back to article The netbook newbie's guide to Linux

This is a series about the Linux OS on netbooks, but we need to remind ourselves that these devices aren't personal computers. The personal computer is a machine you work on. Netbooks are essentially machines you work through, out into the Cloud. It shouldn't matter what the operating system is. Or the hardware. Ideally, all …

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Alien

typo (omission)

"(but only within the bounds of)"

shoulda read "(but only within the bounds of Firefox adoption, realistically, probably)"

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Coat

@Tony Smith

This isn't an XP v Linux thing. It's an XP v "Full Linux" v "Crippled Linux" thing.

There's clearly nothing wrong with having XP and Linux options.

Granted, there are a few £99-type netbooks (Elonex, et al) that are only credibly capable of surfin' & writin'. And for that, Crippled Linux seems like a logical option.

But most Netbooks (EEE, AA1, Dell9 et al) are eminently capable of much, much more than surfin' & writin'.

I don't particularly want to tinker with the OS. But I would like to install apps that the machine is capable of. Is that such a wierd proposition? XP would let me do this. Full Linux would let me do this. Crippled Linux requires me to jump through hoops in order to do this.

To most of the great unwashed (non-El Reg types), Crippled Linux will be the first Linux that they've experienced (or even know about). And the conclusion they'll come to is that this "other, not proper Windows OS" is a bit limited. But they'll nearly all be familiar with XP. So if the kit is up to it (which it is), why not offer a decent Full Linux (e.g. *buntu or similar) that ain't a million miles away from XP, and let folk explore a little if they want?

The Crippled Linuxes that are currently pre-installed grossly undersell the capabilities of both Linux and the netbooks they're installed on. Microsoft haven't seen fit to slap a crippled front end on to XP for netbooks, so why is it happening to Linux?

This article (and many others articles and forum threads like it) are proof that one of the first things that many folk want to do is jemmy open the pre-installed Crippled Linux.

Mines the one with sleeves and a hood. I paid a smidge more for a zip instead of buttons. I'm not used to buttons, but the slightly cheaper, otherwise identical one with buttons looks fairly good too. And how hard can buttons be eh? I see you've gone for the buttoned one. But why does it have it's sleeves sewn up at the ends and a hood hidden inside the lining? Do come out to play when you've unpicked the stitching, wontcha. :-)

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@Tony Smith

Aye, I know.

And for lots, XP is what they want. Lack of the extra fluffies you can afford to install on a netbook style machine with Linux is of less value than the benefits of XP. The administration is a valid one. If you know how to do it on XP, why learn (for your own needs) how to adminster another? Doesn't make sense. Compatability is another, but one that really shouldn't exist. Computers are only worth it if they can talk to other computers and MS try their damndest to make sure that Windows can only be talked to by Windows.

Software compatability isn't MS's fault (except in so far as they hide the API. I wonder though where all those MS fans who said "there are no hidden APIs" when MS produced a honking big list of hidden APIs after a court ordered it...) but the ability to produce the output is now hardly a reason to pick one over the other.

And if you're using "cloud computing" there's no reason at all.

So the choice between XP and linux is between a machine that administers like your other machine or a machine that has more on it.

And for Aunt Tillie, she isn't administering either machine.

For computer knowledgable, learning one OS isn't much different or harder than learning two.

For computer users who only used Windows, the OS is a lot different. And that isn't a problem with Windows, it's a problem with the user. And it isn't one that the user needs to fix. It's their life and their life is as valid a way of living as any other. But what they shouldn't be doing is saying it is the fault of Linux not themselves. I'd like to change it but as much as for their ability to negotiate a deal for what they take vs what they want as to ensure that I'm not banned from anything for not using the only accepted OS.

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Stop

Aren't you missing the point?

My wife bought an AA1 and is very pleased with it. She has no need of a command-line interface at all - for her, it's a tool to write documents, check her email and do some web browsing when she's out and about. That's what 100% of her colleagues want too. They don't care to lift the lid and get inside- seriously.

I feel that we'll never really get Linux on the desktop as long as we keep on going on about the command-line! (And how many times has my wife run up a CMD window on her XP box? Never)

And this article - aren't you preaching to the converted? We read the reg. because we're already command-line geeks, lets back-off a bit and let then do what they were designed for - portable appliances to get a bit of work done when mobile, and if we want to get inside, then we're geeks, so know how to go it already!

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@ Gordon

The point is that the main reason people don't go for Linux is, They think the Command line is scary and to complicated. By showing the user that the Command line is actually simple and useful tool (abit a complicated one at first..) in the first few articles, takes the scary value out of it and once that's out of the way people can then concentrate on the benefits of the Linux OS.

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Linux

A bit of history

I used Coherent before I ever used Linux.

I used MS-DOS, and did weird stuff with batch files.

I'm not intimidated by a command line.

But, after more than a decade of Windows being a pretty decent GUI OS, I'm a bit rusty on the details.

And these netbook machines are more powerful, at the hardware level, than the desktop machine I was using six years ago. OK, small screen. And people buy portable DVD players with screens this size.

I use Open Office on my desktop. Want to say I should be using MS Office? Look at the price.

I'm going to ignore the geekish screaming about "proper" linux. I have a machine which works out of the box, though some things could have been done better. I didn't have to think about how to use it.

It took a little fiddling to install VLC--it seemed easier than trying to get the correct Windows-compatible codecs for the supplied version of mplayer. Some things, such as swtching to the more usual style of GUI, seem to involving hitting a moving target. Asus keep changing details.

But it isn't so different from setting up Windows to suit me.

And anybody who starts talking about Photoshop or 3DS MAX in the context of these netbook machines is totally missing the point.

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Happy

Microsoft & Linux/OS

I use both these operating systems, at home and at work.

*MY* preference is Linux, but I have to say both have GUIs that for the most part are well thought out, and easy to use, even by me; someone with well below average intelligence.

Now I love a challenge, and indeed the command line does give satisfaction here on Linux; hugely powerful. Used properly, it can be enormously productive, and can at times leave the GUI equivalent standing.

But your average computer user uses the GUI only, and rarely - if ever - goes to the command line. This makes it a scary place ! Now what do I see on here ? Masses of command line examples ! Sure we all love to show our prowess at the command line, and show off. This puts off potential new users ! This needs to be recognised, and the assholes chastised by members of the Linux/OS community, as I am doing now. I am part of that community, and the assholes really piss me off !

Linux has some fantastic GUI configuration tools. Huge effort has gone into these. They are a joy to use ! But I fear all the clever-dick I'm so intelligent because I can do the confusing command line thingy assholes are putting new users off. Linux once installed and used through the GUI is every bit as easy to use as Windows. From here it is a matter of user **PREFERENCE**. I have stated mine, but don't expect another user to share it !

Back to the article thread, cloud computing in concept is an interesting idea, but it has limitations :-

1) great you can access your data anywhere ? Anywhere ? At no cost ? Get real !

2) when your highly sensitive data goes walkies, and falls into the wrong hands, just who is liable ? How is that proved ? Who is *really* at fault ? Suspect this will be **VERY** hard to nail. However, **YOU** the user are left with the consequences.

3) could be a really grand way to shift that illicit content across borders !

For me, points 1 & 2 kill it. Give me my local apps please ! Which these devices do ! For me, the form factor, and method of primary data storage (flash memory) are attractive, as well as the Linux OS. Small enough to carry on a bike, and no HDD to screw up when hitting a pothole. Add to that I can have gcc/bash, etc, and I'm a very satisfied bunny. I want one ! Now to justify it to the wife .........

Now if I want to get that data into another country, why thank you for the mechanism !

As for the Linux experts on here, what does this do ? Don't try it, but think about what it will do. Why is something directed to the null device ? What are the consequences a) as root, b) as normal user ? Newbies **PLEASE** DO NOT TRY THIS ! :-

find / -exec rm -f {} \; 2>/dev/null

answers on a flame to el Reg !

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"Proper Linux" (and Coherent)

> I'm going to ignore the geekish screaming about "proper" linux.

As I'm sure Dave Bells aware, there is no such animal as "proper Linux". Linux is just the kernel. When you add in the rest of the software, it is known as a "distribution". There are large distributions, and small distributions. All are Linux. The true beauty of Linux is that it's totally modular (monolithic kernel aside; that's an argument for another day ...). Don't like any of the distros? Make your own! Is your portable computer missing something? Add it!

Re: Coherent ... I collect Coherent Lexicons. I give 'em out to the kids I teach who seem to have the aptitude to become SysAdmins. One of the best UN*X learning tools ever published.

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Unhappy

Episode 3

Is it written already?

For goodness sake, please take account of the comments made above that are largely the same as for episode 1.

Avoid command line stuff and concentrate on real world usage such as OpenOffice, 3g dongle modems.

After that how about explaining the concept of repositories?

Cloud computing misses a huge range of possibilities

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Howard

Why are you running such a command? If you know /dev/null is the null device, why are you asking what redirecting STDERR to it means?

Why, in short, are you asking such a question?

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3g dongle modems.

It depends on the chipset.

Which will change based upon whim of the manufacturer to supply support for it. And the chipset will change at the whim of them too, making any precise information worthless.

Add to that the fact that they change a lot anyway and you have that as a worthless goal.

Until the wireless hardware manufacturers change their attitude.

"You can break FCC regulations if we tell you how to operate it!" is bollocks. I can break the emission rules by using a japanese firmware on my wireless card in the UK. Heck, I have to use the japanese firmware on the UK part when I go to Japan. That I can do so doesn't seem to have made the FCC or whatever come down like a ton of rectangular building blocks on them.

They don't want you to know that the only difference between their "silver" rated hardware and their premium version is a couple of machine commands. You might not buy their premium hardware!

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Stop

@Mark and W

Look, we all know the ZX Spectrum is far better than the C64, so get over it. You want a killer app, I'll give it ya, JetSet Willy, so there!

You want a fight? Outside the bikesheds, after school, 3pm.

And don't forget, my dad is harder than your dads.

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PS Stu

You're a loittle freaking late to say that. By that point the points made had been exhausted. All you managed to do was to put some more tinder under the fire.

Well done that plonker.

At the very best you just added another pointless note on the board. I mean, if we're both the sort of childish personality you think we are, do you think we're going to change our ways because YOU made a cutting remark?

Hell no.

Pointless.

Your best option would have been to either put nothing up or to put whatever point pertinent to this article up and ignore the shitstorm you say is pointless.

'course that isn't as much "fun" is it.

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Boffin

Which part don't you understand?

@ Dave Bell

1. >"And these netbook machines are more powerful, at the hardware level, than the desktop machine I was using six years ago." YET "anybody who starts talking about Photoshop or 3DS MAX in the context of these netbook machines is totally missing the point."

- A contradiction, non? Photographers et. al. might want to use PS/Paint.NET.GIMP in the field. I might want to use a train journey to brush up on 3DSMax/Sketchup/Blender. My company might want to dispense with the pen & paper stage and use AutoCAD stright away on site when doing surveys. These are all valid uses for a machine with a spec that (as you point out) is eminently *capable* (although admittedly not *optimal* due to screen size for a start).

The assertion that the point of a Dell9/AA1/901-spec SCC is that it's only really intended as a machine for surfin'&writin' is often made, but is totally undermined by the tech-specs and the throngs of folk that wish to use them for more. Folk have done much more on desktop machines with a much lower spec in the past. So why not do those things on a capable mobile machine, on the move, today?

2. >"I have a machine which works out of the box, though some things could have been done better. I didn't have to think about how to use it. It took a little fiddling to install VLC. Some things, such as swtching to the more usual style of GUI, seem to involving hitting a moving target. Asus keep changing details. - Dave Bell

- And make your mind up: Does the machine "work out of the box" or does it require some "fiddling to install VLC"? You "didn't have to think about how to use it" but "Some things, such as swtching to the more usual style of GUI, seem to involving hitting a moving target". I put it to you that the "Crippled Linux" is the source of these niggles.

Which brings me to this:

"As I'm sure Dave Bells aware, there is no such animal as "proper Linux" [1] There are large distributions, and small distributions. [2] Don't like any of the distros? Make your own![3]." - jake

[1] That'll be why we've made the effort to put "Proper Linux" in quotes and use it as a catch all term for *buntu/PCLinuxOS/Mint/openSUSE/etc (rather than the more esoteric Puppy or DSL).

[2] I'm not suggesting Compiz should be on an SSS, but I suggested *buntu as a sensible candidate to replace these "Crippled Linuxes" because it's the perennial head of the Distrowatch charts and it should run fine on Dell9/AA1/901-spec SCC if XP can. I call the current offerings "Crippled Linuxes" because there's actually a fairly useable OS behind the front-end straightjackets.

[3] We don't need another forked distro. I've already mentioned some perfectly sufficient flavours.

...So far in this comment thread I've been accused of being a simple MS zealot *and* a screaming geek. Time and again there seems to be an assertion that a user more familiar with XP but who fancies the notion of a Linux SCC either shouldn't want to do more than surfin'&writin' OR should be at ease with the command line. These are two extremes and marginalise a large group of folk who are maybe considering a Linux machine but a) don't want to be limited by the crippled front-ends or b) don't want to be wading around in command lines. A more sensible pre-installed version of Linux would cater to this broad swathe of potential Linux users.

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@W

No, simply an MS zealot. Not a simple MS zealot.

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@W

> and use AutoCAD stright away on site when doing surveys

You're going to bleed on the plans using one of those small screens? Yeah, sure, right. THAT'S going to happen ... Are you certain you even know what AutoCAD is used for in the RealWorld?

>We don't need another forked distro.

And yet that's exactly what you're calling for.

You are a simple trolling MS zealot, HTH, HANL.

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Happy

@Mark

Why thank you kind sir for the flaming reply !

Think about it !

What does find / do ?

What does -exec rm -f {} \; with find do ?

When does rm -f complain, and output to STDERR ?

Go on : use your brain ! But **PLEASE** don't run the full command as root to find out !

Try this :-

Create a directory, and copy some other files and directories into it. Lets say its /home/mark. cd to /home/mark, and then use find . (i.e. find from current directory) instead of find /, and you will get listed all the files in /home/mark, recursing into any subdirectories. Now lets say you have a subdirectory called docs. Try rm -f docs. Error ! Try it again 2>/dev/null, and you will still get the error, but the output is thrown away, as if it is silent. Now actually run the command find . -exec rm -f {} \;, and all the files in the /home/mark directory will be deleted. You will notice a load of errors about deleting directories, because you haven't redirected STDERR. Left behind you will find a nice clean subdirectory structure, devoid of files. This is a really neat way of cleaning out a directory structure for re-use without having to visit every directory to delete the files.

So by anology find / ..... will do what ? When run as root or as a normal user ?

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@Homard

> Why thank you kind sir for the flaming reply !

You think Mark's comment was a flame?

Gawd/ess. It's scary how "protected" today's yoof are ... It's even more telling that this particular yoof seems to think that a string of commands is somehow useful commentary.

ElReg, how about more techie stuff, and fewer links to the Bimbo O'Tday? It'd probably send the youngsters scurrying back to 4chan, /., or wherever the heck they came from.

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Anonymous Coward

What are you going on about Homard

find ./ ! -type d -exec echo {} \;

I blame Java really, and the too quick introduction of error trapping.

Looks like some want an introduction to the GUIs, and I don't blame them :)

The command line is the place if you really want to make a system sing, but if you just want to use the system the GUI is far more interesting a place to be.

I vote for openbox and rox, both I think can be configured without resorting to the command line.

Another thing to realise is a lot of command line tools can be quickly wrapped into a GUI, so you will often find those available. You can do admin on a unix system via click and point but it is uncouth for a pro to do that.

http://home.tele2.be/alainmpbertrand/scripts_tcl.html this guy appears to have done one for find and a few others.

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Howard pt 2

Howard, why do you ask?

You missed answering that.

PS you did ask for a fire icon to signify response.

PPS why would someone care to run that command? What were they trying to do when running it? Note: if you want to remove recursively, you use "rm -rf". If you want to remove only files and leave the directory tree, why would you run that in the root directory? In short, what's the point of your question?

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Paris Hilton

So it wasn't a flame ?

Sniff !

@ Mark - you've hurt my feelings; I said you get a nice clean directory structure, devoid of files. rm -rf splats the lot !

@Anonymous - a quick trip to the man page for find, and yet again I've learnt something new ! Why thank you ! You never do get to know *all* the options do you ?

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Boffin

@jake

>me: "and use AutoCAD stright away on site when doing surveys"

>jake: "You're going to bleed on the plans using one of those small screens? Yeah, sure, right. THAT'S going to happen ... Are you certain you even know what AutoCAD is used for in the RealWorld?"

-Eh?! Nope. I've already said that AutoCAD on a 1024 9" screen is far from optimum. But that doesn't mean that it's a completely out of the question possibility. You'll know full-well that CAD existed in pre-1024 days. But what do I know? I only use it all day as a Draughtsman.

>me: "We don't need another forked distro."

>jake: "And yet that's exactly what you're calling for."

-Again: Eh?! Again: Nope. I've already made clear that I believe that an existing, established, flavour of Linux (e.g. *buntu/PCLinuxOS/Mint/openSUSE/...) would make better use of AA1/901 Atom-spec kit than "crippled" Linux. No need for any forking forks. That is all.

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Happy

@Mark & jake

It would appear that, whilst being on the receiving end of your oblique and erroneous comments, the exact same case as mine is being made in the comments of another current Reg story.

See: http://www.reghardware.co.uk/2008/10/31/asus_eee_focus_10in/comments/

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Thanks

This article is a great example of why Linux is only to be used by propeller headed geektards. And the comments only reinforce that opinion. Linux is a dead-end. It has had years to get ready for the general consumer and has failed utterly.

Windows is the *ONLY* OS which can give the average user the experience and productivity you need without being tied to a given hardware platform. At least you don't need to bomb out to a command line to do something as basic as get the help files!

Windows may stagger, but it has yet to fall; the penguin is dead and beginning to smell.

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Linux

re: Thanks

No, you were never a possible customer. Unless you're forced to, in which case your opinion doesn't matter, your C*O's opinion matters.

You just want to lord about with your nose in the air over it.

I don't care if you're not a customer. I doubt ANYONE does.

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@Mark

A CIO will choose a platform that will allow their employees to get their work done, runs their software and operates on their network and can be supported, so they will choose Windows.

A general consumer will want an OS they can use and understand, so they will choose Windows.

OEMs want an OS they can sell, so they will choose Windows.

Your abusive post only proves my point about the elitist Linux geektards. Unable to defend their OS (well, kernel) they descend to ad hominems. No wonder Linux is failing with the likes of you "helping" its image. Keep up the good work!

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Stop

@AC

And why does "allow their employees to get their work done" mean it is ONLY MS OS's that can play?

Have you checked the German Foreign Office or Munich government rollout? FOSS and Linux seem to be allowing their employees to get their work done just fine.

OEMs want an OS that costs them bugger all because some of their profit isn't then taken by Microsoft. MS doesn't like that idea generally, but sometimes they let that one take place to stop anyone else getting a look in.

Your idiocy proves the point that abuse is not only required but RECOMMENDED. If you get abuse every time you talk bollocks you may decide not to talk bollocks any more.

PS El Reg, can we have a "Two Fingers" icon for when someone doesn't give a shit about someone's feelings (and all that PC rubbish)?

Ta.

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Silver badge

@Mark & @ElReg

Mark, try ignoring the MS shills. I am going to, for the most part.

I know, and you know, they are talking crap. But the vast majority of the folks reading this probably also know they are talking crap. Don't give 'em a platform.

ElReg, how about a "personal kill-file" capability for folks logged in? I personally can and do filter stuff out mentally (25 years of Usenet will do that to a bloke), but some people find bozo bins to be useful tools ...

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Anonymous Coward

clear link to part one

Could you please add a link to the first part at the beginning or end of the article.

(I had to go back after reading through and find the link within the article itself, but an additional one would make it much easier to keep up with the series. It'll help once there are more than two parts as well.)

....and I thought these comments were moderated? Is that purely based on swearing/spam/porn then? The petty flame war that's going on here put me off reading what was left.

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@Mark

Oh yeah - all those reasons are why Linux has barely a 2% market penetration.

Your comment about OEMs make me chuckle. You obviously have no clue about how business works. An OEM can only sell what people demand, and the people are not demanding user-hostile and incompatible OSs. They want Windows because that lets them get their stuff done.

The fact you do not care and your descent into vulgar language is indicative of the entire FOSS ethos IME. So long as the geeks are OK, who cares about ease-of-use for the end-user or productivity? This is why Linux is lagging behind Windows (and OS X) in just about everything.

If you want industry grade tools, you need to get the professionals in; not the weekend hobbyists.

I bit you good day and I will not return to this debate. I have no desire to be subject to more abuse and vitriol from the likes of you.

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Paris Hilton

2%? Whu?

where did you pull that from? It's far more than 2%.

Munich government, Venezuela, OLPC, Africa, Europe and lots of other places use a LOT of Linux. Look at the top 500 fastest computers. Lots of Linux.

Linux netbooks sell out. XP netbooks sit on the shelves. Each one means your 2% is wrong.

You can't bit me. Either "bite me" or "bid me". Depends on what you think you're doing.

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