Beginner / Newbie looking for advice on how to start learning Linux


I am an IT Professional and web developer that has worked primarily in a Windows environment with little to no experience with Linux. I have always heard that Linux was a robust and stable operating system that could be run on older PC equipment as a server or even desktop machine. My goal is to setup a Linux box as both a web server (Apache, PHP, and MySQL) and email server (similar to exchange) and also setup an older laptop for normal desktop use.

After doing some internet searching and reading various articles about the different Linux distros I have elected to use Debian v7 (Wheezy), but I need some advice from the Linux community on how to get started learning Linux (tutorials, forums, mailing list, books, etc.) and if my choice of Linux distros will accomplish what I am trying to do.

Thank you in advance.


Hi jjbecker98,

Your question should be divided into multiple parts as there is a lot of topics to be covered.

Firstly, as it is the case with everything else, with determination you can learn anything and in this perspective Linux is not different. In my opinion the best way to learn Linux is to simply use it. There is a plethora of resources available free of charge on the net, hundreds of communities and Linux user groups you can visit either personally or online.

Choice of Linux distribution:

There is no bad distribution as the choice is really only a matter of personal taste. Most of the new Linux users choose Ubuntu or Linux Mint as they fell that it is easier to use and more up to date.

For me however, Debian GNU/Linux is also a Linux distribution choice for everything. I run Debian on servers, laptops, gaming desktop, Raspberry Pi etc. Debian has a great documentation a community.

Once you have a Linux desktop installed start to play with it and familiarize yourself with it. Then I would recommend a book “LPIC-1: Linux Professional Institute Certification Study Guide”. This is not the best all-in-one comprehensive guide on how to acquire Linux skills, but it will provide you with a structure and guidance. Combine that with endless on-line resources and you would be good. Note, I’m not suggesting here that you should do LPI certification, I only recommend this book because its Linux distro agnostic ( except few pages about package management ) so it will provide you with a solid Linux background.

Once you are more comfortable with Linux, feel free to move to next step and install your server. Any decent Linux distro will do including Debian. The service installation you are talking about is know in Linux community as LAMP ( Linux, Apache, MySQL, PHP ). It is also possible that you will be able to fit everything on your old laptop. Remember, words like old hardware, do not have the same meaning when it comes to Linux. To install LAMP on debian all you need to do is to run:

# apt-get install libapache2-mod-php5 php5-mysql mysql-server

and you are done. The above will install PHP, Apache Web server and Mysql. When it comes to mail server you have multiple options such as postfix or sendmail just to name a few. But again, take it step by step.

If you need more help, feel free to ask … !

Good Luck




Thank you for your response and all your recommendations. I will get a copy of the LPIC-1 third edition which I think is the most current and start working through it. If I remember correctly Debian v7 (Wheezy) uses Xfce as the default GUI desktop interface. Is that good for beginners or would you recommend something else?

Thank you again.



Hi jjbecker98,

If you look at the content of LPIC-1: Linux Professional Institute Certification Study Guide you will see that it deals with X window system in the second half of the book, more precisely LPI102. Even there it briefly talks about general X window settings etc. as well as it also mentions various desktop environment flavors and that is all. Therefore, your choice of desktop environment is irrelevant. Put it in another words, its like you are buying a car and you have already decided about type and model and now you are asking what color you should you get.

At some point the Xfce was a Debian’s default desktop environment however now is back to GNOME. In any case this is not important as you can have multiple desktop environments installed on the same Linux box and simply switch between them with a single mouse click. Unlike in MS Windows the desktop environment is not a main feature of Linux, you can think of it as a yet another program which you can install and uninstall any time.

While working with the LPI book, most of the time you will work on the command line and with text editor where desktop environment is only something you will learn along the way. In the end when it comes to Linux configuration and settings the Linux is as simply a collection of text files which you manage from command line. You can do everything from your desktop environment but over the time when you learn more about the Linux you will find that configuring Linux is faster from command line. So to answer your question:

Xfce as the default GUI desktop interface. Is that good for beginners or would you recommend something else?

Any desktop environment you choose will be fine. I’m KDE user but that does not mean the the other desktop environments are not good, once again its all about the personal taste and that is all.

Remember, with GNU/Linux your are only limited by the amount of the knowledge you possess and not by the depth of pocket!

hope this helps


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