How do I learn Linux?

By Sasha Pachev

Learning Linux has many benefits. Having a combination of Linux skills you can solve complex problems using open source tools available free of charge. You rarely pay for the software you use and are able to do so without breaking the law. You have a better understanding of how a computer works, which helps you in other areas of computing. Your earning potential in the IT area increases.

The best way to learn Linux is to install it, and start using it immediately. There are many distributions to choose from. It does not really matter which one you start with. Pick one, get the CD, boot from it, and follow the instructions. You may want to invite a more experienced friend to help you overcome the initial hurdles.

The spirit of Linux is that the user is expected to understand how things work rather than just point and click, and expect things to just work. Once you have accepted this rule of the game, you will have a much better experience with Linux. It may on occasion take several hours and some creativity to accomplish a task that you might be able to do with one click on Windows. However, the experience gained will permit you to accomplish many other tasks in minutes that cannot be done on Windows at all unless you buy expensive software.

To become a Linux guru, you will need to learn to ask the right questions and know where to find the answers. Become comfortable with the command line shell (Bash), and learn to use man. Make it a habit to study Linux HOWTO documents. Learn how to find your answers on Google. Books might also be helpful, although I personally prefer online materials.

Do not be afraid to dig deep. Start by recompiling the kernel, building packages from source, studying and making small changes to the source code of applications and system scripts. As you gain confidence in your skills, move on to more challenging tasks.

One of the prominient selling points of Windows is that a Windows System Administrator is cheaper to hire than a Linux one. As you continue to work with Linux, you will understand why. At times, you may spend hours getting frustrated about not being able to do something simple. When those times come, pray for patience. Those are the times when your understanding of computing in general is being called to move to a higher level. If your lack of patience does not interfere, your skills will increase, and you will eventually become the Linux SysAdmin that is more expensive to hire.