The Kubuntu Distribution
One of the new in the game Linux distributions is Kubuntu, the KDE-based version of Ubuntu which is also new in the game. I feel Kubuntu is very useful for the typical TUX reader.
I need to offer a bit of background before I can get into the details. Don't panic--we will get to the real info soon.
In the early days of Linux it was difficult to install new software because Linux was changing rapidly and the supporting software needed might not be available on your system. Package managers were developed to do the checking to make sure you had all the pieces needed before installing the new software. The two systems that have survived are the Debian Package Manager and the Red Hat Package Manager.
Debian was there first but most commercial Linux distributions went with the Red Hat (RPM) format. The Debian (DEB) format is far from dead, however. The Debian community itself is fairly large but tended to be the more technical people.
Enter Ubuntu. This is a distribution designed for the desktop and designed to be installed and managed by a desktop user rather than a collection of computer geeks. While my discussion will focus on Kubuntu, the KDE-specific version, Gnome users can fetch the regular Ubuntu system and happily enjoy all the Ubuntu benefits as well.
Now, what benefits? If you venture to the Ubuntu web site the first thing you are likely to notice is the title, "Linux for Human Beings". That's their point--they have built a Linux for people to use. The basic distribution fits on one CD. It can be downloaded for free or even have them send you one for free.
Installation boils down to not much more than having to offer a user login name. Once installed, you can log in and have a totally useful system which includes networking, all the office productivity tools you would expect and a whole host of other programs. That's a great start but some will wish to adventure into additional areas. For example, you might want to add the Mozilla Firefox web browser. That's where Kynaptic comes in.
Kynaptic, a KDE front-end for Synaptic, allows you to look for, download and install additional software packages. Beyond that, it worries about dependencies--that is, does your system have all the other software packages needed to make the new package work? I'm not writing a tutorial here but you basically start Kynaptic, find firefox (there is a search function), click on install and click on the "do it" icon. If there are dependencies, you will be shown a list of other software needed. You just click on ok and Kynaptic does all the work for you downloading the needed packages from the Internet.
Systems Administration will make more sense for people with no Linux systems administration experience. That is, the way you do it seems very logical unless you have some Linux/UNIX baggage in your background. In the Kynaptic sequence described above you will get the typical "enter the root password" KDE dialog box. But, you never created a root user. So, what is that password? Well, it is the password of the first user you created. Assuming there is only one, that's you.
For "harder" systems administration, you might be used to logging in as root or using the su command to change to the root user. Ubuntu does this a bit different. It uses the sudo command. Essentially you type sudo followed by the command you want to perform as root. While this seems a bit cumbersome at first, it prevents one of the most common mistakes someone new to Linux commits--running programs as root that should not be run as root.
That gives you the basic story. For those looking for hand-holding, you have two options. The Ubuntu web site offers community forums as well as a lot of information. In addition, Canonical, Ltd., the people behind Ubuntu, offer commercial support. You get a choice and, as they say Ubuntu will always be free, you will continue to have that choice. Thus, Ubuntu/Kubuntu is an easy place to start with Linux and it may be the place you want to stay as well.