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This book is targeted towards a Windows® user who wants to migrate to Linux. That means that this book is written with the Linux novice in mind. However, although you may be a novice to Linux, it is assumed that you are certainly not a novice to Windows. This book assumes you are an experienced Windows users, what many would call a Windows power user. You have probably spent some time experimenting with Windows, changed options in the Control Panel, changed screen resolution, and perhaps even added some new hardware.
Many, if not most, Linux books are written for very technical people. In blunt terms, they are written for computer nerds like the author! Don’t worry, most technical people don’t consider the appellation nerd to be derogatory. The reason why so many books for Linux are so technical is that for many years Linux has been the exclusive purview of the tech heads. Linux has been used as the operating system of choice for Web servers and for computer science enthusiasts. As the Linux operating system moves more into the mainstream of computing, more people who are not extremely technical want to learn about it. This necessitates books like this one that bring Linux to the masses.
The purpose of this book is to take what you already know as a moderately experienced Windows user and apply that knowledge to Linux, thus making you a knowledgeable Linux user. Frequently, concepts in Linux will be related to their counterparts in Windows, thus helping Windows users learn Linux.
This book makes only few assumptions about you, the reader. It assumes that you are an experienced Windows user who has used a computer for some time on a somewhat regular basis, perhaps in your office or at home. It assumes that this computer was most likely running some version of Microsoft Windows. It assumes that you have used Web browsers, e-mail, and probably some business applications such as a word processor or spreadsheet tool. In essence, it assumes that you are a fairly competent PC/Windows user. You probably use a PC and some applications at work or school and are a fairly savvy computer user. It does not assume that you have any extensive knowledge of hardware or operating systems, but you do know what a hard drive is and may have even added some hardware to your PC at some point. It does not assume that you are a system administrator or any type of computer professional, although some professionals may also find this book useful. Basically, if you are an experienced Windows user who has been curious about Linux but have been reluctant to take the plunge, this book is for you. The reason why you must be experienced with Windows to follow this book is that most topics are compared and contrasted with their Windows counterparts. If you are well acquainted with Windows, this book will be easy for you to follow, and you will quickly become a competent Linux user.
To put it more simply, and directly, if you can easily get onto and navigate the Internet, know what RAM is, know what a folder is, understand the fundamentals of using a personal computer, and are pretty comfortable with your computer, you probably will be able to follow along with this book. The enthusiastic and experienced Windows power user is perfectly suited for this book.
If you are completely unfamiliar with basic PC hardware, you may find Appendix D to be useful. It is designed to give a basic overview of PC hardware to novice PC users. If you feel that your understanding of hardware is too scant to effectively understand the Linux operating system, perhaps you should consider starting with that appendix.
The more computer experience you have, the quicker you will absorb the material in this book. It must be clear that this book is aimed primarily at a computer user who has a fair amount of experience. Novice computer users will struggle with some material in this book, but they should be able to follow along with most of it. They will need to re-read some sections and perhaps spend more time practicing techniques shown. Computer professionals, network administrators, and programmers might find some of this material a bit remedial. Such people will probably be able to skim over some sections of the book and will absorb material quite quickly.
Although this book is not a textbook, per se, it does have some features much like a textbook. Every chapter ends with a brief summary and a set of review questions. These are provided for two reasons. The first is as a study aid to ensure that you are getting the salient points of the chapter. Second, while not specifically intended as a textbook, this book could be used as an introductory Linux text.
It is very important to note that, while this book uses Red Hat Linux 9.0 as an example, the only real difference between Linux distributions is the installation process and the extra software that comes with the distribution. All software mentioned in this book comes with Red Hat 9.0. If you are using some other version of Linux that does not include one or more of these applications, you can download that application from the Internet. The Web site for each of these applications is included in the appendixes at the back of the book. If you are using a Linux distribution other than Red Hat, your installation process might be slightly different, but it should be very similar. The rest of the topics we discuss will be common to all Linux distributions.
The following note is so critical, that it is partially repeated near the end of Chapter 2. Each Linux distribution (SuSE, Red Hat, Mandrake, etc.) has the same core operating system and functionality. However, each distribution may bundle different applications with Linux. As you go through this book, you will be introduced to several applications that are used in Linux. If you do not include the appropriate packages during the installation, or if you are using a different Linux distribution or a different version of Red Hat, you will not have all of the applications installed. However, most of these applications can be downloaded from the Internet for free. When each application is introduced, the appropriate Web address is provided if one is available. Many applications for KDE can even be found at www.kde.org/.
One final note. Some computer terms are used interchangeably throughout the computer industry. Therefore, they are used interchangeably here. Every effort is made to mention this directly in the text, so as to avoid confusion. However, a few terms are shown here:
Program—Also called an application or software. Very small programs, particularly those that perform some system task, are sometimes called utilities.
Desktop Environment—This is the graphical user interface that you see and interact with. It is sometimes called simply the desktop, a graphical environment, or a GUI (graphical user interface).
Web Address—A Web address is in the format www.chuckeasttom.com and is also called a URL (uniform resource locator).
Memory—Your computer’s memory is also called its RAM (random access memory)
User—The person using a computer, program, or Web site is often called the user.
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