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On Writing Here February 7, 2006

Posted by Carthik in about, ubuntu.
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This is a “meta” entry and has little to do with improving the Ubuntu experience of advanced users, so feel free to skip this, if you will :) I will be flatterred if you read and respond, though.

Why do I write here?
Three reasons:
1. I like to keep notes regarding how things work for my own future (sort of like a linear log).
2. I like helping others in some strange way.
3. I like to write.

How do I find topics/ideas?
Three ways:
1. Personal trouble-shooting or usage experience
2. Posts from the ubuntu-users mailing list from over a month ago. I have subscribed to ubuntu-users using gmail. I havea label setup for the emails. I read the posts in the order made (right now I am 5 months behind!!), and label interesting emails with a “to-blog” label, which I then brush up, add references and write up at the blog. Needless to say, since I read pretty much every email sent to the mailing list, this is a time-consuming process.
3. Articles and tips I come across while googling for solutions, or just random browsing around.

I try to consciously avoid posting links to entire articles on the other Linux blogs and online magazines. I hate it when I see the same article linked to from other new-sites or magazines without any new addition to the discussion. I think that is a very lame and lazy thing to do. I particularly dislike sites which “aggregate” posts from other websites using a feed-to-blog interface of some sort. I am not talking about planets as much as re-blogging sites. Even osnews, lxer, etc resort to adding one articles which are just links to articles on other sites. Lame! My interest in writing on this blog is to provide internet users with new ideas, tips and news. Articles on the popular linux mags, reviews etc are popular enough on their own. What difference can a person with a weblog with approx 3000 visits a day (me) make by linking to a popular linux magazine? A far greater number of readers should be reading those articles direct from the source anyways!

I really like All About Linux since in general the articles there are original and that, dudes, takes some effort.

Now, I am thinking of adding a new source of articles – user requested guides or answers to newbie questions that seek to understand HOW things work, not how to install foo, or how to “fix” an error. If you guys would like to know something which you would be afraid to ask in a forum, or a mailing list for fear of being criticised, then please feel free to ask.

I remember the first question I had when I used Linux on a temporary basis was “Where the hell do I store my documents and such?, where are the ‘c:\’ and the “\My Documents” folders?” Over time, I have come to know that unlike in Windows where you are free to store your files anywhere, and thus liable to forget where you stored what, in Linux you start from an empty /home/you/ directory. Creating a directory structure there to store the different kinds of files you have is an exercise in organizing, and something that will later help you remember where you put some file. I have a very neat structure now, with /home/me/ containing the directories “documents” “mail” “media” “software” and “websites”. Each of those directories have directories in them. “documents” has “work”, “school”, “personal” and “oddball” and “media” has “audio”, “video”, “wallpapers”, “photos” and “ebooks”.
So it all looks like

/home/me/
|
|-documents
| |-work
| |-school
| |-personal
| |-oddball
|
|-media
| |-audio
| |-video
| |-wallpapers
| |-photos
| |-ebooks
|
|-mail
| |-work
| |-personal
| |-sent
|
|-software
| |-some-software
| |-other-software
|
….. and so on.

I had been so ashamed to ask this question that I knew must have a oh-so-obvious answer. If I can save you time and effort in answering a few simple questions, then please do ask. I can assure you that I will not be able to answer all questions – I will answer only the simple ones, and ones that will more than just one person- in short I don’t know why the version of firefox you compiled all by yourself crashed (though I think it must be something obvious….), but I can tell you how the filesystem is organized the way it is in Linux, and to a limited extent, provide a common-sensical explanation as to why it is that way. So ask away. If you are shy to ask by leaving a comment, send me an email at ubuntonista@gmail.com.

Do you agree with me, do you disagree? Do you think the posts here are too mundane, and not “geeky” enough? Would you like to read regurgitated stuff here too? What are your thoughts. I would hate to think that I am wasting all the time I could spend lazing on my couch by writing here. I know a few readers who leave comments here regularly, but that accounts for perhaps 20 out of the 3000 readers who pass by these pages everyday. I am curious about you – what do you like, and dislike about what you se here? I’ll be overjoyed to know. :)

Comments»

1. Dragonfyre13 - February 8, 2006

Well, I can tell you that I enjoy your site. You, and the inux blog are really helpful in learning all I can about ubuntu, and linux in general.

I mentioned you on my site, though I’m it’s only reader right now.

I’m actually the hoster, and admin of the site as well, due to the help that you two have given.

On this page:

http://crimsonblade.homelinux.com/wiki/index.php?wakka=MyUbuntuLinks

You are the top entry in fact.

2. Dragonfyre13 - February 8, 2006

Oh, and I almost didn’t mention. I copied a bunch of stuff from your site into my “Ubuntu Findings” section. It’s stuff that I learned while surfing that I found especially useful, but difficult to remember.

3. ubuntonista - February 8, 2006

Dragonfyre, thank you for letting me know that what you find here is useful to you. If I had a wiki like you do, I probably wouldn’t have had this blog :) It is really cool that you make notes as you go, as I am sure it will help someone else too.

4. Pascal Klein - February 8, 2006

I eargerly look forward to a new post on this site because now that I use Ubuntu myself and have the time every-so-often to poke at this and that, learning new things, it’s great to get tips first hand and not on some site with hundreds of ads. I already owe you a big kudos for some of the tips as they’ve altered the way I use Ubuntu.

Thanks. :)

5. Martin - February 8, 2006

I’ve only just discovered this blog but I really like what I’ve read so far! Keep it up.

As a relative beginner with Ubuntu (and Linux in general) I’m still getting to grips with the filesystem. For example, not long after installing Ubuntu, I downloaded and installed Realplayer and the latest Thunderbird; but I didn’t know where to put them. Not wanting to mess anything up I decided to play safe and put them in my home directory, but now I wish I hadn’t because it feels a bit untidy :)

So, how about an explanation of the layout of the linux filesystem /usr, /sys, /var etc, and what it’s all for?

6. Andreas - February 8, 2006

i commented about the multiple x sessions post and you answered this i think a few hours later. the problem is i didn’t realise cause i only read your blog feed, not the comment feed. i would like to stay this way, so it would be nice if you add and email-notification option to your comments. i know this is possible since a friend of mine also uses wordpress and he has a notify option, although he uses wordpress on his own webspace …

7. BEG - February 8, 2006

I’m a long time unix user, but a relative newcomer to linux/ubuntu, so this serves to remind me of some basic stuff, or alerts me to where things are different from SunOS or Solaris (which I started on and work on, respectively). Sometimes things here are a little simple for me, but that’s no criticism of your blog which I think fills a good niche. And indeed, they’re good to remind me of what stumps people sometimes. For example your file structure comments…I started on unix (not dos, not windows, not mac) and when I first started working with windows, I went batshit over how little organization there was with the file system there :) It still bugs me, to find your desktop, you have to go back up to c, documents and settings, user name, etc… So it was fun reading the above.

The question I would ask is how the **** would I set up a (cups?) connection to a printer over a real network, not a usb/parallel printer port. Scenario: I drag my laptop with me to work, and use an extra IP address we’ve got here, but I can’t reach our printer…

8. kamlabhatt - February 8, 2006

Thanks for your post. Comforting to know that there is a place to go and ask simple questions on how to do something, and get answers.

Kamla

9. Marius - February 8, 2006

Just a note regarding links to articles on other sites or blogs. I do find them useful. Yes, I could read them on the other site directly, but:
1. I may not know about them.
2. The fact that you link to it is a guarantee that it is a good article.

So please, if you find good Ubuntu or Linux articles do link to them.

10. Chuck - February 8, 2006

I love your article choices, they are exactly the kind of stuff I’d want to read in a blog. They are big things that I wouldn’t even know to ask (like how to try Kubuntu without screwing up the menus) and little buggy things that I wouldn’t know how to find (like the router name thing – I looked for that forever).

I’ve spent some time thinking about what kind of overview-guide kind of things I wished existed. (I’ve been reading you blog for a month or so, so forgive me if I bring up stuff you’ve covered.)

Some thoughts I had on the subject were
1) a translation guide – stuff like how to do convert ‘move *.mp3 subdir/*.mp3′ or ‘copy *.mp3 *.foo’ or ‘dir /s foobar.conf’ Also, what is the Ubuntu equivalent of the Path statement in windows, and how does one set it? I know ‘.conf’ is a typical ending of signifigance in Linux, but what other ones are there (my Windows examples would be .ini .bat .log .pif .exe (I know that extensions in Linux are not functional, but there still seems to be some conventions about them.) I’ve done a little scripting, but I’ve since forgotten which user directory normally recieves user batch files for pathless-commandline execution. Or while we’re at it, what are all the directories of significance to a user in Ubuntu. The one I just mentioned (is it /home/usr/bin?) plus I know that inetd… is pretty relevant – are there any other suprestars (like is the ‘start menu’ a directory tree or a file)? When I learn something, I find the most effective techniques are to hang the new knowledge on an old framework. (For example, all of my conceptual problems with electricity were gone in 10 minutes when a friend explained it to me as voltage = pressure, current = flowrate, and resistance = friction.) I sort of see a list(s) like this as sort of teaching me to fish. I’m good at figuring things out on Windows because I have this background and tools, but no so on Linux.
2) Something to help understand the quirky shorthand names that show up in Linux so often that make app names so hard to remember. I don’t have any idea what you might be able to do about this, but I’ve found it to be difficult.
3) I can imagine what is meant by dependencies, but I don’t know for sure.
4) That gives me an idea about another one – orient the new Windows guy to the Linux world he lives in. For example, there all these repositories out there, and ubuntu comes with some repositories entered already, but what if I’m supposed to add one?

Well, #1 is the one I wish the most I had, and 2 to 4 were kind of just throwing something out there to try and give you some feedback.

My situation is that when I was learning windows, I was growing with it, so it wasn’t so overwhelming. Plus, I had more time, so I could drive my learning. Now Linux is the major finished product, and so those first steps are the biggest, plus I don’t have the time I once did to drive my learning.

Your blog is great because it gets tiring to bang the head against the wall and gets things working only after grinding away. With you blog, every now and then, things are easy, and you feel kind of like you used to on Windows.

Thanks,
Chuck

11. Arturo Rodriguez - February 8, 2006

I like your blog so much because there are many resources and tips that I’m helping to undertand better linux using ubuntu. I like your write style ’cause is simple and straighforward..
Thanks,

Arturo from Monterrey, Mexico…

12. ubuntonista - February 8, 2006

Andreas :

A subscription service, or a method to notify you of replies to comments using email is beyond what I can do with what I am provided with on this website. I have submitted a request for the addition of this feature, let us see where it leads :)

The comments to each post has it’s own feed, though, and if you in the habit of using a feed reader, you could add the feed for comments to posts you have posted to, and that might help you check later. For example, the feed for the comments to this post is:

http://ubuntu.wordpress.com/2006/02/07/on-writing-here/feed

(tack on /feed/ to a post’s url and that will give you the comments feed for that post!)

Hope that helps.

13. ubuntonista - February 8, 2006

Marius, I will and do link to informative articles or news item. My criteria for linking to the articles is that I should have something to comment about them, or add to them, and also that I should be of help in publicizing it, so if any or all of the big-sites miss something a user wrote in his own private little nook of the web, and I find it, you will find it here soon :)

14. ubuntonista - February 8, 2006

Chuck –

THANK YOU!
That gives me a lot to think and write about. Keeping the verbiage low, and the technicality low too will be challenge. Let me first check if there are any guides that describe things that you would like to learn and then organize them. I can fill in the gaps, and then create a new category for the windows recluse :)

15. ubuntonista - February 8, 2006

Pascal, Arturo, Kamla –

Hope to see you guys around. Some like Pascal have been my early inspiration. Thanks for hanging out here. You make it worthwhile.

16. silwenae - February 9, 2006

Ubuntonista – I absolutely love your blog, and make sure I stop by daily. I think you do a really good job of walking the line between explaining how Ubuntu works, and what users can do to make their Ubuntu experience better with the how-to’s and tips and tricks you post. I don’t worry that it’s not “geeky” enough – there are a lot of places to get that kind of stuff, and sometimes I think the GNOME community is too focused on the developers, and if they do think of the users, it’s to over-simplify, instead of the user community that’s somewhere in the middle – and I think it’s that middle you do a good job of addressing.

I think you’re on to something with user requested questions or requests. I would stay away from the “regurgitated” news and / or tips – maybe you could do a kind of weekly segment. Maybe one with the best links or regurgitated news you found for that week, and a weekly Q&A session with quick answers, and still have user questions in between that require full posts. Maybe how some of the tech blogs out there do there week in review (Lifehacker, Engadget come to mind).

Keep up the great work, and thanks for writing the Ubuntu Blog!

Silwenae

http://www.silwenae.org/blog

17. airtonix - February 11, 2006

a good run down of what the directories mean, and how they are vunerable to a network. I’ve got vague ideas about this happens but not too sure about it.

18. Marian - February 13, 2006

I like what I see here. I have not any Ubunu yet, but I’m going to get it and install it. As a very newbie I find useful to learn as much as possible before doing things in reality. You’re doing very good work. Thank you. (Please excuse my poor-bad-basic English)

19. David - February 16, 2006

A friend of mine explained the Linux heirarchy to me before. It goes something like this:
/etc is for system-wide configuration files,
/bin is for executables necessary for the system to run (if they are missing, then your system won’t work),
/usr/bin is for less necessary executables,
/usr/local/bin is for executables specific to the system (for example, my school has a submit program for submitting CS assignments. It would go in /usr/local/bin because it is used by all users of the system, but shouldn’t be distributed with Solaris) Apparently, the /usr/local/ directory is guaranteed not to be modified by the vendor (e.g., Sun).

Those were the ones that I didn’t understand, but for others there is an explanation here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Filesystem_Hierarchy_Standard

Don’t forget that Linux has inherited this system from Unix. Unix traditionally had an administrator and many users, whereas many people use Linux as a (for all intents and purposes) single user machine.

Hope that helps.

20. Ubuntu Blog at sil’s babbling - March 1, 2006

[...] If you are already an Ubuntu Blog reader, Ubuntonista has posted on why he writes and calls for comments on what his readers want to see there. Make sure you stop by, thank him, and share your thoughts. [...]

21. Ubuntu Switch » Vacation Photos and Ubuntu - August 20, 2006

[...] The linux file structure is perhaps one of the most different concepts to get used to when switching from Windows to Ubuntu. It will take you all of 2 minutes to figure out and then you will never want to see anything as stupid or silly as “My Documents” or “My Pictures” again. I took a hint from the Ubuntu Blog on setting up a logical folder structure for Ubuntu and imported my pictures from my camera into a /home/me/media/photos/ folder. [...]

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I eargerly look forward to a new post on this site because now that I use Ubuntu myself and have the time every-so-often to poke at this and that, learning new things, it’s great to get tips first hand and not on some site with hundreds of ads. I already owe you a big kudos for some of the tips as they’ve altered the way I use Ubuntu.

23. sex sikiş - September 28, 2010

I’ve only just discovered this blog but I really like what I’ve read so far! Keep it up.

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