This is all dreadfully out of date, will be freshened as the semester gets along

Some of it may be useful...

Linux Links



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 Programming Language History)

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... Gparted (Gnome 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 backed up...

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  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:

Red Hat Enterprise 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 outfit.
The Fedora 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.
Ubuntu 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 version, Wubi, for Ubuntu so it can run without risking problems with dual-booting.
Gentoo 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. 
Suse 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.   
Slackware has lots of devotees among NOC geeks and others who would rather not use RPMs and prefer to be closer to the Source.
Knoppix has options across the range.  I'm not sure what its advantages are, but its devotees include some very talented systems admins.
Damn Small Linux a distro for IP sharing, routing, firewalling.  Fits on a floppy or small CD.
Coyote Linux is for routing, a small distro.
SlackWare-live a live CD version of SlackWare that you can take almost anywhere. 


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 general:

LAME, Linux Administration Made Easy, is found all over the web.  Here is one of them.
The 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 eye... 

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 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 are of interest to me as I retread my proprietary-ix and private-WAN skills into Linux and The Internet. provides a steady stream of advisory traffic from it's mail lists, BugTraq, and also provides an edited report weekly summary of what's up with Linux security-related issues.


ISP-Planet provides marketing & tech tips for the ISP community through an active website and hosting mail lists.  They provide isp-tech & isp-linux mail lists which provide a good cross-section of problems and issues related to using linux on the internet.  Here are links to subscribe: provides nmap, essential for sniffing about the security of a server attached to the internet, and other valuable resources. keeps the top news stories about Linux posted conveniently.


Why is Linux 'easier to secure'?


HTML Tutorials: This is a good one at  

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'? has 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.
PHP Manual
MySQL Manual, Highly Detailed HTML/CSS Resource 
Visibone, Web-safe color chart
U Texas HTML Colors
JPGraph, PHP Graphing


What's up with The Internet, where are the bad guys?
Internet Health Report - Daze
Internet Health Report- Internet Pulset
Internet Weather Report
Internet Storm Center
HostProbe, who owns that IP?


Installing Linux, considerations, &c
Redhat 9 web server, MySQL, PHP, Mail, &c
Making a Fedora Core 4 Firewall