How to Learn Linux: A Beginner’s Guide
Almost everyone you know probably thinks of the tech world in binaries. They compare MacBooks to Windows laptops. They compare their Android phones to iPhones.
But there’s another family of operating systems that, while not as consciously popular with consumers, drives our modern lives in more ways than one. Read on to find learn more about Linux, the other operating system, and how you can learn to use it.
What Is Linux?
Linux is an open-source operating system (OS) kernel that was first launched by Linus Torvalds in 1991. The system is based on the Unix operating system which started in the late sixties at Bell Labs.
The Linux kernel is a barebones software that can be adapted to interface with pretty much any hardware. Because of its versatility and its collaborative open-source community, this software is suited to an incredible amount of uses.
The Linux Foundation is the international consortium that is in charge of standardizing Linux and promoting its use in the commercial field. This organization consists of regular humans alongside massive companies like Google, Huawei, IBM, Facebook, and more.
Developers build out Linux into distributions, also called distros, like Fedora, Ubuntu, and Mint. These distributions can run on desktops as standalone operating systems much like Microsoft’s Windows or Apple’s macOS. These distributions and others like Red Hat Enterprise Linux can be used to build out and manage servers as well.
Even if you’ve never heard of Linux, you probably still have some experience with a machine that runs this open-source software.
What Is Linux Used For?
As we mentioned above, Linux’s versatility makes the software appealing across a wide range of industries. Below are a few common uses that you may encounter in the wild.
Linux is famous for its ability to work as an enterprise system. The system is immensely stable, and there’s a great community that is constantly tweaking the software to ensure that it stays that way.
One of the biggest draws when building a Linux-based server system however is probably its price. As Linux is open-source software, it’s free to download and the license is free as well. Organizations love the idea of rock-solid software that doesn’t cost them a dime.
Outside of the world of desktop and server computing, Linux is also used to build proprietary operating systems for devices like smartphones, tablets, smart thermostats, smart TVs, and more.
Google’s Android operating system which powers most non-Apple phones and more is a Linux distribution. Samsung, LG, and other major tech powerhouses have also built out their own distributions that suit their needs.
If you’re in the cyber security field, there are plenty of Linux distros out there that you may end up using in your daily workflow. Kali Linux is regularly used for penetration testing, as a distro built by a security team.
There are several other penetration testing distros, but others also include network analysis and digital forensics tools. These distros help keep networks safe from hackers that are looking to steal sensitive data.
Learn Linux: Step-by-Step
Because Linux offers such a world of possibilities, it can be good to have a field guide into the system. Below is a step by step guide on how to learn how to use it.
1. Think About Your Needs
As we’ve previously discussed, different distros are best for different uses, so it’s a good idea to sit down and think about how you will use Linux. This way, you won’t be stretching yourself too thin when it comes time to learn the ins and outs of the software.
It would be inefficient to try and adapt the best distro for a systems administrator to run your home theater PC. So be sure to think about the different ecosystems you want to be using and how they will interact.
2. Find the Right Distro For You
We’ve talked about distros that major companies use to build their smart devices and distros that sysadmins use to manage their server operations. After you’ve considered your needs, you will know what to look for before choosing a distro to learn.
Some are easier to learn than others, and so there’s always value in picking a more barebones distro just to get the hang of things. If you think this approach will help you before you dive into the deep end, there’s no shame in starting small.
3. Learn Your Distro
There are plenty of online courses to get you started in mastering your distro of choice. After you’ve narrowed down your needs and chosen which distro you will be using, you will have no problem getting started with the wealth of resources.
Because Linux is so community-focused, there are usually forums that are dedicated to the distro you’re thinking of picking up. So consider joining the community as you learn to get some help. You will be able to pay it back down the line when someone else decides they want to get into Linux.
4. Consider Building Your Own Custom Distro
Linux’s adaptability makes it easy to mold to your use case. Once you’ve learned how your favorite distro operates and have become comfortable, it may be a good move to try building your own distro.
Again, online courses and the community are there to help you through this step, from mastering source code to building your own user interfaces. If you’re not interested in this step, there’s no requirement to go through it, but it could be a fun way to extend your mastery of the system.
The Best Linux Courses
There are over 900 distros listed at the moment, and you’ll never learn all of them, or even encounter them in the wild. The best distros for you to learn if you’re looking for a new career are those that are already commonly used in the computer science field.
Below are the best training courses and certifications out there for budding Linux users.
The Linux Foundation offers this course that is designed to teach you the fundamentals that you can use across any distro. As this course’s description notes, 80 percent of hiring managers look for some kind of Linux skills, and this course could be the first step into the system that you’ve been looking for.
After finishing the course, you’ll have a sense of how Linux works, some basic command-line operations, and the common ways Linux is used in our daily lives.
This course is designed to get beginners started in the Linux game. You’ll learn about common Linux distros that are used in the professional world and how to make a virtual machine to play around with those distros on your Windows or Mac computer. You’ll also learn more about Linux commands and shell scripts, the backbone of the Linux experience.
This course is offered by Red Hat themselves. It gives you a great introduction to using the distro in an enterprise setting and how it is organized. You’ll be taking a look at using the command line to edit files on systems you’re controlling personally or across a network with the distro as a primer to the enterprise field as well. By learning more about the enterprise side of Linux, you will be prepared to use those skills effectively in an IT setting.
This course is designed for people that have a basic understanding of the Linux system and the command line. Embedded systems are systems with self-contained hardware and software that can work independently or as part of a whole.
For example, a digital thermometer that detects the heat in an oven and tells the electric controls of that oven when it’s reached the right temperature is an embedded system. After passing this course, you will be on your way to building out solutions that can be used in several products.
Once you’ve mastered a lot of the Linux training out there, there’s one last step you can take: building your own distro. Linux From Scratch offers several books on how to build a stable Linux distro on your own, which will be much more secure than other offerings as you are the only one who knows how it works. The project offers several books that build on each other from the beginning steps up to complicated automations and cross-compiling.
Is Learning Linux Right for You?
Learning Linux is right for you if you think you are interested in developing any software. It is a well-supported and free way of learning how to build out servers, how to build embedded systems, and how to even build your own operating system if you so desire.
The system has applications that can be a part of your daily life as a secure desktop OS or the basis of a media server. But it also offers the chance of getting a job in the IT sector and making money from your skills.
So, if you’re interested in software development and all, give Linux a shot.