Learning Linux..It Helps

Back in 2006 I had an old Dell Dimension 4100 desktop I wanted to refurbish and use in the basement. I didn’t want to spend $100 to upgrade the operating system from Windows ME to XP.

A friend on an online forum suggested I try Linux. I went to a local computer shop to get a copy of Linux, and came away with an Ubuntu CD for free!

Now at the time I knew nothing about downloading the software from the Internet, burning ISO images, etc. But I did manage to get Ubuntu installed and working. The old Dell turned out to be a surprisingly good Linux machine so I didn’t run into the many hardware gotchas that Linux featured back then.

Later on I got the right wireless adapter and learned how to set up Linux for wireless operation. It was tricky in 2007; it’s trivially easy today. Linux has come a long way on laptops and wireless devices.

Since then I’ve become a fair advocate for Linux and installed the desktop systems many times for myself and for friends and neighbors. However my activity was 100% desktop focused. Desktop systems are a tiny minority of Linux usage even today.

However,I recently got into the big leagues with Linux when I started to set up my own domain and blogging site. Almost all commercial web hosting services are Linux based, and when you get into the control panel of a hosted Web server you are right away in the Linux environment.

The way you build and publish a website these days is vastly different from how I did it in the late 1990s. Back then you had to do it with HTML, and either code with a dedicated editor or manually with a text program. Nowadays they have so-called Content Management Systems like WordPress, Drupal or Joomla. These are Open Source software systems which require the basic Linux server stack called LAMP. The site you choose to host your blog will have lots of push button scripts to install the database and front end software for you, but you have to make the choice of system you are going to use.

After you get your CMS choice selected and installed there is nothing to it, really. You just choose a default template for your website or blog. There are 1000s of alternative looks you can choose and you don’t need to know anything about HTML coding.

However, I found that a basic appreciation of Linux and the LAMP server stack, plus my experience with the Linux file structure went a long way in setting things up. It was less confusing for me since I could understand the big picture at least.

The other good thing is that I have a reasonably powerful and modern desktop running Linux -so I can use the Linux versions of webpage editors like BlueGriffon, and file transfer tools like FileZilla to make and maintain a main page for the domain. My desktop and server experience is completely seamless and done using the same operating system.

So in summary if you want to set up your own domain and website today, you don’t have to learn Linux..but it helps

Published by Ray MacDonald

Ray MacDonald is a retired food scientist who lives in Almonte, ON.

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