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A Beginner's Guide to Fedora Linux: A Free Operating System

written by: Sam OBrien•edited by: Lamar Stonecypher•updated: 3/2/2010

Have you ever wondered what working with a Linux operating system would be like, but don't want to be intimidated while learning? The good news is that you can experience personal computing with Linux by following the instructions in this easy-to-read beginner's guide to Fedora.

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    Fortunately, most of the widely used Linux distributions, also known as "flavors," are now available on what's referred to as "live CDs." This beginner's guide to Fedora strongly recommends the use of such CDs for facilitating the learning process without jeopardizing any installed operating systems. A live Fedora Linux CD runs "on-the-fly," allowing you to give the operating system a try without installing it. It is open source software legally available free of charge through download from FedoraProject.org.

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    If you would rather skip the process of downloading and burning the ISO file to a disk, you may very economically obtain the software from DiscountLinuxDVD.com. Shoppers have a wide variety of CDs from which to choose based on the type of computer on which they'll test and/or install the system. New users of Fedora Linux should be aware that there are 2 major desktop environments from which to choose: Gnome or K (KDE). This beginner's guide to Fedora specifically focuses on the Gnome desktop as it's closer to the behavior of Windows. This flavor of Linux is also available for the PowerPC. It comes on a live CD down-loadable at the official Fedora web site and is also sold at DiscountLinuxDVD.com.

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    Prepare To Run Fedora Linux For The First Time

    Simply place the live CD or DVD in the optical drive and restart your computer. Depending on your setup, you may need to temporarily modify the order of boot. Access to setup is usually via pressing one of the following keys: F10, F12, or, Delete. The appropriate key should be indicated during start-up or refer to your user's manual.

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    The amount of time it takes for the software to load will depend on the speed of your computer. It took approximately 7 minutes for Fedora 10 to reach the automatic login screen on my Dell Latitude, Pentium 4, 1.80GHZ. Once you reach this point, click "login" if you wish to run Fedora in United States English and with your keyboard set for "U.S." However, if you prefer to work and type in a language other than English, now is the time to make those choices which are indicated in the bottom status bar (Fedora 10).

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    In approximately 5 minutes you'll be viewing the basic desktop of Fedora Linux. The minimum that you'll see is an icon named "Computer" which should remind of the "My Computer" icon familiar to MS Windows. You'll also see "liveuser's Home," "install to hard drive," and "Trash." Depending on the release you are running, there may be slight variations in the appearance of the desktop and the names of the icons.

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    This beginner's guide to Fedora Linux shows the PC user how to accomplish, without intimidation, word processing tasks in OpenOffice or AbiWord under this Red Hat based open source operating system.
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    Your First Word Processing Task In Fedora Linux

    In the upper left hand corner of the desktop, you should see the Fedora emblem which has the appearance of a fancy written lower-case letter "f." Next to it you should see "Applications", "Places" and "System." Unless you have some familiarity with the structure of the Linux operating system, I highly advise that you now connect a USB drive to your computer so you'll be able to save your work, find it later, and access it on other computers running different operating systems. This will help you to fully realize just how easily Linux creates and handles various file formats.

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    Your USB drive will mount automatically and should appear on the desktop within a few seconds. But, don't panic if it doesn't; simply double click on "Computer" to view icons representing all storage devices and optical drives connected. Click on the one matching your pen drive. Another window will open displaying the drive contents and this will force it to appear on the desktop. You can now close it; this is where you'll store any files you create during your trial run of Fedora Linux.

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    Let's do some word processing. Click on "Applications" to expand a menu revealing word processing and text editing software. What you see will depend on the version of Fedora you're running. The most popular programs to come bundled with the Linux kernel (the core of all distributions) are OpenOffice which is an entire office suite and AbiWord, a small, but heavy-duty, free word processor. You may also see "GEdit", a text editor. Click on the program of your choice and type a sentence. Familiarize yourself with the various options for controlling font size, color, and type. If you're in a word processor and you have graphics on your pen drive, try inserting a photo or clip art into the document. This is your chance to discover the versatility and power of a new, free operating system.

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    Fedora 9 and above has excellent support for many printers and will usually detect and configure a connected one automatically. This will allow you to experience printing under the Common Unix Printing System (CUPS) employed by Linux to manage printers. Now click on "file" or press and hold the Ctrl key while pressing S to save your work. If necessary, expand your options for where you want to save your work by clicking on the triangle next to "Browse for other folders" and double click your USB disk on the left hand side of the dialogue box. Your files already saved should appear on the right. Don't expect to see the drive letters with which you're probably familiar in Windows. There are no drive letters of "c:" for the local disk, "a:" for the floppy drive or "d:" or "e:" for optical or USB drives. Linux is organized very differently from Windows, but you'll quickly get used to it.

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    If your test file is in a text editor this is all you'll need to do to save it as the program can only save a text file which can be handled by all platforms. However, if you chose to work in OpenOffice (Writer) or AbiWord, don't save your file in the native (default) format which is ".odt" for OpenOffice and ".abw," ".zabw," or ".abw.gz for AbiWord. Under the listing of files in the location to which you're saving, you have the option to select other Windows compatible file formats such as .doc.

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    This beginner's guide to Fedora Linux helps the new user to explore the multimedia capabilities of this free operating system. He will also learn how to use the wizard to connect to the Internet and surf securely with the built-in firewall.
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    Connect To The Internet, Work With Graphics, And Listen To Music

    If you have graphics files on your USB drive you can open them with the GIMP by double clicking them. You can play your music by double clicking audio files and exploring the multimedia options built into Fedora Linux. If you'd like to connect to the Internet, let the wizard guide you through the steps to take. Simply click on "System", select "Administration" and then "Network". An interactive box will appear to assist you. Click on "New" to choose your connection device/method (ethernet, ISDN, modem, token ring, wireless, DSL). Click "Forward" and the wizard will probe for the existence of the device you selected. Simply accept the default settings for any properties until you reach the screen that gives you the option to activate the network device.

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    You may then want to click on "Administration" and select "firewall" to ensure that one is running as you surf the Internet. On all Fedora Linux systems I've worked with since the days of Red Hat 9 (before the Fedora project), I've seen FireFox and sometimes Konquerer as the browsers of choice.

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    Congratulations On Your First Use Of Fedora Linux

    This beginner's guide to Fedora has briefly introduced you only to the very tip of a vast amount of computing power and options available. You may work with the live CD until you decide if Fedora is right for you. Should you make such a decision, installation to the local disk can be initiated simply by clicking on the "install to hard drive" icon on the desktop.

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    To shut Fedora down, click on the "Fedora f", select "Log out" and make sure "Shut down" is selected in the list of options. Press "Enter." Just before the system reads "halt" you may eject the CD.

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    Although knowledge of partitioning schemes for optimum operability is a huge advantage when doing a full install of Linux, you may get by with the defaults you'll be offered.