Speaking Debian

Speaking Debian by David Whelan David Whelan I have dabbled in a number of foreign languages – French, German, Japanese – and each new experience reminded me of how little I understood my own language. Or had taken for granted that how I spoke was somehow innate, and not bound by rules. It’s been over 15 years since I last had to deal with a Unix system, despite near constant use of the Windows command prompt. Installing Debian has reminded me how many basic functions one takes for granted in a GUI environment, and it’s been a humbling reminder!
I was able to figure out enough of the basics to get going.  The Debian “business card” install worked like a charm for me on an old Compaq Presario 7470.  The only function I couldn’t get to work properly was the video, so Gnome wouldn’t start.  I suppose, to be completely correct – and this type of precision DOES seem more important in a Linux environment than in a Windows environment – it was the X service?  In any event, three or four runs at the problem using the “dpkg-reconfigure xserver-xfree86” command and fixing the resolution,  enabled me to get into the GUI.  Where I almost immediately found I needed to use the command line again!

Having had no experience with Linux before, it’s amazing how clean everything is.  I’m still negotiating the folder structure to figure out where everything is stored – and relying on Linux in a Nutshell while I find a better Debian book, although Graham William’s Debian GNU/Linux Desktop Survival Guide has been a great help.

I’m still having some difficulty negotiating the “package” world of Debian.  No complaints, because it’s a fantastic system.  But I’ve learned to be far more careful in selecting packages for installation, especially when I find more recent updates, for Apache and for mySQL, for example, that I’d rather run but didn’t properly invoke when I firstr used apt-get.  I also clearly need a refresher on the Linux folder structure, and why certain files are in /usr, and others in /etc and how applications are broken up across the different locations.  Again, I’m sure there’s a good explanation because the folks who have developed Linux are nothing if not logical and organized, but whatever the concepts are, I don’t find them intuitive!

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David Whelan

I improve information access and lead information teams. My books on finding information and managing it and practicing law using cloud computing reflect my interest in information management, technology, law practice, and legal research. I've been a library director in Canada and the US, as well as directing the American Bar Association's Legal Technology Resource Center. I speak and write frequently on information, technology, law library, and law practice issues.