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Sarah UKFast | Account Manager

Submerge Yourself in Linux – Without Drowning

10 February 2009 by Pingu

A Modern Linux Desktop

A Modern Linux Desktop: not so scary any more!

As the title of my first post touched on, Linux has a steep learning curve, and I don’t think many people would disagree.

The power, freedom and control of Linux is certainly what draws and maintains the vast majority of its users. The first steps into Linux could be from the demands of an over-worked office mail server, right down to getting frustrated one too many times with having to reboot your Windows desktop computer.

In the last five years the development of the Linux desktop has been amazing, and has done a massive amount to recruit new users, most of whom want to escape the frustration of day to day Windows use. However in the world of servers, firewalls, routers and racks, the image of a flashing white cursor on a black background is not escapable regardless of how much the desktop distributions have developed. As the endless blinking continues, awaiting your beckoning command, for many uninitiated users, this gives a sense of horror – “What on Earth do I do?”

Actually – take that back – my previous statement isn’t entirely correct. You can bypass the blinking light, and administer a server, hosted in a purpose build datacentre in a remote location without punching commands into a console. Control panels like Plesk, which we provide to many clients, allow access to the internal workings of a Linux server, without getting your hands dirty. But I’ve always questioned how much this actually teaches about the system your running, regardless of its operating system. I’ve learnt so much from my exploration of Linux that I encourage everybody to explore and learn for them selves what’s going on.

Inversely to the horror experienced by many first-timers, the command line is something I, and my colleagues on the Linux team adore. Its immediate uninhibited access to control the machine is something you become so used to, having it withdrawn from you can make you feel utterly powerless (as I do when presented with a graphical desktop and told to “fix the web server!”).

So how do you go about submerging yourself in Linux without scarying yourself witless. The Ubuntu Linux distribution is an excellent example of how to approach Linux with this intent. It provides a feature rich and easy to install desktop environment, which is straight forward enough for a long term Windows user to pick up in a minute.

But the code and software behind the scenes is exactly the same as runs the server edition of Ubuntu. Actually, the desktop edition is just an extension of the server edition, the same edition we supply in the rack-mounted, quad-core, ultra-quick, super-dooper servers we host for some of our largest clients.

And I would encourage everyone to try it. Get it installed, play around – and then one day, click that little icon of white text on black background. You may have no idea what to do when you see that blinking cursor, however the entire evolution of Linux has been based on communities (something else I plan on discussing in a later post), and now they are stronger than ever. So just pop over to the Ubuntu Forums and say hi, you’ll probably see one of us chipping in. Hopefully one day you’ll end up with a blinking cursor on a high-spec UKFast Linux server all of your own!