Some Basic Linux Vocabulary, to Help us Know what People are Talking about on Forums, &tc.

[You might wish also to see “The Most Important Things a Linux Desktop Newbie Needs to Know”, just below this.  🙂    –L.L. ]

“Disclaimer Junk”:

I have tried to make this information clear, and without using unnecessary technical jargon, and no longer than needed.  Trying is not the same as succeeding, as we know.  Serious and civil comments as to how I might improve the style of this writing I will  take under advisement.  Uncivil comments will be dis-allowed.  (Unless they are * very * entertaining *.)

I have also striven to make this with a much greater tone of humility than some of the Linux blogs I’ve noticed, and to not assume that you already know as much about computing as many other postings on the web seem to think you should.  I still need to improve it in this regard.  And in some other ways, too.  There are only so many hours in the day.

Please excuse spelling/grammatical errors/typos.  This is still a work-in-progress.

I do not have much time to maintain this blog nowadays, so I often don’t (sorry):  but I am hopeful that the information is still helpful.  I am perfectly aware that THIS IS NOT A ** PERFECT ** DOCUMENT.  I wrote it to the best of my ability at the time.  I post it in the HOPE that it may yet HELP somebody who is having trouble with Linux (primarily desktop Linux), or who is merely curious about it, perhaps thinking of migrating to it.

This sucker is in need of some ** editing ** / ** updating **, and I’ll get to that as soon as time permits.
NOOB and NEWBIE ARE NOT terms of insult, as some people might infer:  A NEWBIE just means “someone who is NEW to the experience”—whatever that experience might be.

I am * not * trying to be in the business of sowing F.U.D. (“Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt”) about Linux:  I really * like * Linux-based desktop operating systems (“Linux ‘distros”), and I like the concepts.  But I feel one of us ought to be more frank about the “facts on the ground”, so to speak.

Just because, Bubba, the things I describe have worked on * my * own * machines, does not necessarily mean they will work for  * you *,  on  * your *  machines.

As with any (Linux) advice on the web—or maybe any kind of advice at all in your whole life—you should research it at least some first, and you “use it at your own risk”.  Linux does not come without any risks.  The least risky way, as I’ve tried to lay-out in the various documents of this blog, is simply not to install Linux to the harddrive at all, but rather to run it some other way.  Other methods of booting / using dektop Linux–other than the “traditional” dual-boot arrangement (“side-by-side” install alongside Windows) are covered in this blog.  Every way of using it has some pros, and some cons.

I am making this particular document available for public consumption, under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License. You are free to re-distribute, possess, add-to, and otherwise propagate this document, under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License. Other documents/pages featured on L. Lucas blog, materials, or other outlets, may be subject to other licensing-schemes.

Now, On With The Show: 

Some basic Linux terms, mostly of everyday use, collected for my own amusement, and in no particular order:

  1. Distro

“Distro” is short for distribution: XP, Vista, and Windows 7 could be said to be “Windows distributions”. A distribution is just a certain “model” of the os, rather like the automobile companies Lexus and Hyundai offer different models, and many of ‘em still seen on the road will no longer be “new”, or “current”—i.e. not “up to date”.  But they are still useful:  you can still get into a Lexus that’s a couple of years old, and go driving.  A Linux distro is no different.  For example, even though Ubuntu 9.10 no longer has system updates available for it, it is possible to continue to use it for a long time.  Some software you want to install to it may be available from Ubuntu Backports for some years past the official EOL (“End Of Life”) date.

Eventually, though, the applications for this release of Ubuntu may be taken-down, and you may be forced to migrate to a newer release, like Ubuntu 10.04.  But if 9.10 ran well on your computer, there’s a * much * better chance that the next several future releases of Ubuntu (at least) will boot and run fine on it–better chance that you’ll be able to continue using the same laptop, than with Microsoft Windows–which usually requires you to go out and buy a more powerful computer to run the next version of Windows.

Just be very sure to have baked-up all your important files before upgrading to the next release of Ubuntu, or other desktop Linux.  Off-load your important pictures and other files to cds, USB thumb-drives, or other media.  This is easy to do with Linux’s Brasero app, or DejaDup, Nautilus files manager (sort of like Norton Commander, but a lot better), or other Linux apps.  And * then * you can upgrade.  See my page here titled “The Most Important Things a Linux Desktop Newbie Needs to Know”, (below), entry No. 44.

  1. Tarball, targz, tarbz2, & rel.

The equivalent of compressed files you can d/l in Windoze, like .zip, 7zip, and so-on.  Why “Tar”?  It means “a tar-ball”.  Like a bunch of files, rolled into a tight ball, and stuck there.  The “.gz” stands for “gun-zip”.  There is also, and tar.bz2.  And there are some other “zipped” formats, for downloading files.  So it’s just a group of “compressed” formats, for compressing files-packages.  Some of these tarballs contain an executable-type of file in the bunch:  so you can get software packages with .tar.  In there too will usually be the README file, and some ancillary stuff.  Often, you can de-compress a tarball just the same as you would in Windows:  use your files-manager  (I prefer to install Nautilus, if it is not already) and create a new folder:  name it something, then drag the tarball into the new folder with your mouse.  But I’d still read the online documentation first, if I wuz you.

FOR THE MOST PART, THOUGH, YOU DO NOT HAVE TO RESORT TO COMPRESSED/ARCHIVED/ZIPPED FILES AT ALL, TO GET AN APP IN UBUNTU.  The much safer and easier way to obtain software for your Linux desktop system is just to install it from your default repository (Software Center).  If you decide you need to get some file as a .tar (or any else outside your default repos), you should be sure you A) have read enough of the online discussion/documentation to be able to deal properly with the compressed package, once it has finished downloading; and B) that you’ve read enough to be reasonably confident that there’s nothing WRONG with the package.  This is just common sense.

All but one of the Linux softwares I’ve added to any of my Linux desktops so far (and this has been quite a few apps) I have been able to add * graphically *, from Software Center/Software Manager, Synaptic, or G-Debbie installer.  Ubuntu seems to know which one to open, so I’ve found it just as easy to get a software as in XP or 7.  And as these are * internal * installers–integral to the Linux desktop system, rather than third-parties–unlike those “installer-shields” with which you’d be familiar in Windows–so there is not nearly the same level of risk of malware in Linux-based desktop operating systems.

A lot of downloadable Windoze software is switching to the zipped/compressed format, however.  So you had just as well bite the bullet, and d/l Puppy Linux, and start playing with the live cd. Unless you are really careless, a Linux live cd can’t hurt your computer as a general rule. Research it first. Remember that Apple users are Linux users—they just don’t know they are.  Apple created it’s current os family (Snow Leopard, Lion, Mavericks and all that) from a lengthy re-hack of BSD (which is a Linux first-cousin) back in roughly 1999. There is a Terminal in Apple, just like in Linux. But most ppl don’t know how to open it. This is the new literacy, for our century. If you and your computer are afraid of any risks, you will never progress at all. You have nothing to lose but your chains, and a World to win!

  1. Swap

swap = virtual memory in Windoze. It’s the way your RAM gets some of the unused space on your hdd to “help it out”, when you decide to multi-task, or run a big app.

  1. Panel

This is just a band along the top or bottom of your screen. In Linux, it usually contains about the same jazz you find in Windows XP’s “Task-bar”—a.k.a. the system-tray, or “systray”. The program that creates this for Linux desktop is usually the Tint2 Panel program. But as is usual in Linux, there are others that can be used.

  1. Desktop

What you see when your pc finishes booting. When a Windoze machine finishes booting-up, you arrive at your Windoze desktop, with your icons and stuff on it. Same for Linux.

  1. DE (Desktop Environment)

Desktop Environment. A Linux distro is a collection of programs, written by kind-hearted (or sometimes “ego-rewarded”) ppl who then give them to the world. Linux is not a collection of programs written under the watchful eye of some senior-vice president of a corporate behemouth, for the purpose of bundling these together and then selling them as the behemouth sees-fit. Under the corporate-behemouth paradigm, you are allowed your choice of either 1) Windows default desktop environment, or 2), Windows default desktop environment. Like Henry Ford said, “A customer can have his operating system delivered in any color he wants, as long as it’s black.” Yes, there * are * alternate Desktop Environs available for ms Windows–downloadable as apps.  Many are even free-of-charge.  Not many people seem to know about these, or else I never hear them mention it much.

Linux is more flexible. There is some “bundling” in Linux (Ubuntu makes it difficult to do radical customization: but the “non-radical” sort is fair-game); but in the *nix metaverse, you can usually find a way to operate from whichever of many DEs your heart desires. Linux is more like a certain hamburger-chain: in Linux, you don’t have to stick with the default configuration—you can “have it your way”.  And more-so than in, say, Windows XP or 7.  A DE is just a sort of program-layer, which runs on-top of your WM (window-manager), which runs on-top of the “X-windowing system”: and this runs on-top of your operating system (Ubuntu “underneath”).

The M$ universe has about the same schema of layers, but of course this runs on secret coding dreamed-up by the employees at the Microsoft corporation. Most software packages in Linux, by contrast, are on the “open-source” model:  the source-code for the program in question is posted somewhere online, and is freely available for inspection by any curious person who knows how to program.  This is a difference in Linux-based operating systems [and other FOSS (Free, Open Source Software)–systems, like the BSDs], that comprises a major factor in Linux’s comparative resistance to malware and spy-ware.   See entry No. 8, KDE & GNOME.

  1. Sym-link

“Symbolic-link”: an icon. Or a word (like “system”), that is often displayed on the Linux “Panel”, the ribbon along the top or bottom of the screen. Click it (once is usu. enough in Linux), and it opens an application, a menu or some other feature. You can add icons to a Windoze desktop, if you learn some simple steps. In Windoze, these are often called “desktop shortcuts” (or “icons”), because they are a shorter way of opening an app or program than the usual, “default” way, which is Start > run > the name of the program. You can add symlinks to your Linux desktop, too. And just as easily.  There are also equivalents to apps with which one might be familiar from the Windows paradigm, such as Launchy.  A Linux app like Cairo-dock has the functionality of a program-launcher, similar to “Launchy” in Windows.  Launchy, by the way, has a native Linux version–and it seems to work just fine!

  1. KDE & GNOME

These have been the two heavyweights in terms of choosing a DE (Desktop Environment) for your Linux for a long time now. Both GNOME and KDE are good, stable, and well-known. KDE is “a little bit Windoze” in look and feel; Gnome is “a little bit Apple”. Most distros offer one or the other, for their default configuration. But you can usually change it without a huge hassle. Depends on which Linux distro you want to make your own.

Microsoft Windows is a “do your homework os”. They all are.  Linux is no exception, but Linux is ** much ** better documented than it was in, say, the late 1990s:  “documentation” just means “free online instructions”, generally.  Not to mention the often very good instructions that come installed with most desktop Linux distributions (“distros”).  For these, try clicking on “Help”.  Or try hitting F1 on your keyboard.  Google is your friend. Frankly, I like MATE for Linux, and also IceWM. Both these run real well on-top of all releases of Ubuntu, including 11.10, as well as just about every other major Linux distribution.

  1. Firefox, Open Office or Libre Office, Gimp, SeaMonkey, VLC

There are several free programs and program suites that have a Windoze version, or that are written from the get-go for both platforms. Using these freebies in Windows will help you “build your bridge” to Linux freedom. See respective entries below.

  1. RPM & dpkg/apt-get/Synaptic

Your package (software) managers. Linux distros can often be classified in terms of which type of package-manager they use, by default. But this is not a hard-and-fast way of categorizing. With some “hacking”, you can change the default PM (“Package Manager”) to something else—at least in some circumstances. It depends on which distro, and what exactly you want to do with it, and other things. Some distros are a little easier to manipulate than others in this regard. And there are other PMs beside RPM and APT/dpkg, these two main schemes.

Debian-based distros (distributions) of desktop Linux [such as Knoppix, Ubuntu, Linux Mint, Bloathi, Crunch-Bang Linux, MoonOS, BackBox, MEPIS Linux / MEPIS-Antix, and Debian itself) seem to be non-RPM:  they’re “Debian-oriented” in means of installing a software package, and keeping the system up-to-date.  So as a general rule, Debian-based systems seem usually to use the APT (Advanced Package Tool)–which means apt-get will be installed, and probly also the dpkg tool as well (dpkg=”Debian-Package” tool).  Synaptic package manager is a Graphical program to manage these.  Software Center/Software manager works with these two non-GUI tools too–so you don’t have to!  But Software Center (Software Manager in Linux Mint) is very easy to use.  Synaptic is pretty easy, too–but you may need to peruse the instructions first.

Either one provides just as easy a way to obtain a software application as in good ol’ Windows XP.  And without the need to use all those safety devices Windows users are supposed to use:  in Linux, you don’t really need to 1) create a restore-point, before installing a new software; 2) scan the downloaded file for viruses and malware; 3) research the file you’re about to download, to see if anybody else on the web said it was virused, and then try to figure-out if their claim was on-the-level–or something they posted because they’re trying to get people to use a rival application which they profit from.  You * can * use all of these safety features in Linux * if * you * want * to *:  I am told one can 1) use Back-in-time-for-Linux to create the rough equivalent of a Windows-like restore-point; 2) use ClamAV in Linux to scan downloaded files for malware (ClamAV doesn’t auto-update, though, like Norton, AVG, &tc–so one needs to set-up for it to do so in the Task-Scheduler, or with Linux’s “cron-job”–or just remember to update it periodically); 3) it is very easy to research the app you are thinking of downloading in Linux, because the research is already there for you, in Software Center:  all you need do is click on “more info”, and the reviews from the community are presented, and in the language you set!

Linux distros that are “RPM-oriented” [such as Fedora, PCLinuxOS, Mandrake/Mandriva, NST (Network Security Toolkit), or OpenSuSE, et al] use the RPM manager as their default means of installing software and updating the system. (RPM=”Redhat Package Manager”.)  There are also replacements for RPM, and so certain “RPM-oriented” Linux distros have one of those as default, even though they’re still built on the RPM-model.  I guess these would be systems like Yellow Dog Linux, YOPER, and SLED.  But I’d have to check that.

Slackware Linux and its children (i.e. Vector Linux) are rather a separate category, and I generally do not recommend these for us neophytes. I tend to prefer the Debian-based ones.

  1. Repos

Your package manager (PM) will help you install an app or apps that did not come included with your distro of Linux, by default. And the way to have it do that is from the “Repositories” associated with your distro. All Linux distros come with a default suite of apps, and these are often enough. If there is something lacking—or you need to get the latest version of a program—you use your Package Manager to download the “package”. The software “package” resides in a “Repo” (Repository—I dunno where they get these names), and this is some kind of big archive of apps that the developers continually update, and I guess they are in servers somewhere all over the world. Most PMs will then aid you in installing the new software. In Windoze, I just install stuff from web-sites. And it almost always comes with an “installer Wizard”. Which is not secure. I find I had better research the crap out of anything (esp. free) that I want to install to my Windows partition. Installing stuff from Linux ‘official’ Repos, however, is more quality-controlled. Especially if it is ‘sanctioned’ by the publisher of your Linux distro (this means your “default Repos”–as distinct from “non-default” repositories which would have to be specially enabled, like “PPA”).

So softwares in your Linux default repository are checked, and there is some over-seeing entity to complain-to, if something did turn out to be contaminated in some way—and by “over-seeing entity”,  I mean somebody besides just the maker of the software itself. Some dev (“dev”=developer=”programmer”) who is busted for writin’ really bad Linux stuff may have his or her app booted-off of a repo, and be told unflattering things. And Linux devs know it.  They also * care * about this sort of thing a lot more, arguably, than when somebody (perhaps even the same person) codes an app for download to Windows.  People who contribute to Linux don’t have a commercial interest in the software itself, * beyond * their own use.  They contribute out of a spirit of good-will, or perhaps sometimes out of personal renown.  But there is no percentage, under the Linux software distribution model, to embed some malicious code or track-ware in a Linux app, speaking generally.  It wouldn’t pay-off, and because the source-code has to be made publicly available, it’d soon get “busted”.

  1. Mirror

What’s a “mirror”, in the context of Linux?  This has two meanings. One has to do with backup software, and is not a term that is much invoked in that area. The preferred term in that arena is probably “echo”; though the two do not always amount to the same thing. And this usage applies equally to Windows and to *nix (“*nix” systems=Linux, BSD, Darwin UNIX, Apple-MAC, ANDROID, et al).

The more applicable use of “mirror” (as to Linux, and more) is as in “mirror-site”. This just means a download site, which “mirrors” the developer’s software code into your computer, if you click on that “download” button.

  1. Live cd

Knoppix distribution was said to be the first one with a “live-cd version”. But there appear to have been a few predecessors. A “Live cd” is just a copy of the os on a cd, which you can burn yourself, from a Linux download, and which contains certain additional special files that, on boot-up, enable the distro to simulate normal running, without having to be installed to a harddrive (abbreviated “hdd”). System files are called-up from their place on the cd, as they are needed, to fulfill the requests of you, the operator of the computer. Back in the good-bad ol’ days of CP/M (the early 80s), every computer essentially ran like this—off of floppy drives. (Ever wonder why Windoze calls it your C:\ drive? Or where is A and B?) Because there were no hard-drives. Yet. Or those there were were not in common use, and were sort of experimental. So there were those two “floppy” slots in the front of your machine (“A:”, and “B:”), and your os (CP/M or its contemporary MS-DOS, or whatever you had) ran from one of the floppies, and you saved your output to the other. The idea of a Linux distro doing this type of thing from an optical disc—a cd or DVD–and long after harddrives were common-place—was a novel idea. But it has worked remarkably well. And to-day it allows you to try-out any Linux distro, without making any permanent changes what-so-ever to your machine.

  1. Knoppix

This was the first major live-cd, and was built essentially to run in this manner. As it therefore does not “touch” your hdd (unless you direct it to), the bigger, more “complete” versions of Knoppix have traditionally come with a lot of rescue-ware & data-forensics tools, and this was a big part of the thrust behind Knoppix’s creation. Even the cd-versions (“micro-knoppix”) can be used to rescue a troubled (Windoze) server. Or a Windows desktop (“household-user” system).  It makes a good desktop, too. And to-day’s “A.D.R.I.A.N.E.” version even comes with it’s own utility to install it to a thumb-drive. Which is very easy. I’ve done this twice, and if you just pay attention, it just works. No guarantee it will run on your hardware: but you can always re-format the thumb from another os (or Windoze), and it’ll probably be ok.  Another good program to create a bootable desktop Linux live USB thumb-key, is Universal USB Installer from  That’s a mouthful, but I’ve used it at least 30 times on eight or ten different thumb-keys, and I must say I’ve had very good results.

I like the cd-version of Knoppix–6.4.4 + ADRIANE. As somebody who started-out on Windows, I find the “start” menu in the same place, and the controls of the new LXDE Desktop Environ easy and intuitive to figure-out. And part of the advantage of LXDE over traditional versions of KDE & GNOME is that it consumes way less RAM, and can usually run on any size screen of any device (other than maybe phones) transparently, without you the operator being asked to help it.  It’s too bad this nice LXDE user interface (“Desktop Environment”) has had problems running on Ubuntu & the variants.  Maybe the issue will get fixed soon (or perhaps it already has, by the time you’ve read this web-page).

As a final thought, I will just add that Knoppix is known for it’s ability to recognize and automatically configure itself to successfully interface with your machine’s hardware, also in a (usually) transparent manner. In this respect (“hardware recognition”), Knoppix keeps-company with the other two distros known for excellent recognition:  Ubuntu (and Ubuntu variants), and Puppy Linux.

  1. Upstream

What do they mean when they say “upstream”?  Linux distros are often a re-hack of some older, more staid Linux distro, which in-turn may be a re-hack of something even “older” (in terms of having been a known “brand” for a long time, rather than being, say, out-of-date in it’s software). And so this forms a kind of “stream”. The stream for, say, PeppermintOS, might look like this: Debian Linux (historic, conservative, though still actively developed; a lot of ppl use this one just as it is): > Ubuntu 10.04, which is based-on Debian: > Linux Mint, which is based-on Ubuntu: > PeppermintOS, a “cloud-centric” distro favored by many netbook and tablet users. With all these layers, can it be any good? Yes. It is.

  1. Persistent-save folder

Or persistent-save directory. Sometimes called “Casper-rw”, or, in the Puppies, variously “pup-save”, “puppy-save”, “save-file”, et al. This is a special directory (or often an actual * partition * on a harddrive), which Knoppix or Puppy can create and configure for themselves, automatically, if you tell them to go-ahead when prompted.

It has various uses. Mainly, it is to save various changes [or even a whole data-base (if it is not more than maybe 4 Gb or something)] so that you can have the same settings and other config. stuff “remembered” by a Linux that is running from some type of “install” that is not the traditional hdd-install. Persistent-save works with Linux that is booted as “live”.  Such as a live-cd. Or a frugal install. Or, say a bootable thumb-key you made with Unetbootin—which usually creates a sort-of “iso-type” install of Linux to a USB thumb-key. Which means that it runs like the livecd—essentially, anyway. And this means that (effectively), the live Linux’s system-files are “locked”, and you can only alter their “mirror” images, which such an install creates in your RAM after booting. A “live boot” of Linux is a virtualized boot-up of the system, where system files are “mirrored” into the RAM (the temporary memory), based on some fixed image from a cd, DVD, thumb, or frugal-partition on the harddrive.  These are ephemeral, and changes made/software added is only remembered in the RAM, for the duration of the use-session. Once you shutdown a Linux with this type of running, any changes at all just go “poof!” The Persistent-Save Directory (or partition) is a developer’s gift to those who run this type of set-up.  Persistence allows for some permanent space set-aside to store and remember changes to system settings, and to hold apps that you might want to add.

Historically, this “persistence” has worked best when kept to a relatively small size.  Say, about 512 Mb.  This can hold system updates, settings-changes across successive use-sessions, and some (relatively small) apps.  Generally, the bigger we have made the persistence area, and the more we have put in there, the S-L-O-W-E-R Ubuntu has seemed to run.  This has been a seeming rule-of-thumb for a long time.  But thanks to some recent developments, this may be changing.

Distros that come with this as a built-in option (like Knoppix) usually are also accompanied by UnionFS or aufs, which are two other gifts, and which allow the boot-up to find the saved settings in the Persistent folder, and incorporate them, by the time you arrive at your deasktop. And “transparently” (“automagically”), too.

A live cd or live, bootable thumb-key usually needs to be booted-up with a “cheat-code” or “boot-parameter” entered at a prompt during the live-boot process (like Ubuntu’s boot-argument “persistence”), if you want the live Linux os to look for the persistence during that session.

  1. Directory

Just means Folder.  Just the term for a Folder in Unix/Linux/ * nix-type systems. MS used to call it Directory too, but seems to have changed it somewhere along the way, maybe because it seemed more “public-friendly”. (?)

If sometime you find yourself having difficulty opening one of these “directories” in a Terminal [though I have to add swiftly that I’ve been on a Linux desktop as my daily workhorse system for three (3) years now, and I can count on the fingers of * one * hand the number of times I’ve * had * to resort to Terminal!], well, TRY TYPING THAT DIRECTORY WITH A CAPITAL LETTER TO START.  Like “Downloads”.  NOT “downloads”.  Unlike Windows, Linux (and also MAC) are often case-sensitive, in the Terminal environment (you know, the “COMMAND window” thingy).  Linux would be case-touchy in the GUI, point-and-click interface too–but the makers of most desktop-oriented distros usually turn this annoyance off in the GUI.

If you’re in a Terminal, you can search for files / do other stuff with the case-sensitivity disabled, by using the command-argument (option) “-iname”.  But really, I almost never find myself having to resort to a Terminal/command-line.  Not anymore.  Desktop Linux is all GUI now, point-and-click.

  1. Graphics card

I think they also sometimes call this GPU (Graphics Processing Unit). Neither specific to Linux or Windows, this is a piece of * hardware * that is basically the circuit-card unit that controls what is displayed on your screen, and sends the (converted) information/ “signal” to it. Your Graphics Card probably looks like a thin piece of green plastic, with circuits printed onto it, and some left-over solder from certain connections. It is connected to your motherboard, inside the computer’s case.

  1. Package

A software package is some app that you d/l and install. Or something else that is similar to this.

  1. .deb file

Most Linux packages are .deb (“Debian-type”) files. Except in the distros that use the other major package format (RPM), which must be like about half of them. Then there are distros that are pointed-to some of the “up-and-commer” package-formats, like Arch Linux. A .deb file (.deb = “Debian-type”) in Linux is the rough equivalent of a .exe in WINDOWS. So be careful! If you stick to only installing from your distro’s default repositories (“Repos”), you are very unlikely to get malwared in Linux.  Installing a package/group of packages from the Software Center–just as it is set-up by default–is installing from “default repos”.  If you change the “settings” in Software Sources, or do some operation to enable another repository (and there are several that * can * be enabled), then you would be able to install a software that might not meet the quality standards of the makers of your distro.  This sort of thing will be up to YOU, the computer user.  But as a general rule, it can be harder to un-do a change to the system made via non-default repositories.  So, for those who are just starting out, it is recommended that one stick to one’s default repos.

Files-types used in Linux like .deb, .bin, and so-called “desktop-files” (something that appears on Ubuntu’s desktop after it has finished downloading) are basically “free-agents”—just like .exe in WINDOWS. Execute one, and whatever’s in there is going to go ahead, and alter your system—probably for the better. But these type of files are usually not ones we fetch from our default Repositories. Our available default Repos in Ubuntu and its variants (Linux Mint, PeppermintOS, PinguyOS, &tc.) are “proctored”, and are regularly observed by the Linux user/developer community at-large. Which means that the files in your Repos are often viewed by those who can program, and therefore are able to read source-code. If something looks fishy, it’ll get reported in real-time. The same cannot be said for a .deb that you download from the web, instead of with Software Center / Software Manager.

  1. Debian

One of the Major distros, Debian Linux serves as the basis upon which many other Linux distros are built. It was named for the progenitor of the distro and his girlfriend (Debbie + Ian=”Debian”).  Considered very stable and conservative (at least in terms of it’s “Debian-stable” branch, as opposed to, say, “Debian-testing”; though the latter is also pretty stable). Ubuntu is based on Debian, as is KNOPPIX, MEPIS Linux, and several other popular Linux-based operating systems.

  1. Cannonical

Cannonical Ltd. Is the parent “company” of Ubuntu Linux. I put quotes around “company”, because the entity is principally chartered outside of the United States, and therefore seems to be able to behave in ways that might not do here, where it comes to it’s business-model. With a little background in business myself, I can’t seem to figure-out if Cannonical is supposed to be a for-profit corporation, or a not-for-profit NGO-type of “Charity”. Perhaps the Cannonical ppl don’t really know themselves. In any case, this is the entity that is responsible for Ubuntu, and which sets the “rules”—such as there are very many with real teeth in them—for the distro. Perhaps some bright intellectual-property law student will post here, and straighten us all out.

  1. Linus Torvalds

Creator of the Linux kernel, on top of which all Linux systems run. He still oversees the foundation that is responsible for the Linux kernel, today. He was a computer-science student in Helsinki, Finland, which is his native country. He made the Linux kernel by re-making Unix, a main-frame operating system which “escaped” from Bell Labs (now Lucent Technologies) in the late 1970s, when the government broke-up the telephone monopoly. He wanted to call it “Phreaks”—I guess after phone “phreaking”, which was a kind of notorious geek “near-crime” of messing-around with the telephone infrastructure in the 70s—but his friends began calling it Linux (Linus + Unix = “Linux”). And the name stuck. This was not the complete system—just the kernel on top of which it runs. It is only when the Linux kernel was combined with the work of the GNU project in California, that it could become an operating system. Mr. Torvalds created the kernel with this in mind. This is why you sometimes see it referred-to as GNU-Linux, or GNU/Linux. Because this is proper.

  1. Kernel

Linux uses the Linux kernel. Windows used to run on top of the DOS (pronounced “daw-sss”) kernel, which Microsoft made from a system called Q-Dos, which it purchased from a small technology company in Washington state somewhere around 1980. This became it’s flagship operating program, “MS-DOS”. This had no pretty “windows”, like we open and close with the mouse to-day. The MS-DOS “kernel” could only manipulate letters, numbers, and symbols.  So it was/is “CLI” only–no GUI (Graphical User Interface).

Then, somewhere in the 90s, Microsoft began to abandon the DOS-kernel, and replace this with the “Windows kernel”, a.k.a. the “NT kernel”. And that is what Windows runs on top of to-day.

What is properly called “Linux” is really just a CLI * kernel *.  [But it is a * very * good * kernel, and has many more capabilities than the “Windows kernel”.]  Ubuntu and other Linux-based operating systems for home/desktop use, come with a GUI (a “DE”–see above), which “runs on-top of the * kernel *.  This would be programs like GNOME, KDE (“Kewl Desktop Environment”), or XFCE.

Now, what I have just rendered is (somewhat) oversimplified. But it is still perhaps more than you wanted to know.

  1. Unix [or, perhaps more properly, “UNIX”]

Unix was (and is) an operating system for main-frames, which were the only kind of computers that existed when Multics—from which Unix would evolve—was created. What we know today as modern desktop Linux, was then created by re-hacking Unix (to get the kernel), and then combining this new “Linux” kernel (which could now run on a small, non-mainframe machine) with the fruits of the GNU project, which is where most of the apps and rel. stuff you need came from. That’s why we really should refer-to it as “GNU-Linux”.  So Linux is really Unix, but in a different form. If you know this, you can avail yourself of a huge number of free texts and instructions-manuals online, for free. Because there are a huge number of UNIX resources available online, free-of-charge. These can be downloaded, copied, and consulted for an understanding of how the basic Linux file-system works. To do so is useful.  Any UNIX command will almost always work in Linux (and also in Apple products, ANDROID, BSD, and other “Unix-like” systems, since these are all derived from UNIX).

  1. Root

When you log-on to Linux, Unix/Linux does not let anyone know that this is really Terry, or “George Johnson”, or whomever—unless that person has an Administrator account, which in Unix/Linux we call Root. Because he or she is the “Root” of the files-tree. And *NIX-type systems [Linux, Unix, Solaris, SunOS, the BSDs, and Apple OSX (which is really an elaborate hack of 386BSD-and-Darwin—whether Apple-heads want to admit this or not)] have an ultimate “root”, or “stem”, from which everything else on the system is organized, in a “branching-out”. Which is why if you’ve ever seen a decent diagram of a Unix/Linux file-system, it looks like A) a tree that a stick-figure man would draw, if he could draw, or B) an upside-down tree of the same sort, with “root” at the very top. Which is why the top command sometimes used in the bash terminal (“dos-window”) in *NIX, is called “top”, instead of “side”, or “bottom”. Only one account on a Linux system is the true root.

Ubuntu and its variants enable only a limited-user account for us, by default—** BUT ** the “sudo” command is also already installed and configured, for this account. What this means, is that you * can * do Administrator/root-level functions * from * the * limited * user * account *, BUT you’ll be somehow prompted for the password you set when you installed Ubuntu. This is a safety-device: you can still manipulate personal settings and such; but in order to do some operation that will alter the system in more than a superficial way, you have to answer that prompt for the login password.

Microsoft WINDOWS is the same, where one is using Windows’ UAC (User Account Control). Of course, UAC is only really effective from a limited-user account—not from a Windows Admin. account. And a large number of Windows users seem to just disable it. And most Windows users—even at this late-date, seem to * still * want to be Administrator—NOT user. Probably because Windows is still something of a gaming-platform, despite the virtual takeover of gaming-consoles. And a lot of the newest games don’t seem to work from Windows’ user. A lot of popular games don’t work from Linux-based systems at all. Or, often, even MACs. And there is the legacy memory/cultural-memory people have, of the XP-SP-2 days, when, yes, you * could * configure a limited user account for yourself—BUT a number of your programs might not work from it (depending on what they were).

So a * lot * of WINDOWS users * still * run their systems from Admin., with UAC turned-off. Even to-day, in the Windows 7 era. Which is one reason why there are still viruses, malwares, and some amount of FEAR of viruses and malwares in the Windows user-base.

  1. User

A user account for operating your Linux-based system, is a functional account which does not allow the operator to do everything to the system that the root/Administrator can do to it.

Every distro (except most versions of Puppy, and then maybe one or two others that I wouldn’t know, and which I’d think would fit into the “obscure” category: though I by no means call Puppy obscure) either lets you create a user account, or has one already ready to go.

Then there are those (mostly Ubuntu and its “down-streams”), which don’t seem to offer a root account.

And this by only having a user account, and hiding and locking the root account, which for all practical intents-and-purposes you as the user who has created the first user account that Ubuntu (or which-ever of this distro-type) will let you create, do not need to even know exists. Because when you want to install some app that the “ ‘buntu-like” distro did not come with by default, or do some other change that Unix requires the root/admin to do, you just use the sudo utility, which is built-in and enabled already. This just means typing “sudo” (super user do ~ .. whatever—some action) before the command in the Terminal window (if you needed to do the operation from the Terminal in the first place, which I find to be rare). And then Ubuntu (or Crunch Bang, or which-ever) will ask you for your “password”, which is just the same user password you log-in with. So you do not need a separate root-account in Ubuntu, it’s derivatives (like Crunch Bang—at least the pre-Statlers—I don’t know much about CB Statler, except thst I cannot get it to run on any of my equipment) —or Linux Mint, or distros of this type, which lock the true “root”.

  1. Parent/child

Because the *nix-type file-system is organized like an “upside-down tree”—with the ultimate root at the top—the files inside a directory (folder) are the “children” of that directory. The higher folder (directory), of which this folder is a sub-folder, is it’s “parent”. As in “parent directory”.

  1. Regular Expression: A regular expression (sometimes abbreviated to “regex”) is a way for a computer user or programmer to express how a computer program should look for a specified pattern in text and then what the program is to do when each pattern match is found. For example, a regular expression could tell a program to search for all text lines that contain the word “Windows 95” and then to print out each line in which a match is found or substitute another text sequence (for example, just “Windows”) where any match occurs.The best known tool for specifying and handling the incidence of regular expressions is grep, a utility found in UNIX-based operating systems and also offered as a separate utility program for Windows and other operating systems.
  2. VLC

A very popular media player for all platforms (Windoze, Apple, Linux, BSD, etc.) Will play just about any media file—recognizes a huge number of codecs (COmpression-DECompression routines). Free to use. Open source. Download and add to just about any Linux or BSD, *nix-type, etc. VLC is the default media player for some distros.

  1. Open Office

Open Office is a Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) replacement for programs like ms Office, Corel Office. The mainline edition comes with a documents program (one of the best—pay or free, at least as far as the 3.3 version), spreadsheet, and all the related stuff. This office suite is installed by default with many Linux distros. If it does not come with your distro of choice, you can usually download and install it without much fuss.

Open Office seems to open all formats now–.doc, .docx, .odt, .txt, &tc, &tc. Or there is a Linux app that will. MS Office, equally—whether v. 2007, 2003, or 2010—seems to be able to open anything that was created on a Linux machine. I will mention, too, that I tried to open a .docx file on my friend Jim’s XP machine, and his Word 2000 would not open it. I also tried to open the same document (and a couple others) that were .docx, using an old lappy running Karmic Koala (the “nickname” of Ubuntu 9.10), using Open Office 3.1. And it could not open them. But Open Office 3.2 seems to have no problem opening and working in .docx (at least not * now *, as of late 2011). And Libre Office (the new iteration of Open Office) I have found will open and work in any of these formats.

At the time of this writing, Linux comes with NTFS support. Or this could be downloaded, if for some odd reason your distro does not include it.

If you are familiar with the function, you can use a Macro in Word 2007 to convert documents from .docx to .doc (or .odt) as a “batch process”—perhaps letting it run overnight. There are other Batch-files methods available to convert a whole bunch of them in one fell swoop. Just look around on the web.

It is also true that many Linux come with a utility to “mass-migrate” documents and settings from Windoze, as an automated process. I don’t know how well this works, and I think it converts documents to .odt. Nothing against .odt—really, the whole world should be using this standard. But as I have said, some Windows users (particularly those with older versions of ms Office—and there are plenty of them out there, at the time of this writing—2011), well, some of these persons may not be able to open .odt without installing some update or plug-in, or they may just object to having to deal-with this type of “weird” format on a regular basis. Many ppl are very conservative, where it comes to their Windoze install—perhaps to a large-measure because they have just learned to fear “viruses”—to live in fear of “viruses”—what ever that means to them, for whatever reason. F.U.D. (Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt) is a factor in computing—even in the Linux meta-verse; but it is more pronounced in the Windoze meta-verse, and this for cultural reasons, as much as because of the software itself.

In 2012, I converted all my documents-files from .doc (which I had been using on Windows XP, Windows 7, and Ubuntu 10.04, interchangably) to .odt (Open Documents Text). This format is sometimes reffered-to as “.odt/odf” (Open Documents Text/Open Documents Format), and it comes from the ISO (International Standards Organization). Whereas .doc (and the new .docx) originate with the Microsoft Corp. I believe .odt is an open-source format, but I’d have to check that. In any case, the MS formats certainly are NOT open-source. And they’ve had weird code running in them for years, if not decades. Stuff like the so-called “doc-worm”, with which most people’s .doc files seem to be infected. Nobody seems to know exactly what this code does, or where it came from. Professional consultants have spent * years * trying to figure this out, and have been paid * millions * in U.S. Dollars, to no avail.

I find .odt to be a ** much ** better format. It is much lighter, and my data-base now uses about one-half the amount of drive-space as it did with .doc. The .odt format is full-service, too: I seem to be able to get it to do * everything * that .doc and .docx could do, using the version of Libre Office 3 that came with my download of Linux Mint 13 XFCE Edition. If I need to send a document to a colleague, I notice that their WINDOWS 7 systems will now usually open it, by default. Where this doesn’t obtain, I can just save the file as .doc in Libre Office, and send it. Works fine. I doubt I will ever go back to MS formats for my documents (I have over 1,100 documents to manage, by the way). And Libre Office/Open Office have native Windows-coded versions, so it is easy to run these programs in ms Windows (XP, 7) if you need.

I can’t seem to perceive any functionality-loss either, between the two formats.

  1. Nautilus

This is the files manager that usually comes with the GNOME DE. Ever wonder how Microsoft did such a good job of creating the Windows 7 version of Windows Explorer? (Not to be confused with Internet Explorer—I speak of the files manager here, not the web-browser.) The answer is simple: they ripped-off Nautilus. I’m kidding. But in any event, the Nautilus files-manager program is one of the best in the business. It comes installed with most distros that favor the Gnome desktop. This means Ubuntu, many versions of Linux Mint (though this is arguable: as one can select from several versions of Mint, with several DEs at d/l time, some would say that Mint “does not really have a default DE”), and PinguyOS, to name a few.

  1. Thunar

A files manager that is “lightweight”—i.e., it uses less RAM, CPU, and the like, in order to run, when you start it and while it is open. In Linux Mint Fluxbox, it looks to my eye like a sort of cross between Nautilus and my files manager in microKnoppix 5.11 cd, which I think is Konqueror. The newer versions of Thunar will display your hdd in the left view-pane, just as Nautilus and Windows Explorer do. Thunar is well documented. It is often the accompanying files manager to the Fluxbox DE/window-manager, which itself is lightweight.  Thunar is also often the default Files Manager in the XFCE DE–though in just about every distro, one * can * download Nautilus from the repos, and the system will automatically install it.  Which files-manager your system will use by default, however, is subject to how you set system settings.

  1. Konqueror

Konqueror is a web-browser, and also a files-manager. Linux distros that come with/historically came with KDE as the default Desktop Environment often also ship with Konqueror. That’s probably why it’s spelled with a K.

  1. Midnight Commander

A Linux version of the old Norton Commander files manager. I’ve yet to try it. Frankly, I’ve used Thunar, ROX-Filer, and the much-lauded PC-ManFM, on various Linux distros—many of which I have installed to harddrives. These are okay—but I found myself coming back to Nautilus. The GNOME Project’s Nautilus has the most-and-best functionality of any Linux files-manager I’ve yet tried.

  1. G-Parted

GNOME Partition Editor. This is a program which has been around for quite some time, and has a good reputation. It can be found in the menus of most distros, by default. It is used to allow an operator to view and manipulate the hard-drive (hdd). It can change the size of partitions, or create new ones. Don’t use it (or any else) to make actual changes to the layout of a hdd, unless you know what you are doing. Anyway, it’s pretty easy to use, point-and-click, and well documented (plenty of free instructions available online). There is also Parted-Magic—not to be confused with the program “Partition Magic”, which is a commercial product (and which also enjoys a pretty good reputation). The program * Parted Magic * is actually a small, graphical (point-and-click) Linux distro of its own, which features G-Parted, as well as other disk-manipulation software. Parted Magic Linux is intended to be booted as a live-environment, rather than installed—so you run it from a cd or a USB thumb-key. I have used it several times, with nothing but good results.

  1. Grub

“Grand Universal Bootloader”. This is one of those “chain-loaders”, that steps in between your BIOS and your hdd, in order to allow you to boot into some environment that probly did not come originally with the computer (like Linux). There are others (Lilo, Syslinux, etc.). Grub is probably the most popular. There is also a “Grub Linux”, which can be booted and run by itself, from a live cd, to repair Grub if it needs work. Or I think you can run it from a number of live cds— especially rescue/forensics live-discs.

Grub has two versions now—as of roughly 2010. The first is Grub 1.97 beta (don’t let the beta throw you: it hasn’t really been in beta for quite some time: they just left that on there.) Also known as Grub 1 or Grub legacy, this is very stable and well documented. I have it running in two of my machines (used to be 4), and have never seen a problem.

The second is Grub 2—more properly Grub 1.98/1.99. This one also seems very stable, and there seems enough documentation. I use it to dual boot this laptop (to boot either Windows or Ubuntu).

The controls for both versions seem to work basically the same (until you want to do certain customizations), and are not difficult to understand.

Frankly, if I had it all to do over again, I think I’d try to go with Grub4dos, as my Masterbootloader (MBR bootloader). Perhaps it is that Grub4dos doesn’t receive much respect, because it’s got that “word” in its name (“dos”). Well, I currently have the major part of the Grub4dos “suite” installed to a partition, as a “bridgeloader” (chainloader). This would be the file known as “grub.exe”—although I stress that there are * different * versions of this that one can download. I find Grub4dos to be more powerful, well documented, kept up-to-date, and pretty reliable. I find a good deal of documentation/free instructions for Grub4dos available, online.

But yeah, Ubuntu’s installer program (Ubiquity) won’t install any other bootloader other than GNU/Grub at install time. Which means that, if you want the advantages of Grub4dos, you’ll have to learn to install and config it yourself. Not as hard as it sounds. If you decide to go this route, and you find yourself wanting to install Ubuntu later on, then you will need to understand and remember to use the Ubiquity installer’s “Advanced” button (not very advanced, really—just gives you a few more options), toward the end of the Ubuntu install process: you use it in this scenario to set the “location for bootloader installation” to * the * same ** partition ** as * you’re * installing * Ubuntu * to *. Otherwise, Ubiquity will go ahead and install GNU/Grub to the “whole device” (the harddrive, as opposed to a Partition Boot Sector on some partition ** in ** the harddrive).

Or you could just install Ubuntu first, and get used to GNU/Grub, and then establish Grub4dos as Masterbootloader later.

  1. iso

“International Standards Organization” For our purposes here, .iso is a file-format, just as .exe, .doc, and .zip are, to name but a few. .iso is often used to pass system-image files in a compressed form, from one computer to another. Just because you d/l-ed some Linux as a 700 Mb .iso-type file that will fit on a live cd, you don’t know exactly how many Gb it will expand-into if installed to the hdd. Research it. Esp. if you plan on install to thumb-key as a traditional hdd-type install, rather than the “iso” type of thumb-key install. 8 Gb is often said to be about the minimum size thumb for an install that is intended to be like an install to hdd. Linux will run just fine from a FAT 32 hdd partition, or a FAT 32 thumb-drive (running as compressed). But it prefers ext2/3/4—preferably ext4—or ReiserFS: or, more to the point, btrfs. Especially for an install to a real hdd. Windows cannot peep into these *nix formats, by default. But there are free Windows programs you can get, that will allow it. .iso itself is not strictly a *nix format. It is further true that a lot of us create a special FAT-32 partition on our harddrive, so we can have access to files from either type of system—Windows * OR * Linux. Because both systems—indeed, probably * any * system on the planet—can read/write-to a FAT-32 disk. Frankly, one could just as well use NTFS, which I find to be a better, more stable all-around disk-format.

  1. ClamAV

A popular (and of course free) anti-virus app for Linux. Also utilized by MAC owners. I use the term “popular” with advisement: ClamAV is like the Maytag repairman; it is competent at it’s craft, but still has nothing to do all day. Most Linux home users never even install it. Server administrators—ppl who run, say, Devil Linux—they install it more frequently. I still recommend you install it. And set cron to remind you to manually update it, like once a week. There are no Linux viruses “in the wild”, as of the time of this writing, of which I am aware. But there could be. As Linux becomes more popular, something’ll happen.

If I am not mistaken, ClamAV can also check e-mails and attatched files for Windoze malware. This can keep you from passing such things-on to your ‘doze-usin’ friends, who are too stubborn to convert to the big “L”.

  1. FOSS and FLOSS, OSS

Free Open Source Software, Free Linux Open Source Software; Open Source Software.

  1. Daemon

It’s like a “Guardian Angel” program, that, when enabled, will always be runnin’ in the background, as long as the computer is on. Each Daemon “shepherds” a particular program or app, when that app needs to run in the foreground.

  1. cron-job

cron (“Chronos; chronology”: get it?) is a “timer”. Like windoze task manager. But more sophisticated than an egg timer. This is a command-line only utility, AFAIK. But it is inherited from the Unix days. And I don’t think you have to sudo, or switch to root to set it. There are graphical “front-end” programs available that will let you use it on a point-and-click basis, like GNOME Task Scheduler.

  1. sudo

see entry 27. In some distros the command “su” is installed instead. Actually they are not the same thing; but they each do pretty much the same thing. Google it. See 27.

  1. Terminal

The same as a dos-window in XP, 7, or any other. Except it uses, like, Bash commands, or Korn commands, or some other Unix-y commands you type or paste in, and then hit Enter to process them. Look, if you as a Windoze user go to Start > run > type “cmd”, and hit Enter, you get a black oblong-window on your screen, with a cursor-bar flashing in it. This is your dos window, and it can be used to manipulate your computer with the old-timey alpha-numeric, letters-and-numbers-only, input-output method that was around before there was GUI. In Windoze XP and 7 hardly anybody tries to do this anymore, because Windoze sucks (just kidding).

In Linux, however, you can do lots of operations the “old-fashioned” way. But with a twist: because Linux is Open Source, and based on Unix, you have a lot more options, by default. And it lets you get much more certain control of a system. Further, most commands don’t have to be run as root/Admin. So don’t over-worry about doing something bad to your system files by mistake, while your still a little “green”. Most of the popular distros are pretty robust. And Linux won’t break because of a trojan. Because there aren’t any for Linux—or at least none that can easily install, if you use intelligent use practices.

In fairness, I must say here that you will have to get to know the Terminal, and the few commands you will need. (Unix/bash commands are listed all over the net, BTW, and there are tutos.) Why will you need them? Because one of the dirty little secrets of Linux is that not everything is GUI yet. And it is not likely to ever be. Linux has a different mind-set. A few things will probably always have to be done from the Terminal, because nobody will bother to write a graphical “front-end” for the thing in question. Often because the thing is just too easy to do from Terminal. Like, say, checking the checksum of a recently downloaded .iso file.

Most of these things are easy, EASY! And the community makes it easy for you. In most of the forums of the popular distros (Ubuntu, Mint, PCLinuxOS, Knoppix forums, Crunch Bang, Easy Peasy, &tc.), newbies are treated with reverence, not disdain. Lose that pacifier, and learn some BASH. Like, say, the codes to do that thing that your distro doen’t have a supported front-end for. You’ll feel better about yourself. And you’ll thank yourself, because you’ll have snipped a link in the chain that ties us all to Bill. If nothing else, you’ll come away as a more capable person, even if you give-up on Linux. You have little to lose, if you proceed into Linux with care. And a World to win!

  1. Bash

This is the Terminal “language”  in most Linux. Some use the Korn shell (“Korn commands”, though this is very similar). There are other ones. Bash is the main one. Bash refers to the code-instructions which you can type or paste into a Terminal. The Terminal-shell itself (the program that makes it appear on a screen, which is called a “Terminal emulator program”) can be one of several different ones, also: the most popular is probably GNOME-Terminal, but there is also Console, A-Term, Konsole (KDE desktop-oriented), and many others. BASH is the Bash “language”, which is an extensive command-set that is configured and set-up for the Linux distro, and which can be run through use of the Terminal emulator.

Bash is easy to learn. These codes are publicly available. They are really just abbreviations, dude. Windows’ DOS and Bash often use the same ones, to do the same thing.  The command “cd”, for example, does the same thing in both systems.  The Linux command “mkdir”, for example, means “make a directory”, as in “make a new directory for me to put some stuff in, and let me name it.” Its no different than “create new folder” in Windoze. Except you can do it from Terminal. Windoze lets you do this too, from a dos window, if you’ve ever seen or used one. The code is different—it’s dos code.

  1. GUI

Again, not specific to Linux, this just means Graphical User Interface. It means you can do it (~ whatever the task is) with pictures, and the mouse—instead of just typing-in letters and numbers on a black-and-white screen.  This latter–typing-in letters and numbers on a black-and-white screen, is often referred-to as CLI–“Command Line Interface”.

  1. Man pages

Manuals Pages if you type man and then one space, and then the name of an app that is installed to your system, and then hit Enter, while you are in a Terminal.  You will get an instruction manual for that app, which you can scroll up and down, and paste into a document, if you want to save it that way. BTW, you can have many “windows” open at once in Linux, just as any other platform: you can have a Terminal (or even several), some documents-files with instructions, an application from the menus, and probably be listening to music in Rhythmbox, too—all at the same time—often even on an older (weaker) computer. Linux is most usually less of a “resource-pig” than other systems.

  1. RTFM slang abbreviation for “Read The ‘Fine’ Manual”
  2. “Command line”:  Another term for a Terminal-window, or using ctrl + alt + F1, which will take you out of your graphical environment [in most distros], and to a black screen. This latter is not a Terminal emulator, but something much more akin to a * real * Terminal: ctrl + Alt + F1 takes us to a so-called “X-window” in Linux. And as actual ** root ** (see entries No. 26 & 27). If you want x-windows as mere user, ctrl + Alt + F2 through F6 on most distros. Consult your particular distro’s documentation.
  3. “command prompt”:  same as above
  4. console/konsole another term for a Terminal environment, basically.  But know that our Linux “command-line environment” can be generated by any of many different programs, at least one of which will certainly be installed to a desktop Linux distro.  Ubuntu and most Debian-based distros seem to come with the GNOME-Terminal emulator program.  Console and Konsole are different programs, but they do the same thing–allow you to type commandline operations while still on your desktop GUI–so you have it a little easier than if you had to shut off GUI, and devolve into an x-window.  As I may have already said, I have used a Linux desktop as my daily, workhorse os for more than 3 years now, and I can count the number of times I have actually * had * to do something from commandline on the fingers of * one * hand.  Ubuntu and Mint, to-day, are essentially point-and-click.  If online instructions yield commandline results, keep looking for the GUI way to do ~ the process–you’ll find it.
  5. installer A special program that is contained in many live cds. The Ubuntu one is Ubiquity installer; RPM-type Linux distros (like Red Hat, Fedora, Mandriva, et al)  often use the Anaconda installer.  This type of utility, once you launch it from a live cd, will take you through the steps (usually not too techy) in installing the distro to your machine’s hdd. And with pictures–not complicated computer stuff (well, basically).  As I said, most Debian/Ubuntu-based desktop Linux distros use the Ubiquity installer, if you want to install Ubuntu to your harddrive.  Ubiquity is the same program in Ubuntu, Crunch Bang Linux, Linux Mint, BackBox, and the rest of the Ubuntu “variants”; but the GUI interface can be rather different in appearance from one to another—though there will be the same buttons/options available, usually in the same windows.
  6. Prompt As in any os, its just an instance where you operating system (XP, Ubuntu, OSX) needs you to confirm something, or choose one of several options. Or gives you the opportunity—how ever brief—to do so.
  7. SSH I think this stands for Secure Socket Shell. It’s a way of remotely controlling a computer—like from another computer.  This is mostly for people running “headless” server-computers, not an Ubuntu that’s desktop-only.  Ubuntu and her variants are desktop-only, insofar as the normal download of the GUI version of the distro.  If you want the server-stuff, you have to make some extra moves.
  8. “file system”:  sort of used interchangeably with os; an operating system. But in certain context, this term can also denote a disk-format, like, say, FAT-32, or NTFS, or .ext4.
  9. “software stack”:  same as above, but basically refers-to an operating system–or maybe  some big-chunk of an operating system–such as the stack of programs needed to allow any computer to network with other devices.
  10. partition

A large segment created on a harddrive (or even other kind of drive), with magnetic “boundaries”, which a files-format scheme has put onto the platters (disc-shaped-thingies), which spin at high speed in your hdd. This is so your computer can find some important file, without “looking for a needle in a haystack”.  Partitions are part of the way harddrives (or even other “data-disks”, like thumb-drives) are “formatted”, so that the stoopid computer doesn’t have to look through every file on the system, in order to launch the app or program that you want.  Partitions divide a modern drive into several compartments.  Each of these partitions (also sometimes called “volumes”) are in-turn “mapped” by “volume format”, like FAT32, NTFS, .ext2. or btrfs:  these “volume formats” divide-up the partition in a way similar to the lines of latitude and longitude on a Globe–like the Globe of the world, that you can see at your school’s library.

But there is also a lower-level “drive format”, which * enables * the drive to be divided into partitions in the first place.  This is one you can’t really “see” with ordinary disk-manipulation tools, such as G-Parted.  It is a very low-level electronic means of organization of the data storage medium, which the drive’s manufacturer has “baked-in” to the device.  There are various “schema” that (theoretically), can be used. But really, in the real world, (outside of some lab at, say, the Technical University of Dresden), hdd formatting for operating systems (and any else to be stored on hdd) still sticks to the scheme IBM came up with back in the early 80s, for small computers (“PCs”). This was back around the time when IBM and Microsoft were partners–their partnership having broken-up in the early 1980s. This low-level “partitioning enabler” is more-or-less known as the FAT system. (Or perhaps more properly in this particular context, the “MBR-schema”. Just to confuse us, other terms are sometimes also used.) FAT translates to “Files Allocation Table”. Now FAT 32 was just a part of this. FAT 32 was/is a particular file-system format, within the overall “schema”.  File-system format can also be called “volume format”, or “drive format”.  To further obfuscate the issue, FAT32 can also be used as the “format” for small drives—like thumb-keys, or other ‘logical drives”—even if these latter are just magnetic segments created in an extended partition of a hdd.

So we see that there is a difference between “FAT”, and what you sometimes see described as “vFAT”.  The “vFAT” is * volume * FAT–it is the kind that just formats a * partition *.  There is vFAT 12, and vFAT 16.  But these are seldom used anymore.  Then, vFAT 32 is the familiar disk format, which we can apply to a storage partition we might want to create in our harddrive, with a tool like G-Parted, or Windows Disk Manager.  And we could change it in the future, if  we wanted–to, say, NTFS.  Or .ext4.

But FAT * proper * (“MBR-FAT”), on the other hand, is the “FAT-MBR” low-level schema for data drives.  Most any data-storage device that can be made bootable for an operating system comes with this historic, legacy, low-level schema, which has been “burned-in” at the factory.  We as ordinary users (or even “power-users”) usually can’t change it.

That’s why FAT-MBR schema may be referred-to as “firmware”–because unlike regular software, you can’t easily uninstall it, and install some other programming.

I guess this is about as clear as mud, despite my best efforts.  Microsoft and IBM are more to blame for this than myself, for not giving this low-level FAT a more definite name after they created it.  But if you find * my * rendering of the facts just now opaque, I humbly suggest you try some of the * other * pages available on the world wide web, as to this particular subject.  See how hard to understand they are.

  1. Wubi

A wubi install is a sort of special utility in Ubuntu, that allows you to “install” Ubuntu to a Virtual Machine * inside Windows *, which the wubi program will create for you, using standard, off-the-shelf open-source VM ware, and then you can run it from in there. So Ubuntu gets installed to a “folder” in your Windows XP, Vista, or 7 system, and this can be easily deleted from Windows control panel, if you later change your mind and decide you don’t like it.

Removing certain Linux from a traditional hdd install, and then dealing with the chain-loader that has been put on there (Grub), is often more difficult, without running some boot-disk (like your Windows 7 Recovery Disc, or perhaps UBCD4Win), and invoking the command “FIX-MBR”.  Or having to re-install Windows from a backup-ghost. (You do have some backup disc of your Windows operating system, don’t you? If not, better Google-around for how you can burn one yourself. There are a lot of articles, many from ms.)

  1. Brasero Linux’s answer to Nero: this is a really good disc-burner (and free-of-charge, too!).
  2. Gnumeric The Linux equiv of Excel. It’s a spreadsheet program. As with most Linux apps, it is not the only one—there are other ones like this for most Linux, that you can d/l.
  3. Galculator:  a calculator for a Linux
  4. GNU

What is GNU?  Stands for “Gnu Not Unix”. And is therefore a “recursive acronym”. Which is sort of like the computer-eeze equivalent  of a pun, I guess.  This became Richard Stallman’s name for his free software project, out of which he intended to create the first really good free, open-source operating system. So he is really the Father of Linux. Or perhaps more properly, the God-Father.

He began back in the late 70s, in his home of Berkley, California, with a small band of friends and dedicated followers. They embarked upon this because they were miffed that the big software & os companies at the time refused to allow third-party programmers to “peep” at their “secret sauce” code, so they could create modifications to do tasks that business ppl and creative ppl wanted to do with their computers. They created these wonderful free “apps”/”programs”, and intended to do the most elaborate part last—the kernel, for it all to run on top of. They’re still workin’ on that part. Its called GNU Hurd, and its still “experimental”. More elegant, though, if they ever get it really going. But meanwhile, we’re all enjoyin’ the descendants of those “apps”, running on top of the Linux kernel, and this combination we call “Ubuntu”, or “PCLinuxOS”. Or GNU/Linux. Which is how it works.

  1. Shell

Another term for any program window, that you can have open on your desktop. Often applied to the Bash shell, which is the Terminal, and the Terminal is sometimes called console or konsole, or tty.

  1. i386 (and i486, i686, &tc.)

“i”, in this context, refers to intel—specifically, their central processors. “386” refers to their 386-era family of these processors. All three [i386, i486, and i686 (and sometimes you see “i586”) ] are fitted under the general rubrick of “IA 86”.

A distro that says it is “i386 compliant” will most probably run on a very old computer, as well as probably a new one too. A Linux distro that says it is “i386” compliant is supposed to be able to run on an even worse machine, than a “i486” Linux distro.  The higher the number in this “i-designation”, the more processing-power will have to be available in the computer in question, for the Linux to boot and properly run.  If you booted AntiX i686 and it’s very sluggish 9or won’t finish boot at all), you might wanna check your computer’s hardware specs.  AntiX also offers a i486 build, if I am not mistaken.

A caveat I would add would be essentially that sometimes, when the hardware requirements are close, and it appears that the computer has just enough RAM and CPU to run a particular distro or variant, it just doesn’t quite make it. Sometimes you just need a “lighter” distro, which makes less demands on a computer that my be somewhat feeble. Sometimes just upgrading the hardware—like upgrading the RAM if it can be upgraded, or maybe even replacing the CPU—sometimes this will enable it to run a certain distro. So I guess my point here is that these numbers are not perfectly reliable, and you should try some different distros, if for no other reason, just to get a “feel”.


Another term for cheat-codes. Sometimes called Boot Options, or Boot arguments. Especially if you boot-up Ubuntu from a live-cd or USB thumb-key, you find that, during the boot-process, there is a time at which there is a “prompt”, or a “cursor”, after which you can enter some command(s) that will modify how the distro behaves from that time on, for the duration of the use-session. KNOPPIX is famous for these “cheat-codes”. But they are also available for other distros. Consult the documentation for the distro in question.

  1. Argument

“ –r “ would be one. “Argument” is rather an archaic term for this concept. More ppl today probly say “option”, or “command-line switch”. What it is is just a tiny bit of code you can add after a bash command, to “tweak” (fine-tune) the command. Maybe a Linux/UNIX  “argument” should be called a “command-modifier”.  Because that’s about all it does:  modify the way a command will execute.  So the command “ps”, typed into a command-line/Terminal, will not render the same results–exactly–as if you type “ps -A”.  The “-A” is the “argument”.  Other arguments are stuff like “-p”.  And “-b”.  And they don’t all do the same thing, in different commands.  So “grep -p weather-records”  may not do the same type of thing to the grep command, as the argument -p might do to “cat -p weather-records”.  USUALLY these argument-letters stand for pretty much the same things.  But not always, for every one of the thousands of commands potentially available to a UNIX/Linux operating system.  So you gotta read some instruction ahead of time (such as the command’s “man” page, which will already be available inside your Ubuntu or other distro).  A list of these “arguments” is available from the Bash manual online, of from many Unix text-books available for free online, or at the Public Library, or from the various resources associated with your distro of choice.

  1. Wild card

One of several symbols which bash allows to be used for this purpose (the asterisk—the * mark, for one), this just is a symbol you type at the end of a line in bash, which lets the computer know “I’m not sure how the rest of this goes. Maybe YOU, Mister computer, are smart enough to sort of figure it out, based on what I did just type-in, because I’m getting’ grey hairs now, and I can’t remember this exact code, or I didn’t completely know it in the first place.” So a “wildcard” in computer code is a sort of “shill”, or a symbol (like * or sometimes the ? mark), that lets the system know “something else should appear in this line, but I’m not sure what it is, because I can’t remember just now, or I never knew”.  Using the * wildcard from the Terminal (or a search-engine, like Google) is a good way to search for a file or a subject, when you only know a * part * of the name of it, and the computer will do the rest.  And sometimes Linux can figure-out what it is. If not, it’ll ask you to be more specific. In many distros, you can also use the tab key, which will cause the os to search for the remainder of what the string (“sentence”—like when you write a sentence, in this context) should be, and then show it to you. This latter is a form of “auto-complete”.

  1. Alias

In Bash, this is a kind of short line of code you just make-up, out of your imagination, and then you do something else that “enables” it, so that it becomes a “stand-in” for a much longer line of code that you don’t wanna have to keep entering over, and over, and over, and……..

So it’s kind of like a “hot-key” binding.  But for use in Terminal.  You set it up, and afterwards, say, “ctrl & then ‘XY-xya’” will be interpreted by your machine as some book-length hack, or some annoyingly difficult-to-type command, that you never want to have to type into your Terminal again.


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