Many new users give up unnecessarily quickly when trying Linux, because unfamiliarity sets in and it becomes difficult (different) to just do the normal things you take for granted in Windows®. The purpose of this contribution to our wiki, is to guide you through the first few steps, making sure you can use Linux with confidence. All of this piece is based on Kubuntu, but much of it can be applied to any Linux distro and particularly those that use the KDE desktop.
In general, most users have pretty basic needs of an operating system. The ability to use the Internet and email, Instant Messenger programs and perhaps the occasional office duty; writing a letter for example. All these basic needs are well catered for and a lot more besides.
If you've been using Firefox in Windows, many Linux distro's include Firefox in their default installation and it's identical in use. However, some don't and in particular, those distro's that use KDE for a desktop, often use Konqueror as the default browser. Konqueror is in fact a lot more than just a browser, it is also the file manager and acts as an Internet Explorer and Windows Explorer all rolled into one. When you open it up, you will see this:
You can see there are six major sections.
In no particular order, the first is Home Folder. Click on this and you will see all the files in your /home folder; well not quite! Just like Windows, Konqueror chooses to hide system files and just like Windows, you can choose to expose them.
Just go to View and click on the box that says Show Hidden Files. You will now see all the files in your /home folder.
Clicking the Back button, will take you back to the previous page you visited.
Next in line is Network Folders. This as you would expect provides access to networked shared folders and via Samba, to shared folders on Windows machines. there is also a handy little Add a Network Folder Wizard to help you in that task.
Finally, down the left hand side is the Applications section, which when opened will display icons for all your installed programs (applications).
Top right in the main section is Storage Media. This is an area that sometimes causes confusion, but in Linux relates to your drives CD/DVD and Hard Drives for example.
Second down on the right is Deleted Items and just like Windows, you can restore files in here or permanently delete them. Just to reiterate, if you delete files via a command line, they are NOT sent here and are generally not recoverable. This Deleted Items folder only works with files sent to it via drop down lists, or dragged in.
Finally down the right hand side is About Kubuntu on my system (as it is Kubuntu!).
This is worth a read, as it provides basic information about the distro.
So what has all this got to do with the Internet? As well as offering all the functionality mentioned above, it's also a web browser.
Using the address bar where your file paths would normally reside, just type in an Uniform Resource Locator (URL), in other words, a web page address soslug.org for example and you will be transported into cyberspace!
Konqueror has just become the equivalent of Firefox in many ways and while it is adequate for surfing the Internet, dedicated browsers like Firefox, tend to have more functionality. Firefox of course can be installed on any Linux distro, (if it's not already installed) via your favourite Package Manager. In Konqueror, you can also see a search box in the top right hand corner, which will search for you directly via Google.
The needs of email in Kubuntu are handled via Kontact, which is accessible via Office in the main menu.
Kontact is a Personal Information Manager (PIM) and is a lot more than just an email manager.
When you open Kontact up, this is what you will see:
As you can see, besides email, it has a Calendar, To-do list and a number of other functions built in.
However, for the purposes of this wiki contribution we will concentrate only on the email function, as this is what most people want to get working.
If you go to the top and click on Settings; Configure Kmail (which is the email component) you will see this (it defaults to the Receiving tab):
Click on Add. Select what sort of Mailbox you wish to configure. In all probability it will be pop3:
Click OK which will take you to this window: (see general guidance below for completing this and the Sending tab).
Now do the same for the Sending tab, which will almost certainly be smtp.
By far, the hardest part of getting email to work, is entering the correct settings into these pages and could quite easily fill a whole wiki page (if not a book) in it's own right. With the best will in the World, it is not possible to list every conceivable option here. You need to study your particular Internet Service Providers (ISP) settings and apply them here.
However, as a general guide, this is what the various fields mean.
Taking the Receiving tab first and assuming it's a pop3 account, the Account Name can be anything you like. The Login field will be the log in string (user account name perhaps) provided by your (ISP). The Password field will be the password provided for Internet email access, again provided by your ISP. The Host will be your ISP's pop server address; for example: pop.anyprovider .co.uk. The Port will almost certainly be the standard 110.
Moving to the Sending tab and assuming it's a standard smtp account, Name should be your email address you use to send messages. The Host will be your ISP's smtp server address; for example smtp.anyprovider.co.uk and the Port almost certainly the standard 25.
Note: spaces used in the preceding two paragraphs in the example server addresses for site technical reasons.
Many people ask, but how do I know it's working properly? The answer is outrageously simple. Send an email to yourself! If it disappears quickly from the Outbox and a minute or so later you check for new email and it appears in the Inbox, all is well.
If you prefer a different email manager such as Mozilla Thunderbird for example, you can of course download it and install into your system in the usual way.
Instant Messenger (IM) is well catered for and all the major players are catered for.
In this case you're looking for Kopete and it can be accessed via the Internet option on the main program menu. Click on it and here's what you'll see:
You can see all the major IM providers are here and if we take one example, MSN Messenger, you simply click on the required service and then Next.
Fill in your account information and click Next and then Finish.
That's it; chat away to your hearts content!
You may have noticed a pop-up box asking to keep your password secure while configuring email or IM. It is a secure wallet that will keep your passwords encrypted within and itself, be password protected. Personally, I don't use it, as I'm a great believer in keeping my passwords off of the computer. But for all that, it is a good system and if you like to store your passwords, there's not a better way of doing it.
Open Office org (OOo) is probably one of the best known open source projects in the Universe. It's been ported to Windows and is used by many thousands of people Worldwide. It is a complete Office suite that compares favourably with MS Office and can save files in the proprietary MS Office format, thus enabling files to be shared across networks. Indeed, this wiki contribution has been written in OOo prior to publishing it on the web.
Almost all major distros include OOo in their default installations and Kubuntu is no exception. It can be accessed via the main menu and Office.
It consists of a highly sophisticated word processor (Writer), a spreadsheet package (Calc), a presentation application (Impress). Base, is a new addition that is a database component, and Draw (a drawing application) is older but both are not included in a standard default Kubuntu Feisty installation. Of course, as is always the case, they can be added should the need arise.
What else is useful?
Forget Nero or EasyCD, K3b is a superb CD/DVD burning program that will equal anything it's commercial cousins can do.
It can be accessed via the main Multimedia menu.
Also here is Kaffeine, a multimedia payer that is the equivalent of Windows Media Player.
Moving up to the main menu Graphics section, the Gimp is probably the next best known cross platform open source application after OOo. It is an extremely powerful Image Editor, that some say rivals Photoshop.
In the same section is digiKam. A wonderful Photo Management tool that allows you to upload photographs from your camera on to your computer.
As you can see, once you know where to look, there is the equivalent of thousands of pounds worth of programs provided freely for your use. Furthermore, many thousands of other more specialised programs are available for you to download and use via your favorite package manager.
A small investment in time, can produce startling results and at a cost that simply cannot be compared to proprietary software.