of stylish statement like Apple would lead one to believe. In theory 'nix would make the systems cheaper and that's a big plus for a netbook, but we aren't yet to the point where that addt'l cost is a significant enough % of the total netbook cost. We'll see more battles on the OS front when netbooks dip under $150.

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Linux

Of course...

You could always use FBReader from the repositories and download ebooks in Palm Pilot format instead of using bloated pdf files.

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Anonymous Coward

Go cold Turkey

I got my partner a new (back then) eee701. After a couple of days of asking where X was and why does Y look different it was all sorted.....

Now she actively looks for the Open Source alternatives, and has found some decent stuff so far :D

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Bronze badge
Linux

An appropriate place to ask for help

May I suggest the immensely helpful communities at:-

http://ubuntuforums.org (for Ubuntu obviously), and

http://forum.eeeuser.com/ (for Asus fans with any flavour of Linux or XP)

Perhaps the developers of the various netbook flavours of Linux should put such links in the default Firefox bookmarks folder?

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@Schroeder

"Firstly, I know you haven't tried any flavour of Linux, and secondly you certainly don't work in IT"

Wow, you've hit it on the head. Or you're just making assumptions about someone who isn't a Linux zealot. As long as you don't start using the tired old 'shill' and 'FUD'. Oh - too late. The simple fact is he's right. And Open Source forums are not friendlier than MS ones. Just looking objectively at comments on The Reg would tell you that, if your Linux gimp ego would let you. And it was *three* posts before his comment, not four. Sheesh.

Oh, and to Mark - no, not all tech support people ignore or RTFM people. Just obnoxious dicks like you. I would say 'Sorry to use personal insults' but I'm not. With this and other comments you make you've earned it.

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An appropriate place to go before asking for help

Was given in the article.

If someone tells you how to do something, you often don't learn anything.

If you TRY to work it out and THEN someone tells you what you should do, you're left with some mnemonic structure to tie the new knowledge to.

It's learning.

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Paris Hilton

"all they want is the exact same interface"

Funny.

MS insist that people want the new Vista UI,,,

And I never got over the lack of Spectrum Basic as my interface...

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Media player?

gxine.

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Silver badge

Compiz?

Who needs, uses or wants Compiz? Much less in a portable device?

Glitter doesn't get anything done, and burns CPU/battery.

I applaud the kids learning enough about how X works to actually build the thing, but it's a toy at best. Nothing more. Hopefully they'll move on to more important projects.

Pretty good "basic stuff" article overall, though.

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@ Still FUDing AC

Ouch, I must have really hit the nail on the head for you to bite so badly.

Nasty comments on the Reg? Funnily enough the nastiest mudslinging and name calling comments tend be posted by people posting AC and supporting Microsoft. Hey look, you just did it yourself in response to some fairly reasoned comments. And thats not my 'gimp ego' talking and you know it. Are you the troll that took to impersonating Mark and posting lurid comments to try and discredit him by any chance?

BTW, just so you understand, here's a handful of pointers as to how multiple AC's such as yourself are so easily identified as a shills. You can also apply some these points to articles about any other Microsoft competitor by simply substituting Linux for say, Apple or Sony.

- Always uses words fanboi or zealot to describe the opposing point of view, and add plenty of personal insults, whilst claiming that anytime they use on lines forum they are actually always on the receiving end, and not because they have a bad attitude.

- Always tried multiple Linux distro's and never managed to get one running successfully, and it couldn't be just be down to their ineptitude, as they're a hot shot IT professional.

- Feel so strongly about the above that they feel it's their duty to warn everyone else about this. This amuses me no end on a tech site like the Reg, Isn't it's readership, by default, supposed to love trying new things, from OS's, to gadgets, to new programming languages?

- Always assumes that all Linux supporters want to see Linux enjoy the same kind of monopoly that Microsoft currently does - the idea of open competition on a shared market is just so alien to them.

- Completely ignore the point that you can BUY commercial distro's and support the same as you can for other propriety OS's, if thats the way you want to go. And that you should get the same vendor support on pre-installed Linux distro as you would any OS provided by an OEM. No, we're all Freetards aren't we?

Anyway, you've given me a good giggle on this Friday morning. Still trying to make sure people don't read that useful linked article are we?

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@David Hicks

"Bah, I don't really care. Linux is making huge inroads into the commercial desktop market now, and that's much more important. because when you're at work you *have* to use whatever you're given, and learn to make it work"

Really???? Whilst your asleep in the South Pole with all the other penguins?

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Anonymous Coward

Why is El Reg writing these articles?

Seeing as most netbooks come with Windows or have been upgraded to Windows?

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Paris Hilton

re: Compiz?

So turn it off.

Duh.

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Paris Hilton

@AC 14:54

Are you talking about ASUS? The one where

a) They had more Windows enabled netbooks than Linux but sell out of Linux as soon as any come in (making it hard to buy mostly Linux because they aren't supplied)

b) The CEO said the characterisation of the report to say that Windows sold more was wrong

you using THAT?

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@Mark, Re: Compiz

"So turn it off."

That isn't an answer to my question, youngster. Please try to learn to read for comprehension, and respond accordingly. I recommend you take a class if you get to Uni (or Poly, or JC, depending) ... it's usually called something along the lines of "Use Of English". Most high schools don't offer it anymore, sorry :-(

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Anonymous Coward

RE: Schroeder

Hi Schroeder, the original AC (Help with help) here, not the second AC, who was maybe a little ruder to you than I hope I would ever be! Apologies I haven't gotten back to you before but been on the piss and rugby since Friday so haven't been online since work finished. To cover your points:

"- Always uses words fanboi or zealot..."

Nowhere in my post do I personally insult anyone or do I indicate that I insult anyone on these forums. My point is drawn directly from the article where even the writer says that the newbie poster is, as a norm, called a "luser", and I point out that this attitude is not the most productive around, as even though they are less knowledgeable for this particular area (the OS in question), they may well be far more intelligent in other aspects of life and that this is merely a sideline of interest. I am merely saying that this does not help in welcoming the wider public into the world of Linux and will drive them away, similar to better the devil you know. Remember that to change the status quo of MS dominance, you need to make your product not just the same, but far superior in the total experience, something that Apple manage to do very well.

"- Always tried multiple Linux distro's and never managed to get one running successfully, and it couldn't be just be down to their ineptitude, as they're a hot shot IT professional."

Tried Ubuntu, but after it refused to recognise my internal wireless card (I don't want a USB wireless sticking out of an ultraportable!), stuck OSX on it, now got Windows 7 on it but that doesn't like my screen driver and probably going back to XP. Got Ubuntu working on another laptop very well, but replaced it with OpenSUSE and had no complaints there either. I'll admit that I'm not a knowledgeable OS person. As per my post, I do database work, so to earn my money, I don't really need to worry what OS I'm running said DB on as there is a DBA team and an infrastructure department to worry about such things.

"- Feel so strongly about the above that they feel it's their duty to warn everyone else..."

I'm complaining about the writer's acceptance of the condescending attitude displayed in some forums that are meant to be helpful, and making a plea that perhaps a spoonful of honey would entice the bees rather than an ladle of high handed sarcasm. I'm warning the Linux community that to convert people they should try politeness and helpfulness rather than the attitude they generally display, as the writer points out in the article!

"- Always assumes that all Linux supporters want to see Linux enjoy the same kind of monopoly that Microsoft currently does - the idea of open competition on a shared market is just so alien to them."

Open competition is good, but surely my primary point of helpdesk politeness and understanding that the people seeking help might not appreciate being called childish names, would promote better competitiveness with the market by making the product more attractive? Why does a service need to establish a superior haughtiness with this name calling? To use a well worn analogy here: if you walk onto a forecourt, does the car salesman tell you that you are too fat, old and ugly to drive away that Ferrari? Does Apple vet its customers for "coolness" before they are take a Macbook Air home with them?

"- Completely ignore the point that you can BUY commercial distro's and support the same as you can for other propriety OS's, if thats the way you want to go. And that you should get the same vendor support on pre-installed Linux distro as you would any OS provided by an OEM. No, we're all Freetards aren't we?"

Yes I do ignore that, mostly because the big selling point of Linux on the Netbook is that you don't pay the MS tax, ergo, it is "free". I will admit that I have not experienced true Linux paid for support, and have only ever trawled forums and knowledge bases, but if, to my subjective experience, the experts in the field treat me like a 15 year old college kid all the time, then will the call centre support staff be any better? And does that mean that even if my organisation invests its future in Linux, then any pleasantness from my paid for support is merely fake smiles and sham helpfulness, so why should I put my company's money and technical requirements into such a sham professional relationship? At least with my existing vendors I know they want my money and I know that they want to help out with our 5/10/15 years of mutual history.

Hopefully you won't find the need to sit there and insult me or my intelligence any time soon, but can see from a newbie's perspective of the treatment they get when asking for help. Remember that not everyone is a technical person like you are, and, even if I wasn't technically minded (as you say) then surely you should be even more understanding of the problems I am getting into?

PS. Haven't been on the Sun Java pages since 2001 when I did a BEA certification course at my work. Whoever has your goat there ain't me!

@Penguin Colonies

I stand correctly, Sir, in the direct usage of the word, though mine was more in terms of a grouping or collective. I think this is usually used in terms of a prodigal returning to a group, which I would suppose in popular culture is much like the "lost sheep" stories, both biological and religious, where a fold can be used to describe a congregation. But thanks for the those terms - I'll be sure to remember them next time!

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IT Angle

@ AC 15:55

I'm not going to slag you off because I thought your original comment was fair enough

However.... ( You knew this was coming!!)

"The year of the linux desktop"

For a few years now Linux has been gaining market share so each year IS the "year of the Linux desktop".

Not even the complete utter collapse of Microsoft would bring about instant Linux market domination because XP would still carry on fulfilling their current needs for a good few years to come. In fact, thinking about it, If Microsoft were to collapse then that would severely hinder Linux's progress because it would then be an equal playing field.

ie: No more windows licenses need paying etc.

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@Jake

Your original point:

"Who needs, uses or wants Compiz? Much less in a portable device?"

My response:

"So turn it off."

Your return:

"That isn't an answer to my question, youngster."

Well, if you really want to know, how about we reverse it? Does *nobody* in the *world* *anywhere* want Compiz, even if it doesn't have to be a portable device?

I would suggest that the likelihood that there is not one single solitary person in the world who doesn't want Compiz is so close to zero as to be zero. Even if we take that nobody here asked for it.

Now, if you are asking the implied question: "Why would *I* want it, especially on a portable device" then "Turn it off" makes the query moot. You don't have to have it.

So if you ask a question in the future, try making it one that is

a) explicit

b) actually may have a possibility of being true

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@Mark

"Well, if you really want to know, how about we reverse it? Does *nobody* in the *world* *anywhere* want Compiz, even if it doesn't have to be a portable device?"

Reductio ad absurdum isn't exactly a debate technique that adults use, outside government, religion and conspiracy theorists.

My questions are still valid, as are my points that glitter doesn't get anything done, and gets in the way of battery life and eats CPU, which will be especially noticeable in a low power portable.

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I really do hope

that Mark here doesn't work in technical support.

Or if he does, the poor users have found someone else to help them.

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Anonymous Coward

@Outcast

Great point well made... I stand corrected Sir! Cracked a smile at that one... but then I wondered rhetorically… which distro are we talking about? ;-)

Still, what has begladdened this tired old soul is how the ever increasing popularity of Linux has gotten the incumbent big boy to raise his game: Windows 7 Beta has impressed so far as I have it running “more snappily” than XP on an old, slow Pentium M ultraportable, and it essentially looks and acts like Vista, so they must’ve cut a whole heap of the fat bloat out of that OS. A pity they didn’t do it two years ago and left it to the end user to trim their own OS! Much like the current hot topic of evolution on this anniversary of our hallowed Darwin’s birth, Linux for the desktop environment at this particular time found some attractive traits that made it desirable, and MS had to evolve new traits in the never ending battle for resource, or the user base in this case. If they succeed in regaining their lead then Linux will up their game again which can only be a good thing…

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