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Linux Newbie Administrator Guide (LNAG)

ver. 0.194 2003-06-04 by Stan, Peter and Marie Klimas
The latest version of this guide is available at
Copyright (c) <1999-2003> by Peter and Stan Klimas. Your feedback, comments, corrections, and improvements are appreciated. Send them to This material may be distributed only subject to the terms and conditions set forth in the Open Publication License, v1.0, 8 or later with the modification noted in lnag_licence.html.

Intro. We are relative Linux newbies (with Linux since Summer 1998). We run mostly RedHat and Mandrake  -> the solutions might not be directly applicable to other Linux distributions (although most of them probably will be). Hope this helps; we try to be as practical as possible. Of course, we provide no warranty whatsoever.  If you spotted a bad error or would like to contribute a part on a topic of your choice, we would like to hear from you.

General description of this Guide.  A complete reference for new Linux users who wish to set up and administer their own Linux home computer, workstation and/or their home or small office network.  The answers are meant to be simple, with just sufficient detail, and always supported with a readily usable example.  The work is still in progress, but we hope the Guide can be helpful already. We  welcome your corrections, advice, criticism, links, translations, and CONTRIBUTIONS. Pls note that there are no ad banners on our pages.

 <> = single special or function key on the keyboard. For example <Ctrl> indicates the "control" key.
  italic = name of a file or variable you probably want to substitute with your own.
  fixed width = commands and filenames.

Part 0: For the Undecided (Linux Benefits)
If you are wondering what the Linux pros and cons are, and whether Linux is for you.

Part 1: Before Linux Installation
What distribution should I use, how to obtain it, Linux hardware requirements, how to partition your hard drive, about dual boot, which packages to install, which graphical user interface (GUI) to install (gnome or kde?), and how to login for the very first time.

Part 2: Linux Resources, Help and Some Links
How to access the Linux documentation (from under MS Windows or Linux), what are Linux help commands, where to find the geek dictionary, + pointers to some Linux newsgroups and websites.

Part 3: Basic Operations FAQ
After you installed Linux, here are answers to some questions that Linux newbie users/administrators may have when trying to perform every-day tasks: what are the file name conventions, how to run a program, shut down my computer, set up the path, add users, remove users, make your passwords and system more secure, work with file permissions, schedule jobs with "at" and cron, change your shell prompt, print symbols in the text mode, use color in the text mode, redirect input/output, write a simple shell script, install a new program ...

Part  4.1:  Boot-time issues
Some info on LILO and GRUB boot managers, how do I choose the operating system which boots on default, hints on configuration of the boot loaders, "uninstalling" Linux  ...

Part  4.2:  Drives
Where are my drives, how to access them, configure user access, get the zip drive recognized, set 32-bit hard drive IO, increase the limit on the number of opened files, add a new hardrive, manage the swap space ...

Part  4.3: X-windows
How to switch between text and graphical consoles, set up my video card, monitor and mouse for the X-server, setup a graphical login prompt,  change a default desktop,  have multiple sessions of Xwindows running at the same time,  use Xwindow remotely, install TrueType fonts from my MS Windows partition to Linux, how to copy-paste under X and in the text mode, how to use VNC.

Part  4.4: Basic Configurations
Real basics on how to configure the printer and soundcard,  bits about configuration files, daemons, and device files.

Part  4.5:  Networking
Setting up a network, ppp (connection over the phone), remote access to your computer, ftp and html server, e-mail, how my computer can get hacked ...

Part 5: Linux Shortcuts and Commands
Maybe this should have come first. A practical selection of Linux shortcuts and commands in a concise form. Perhaps this is everything that a computer-literate newbie Linuxer really needs. Highly recommended.

Part 6: Linux applications (proprietary or not)
Essential and/or famous Linux applications with some hint/comments: word processing, spreadsheet, database, latex. Extensive info on how to set up and use a CD recorder to write data, audio, and mixed mode CDs.

Part 7: Learning with Linux (commands for more esoteric work or programming)
Review of some more advanced or less useful commands/tools to get you started with fancier text processing, encryption, digital signatures (gpg), simple programming plus some info on the Linux console tools that can help you learn about computers. Under development so perhaps not so good:  grep, regular expressions, sed, gawk, sort, ascii codes, linux built-in c compiler and tools, perl, python, tcl/tk, "Reverse Polish Notation" (RPN) calculator, scilab, wine ... working on it.

Appendix A: How to upgrade the kernel (by Alesh Mustar)
All you need to know to upgrade the Linux kernel (currently unmaintained)

Licence, Acknowledgments and log of changes.