SF Senior Mod
Joined: 21 Sep 2003
|Posted: Tue Aug 17, 2010 6:31 pm Post subject:
Hi godcore, welcome to the forums!
You're going on the right path, looking to learn about Unix. Unix, as you probably know, is a high quality operating system. Actually, nowadays, there are many Unix systems, different but at the same time largely compatible with each other. They are governed by common standards, such as POSIX and the Single UNIX Specification. Mac OSX, for example, is a Unix-based operating system. So is BSD, and GNU/Linux (which is better known, incorrectly, as just Linux). You should really try GNU/Linux.
GNU/Linux is a Unix-like operating system, which is completely free -- free as in price, and also free as in freedom. You see, GNU/Linux is what we call Free Software. In a nutshell, you can download and distribute it for free, you can see how it works, you can have access to its source code to learn from it, and you can even modify it and distribute your improvements to other people!
I suggest you read the threads I link below, to get an idea of how you can try GNU/Linux for yourself, without even having to install it to your hard drive at first. As you will see, there are many variants of GNU/Linux itself, but for a beginner I would definitely recommend Ubuntu Linux. It's meant to "just work" and they do a very good job at it, without losing the important power and flexibility that you expect from a *nix system.
* Everything you need to know about *NIX
* Questions on trying linux for first time
As for Ubuntu's ease of use... my grandmother uses it. And she's not a computer-savvy person by any means. As for installation... Ubuntu is easier to install than Windows. Also, it will recognize an existing Windows installation and offer to set itself up side-by-side, so that you can choose what you want to use when you boot the computer.
That said, installing a new operating system can be a daunting task, if you are inexperienced. A small mistake may render your system unbootable, even if it might be easy to correct (the problem is knowing how to correct it when you don't have the experience). As I said, installing an easy-to-use GNU/Linux distribution such as Ubuntu is easier than installing Windows; but still, if you've never installed Windows for example, or partitioned a hard drive, it might be better to get an old computer and use that to mess around with. Install whatever you want, play with it, and if you mess anything up you can just reinstall. Or you can use a virtual machine, if you've ever heard of VMWare or VirtualBox.
By the way: there are some things in the Unix world that work differently from what you are used to in Windows. An obvious example is the fact that, in Windows, you access your files through drive letters (C:, D:, etc.) while in GNU/Linux your partitions are melded into a single, larger, tree structure. A given drive or partition is simply a directory inside the larger filesystem structure. If you've ever used a Mac in recent years, you've seen it (as I said above, Mac OSX is a Unix-based system).
These differences don't necessarily mean things are harder to use; they just mean they're different. If you had never used Windows before, you would probably see no sense in the whole C: and D: thing. Why are there separate places for each drive, and why are they represented by letters, and why C: anyway? Or why are you supposed to restart your Windows system whenever you install just about anything? Or why are you supposed to go around Googling for programs and downloading installers, instead of having a single builtin package manager like we do on practically all GNU/Linux distributions, where you can just search for a program's name and click "install" to get it done?
In any case, good luck on your endeavor. Stick to it, read a lot, ask many questions, Internet forums and FAQs are your friends, and most importantly: play a lot! There's no substitute for getting your hands dirty.