How to Learn Linux: A Guide for Beginners
Linux, invented by Linus Torvalds in 1991, is an operating system distributed under an open-source license. Linux can be found almost everywhere in modern technology. Modern phones use Linux, as well as smart heaters and thermostats, smart televisions, the Raspberry Pi computer, and many more.
This guide will explore the best way to learn about Linux online. We’ll walk you through several tips you can use as you start learning about the Linux operating system.
What is Linux?
Linux is a kernel upon which many operating systems, such as Ubuntu and Arch Linux, are built. Linux is open-source which means you can read the code associated with the kernel. The Linux kernel was released in 1991 by Linus Torvalds.
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Have you ever wondered about the process that enables applications on your computer to run? Have you ever thought about what enables you to browse a website on a computer? Or play a game? Behind every application on a computer there is an operating system that allows you to use the hardware.
Linux was designed as an updated version of the UNIX OS software, which he thought needed to be improved. After his suggestions were ignored, he decided to create his own operating system with all the features he needed.
The Linux operating system was launched in 1991. Shortly after, several programmers offered to help improve the operating system. Over time, it has become ubiquitous and powers everything from modern phones to smart devices.
Why Should You Learn Linux?
As mentioned earlier, Linux has a wide range of applications. It is used for embedded systems, mobile phones, and servers, among other uses. Even the Career Karma website is hosted on a Linux server.
Linux is widely used in the technology industry. This makes learning the basics of Linux and being able to navigate through a Linux operating system is a valuable skill. If you want to become a system administrator, knowing Linux is almost essential. This is because many organizations power their infrastructure using Linux.
But, even if you’re not interested in systems administration, knowing Linux can still be helpful. With a working knowledge of Linux, you’ll be able to navigate the command line more effectively. This will assist you in a wide range of technical environments. You’ll also have a better understanding of how computers work.
How Long Does it Take to Learn Linux?
You can expect to learn how to use the Linux operating system within a few days if you use Linux as your main operating system. If you want to learn how to use the command line, expect to spend at least two or three weeks learning the basic commands.
The time it takes you to learn Linux will depend on what your goals are. If you want to learn Linux so you can use a Linux system as your main operating system, you can do so in a few days or weeks.
Learning how to use the command line is a different story. Expect to spend a few weeks learning basic commands. Then, there is a whole world of more complex commands you can learn. Expect to spend six months learning about more advanced commands.
It will take you a shorter period of time to learn Linux if you’ve already worked with a Linux system before. These include the Raspberry Pi and macOS, which are both built upon Linux operating system distributions.
What is Linux Used For?
Linux is an operating system. It is the software that makes all of the other software on a computer work. Operating systems bridge the gap between regular programs (i.e. word processors) and the hardware that runs those programs.
There are many Linux operating systems which operate as desktop environments. Ubuntu is one example. These operating systems let you use Linux as an alternative to another system like Windows or macOS.
Other Linux operating systems are written for tinkering. The Raspberry Pi, for instance, uses Raspbian. It is commonly used for embedded systems applications, robotics, and other computer engineering tasks.
Linux even powers the Android operating system. There are over two billion Android devices in the world. This shows how widespread Linux is, even in places you may not have thought you could find Linux.
Is Linux Hard to Learn?
Linux is not difficult to learn. The more experience you have using technology, the easier you’ll find it to master the basics of Linux.
With the right amount of time, you can learn how to use the basic Linux commands in a few days. It will take you a few weeks to become more familiar with these commands. Of course, this level of practice is not mastery. It will take you months, even years, to learn how to use more advanced commands.
The Linux command line is known for the degree of customization it supports. As a result, you’ll find no shortage of unique combinations for commands and new distributions of Linux. But, you don’t need to know how to use all the advanced commands to build a good understanding of LInux.
If you come from using macOS, you’ll find it easier to learn Linux. This is because macOS is based on UNIX. UNIX incorporates many of the same principles as Linux. You’ll find cross-overs between these two technologies.
Linux is “Open Source.” What Does That Mean?
Linux is distributed under an open source license. This is one of the main reasons Linux has become so prominent.
Open source means it can be used by anyone. Anyone can run Linux, for any purpose. Anyone can study how it works or create their own copy. The term “Linux” itself is trademarked by Torvalds, and the source code for the main project is under copyright.
How to Learn Linux Fast
Learning Linux is a great use of your time. But, how do you actually learn it? In this guide, we explore the basic skills you need to acquire and some sources you can use.
Building Your Linux Skills
Before you start building advanced applications for Linux, or installing complex software, you’ll need to master the basics of Linux. While it can be intimidating at first, once you start working in a Linux environment, you’ll get used to how Linux works fast.
The first step in your journey is to learn the fundamentals of Linux. Let’s learn about the main topics you need to know about.
The Structure of Linux
First, you need to know the structure of the Linux operating system. You should familiarize yourself with the basic components of Linux, how the operating system works, and how these components fit together.
Here are a few topics you should explore to gain a firmer understanding of the structure of the Linux operating system:
- The role of the bootloader, kernel, graphical server, and desktop environment
- Why operating systems are important
- How Linux compares to other operating systems like Windows
- What is a Linux distribution?
Navigating the File System
One of the first things you need to be able to do is navigate around the file system. To do so, you need to learn the command line. A command line is tool that allows you to interact with a computer using a terminal. The alternative is a graphical user interface, which is what you typically see when you boot up macOS or Windows.
Here are the main commands you’ll need to learn to master navigating the file system:
- ls (list files)
- pwd (get current directory)
- cd (change directory)
- mkdir (create directory)
- touch (create file)
- nano (update file)
Changing the File System
Next, you need to know how to change information in the file system. You should learn how to move, delete, and update multiple files using wildcards. Here are a few of the top commands and topics you should learn about:
Configuring Your Environment
When you launch Linux, a new terminal session will be created which loads all the preferences you have set. You should know how to customize this session based on your particular needs. Here are the main topics you should learn about so you can effectively configure your development environment:
- Bash profiles
- Launching new sessions
- HOME and PATH
- Environmental variables
Linux Input and Output
You should be able to redirect inputs and outputs to different files and parts of the operating system. Here are the main topics related to input and output with which you should become familiar:
- stdin, stdout, stderr
- > and >>
- < and |
Bash, or shell, scripting allows you to automate similar tasks and batch together commands into a single file. Bash scripts execute in a Bash Linux terminal.
Here are the main topics related to bash scripting that you should learn about:
- Creating a Bash file
- Loops and conditionals
- Accepting user input
Users and Permissions
Linux offers a wide range of user and permission settings. These ensure that only the right users can access specific files and folders on a computer. Here are the main topics you should learn about when it comes to users and permissions:
- What is a user
- How to create a user
- What is a group
- How to create and update a group
- Read, write, and execute file permissions
We’ve only scratched the surface of what you should study when learning Linux. The operating system is so advanced that we cannot possibly list everything you need to know in one article. The above topics constitute the bulk of working with Linux, and learning them will give you a good sense of its fundamentals.
How to Learn Linux Online
Due to its ubiquity, there is no shortage of resources to learn Linux for free. This is a good thing, but it can be difficult to choose the best resources.
To make the best use of your time, ask yourself how you learn best. Do you like immersive tutorials, or do you prefer following an online course? You may want to try out a couple of different methods first and stick with the one that works best for you.
Online Linux Courses
- Cost: $60.00
- Audience: Beginners
This online course features over 11 hours of material and 14 downloadable resources. In this course, you’ll cover the basics of the command line. By the end of this course, you’ll have built the skills you need to operate a Linux computer solely from the command line.
- Cost: Free
- Audience: Beginners
Introduction to Linux is taught by the Linux Foundation. This course is great for all beginners, whether you have used a Linux system before or not. You’ll learn about common applications of Linux, how to use the command line, and the architecture of key Linux distributions.
- Cost: $60.00
- Audience: Beginners
This course is a quick introduction to the basics of Linux. You’ll learn about the fundamentals of Linux and how it works. This course comes with 68 downloadable resources to accompany your learning.
Online Linux Books
Linux for Beginners was written for an audience who has no experience using Linux. This book will walk you through, step-by-step, the fundamentals of the Linux operating system. You’ll learn everything from what a Linux distribution is to how to edit text files.
How Linux Works is a comprehensive guide to the Linux operating system. You’ll learn about the architecture behind Linux and how to write your own shell scripts. This book is excellent as a reference guide as you start to learn more about Linux.
This book is a reference guide to popular Linux commands. It is a great book for beginners who are still learning about basic commands, but it will serve you even as you advance your knowledge.
In this book, you can expect to find commands covering topics like processing files, remote storage, installing software, and piping.
Online Linux Resources
Learning the Shell is a guide to writing shell scripts. You’ll find resources on how to move around the operaitng system, how to redirect inputs and outputs, managing permissions, and more.
This guide introduces you to the fundamentals of Linux. It was written for people who want to run Linux on their personal computers. You’ll learn about different distributions, their advantages, and how to choose a distro.
Ubuntu, the creators of the popular Linux operating system Ubuntu Linux, have a tutorial on their website that covers basic command line commands. In this tutorial, you’ll cover everything from creating files to how “sudo” works.
Free Linux Courses
Following an online course is a good way to learn Linux because they combine different methods of learning. In most courses, you’ll be able to watch videos, read articles, and participate in different activities. This will help you understand and retain the course material.
Here are a few good online courses on Linux for beginners:
- Learn the Linux Command Line: Basic Commands
- Introduction to Linux on edX
- An Intro to the Basics of Linux
- Linux Essential
- Fundamentals of Red Hat Enterprise Linux
You can follow tutorials on Linux to master the command line and learn more about working with the Linux operating system.
The best part of following tutorials is that everything you need to do is already in front of you. You can go back to a previous step if you need to revise your knowledge.
Here are a few good Linux tutorials for you to explore:
Books are a great way to learn more about Linux and its architecture. Good programming books will help you understand the subject and give you a deeper insight into various topics.
Here are a few great books for beginners:
- Linux for Beginners
- How Linux Works
- The Linux Command Line
- Linux Fundamentals
Go to a Coding Bootcamp
Coding boot camps are short, employment-focused training programs designed to teach you the skills you need to pursue a career in the technology industry.
Several coding boot camps specialize in Linux administration. Many teach Linux as part of other courses, such as web development. If you’re interested in learning more about coding boot camps, check out the Career Karma codingboot campp directory.
Learn by Doing
Books and online courses are good sources of information. But, there is no substitute to working with a Linux operating system to accomplish a goal. The best way to learn more about Linux is to practice.
Apply the skills you have learned by trying out different commands and navigating the operating system. This will let you build up a better idea of how specific commands can be used. Create files and mess around with permissions.
Experimentation lies at the heart of learning Linux. The operating system is very versatile and there is a lot to explore.
Set a Goal
As you continue learning Linux, you may find it useful to set yourself concrete goals. Suppose you want to set up a web server using Linux. You could decide that you’re going to focus on learning about Nginx and Apache. These are both used for hosting web servers on Linux.
These goals will guide you and keep you on track as you learn about Linux.
If you’re struggling with motivation, remind yourself of why you wanted to learn Linux in the first place.
Did you want to build a web server? Were you looking to host your own file server? Perhaps you wanted to learn how to set up a database on your computer. Once you’ve reminded yourself of what motivates you, you can use it to guide what goals you set for yourself.
Here are a few ideas as you start to learn Linux:
- Create a personal cloud server
- Create a file server
- Create a web server
- Create a media center
- Create a home automation system using a Raspberry Pi
- Deploy the LAMP stack
- Create a backup file server
- Configure a firewall
- Create a proxy server
Because Linux is an operating system, there is no limit to what you can build.
Try to take on a simple project to begin with, such as deploying the LAMP stack. This will help you practice your command line skills while giving you a clear goal to work toward. When you feel more comfortable navigating Linux, you can take on a bigger project. For instance, you could set up a proxy server or cluster two or more computers together into one.
Join a Developer Community
Learning Linux is not a journey you should take alone. It’s easy to give up when you see an intimidating error, or if you encounter a problem that you cannot solve.
Do some research into developer communities and join one or two. These communities are great places to meet new developers and discuss the latest best practices relevant to the topics you are learning about.
Here are a few of the top communities for people who use Linux:
- LinuxQuestions.org: Linux Questions is a questions-and-answers community specifically for Linux, and is one of the most active Linux communities on the web.
- StackOverflow: StackOverflow is also a questions-and-answers community with years worth of Linux-related questions.
- UbuntuForums.org: The Ubuntu Forums are great places for users of the Ubuntu operating system to come together and talk.
- Dev.to: Dev.to is a community of developers who talk about programming and share ideas. Dev.to has a forum thread exclusively for discussions related to Linux.
- DigitalOcean Tutorials: This site has thousands of tutorials on coding and Linux that are great for beginners and experts.
After joining a developer community, spend some time learning about its culture. When ready, try to contribute as much as possible. If you see a question you know the answer to, post a response; if you have a question, post it.
Practice Your Linux Skills
The Linux operating system is huge—the only way you’ll master it is by practicing as often as you can. The more you practice, the better you’ll get!
At first, using Linux can feel overwhelming. An essential part of learning Linux is working with the command line. The command line does not look as aesthetically pleasing as the traditional desktop user interface. But, the more you practice, the more comfortable you’ll be using the command line.
If you’re looking for ways to practice your Linux skills, here are a few suggestions:
- Follow online tutorials. There are a number of great online tutorials out there. These tutorials guide you through everything from using the command line to creating your own file server. If you’re looking to practice your skills, take on a tutorial and build something based on the steps in that tutorial.
- Read Linux magazines or publications. The Linux community is incredibly active. One great way to practice your skills is to stay in the loop with the latest goings-on such as new system updates. When you see an opportunity to learn something new, take it.
- Build a project. You can also commit to building a larger project, like creating a movie server or a cloud computing cluster. Think about what problem you want to solve using Linux, then try to build a project that solves that problem.
Practice as much as you can, and before you know it, you’ll be a master at working with the Linux operating system.
How Can I Start Using Linux?
There’s a strong chance you already use Linux every day. However, if you want to try out a Linux-based operating system, there are a few things you can do.
First, choose the operating system you want to run. There are thousands of distributions out there. If you’re just getting started, you may want to use one like Ubunto, Fedora, or Elementary OS. These operating systems are widely supported and good for beginners.
Once you’ve chosen the operating system, install it on your computer. If you are not comfortable installing Linux on your main machine, you can install it on an older computer. Or, you could install Linux on a cheap computer such as a Raspberry Pi. This takes less of a commitment than installing Linux on your main machine so you can use Linux at your own pace.
Linux is everywhere. It’s in our phones, cars, smart devices, and more.
Being able to navigate through a Linux operating system will give you a greater understanding of how computers work. In addition, you can also use your Linux skills such as using the command line to help you when you’re coding.
To sum it all up, here are the top steps you should follow to learn how to use Linux fast:
- Find the right learning resources
- Master the fundamentals
- Explore the operating system
- Build a project
- Join a developer community
- Practice and refine your skills
By following these steps, you’ll be on a great path to learning how to use the Linux operating system and the command line. But, even after you’ve learned the basics, your journey will not end: there’s always more you can learn and do to improve your skills!
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