Once you’ve surmounted that initial hurdle of installing Linux and getting familiar with the environment, you might be wondering, “What do I do now?” If you’re at that point, then it’s time you joined a Linux community — even if you only intend to lurk.
The fastest way to learn something new is to immerse yourself in the culture of that new thing. Some people call it learning by osmosis: as the people around you discuss topics and ask questions, you passively absorb all of that knowledge simply by being there.
Think of Linux like a language. There’s a world of difference between studying it in isolation and practicing it with others. The former is safer and more comfortable, but the latter is the faster road to fluency.
Use the resources for Linux newbies that are available, but don’t neglect the significance of participating in a Linux community. It will prove more fruitful than you think it will.
LinuxQuestions.org is one of the friendliest and most active Linux communities on the web. Since its inception in 2000, over 5 million posts have been made by over 500,000 members and even after all of that time they’ve never developed an elitist atmosphere.
This forum covers everything you’d ever want to know about Linux: how to transition from another operating system, the best distros for your needs, which software packages to choose, how to keep your data secure, running on a desktop or laptop or server, and so much more.
They also maintain a Hardware Compatibility List where you can check to see if a particular piece of hardware — e.g. cameras, hard drives, printers, motherboards — will work with your setup.
On top of that, LinuxQuestions.org’s community writes Linux distro reviews on a per-version basis, covering everything from the most popular distros all the way to the more obscure choices.
And if you have any questions after that, be sure to check their Tutorials & Answers section which is chock full of information.
The kinds of issues and questions that arise will depend on your chosen Linux distro. Despite all distros falling under the umbrella of Linux, there have been hundreds of forks leading up to this point and so flavors like Ubuntu, OpenSUSE, and CentOS all have their own quirks to deal with.
Nearly every distro has an official forum where you can get support and discuss relevant topics for that particular flavor of Linux. If you need specific help, these forums are where you should go.
Ubuntu: The official forums are extremely active, which is no surprise given that Ubuntu and its derivatives make up the most popular flavor of Linux. However, they’ve been known to be misleading at times since anyone — even fellow newbies — can contribute.
Instead, consider using the AskUbuntu section of the website. It’s a simple question-and-answer site that’s perfect for lurking newbies. Plus, the answers tend to be friendlier and more qualified than on the forums.
OpenSUSE: While Ubuntu is more newbie-friendly than OpenSUSE by a smidgen, OpenSUSE is more stable. For someone who’s new to the Linux environment, stability is important — after all, you don’t want to spend all of your time troubleshooting, do you?
But if you do run into problems, the official forums are great. They don’t suffer from the kind of unqualified answers that you’d find on Ubuntu’s forums; rather, OpenSUSE users properly walk the line between being knowledgeable without being condescending.
ArchLinux: Outsiders tend to have a polarized view of the ArchLinux community. The minority voice claims that it’s a poisonous place that’s hostile to beginners, but personally I’ve heard a lot of great things about it.
Perhaps it’s the overall “blunt & no nonsense” atmosphere of the official forums that offends some. As long as you try to solve problems on your own first, the Arch community is quick to jump in and help. In addition, there’s also the ArchWiki which is a fantastic resource for Arch newbies.
Before diving into ArchLinux, just know that it’s a completely independent distro that has its own philosophy and doesn’t really overlap much with others like Ubuntu and Debian.
Gentoo: Of all the distros mentioned, Gentoo is the least popular — and that means that it can be difficult to find the help you need when trouble finds you. Thankfully, both the official Gentoo forums and the official Gentoo IRC channels are incredibly helpful to newbies.
Never used IRC before? No problem! Check out these amazing Linux IRC clients and get started within minutes.
Today, if you want to find a community on the web, the first place you go is Reddit. There are subreddits for pretty much any topic under the sun and Linux is no exception with the aptly-titled /r/Linux being the primary hub.
You ought to check it out if you haven’t already.
It’s not a support forum so don’t go there expecting to get answers to basic “How do I…?” questions. It is a wonderful place to stay on top of Linux news and to learn more about Linux in general. Just sit back and listen as others talk about kernels, drivers, new releases, and more.
If you do need support, consider one of these sister subreddits: /r/linuxquestions, where you can ask any question pertaining to Linux, and /r/linux4noobs, where you’ll find a ton of tips and tutorials from veterans for newbies.
SuperUser is part of the StackExchange network so you’ve got all of the greatness of StackExchange’s question-and-answers format in an environment that caters to computer enthusiasts and power users. It’s simple and straightforward.
Just stick to the Linux tag, though there are hundreds of other tags to explore if they interest you.
Two caveats to using SuperUser: first, you’ll only receive answers about half of the time you ask a question, and second, the answers you do receive won’t always be put forth in the nicest way. As long as you have thick skin, you’ll be fine.
Most people use these communities on demand — when they have an issue, they search through these forums and sites to see if anyone else had (and solved) the same issue. It’s fine if you do the same.
However, my recommendation is that you at least lurk around from time to time in order to make the most of mental osmosis. It really is the fastest way for a newbie to acclimate to the Linux environment.
Which Linux communities have you found the most helpful and newbie-friendly? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below!