|Linux distributions come
in all flavors, from the industrial grade, well supported, long
release cycles of Red Hat Enterprise & Suse that protect
systems administrators from the nightmares of dependencies, down
through free distributions, some of which promise nearly daily
releases and strive to be on the bleeding edge of every
development whether it be for a server or for a
desktop. Here is a Unix
Intellectual Property pedigree that shows the lineages of our
current, surviving *ixs, and hints of those that dried up and
blew away over the past few decades. (Here's a link to a similar chart Levenez maintains for
Some people become devoted fans of a
particular distro because of support issues or familiarity, and some because of
a zeal that is almost religious in nature. Others have
installed every distro that comes along this 'comparative *ixology'
can be quite valuable as more and more from the continuously
emerging open source community is put to commercial use.
My main flavor is Red Hat Enterprise since some applications that
I support are also well-supported by IBM engineers, who require AIX, RHE, or Suse
if I'm to use their tech support. RHE also runs on IBM eServer System i flawlessly
so, for servers I stick to RHE or it's free version, Fedora. For desktop, notebook,
and netbook machines, Ubuntu is my choice. RHE/Fedora can be difficult to install
on notebooks, where Ubuntu is easiest & keeps getting easier. Ubuntu's style of
networking (vs. network) and interface definition is not familiar to me where Red Hat's
is comfortable old hat to me, so rather than risk lack of command of syntax in a
mission-critical situation, I'd rather not run servers with Ubuntu...
Approach FOSS with some caution, and with the expectation
that this is _Not_ Windows and that there will be a learning curve.
If you haven't read
Linux is Not Windows now
is a good time...
Whichever distro you choose, consider whether you'll
be 'dual-booting' it with Windows. If so, it's probably safer to prepare the
hard disk ahead of time using a partition editor like Partition Magic or
the open source GParted. It's right dicey to master this critical task
in the one shot you'll get with Fedora or Ubuntu's
'guided install', which draws misleading pictures of the before & after...
Partition Editor) is a free & safe 'live CD' you can boot and
use to shrink the Windows partition and make room for Linux.
(Back up your stuff every day, and _especially_ before doing it is the best advice...)
Caution: (Feb '09) After using gparted for
years to dual-boot Windoze with Linux with Zero problems, now I'm finding
that Vista may require special treatment following a gparted 'shrink & move left'
operation. Here is
an article about resizing Vista partisions. So, it's doubly important to keep all your stuff
Some distros offer 'live CD'
options that let you boot and run a Linux Desktop, Server, or
recovery from an OS on a CD (or DVD) without comitting to the installation
until you've seen exactly what works & what doesn't. If you see the install
will be easy, only then do you hit the intall icon. These CDs usually
install with desktop stuff and will take a lot of yum-ming, apt-getting,
or using Synaptic to get the packages needed to make a server. If your goal
is a server, then the best bet is to use Fedora's full installation series and
answer the questions about what components to install.
One of VCU's network engineers, Carlisle
Childress, provides ISOs for Fedora Core & other linux distros
& related software at mirrors.vcu.edu.
Take the 'what is found here' link then 'downloadable
files' and choose the ftp or http link.
If you're on campus you'll get quick downloads at optical speeds,
a few minutes for a CD and several for a DVD.
You might want
to burn your CDs in the 4th floor lab (take your own DVD burner!).
Always make sure you are 'burning the disk from an ISO image'
and not dragging the ISO image into a BurnThis window.
The most valuable experience in networking with *ix is
found by putting two or more NICs in a
late model PC and make a router/firewall/web/mail server out of it, put
it on The Internet, and learn what's in the logs and what the
crackers are trying to do every hour of the day. Setting up this
rig at the border of a LAN, or a couple of them, writing your firewall scripts
(or run IP Cop), and depend on it for
your Internet Connection -- this will introduce you to all the basics of
networking, internetworking, and network security.
Here are links to some Linux Distros:
Linux comes with a
support fee of $79 thru $30,000 depending on what you need,
and provides a stable OS, automatic patches, and
a long time (1 1/2 - 2 years) between releases. They
provide 'back patches' thru RPMs and shield us from many
problems related to dependencies. The top of the line
is the Enterprise version, and they also offer fully
supported Desktop distributions for reasonable rates.
The low$ versions come with email/chat support, and the hi$
come with 24X7X365 telephone support by an award-winning
Project is Red Hat's contribution to free distributions. The releases
since FC6 are 'live install' distributions so you can
boot from the CD and see if it works OK on your machine
before taking the plunge and clicking Install. Support comes
from the project's user and developer groups. Yellow
Dog is used to keep the OS up to date. Releases
(Cores) are expected to be at intervals of a few to several
months, depending on what's on the bleeding edge.
Linux has become very popular since 2005, is based
on Debian but more
civilized for the noobs and desktop users, and gets
excellent reviews that it's an easy install on Notebook & Netbook
computers. There's also a Windoze-installable
for Ubuntu so it can run without risking problems with
Linux is a 'meta distribution' that can install itself
by getting the sources for all the relevant components for
your processor from The Web, essentially building your
kernel and OS from scratch to suit whatever hardware where
it's installing itself. These installs can take days,
and they are reported to work well on many otherwise
difficult hardware platforms. A 'gentoo', by the way, is the
largest of the penguins. |
Linux is another industrial grade Linux, is in cahoots
with Novell to provide excellent support for commercial
networks and a continuous contribution of talent to the open source movement.
has lots of devotees among NOC geeks and others who would
rather not use RPMs and prefer to be closer to the Source.
has options across the range. I'm not sure what its
advantages are, but its devotees include some very talented
systems admins. |
Small Linux a distro for IP sharing, routing,
firewalling. Fits on a floppy or small CD. |
Linux is for routing, a small distro. |
a live CD version of SlackWare that you can take almost
Any comments or improvements to this list,
please send along to me and I'll get them posted here.
|Linux Administration skills
are relatively easy to develop. Traditionally, all *ix admin is
done at the command line & this is the most generalizable
across platforms. The GUI system admin tools available in
most distros' GUI may be more or less 'proprietary' (if this is
appropriate in an Open Source environment), and some of them may
write and use records other than the 'standard' configuration
records that may confuse some future administrative
effort. Your technical interviewer will be impressed that you can
speak fluently in bash, navigate around the *ix file structure,
and point out what's significant in the logs...|
Here are some links about Linux & *ix Admin, in
|LAME, Linux Administration Made Easy, is
found all over the web. Here
is one of them.
Linux Tutorial is another good starting place.
Take the line for the Table of Contents.
|Google on 'linux security', 'unix
administration', and other terms and you'll find a world of
resources about *ix, which has been an 'open operating
system' long before Windows NT was even a gleam in Bill's
|An Introduction to The Unix/Linux Command Line
is necessary for many students who have never left the Windoze GUI
except to use the 'DOS Prompt' once or twice.
|vi, Visual Editor, is a server-side, CUI
editor originally built for tty interface with a unix
host. Now , vim, V IMproved is standard with linux and
supports a 'standard PC' keyboard's cursor arrows &
other editing keys. Here,
courtesy of U of Hawaii, is Google's top tutorial for vi.
You don't need to do the 1st step, about import TERM, since
the vim you'll use at info300.net should work fine with the
standard terminal type in putty.exe. Ask in class for a demo
of the basic features, and learn the advanced stuff like
yy, dd, p & the copy/paste equivalents on your own. |
|Linux, ISP, & Internet Security issues
of interest to me as I retread my proprietary-ix and private-WAN skills into Linux and
keeps the top news stories about Linux posted conveniently.
|Why is Linux
'easier to secure'?|
This is a good
one at davesite.com. |
Don't worry about the first chapter that advises you to find a site --
students in my classes involving Linux can put a directory named web
in their home directory and use it as their 'web document root'.
W3Schools Online Web
Tutorials has tutes for HTML, CSS, XML, XSL & PHP and comes highly
recommended by an Ace student.
There are many good web references and books about all aspects of html
and related languages, so look around.
Want to make a 'favicon.ico'?
a free icon maker and has other tools....
|Advanced References: These are
references, not tutorials, are quick & quite detailed
references, definitive of their topics. The PHP &
MySQL links include good introductory lessons.|
|What's up with The Internet,
where are the bad guys?
|Installing Linux, considerations,