Chapter 1—Why Linux? Why Not Linux? Which Linux?

You’re reading this book to get started with Linux, and you’re coming from the perspective of a Windows power user. The rise of Linux in the popular culture has also given rise to a large number of half-truths, myths, and outright lies. These can serve to cause people to set unrealistic expectations, and thus be disappointed by their first exposure to Linux. In order to help you develop realistic expectations, this chapter will provide the expectations for Linux usage that I started out with. Once you create your own set, you can then evaluate your progress in meeting those expectations. In addition, I’ll discuss some common misconceptions about Linux; offer some thoughts about choosing a distribution; and explain why this book covers Fedora Core in print, and other distributions through electronic downloads.

Chapter 2—Installing Fedora Core

In mid-2003, Red Hat spun off its mainstream Red Hat distribution into a true opensource project called “Fedora Core.” FC, as it’s known, differs from Red Hat Linux in a couple of specific ways: First, you can only get it by downloading ISOs (or getting them from a friend), and second, it’ll be updated on a regular basis, but strictly through open-source means. Some have taken these changes to mean that FC will become unstable or otherwise unworthy of attention, and thus have been reluctant to give it a try. That’s not really fair—most people (myself included) think that FC is on par with where “Red Hat 10” would have been at this time. Some people may not be convinced, so to give those doubting Thomases in the audience a preview of FC, I use a liberal number of screen shots in this chapter, as well as detailed supporting explanations to show you how to install Fedora Core from scratch for desktop usage.

Chapter 3—Updating Fedora Core

Unless you’re installing a brand-new version of a piece of software, there are bound to be updates available for it, and Fedora Core is no exception. Updating your system with the latest patches, bug fixes, and security updates will keep your system running as smoothly and problem-free as possible. Because Fedora Core is Linux, there’s not just one way to update your system. In this chapter, I’ll explain how the Fedora Core basic update process works and how to use the various mechanisms available to you.

Chapter 4—Getting Help

Maybe someday in the future we’ll have honest-to-goodness self-healing computers that can fix themselves. Until then, we humans will have to get involved when problems occur. As the master of your computer, that job falls on your shoulders, and generally, you’re not going to be able to do it yourself. Fedora Core provides several mechanisms for getting help: online help files, Web sites, and the mailing lists and associated archives. Taking advantage of these resources can be daunting for a Windows user who is not used to having a set of community resources to rely on. In this chapter, using live examples, I discuss how to use these resources when you run into a problem.

Chapter 5—Configuring Your Desktop

So you’ve installed Fedora Core, you’ve logged in, and you’re facing a GUI desktop. What next? You’ve got two choices. Either leave it alone and just learn how to use what’s in front of you, or customize it—make it bend to your will. Hey, I know! Let’s do both! In this chapter, I’ll explain how to use the desktop “out of the box,” and then I’ll show you how to customize it by showing you how I customize my own desktop.

Chapter 6—Files, Directory Structures, and File Managers

It’s all about data. Your data. Except for those poor souls who wander around airports with a $5,000 notebook that’s used only for Solitaire and the occasional DVD, people use computers to work with data. And oftentimes, that data will be stored on your computer. In this chapter, I’ll discuss what you need to know about dealing with data files on your computer—how files are different on Linux, what the directory structure in Linux looks like and what goes where, and how to manipulate files with popular file managers.

Chapter 7—E-mail and Web Browsing

By far, the most common activities that people perform on their personal computers are using the Internet for e-mail and surfing the World Wide Web. In this chapter, I’ll introduce a couple of popular tools for both functions and get you started using them.

Chapter 8—Office and Productivity Applications

One of the two primary reasons most people use a computer (the first was discussed in Chapter 7) is to create and manage documents by using “office and productivity applications.” These apps include a word processor, a spreadsheet, perhaps presentation software, a note taker, and financial-management software. In this chapter, I’ll give you a quick tour through the most popular office and productivity applications available natively on your Fedora Core system.

Chapter 9—Fedora Core Utilities

There is a breed of human being that insists on collecting tools that can only be used for the most arcane and specialized of purposes. Some folks have a workshop, garage, or kitchen that holds tools that were used only once, seven years ago, for one particular project. These are the people who insist on a quid pro quo—if you’re going to make me do another home repair project, my price is that I get to visit the hardware store with our joint checkbook. For these types of folks, a popular Linux distribution like Fedora Core is a veritable paradise, because it includes more software tools than they’d ever be able to use in one lifetime. This chapter takes a look at some of the more popular tools available with Fedora Core.

Chapter 10—Digital Images

Working with digital images is the newest mainstream application for the personal computer, and Linux has a variety of tools to help you do so. In this chapter, I cover a range of applications that will help you download pictures from your digital camera, capture screen shots of your computer’s monitor, or draw freehand (should that be “freemouse”?). Then I’ll show you how to modify the results to suit your needs, and finally, view those images either one at a time or in a slide show.

Chapter 11—Multimedia: Audio (and Video)

The classic examples of multimedia applications are listening to music (audio) and watching movies (video). Multimedia, unlike other popular end-user applications like word processing, spreadsheets, and e-mail, puts a strain on hardware and requires software that’s more sophisticated and powerful than a simple office suite or Web browser. As a result, Linux hasn’t always kept up with Windows in this arena. In this chapter, I’ll explore what a power user can do with multimedia today.

Chapter 12—Devices: Printers, Scanners, CD Burners

While the majority of this book has focused on what comes as part of the standard Fedora Core package, there’s one thing that you’re undoubtedly going to use that doesn’t come with Fedora Core: devices. Some devices have already been covered elsewhere in this book: I discussed a quick, step-by-step procedure for burning a CDROM in Chapter 2, and a similar procedure for downloading files from a digital camera in Chapter 10. In this chapter, I continue to show you how to use various common devices with your Linux desktop. I’ll show you how to hook up a local printer and how to configure a print queue, how to use a Fedora Core GUI application to burn CDs, and how to connect a scanner.

Chapter 13—Security

In Chapter 1, I mentioned that one of the top 10 myths with respect to Linux is that “because it’s more secure, you don’t have to worry about security.” And, yes, it is a myth: You do have to worry about security. The only computer that’s completely secure is the one that’s turned off, unplugged, and sitting in a locked box in the middle of the room. In this chapter, I’ll address a variety of topics dealing with securi