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New Unix Users

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What would you say or give as advice to newly unix users. What is there first to dabble with.

Music by kronstudio.

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# New Unix Users #

What would you say or give as advice to newly unix users. What is there
first to dabble with.

# Intro #

Today we're discussing advices and tips you'd like to tell
newcomers. Remember the first time you laid your hands on a Unix box,
most probably you were lost, just like most people. Now that you've got
some experience with Unix in general what would you tell yourself from
the past.

Guests: thlst, abhx/stark

# Purpose #

We dabbled with the topic of purpose. Is it important for newcomers to
have a certain purpose to use Unix? Does it help? Is it a necessity? Would
you really tell yourself that you needed a purpose to start learning
new things?

venam: I think that's an important point, the purpose behind why you
want to learn. If you're not attracted to this new topic, to this new
environment, if you don't like it, if you're not enjoying it, then
if you don't have a purpose nor a goal, then you won't be learning
anything. You'd just be wandering around Unix but won't have any clue
what you want from it.

thlst: You don't _have_ to have a specific purpose, it can be anything
you want to do with computers. If in any mean Unix systems are going to
help you with that then that's a good start.

abhx: You definitely have to have a genuine interest for the subject
otherwise, like in most things, you won't be able learn and you won't
enjoy it. The things you won't enjoy you will end up quitting. So
purpose is a great thing, another one is necessity. I started using
GNU/Linux because I needed an OS that used low memory and pretty much it
was a benefit of why I started. From there I started seeing what other
people were doing and learn from them, learn from examples, searching
under forums, and looking for issues that other people were having and
trying to figure out the solution to them. That's how I'm learning and
still learning.

venam: It drives you through a path to learn but unconsciously because
you just happened to _need_ that system at that time. Necessity is an
interesting point I didn't think about directly, there are people who
really need a system and that's the only solution they have to learn. It
might go along with the topic of purpose.

thlst: Not really because when you have an OS you don't really need to
have a central purpose to do _some things_ and the OS is only going to
help you with that thing. The OS is there to help you with _any thing_. A
starting purpose is good to get you starting to learn the basic of the OS
but as time goes on you don't always need to stick with one purpose your
entire life. The OS is there to help you with anything you want to do.

venam: I totally agree with this. An OS is suppose to answer any
question, it's a generic OS. It's not like a media-only OS. But my
point was that to learn _new things_ you may need to have a _new_
reason or some things that you need to uncover, hidden parts that you
didn't uncover before. That's my point, and not that you may only have
one single purpose and that it's the only thing that makes you learn.

thlst: I totally see the point, it's just that the listener/reader might
get confused about having a purpose. When you say that they need a purpose
to start they might think that they always need to have a purpose to do
anything in Unix-like systems.

venam: ...Because otherwise then you wouldn't learn anything if you have
no purpose. Yeah, that's a fair argument.

# Communities #

Unix is driven by its communities. They are an inherent part of its
being. What did we have to say to newcomers about communities.

venam: As with everyone, usually when we start we don't have a community
around us and then at the start of our journey we find about communities
online. Then we want to learn new stuff and ask other people which is
a great thing about Unix: It has a lot of communities for different
distros, for different softwares, etc.. But around those communities
there are different mindsets and ways of thinking that might be sometimes
destructive. One of my advice for newcomers is to not be intimidated
by the condescending people that think they are too something highly,
which is fairly common.

abhx: Definitely avoid 4chan. "Install Gentoo".

venam: Those condescending persons might sound elitist but it's a sort
of wall of entry which may appear intriguing to new ones. They might want
to get behind the wall with the others, it's tempting to become yourself
a condescending guy/gal. It could be in itself a drive to learn but it's
wrong to add fuel to the fire.

abhx: Let's discuss communities that we find helpful, for example the
Crunchbang community. The people in the forums were providing helpful
answers full of details and links. Everone has their own experiences,
let's share them.

venam: I would personally say that huge communities like
StackOverflow/StackExchange or are way too overwhelming, way
too big, it's bewildering in the sense that they've become a simple
help-desk. You post a question and get an answer. I wouldn't really
consider those "communities" in the sense that it's a close group. I
would advise to join smaller communities. From my own experience in small
communities you still have those annoying condescending persons but you
have to deal with it because it's still better than in big communities
where you don't even get in touch with anyone at all.

thlst: Some people in communities don't really like to help but it's just
a minority and when they see beginners asking silly questions they will
reply with things like "well you should have searched for that first and
before you asked us anything". That's a bit annoying because beginners
don't really grasp this thing of searching and trying to get results
by their self. So in communities, something I would give as an advice,
don't really ask about everything that you are not sure about. If you can
you could do a little research before asking questions and if you don't
find anything relative to your questions you may end up asking anyway to
the community. It's just so you can improve your ability to take care
of yourself. You don't rely on people to answer your every question,
you can pretty much answer your own questions by looking for answers.

venam: Sometimes it's hard to figure things out because you have many
sources and some of those sources are not always accurate, they only give
a certain perspective of a subject that doesn't apply on your specific
thing. And then when you ask then people don't reply or reply and you
have to deal with this.

thlst: There is also, something that I like about a community, and this
is a pattern I see. The more you learn about the system the more you
want to teach other people what you've learned and that's simply the
most amazing thing I have ever seen in anything related to the computer
area. It makes me happy to know that people are willing to teach stuffs
like what makes a system a Unix like system, what are the tools you
have to use in order to accomplish some tasks, or even teaching the
philosophy of Unix in general. This is great because communities are
built on top of this, it's a bunch of people that are willing to help
anyone with anything. And of course there are dudes that are going to
tell you that you have to search things yourself but it's really not part
of it, it's not what a community is built up on. This is the interesting
pattern I see in Unix-like system communities, that's how stuff works,
and that's how things are in general.

venam: It's wonderful and I think it can drive newcomers in a new
direction but it also has its drawbacks in relation with how people
perceive themselves, with their status within that community, if they
choose to adhere or join a community, in the sense that sometimes people
learn stuffs and want to teach others or at least appear as if they _know_
something. What I would say to newcomers is to not stop at one answer,
wait for more than one because sometimes a single guy can be wrong on a
certain topic and he won't admit it, which is not very constructive. Sure
you have many communities and it's fun, join communities, that's a good
advice, and ask multiple persons and don't stop after one answer because
it might be misinformation.

thlst: Make your own knowledge based on what you've learned in the
communities and by yourself.

venam: Right, and it might be frightening because it always seems like
there's someone smarter than you, and they're condescending at the
same time, and it seems as if they were looking at you as if you were a
kid. Then you might get depressed about that topic while you just wanted
to ask and no one was there to reply. Yeah, I can sympathize with that
'cause it seems overwhelming, there's just too much to learn, and then
you do your own research and there are millions of pages coming up,
millions of results, you're lost. It's an independence you have to take.

# Learning By Yourself #

Communities are a great way to learn but they're not enough just like
we've said. You have to take your own independence and so let's discuss

abhx: What's obvious to one is strange or really odd to a new
user. Searching for error codes around the web or looking up for tools for
a specific meaning or documentation is not so common since you're just
a newcomer. There's also the issue about misinformation or misdirection
that a lot of people who don't have the full knowledge, and based on
their partial knowledge, are making suggestions or just swing out a rant
opinions. Or even they're just googling out the problem and partially
giving a solution that probably won't match. So as a new user you'll have
to do your own research, look up what's the actual issue. Only you can
figure out what's going on. Also laziness, both on he user part and who's
not helping. On the user part sometimes you're lazy or short on time, and
someone who is helping on the site can be like "It's too much work for
him" even though he knows that it would be easier for him to explain it
instead of nagging. Not everyone use the step by step method to explain,
it's a lot of elitism everywhere, mostly it's not really everywhere.

venam: Most people are starting to be lazy, looking for step by step
guides, they're just lost in this kind of cloud. They're just looking
for step by step guides and there's this mentality today where people
want the _easy way_. Unix is not the easy way. You have to tell that to
newcomers: It's not easy. We say it's simple but it's not easy.

abhx: Definitely, simplicity is not equal to easiness of the situation.

venam: On that specific topic, there's a dude called Mike Lesk and
his point was that usually users choose a system based on a 30s basis
trial. They want something to use directly, the instantaneous, the fancy
interface, all the "good stuff". They do see it on the Unix side of
things, they see those fancy stuffs but they want direct results. Which
all goes along with laziness and asking questions, it won't come directly,
you have to go for it.

The commercial world generally goes for the novice mode because (a)
purchase decisions are often made on the basis of 30 seconds trial,
and (b) it minimizes the demands on customer support to have only a
dumbed-down GUI. I find many non-Unix systems very frustrating because,
for example, they will provide no way to do something on a hundred or
a thousand files; I want to write a script, and there's no support for
it. The basic problem is that they've assumed all users are novices all
the time, and then they bash Unix because it doesn't cater to that model.

thlst: About the system itself, you are never going to stop learning, it's
an evolutionary theme. By that I mean that you never end with this. After
you've learned something and you know how to do X and Y but you're not
done here, no. There's no ending. You're always going to learn new stuffs
you didn't know about, some more complicated than other but that's ok,
it's part of the constant experience. That's good when you compare it to
other systems where you don't really learn the entire system. You just
open up your games and start playing and that's it. Which is a pleasant
thing with Unix-like systems, and that's just how life works.

venam: It's a truth but sometimes it makes people sad to know that
they're never going to be the _best_, never going to know everything,
but that's how it is. Personally I find it exciting to know that there's
always something new.

thlst: That depends on the mindset. Some people just don't see it that
way, they see it as always an improvement and when they look back at their
history they see that they didn't know much and they still don't know much
either now but the path they took is so constructive. You're never going
to stop learning but that doesn't mean you'll never be marked enough,
it's just the opposite: The more you learn the more you'll know. Of
course, you may have that idea that the more you know the less you know
but that's ok. Life in general works like that.

venam: Yeah it's about modesty.

abhx: Definitely.

# Technical Tips #

While you're at it, and to keep up the good mood, you may want to keep
a journal log of what you've learned so far. It's a great way to take
your independence and you can use it as an offline reference instead
of looking up stuff online. Great thing to do. Now let's move to the
technical part, what are some technical tips to give to newcomers.

thlst: You shouldn't be messing with your harddisk but if you do so,
well, be sure that you're gonna screw up a lot of things. The most
common way people learn about Unix is by going through it by testing
stuffs or by *messing* with stuffs...And sometimes you end up breaking
something. That's the way most people learn because we learn with
errors. When you make some error you are kind of learning to do things
the right way instead of making the error again in the future. It needs
patience because you're going to go through this in a gradual way.

venam: If I could tell myself of the past something "If you don't have a
second machine don't break the system" "Don't mess with the partitioning",
especially the partitioning. Yes, it can be frustrating when it breaks
but as you said it's a method of learning and a push forward because
you have to get yourself out this situation... Especially if you don't
own a second machine or any backup.

thlst: You don't really have to start that way but I see it like the
most common thing people do when they start to learn about Unix-systems.

venam: Someone on IRC some days ago mentioned that wired connections are
helpful when learning. The reason he said was that because there are a lot
of issues with networking (maybe Wifi) because of the drivers. If you want
to start with Unix make sure you have a good ethernet connection. Then
I would add to that that you don't really need to have a connection to
start learning, don't underestimate the power of manpages and internal
documentation that comes with Unix. If you want to start with something
fire up the manpage for `intro` which will give you an introduction to
the basic commands.

thlst: There's also `info` that comes with a lot more documentation. In my
experience you can read manpages when you need some specific information
for making something work quickly. So if you need some further explanation
you may read the documentation from info which works like manpages but
just a bit different.

venam: I think newcomers are not used to this because on other systems
you don't really need to click the help button and get the manual out
and start reading. The ones who read those are truly determined to read
it. Not everyone likes to read.

thlst: But you get used to it as you go. Another thing, please separate
your home from your system, please do that and thank me later.

venam: For safety purpose?

thlst: If you don't want to get into troubles trying to migrate or switch
from system to system then yes, in general for safety purpose. You don't
want to loose your files... So important files...Like I did.

venam: Or you could tell them to use a virtual machine to test stuffs
or maybe to doubleboot/dualboot.

thlst: What I mean is that when you have a system working you might want
to have a partition for your home. Just to not have your personal files
mixed up with your system. Having an isolated place for your personal
files can save you a lot of time and trouble trying to switch distro.

venam: That might be too advanced for newcomers who don't even realize
what partitions are.

thlst: Ok, sorry.

abhx: Use the root account wisely! Don't start actions like IRC or
webbrowsing using the root account.

venam: I used to make the same mistake, using root a lot of things it's
not supposed to do.

abhx: Also set a strong password for the root account, don't use a simple
password. It can save you from torment and security issues. Are we going
to discuss scripting and how to use the system?

venam: Well, obviously newcomers have to use their systems.

# Conclusion #

So that's about it.

We discussed 4 main topics:

* The purpose, your goal
* Communities, the environment that helps you learn
* Independence, taking care of yourself
* Technical stuffs that are not so difficult for newcomers.


for the next podcast I'll need a lot of inputs from you guys it's about
what you would say or help with or teach first to a newcomer to unix
advices and the likes

rocx │ don't break the system just to learn it.
rocx │ that's how you get frustrated.
rocx │ i mean it's frustrating when it breaks period, but when all you got is that laptop, it better work.

lafjm │ venam: Wired networking is helpful when learning.
lafjm │ Things are difficult to troubleshoot without any network connection at all.
rocx │ yes.
rocx │ lest you want to end up with a chicken-egg conundrum.
rocx │ i'm just glad that ubuntu supported my drivers at the time i swwitched to *nix.
rocx │ that would have been the deal breaker if i knew about it.
venam │ lafjm: indeed but never underestimate the amount of knowledge you can get just by reading a manpage
oxa │ venam: also how about learning to use your resources
oxa │ like documentation

lafjm │ I would recommend that people decide on a few specific things they would like to do with the UNIX-like system and work toward those goals.
lafjm │ I find that to be more effective than just pursuing some vague goal of "learn UNIX".

thlst │ to be patient and be previously aware it takes time to learn it
thlst │ so do one thing at a time, like if you're enjoying learning it
thlst │ and talk to other people more experienced
venam │ I can sympathize with newcomers that find it intimidating. Some people are condescending in their attitude

oxa │ i would say have a purpose
oxa │ i mean if you want to learn something, in any field, have a purpose and follow the path
oxa │ the one question i hear from all of my non it/cs friends when they install linux is "now what do i do with it"

Long time nixers
Clicked this thread, was disappointed. :-(
It makes me sad to see that the rather hostile GNU/Linux communities are taken as an example for "the Unix community" which is so much more open for newcomers. No religious bashing, neither "Windoze $uck$" nor "Vim vs. Emacs" nor "THAT Unix is worse than MY Unix!". (Also, Unix's manpages are great while Linux's are mostly not.) Plus, "Unix" is not necessarily community-driven; AIX lives through IBM's business customers, not through a pseudonymous bunch of hobbyists.

You might see how there are major differences between them. May I recommend a second podcast for real Unix users?

<mort> choosing a terrible license just to be spiteful towards others is possibly the most tux0r thing I've ever seen
Long time nixers
coming from the guy with the most profound elitist attitude on this forum. and i'm not attacking, just pointing out
Long time nixers
I'm not elitist, I'm right! ;->

<mort> choosing a terrible license just to be spiteful towards others is possibly the most tux0r thing I've ever seen
Long time nixers
might be true jkl. i'm in no position to judge the truth of that statement.

to stay on topic, my advice to newcomers is usually try to keep away from sudo if possible. since doing so could be catastrophic as they're exploring a new world. and simultaneously, to get familiar with manpages. i love manpages and recommend them to every newcomer who is serious about using *nix systems.
(10-04-2017, 01:25 PM)venam Wrote: venam: Those condescending persons might sound elitist but it's a sort
of wall of entry which may appear intriguing to new ones. They might want
to get behind the wall with the others, it's tempting to become yourself
a condescending guy/gal.

I completely relate with the desire to "beat the elitist". When I first started with Debian back almost 15 years ago, I repeatedly ran into snarky replies to questions I asked. I know it's really dependent on personality but it pushed me harder to learn and be "better", if you will. That being said, I understand that many people don't have the desire or ability to gain motivation from that sort of treatment and that both sides have pros and cons; I can't discount the necessity of places for new users to go and not feel judged.

As to the temptation to become an elitist, that is a tough one, especially as one gets more in-depth with not just alternative operating systems but alternative workflows and ways of computing. I suppose anyone deeply involved in a skilled hobby can be that way, perhaps I should strive to become a fishing elitist as well :)
(10-04-2017, 03:42 PM)jkl Wrote: It makes me sad to see that the rather hostile GNU/Linux communities are taken as an example for "the Unix community" which is so much more open for newcomers. No religious bashing, neither "Windoze $uck$" nor "Vim vs. Emacs" nor "THAT Unix is worse than MY Unix!".
It wasn't really about GNU/Linux in particular, the BSD scene is the same, they have their own "religion bashing" if not more.

(10-04-2017, 03:42 PM)jkl Wrote: (Also, Unix's manpages are great while Linux's are mostly not.)
Indeed, they're pretty amazing.

(10-04-2017, 03:42 PM)jkl Wrote: Plus, "Unix" is not necessarily community-driven; AIX lives through IBM's business customers, not through a pseudonymous bunch of hobbyists.
You might see how there are major differences between them. May I recommend a second podcast for real Unix users?
I should have emphasis the "free Unix-like systems" but I wasn't gonna repeat this the whole podcast.

Yes, you're free to record a podcast for corporate Unix but I'm not sure about the legality it implies.
If you record something I'll gladly upload it.
Though, I'm not sure what you could say to such new users other than "go take a three days paid by the company course at the company that provides the OS".
Long time nixers
Or read a good wikibook. :-)

The BSD community doesn't draw its energy out of the common "it's not Windows" superiority, so I could see a difference here; but then again, this is subject to my personal experiences, I know.

<mort> choosing a terrible license just to be spiteful towards others is possibly the most tux0r thing I've ever seen