Linux n00bs

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Is "noobs" the kind of term that people consider offensive these days? It appears to be perfectly acceptable within the geek community, but what about non-geeks? Would love to know people's thoughts on that ...

The reason I ask is that I've been doing some thinking. I did a talk at the beginner CLUG last Thursday that was all about debunking some common Linux myths, and explaining why people might consider coming across to Linux. Very high level stuff, touching on ten major myths (things like "Linux is ugly"; "Linux is too hard for normal people to use", "you have to use a command line in Linux". That type of thing). Well, the response was really good, and it made me realise that there's a bit of a gap out there in Linux-land. There's a lot of people telling you to get Linux and use it, and there's a lot of people out there to help you with bash tips and tricks, networking, contributing to the kernel and other open source programs, getting your dual display working, upgrading your sound card. But where's the stuff that fits in between? All Linux users were noobs once (if I can use that term!), and there's a pretty big hurdle to jump to get to the point where you might start feeling comfortable in a room full of people talking about shell scripts, and that's a hurdle we've all gotten over. But what about the people who didn't get over it? What about the people who installed Linux, couldn't immediately pick up their wireless network, get their display working, or find an internet browser on the desktop? OK, so the people who use Linux now are the people who persisted with it and found an answer, but a good portion of people are likely to throw their hands in the air, say "it worked on Windows!" and grab that XP or Vista disk again. How do we get to them? How do we tell them, "Hey, Firefox is here", or exactly what to do to get Network Manager to bend to their will?

Judging by the number of people who have responded to my talk, these people are out there, and their needs aren't being addressed. So, this is what I propose: A course, run fortnightly for twelve weeks (six sessions). A half hour talk on a beginner topic like "choosing a distro", "basic configuration using graphical tools", "introduction to the command line for people who have never seen one before", or "getting networking happening". Follow it up with an anything-goes question and answer session for an hour or so. It wouldn't cost much to do, perhaps $20 a head per session, we can provide handouts for that price.

So, the question is ... would you come along? And if you would, what topics would you like to see? Drop your opinions in the comments. If I can get enough interest, than I say let's do it!

24 comments:

Granny said...

I would come along, although that would probably depend on whether we had some employment at the time.

It would be nice if there were some old machines you could play with it on and get familiar before you had to commit to taking the plunge with your own system. Also it might be hard to really understand the talks if you didn't get to actually do some of it in a hands on way.

Loquacity said...

That is an awesome idea. We can probably get our hands on stacks of disks to give out that include distros and programs, but a laptop or three with a live USB disk so that people can check it out on site would be a great idea, too.

Thanks Granny!

L

Anonymous said...

I would like to learn a lot about command line,bash commands,a bit of shell scripting and so on..
Naveen

Loquacity said...

Hi Naveen! Command line and bash commands are definitely on my list. Shell scripting could be a little more advanced than I'm thinking, but if there's interest then I'm sure I could drum something up!

Thanks for dropping by :)

L

Anonymous said...

Geek Girl Loquacity! aka Lana

Meeting you and some other Linux learners and experts today, Sat 30 May, at the ANU "Installfest" event, following your talk on Thursday night, I'm very encouraged, as a base grade beginner, to persist with the 'Clug' events, even if most of it goes over my head.

For someone like me, new to Linux, this forum you guys are offering is so encouraging. Adopting Linux/Ubantu 12 months ago, most everything has worked seamslessly migrating from MS. For me, not knowing anyone into Linux to swap problems has been frustrating.

I'm not sure who reads 'blogs'?........, not me, and probably not people on my situation/generation.

I'd like to help/assist where I can to make this beginners thing happen............it's so important for heaps of reasons.

Bob H

Anonymous said...

You could maybe also cover Live CDs and/or running as a virtual machine, for people that want to try it out without disrupting their existing system.

Anonymous said...

I am still a new user and I think it is a great idea.

My biggest worry when I first started was what if I do something silly and destroy my Windows installation and/or lose all my programs and data. Once I got past that and found live CDs it was was trying to find my way around with things like what is the Linux equivalent of CTRL+ALT+DEL or some of the Windows Key+Some Other Key.

Then (for me) it was and still is navigating the forums to find the help you need to make something work. Then it was trying to understand a lot of the fixes as they were in command line commands.

For me:
Choosing a distribution/Live CDs
Linux shortcuts/Linux terms like distro, terminal bash etc
Navigating forums for help (diamons in the rough)
Bash
Networking
Dual booting with Windows/Understanding partitioning in Linux

Having said all that I would be interested in participating and learning.

Dave U

Loquacity said...

Bob, thanks for dropping by! Very glad that you enjoyed the Install Fest, and that you'll continue being involved with CLUG. The best apart about a forum like that is finding like-minded people to share ideas and problems with.

As for the beginner course that I'm proposing, thanks for your enthusiasm. I see your point about reading blogs, though. How do you think we should communicate to potential attendees? I've been considering a multi-pronged approach: a blog, a facebook group, and a mailing list. Do you think this would work?

L

Loquacity said...

Anonymous and Dave, these are all great topics. Live CDs would be really important to cover, as would basic Linux terminology. Dave, I really like your idea of 'mapping' Windows terms across to Linux ones, and it could serve as a useful reference to take away too. Searching for help could be a useful skill to cover as well.

Thanks!

L

Tim said...

I'm certainly a member of the geek community, although relatively unfamiliar with linux. In my opinion, "n00b" means not only someone who is new to something, but also someone who is pretty stupid. I'd be far more comfortable with a term like "beginners" or "non-serious users" :)

I think it's a great idea though - Topics I'd like to see include "troubleshooting broken things" and "setting up multimedia properly" because:

1) I once had an installation where sound didn't work, and it took me some time to find all the places I needed to look to fix it (ultimately a permissions issue). An overview of "here are the places to poke around when troubleshooting linux installs" would be awesome. If this is too large a topic, then a series of "here's where the sound set up is stored" "here's how to troubleshoot X if it behaves oddly" etc. would be fantastic.

2) A multimedia set up tutorial would also be great - I've had trouble with playing DVDs in Kubuntu - The built in Kaffene player wouldn't play all DVDs, but would disable the screensaver during playback, whereas VLC would play pretty much everything, but not disable the screensaver (ultimately fixed by permanently turning off the screensaver/monitor power saving).

I suppose these are both "what to do when linux doesn't work out of the box" - I think one of the great strengths of Linux is that you *have* options when things don't just work - but for new users we've no idea what these options are ;)

Loquacity said...

Hi Tim, and welcome!

Thanks for the comments on the use of the word n00b ... I'll keep that in mind. I guess there is a certain negative connotation to the word ("no n00bs allowed" etc).

Love the idea of "what to do when Linux doesn't work out of the box". There's a lot of really great stuff there to explore.

Thanks for the ideas :)

L

Anonymous said...

Tim's idea sounds great, although it can hardly be called a beginners project I would love to be involved with that.

Maybe it is possible to do it online or make them in to Tiny How Tos lateron.

To me most beginners would love to be shown how to use their familiar [Linux alternative]programs. If this sound complicated it probably is, but what I mean is, which is an alternative to their "favorite" program. Where does it come from and how do they use it in such a manner that the output is still readable by their friends who haven't made the switch [yet]. I'm thinking about doing this locally on a few laptops which are set-up to dual boot.
Hank

cygil said...

Hi Lana,

I'm not really a n00b -- nor a hardcore techie, either. But I would certainly come along. Actually am interested in contributing to the Ubuntu beginner's documentation project and would be interested in finding out what newbies are actually out there and what problems/needs they have.

Anonymous said...

Hi Lana,

I am not sure of the work involved but maybe a mailing list where us newer Linux people can ask new person type questions.

Newer Linux Person? I am not offended to be called a nOOb

Dave U aka Noobie Dave

Loquacity said...

Hi Dave,

I still believe that the CLUG list is the best place for newbie questions, and I certainly wouldn't want to step on their toes.

I will, however, set up a mailing list for the absolute-beginner group I'm planning. Stay posted for details :)

L

Jason Stokes said...

Hi Lana, I would love to help you with this.
Email: glasper9@yahoo.com.au.

Loquacity said...

Thanks Jason!

Everyone, please hang in there. I'll have more coming on this subject shortly.

L

pja said...

Hi! I have been away on holidays and am just catching up on my "daily reads". This looks like a great initiative. I have been dabbling with Linux for several years now but have not yet made the full switch (my second PC has Ubuntu 9.01). The main reason for not switching is problems with printing. I don't seem to be able to find a cheap printer (preferably mono laser, but inkjet will be Ok) that works as easily on Linux as it does on Windows. I bought a Samsung ML-1750 based on "Linux compatibility" claims but its output was not satisfactory. So my vote for one of your sessions is PRINTING.

By the way, I didn't think mobile broadband was an issue for me but I am staying with my daughter and plugged her new Vodafone USB Modem into my Ubuntu laptop and it just works - I'm now interested!

I live down at Batemans Bay so would like as much notice of courses as possible.

Regards,
Peter

Loquacity said...

Hi Peter, thanks for the comment - printing is a good idea for a topic, as it's a common problem. FWIW, try Canon though ;)

Have you signed up to the Jumpstart Linux mailing list yet? You can do it from the new blog.

L

pja said...

Loquacity,

I have signed up to the Google Groups list (and I have been a member of the Canberra Linux list for quite a while). Is there a separate mailing list for Linux nOObs?

Regards,
Peter

Loquacity said...

Peter, no the Google Groups list is the one I meant. That's the mailing list for n00bs ... I decided in the end that n00bs probably wasn't the right name to use!

L

Anonymous said...

Sorry for anonymous. :P (Name = Dave)

One thing to possibly help people no their way to Linux freedom is point out that most ISPs provide FREE (unmetered) downloads of various linux distros.

All well and good to get the latest Ubuntu/Suse/etc from the actual website but when you start dealing with 4 - 5 gigs on your metered plan things go downhill from there.

Perhaps providing people with links to various distros for various ISPs.

Occassionally keeping on eye on these things..

Dave.

Anonymous said...

I would love to attend if this hasn't taken place yet. Not a total n00b but need to learn more.

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