2. Finding Appropriate Documentation

You need documentation that is appropriate to your level of Linux expertise. Otherwise, you might feel overwhelmed or may not find the necessary information to answer any questions. The Reference Guide deals with the more technical aspects and options of a Red Hat Enterprise Linux system. This section helps you decide whether to look in this manual for the information you need or to consider other Red Hat Enterprise Linux manuals, including online sources, in your search.
Three different categories of people use Red Hat Enterprise Linux, and each of these categories require different sets of documentation and informative sources. To help you figure out where you should start, determine your own experience level:
New to Linux
This type of user has never used any Linux (or Linux-like) operating system before or has had only limited exposure to Linux. They may or may not have experience using other operating systems (such as Windows). Is this you? If so, skip ahead to Section 2.1, “Documentation For First-Time Linux Users”.
Some Linux Experience
This type of user has installed and successfully used Linux (but not Red Hat Enterprise Linux) before or may have equivalent experience with other Linux-like operating systems. Does this describe you? If so, turn to Section 2.2, “For the More Experienced”.
Experienced User
This type of user has installed and successfully used Red Hat Enterprise Linux before. If this describes you, turn to Section 2.3, “Documentation for Linux Gurus”.

2.1. Documentation For First-Time Linux Users

For someone new to Linux, the amount of information available on any particular subject, such as printing, starting up the system or partitioning a hard drive, can be overwhelming. It helps to initially step back and gain a decent base of information centered around how Linux works before tackling these kinds of advanced issues.
Your first goal should be to obtain some useful documentation. This cannot be stressed enough. Without documentation, you only become frustrated at your inability to get a Red Hat Enterprise Linux system working the way you want.
You should acquire the following types of Linux documentation:
  • A brief history of Linux — Many aspects of Linux are the way they are because of historical precedent. The Linux culture is also based on past events, needs, or requirements. A basic understanding of the history of Linux helps you figure out how to solve many potential problems before you actually see them.
  • An explanation of how Linux works — While delving into the most arcane aspects of the Linux kernel is not necessary, it is a good idea to know something about how Linux is put together. This is particularly important if you have been working with other operating systems, as some of the assumptions you currently hold about how computers work may not transfer from that operating system to Linux.
  • An introductory command overview (with examples) — This is probably the most important thing to look for in Linux documentation. The underlying design philosophy for Linux is that it is better to use many small commands connected together in different ways than it is to have a few large (and complex) commands that do the whole job themselves. Without examples that illustrate this approach to doing things, you may find yourself intimidated by the sheer number of commands available on a Red Hat Enterprise Linux system.
    Keep in mind that you do not have to memorize all of the available Linux commands. Different techniques exist to help you find the specific command you need to accomplish a task. You only need to know the general way in which Linux functions, what you need to accomplish, and how to access the tool that gives you the exact instructions you need to execute the command.
The Installation Guide is an excellent reference for helping you get a Red Hat Enterprise Linux system successfully installed and initially configured. The Red Hat Enterprise Linux Introduction to System Adminitration is a great place to start for those learning the basics of system administration. Start with these books and use them to build the base of your knowledge of Red Hat Enterprise Linux. Before long, more complicated concepts begin to make sense because you already grasp the general ideas.
Beyond reading the Red Hat Enterprise Linux manuals, several other excellent documentation resources are available for little or no cost:

2.1.1. Introduction to Linux Websites

  • http://www.redhat.com/ — On the Red Hat website, you find links to the Linux Documentation Project (LDP), online versions of the Red Hat Enterprise Linux manuals, FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions), a database which can help you find a Linux Users Group near you, technical information in the Red Hat Support Knowledge Base, and more.
  • http://www.linuxheadquarters.com/ — The Linux Headquarters website features easy to follow, step-by-step guides for a variety of Linux tasks.

2.1.2. Introduction to Linux Newsgroups

You can participate in newsgroups by watching the discussions of others attempting to solve problems, or by actively asking or answering questions. Experienced Linux users are known to be extremely helpful when trying to assist new users with various Linux issues — especially if you are posing questions in the right venue. If you do not have access to a news reader application, you can access this information via the Web at http://groups.google.com/. Dozens of Linux-related newsgroups exist, including the following:
  • linux.help — A great place to get help from fellow Linux users.
  • linux.redhat — This newsgroup primarily covers Red Hat Enterprise Linux-specific issues.
  • linux.redhat.install — Pose installation questions to this newsgroup or search it to see how others solved similar problems.
  • linux.redhat.misc — Questions or requests for help that do not really fit into traditional categories go here.
  • linux.redhat.rpm — A good place to go if you are having trouble using RPM to accomplish particular objectives.