CIRCUITS

Understanding and using Linux


Published: Monday, September 1, 2003 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, August 31, 2003 at 10:40 p.m.

Q:

About a year ago I bought a computer with Linux Red Hat 7.1 installed. I have looked at several books for Linux users but have found them unhelpful. Is there a way to exchange ideas with other users?

A:

Modern versions of Linux have a graphical user interface that makes the operating system seem more like the familiar Macintosh and Windows systems.
Nevertheless, Linux, created in 1991 by the Finnish programmer Linus Torvalds and later improved by a worldwide community of programmers, can still be a bit of a challenge. There are many editions, called distributions, each of which can operate in a slightly different way.
The Red Hat distribution is one of the more mainstream versions of Linux, and there are many resources around the Internet to help you learn more about it.
Red Hat's Web site has links to a number of mailing lists at www.redhat.com/mailman/listinfo. Mailing lists typically involve computer users from many different backgrounds chiming in with questions and answers.
There is also a page with links to other Linux mailing lists at www.linuxlookup.com/html/main/mailinglists.ht-l.
The Linux Online Web site (www.linux.org) contains information about using Linux and has links to Linux-related documentation, news and other information. The site has a page devoted to Linux user groups, computer clubs where people meet in person to discuss how to use Linux.
To see if there is a usergroup in your area, check the list at www.linux.org/groups/usa/ or on the Linux User Groups Worldwide site at lugww.counter.li.org.

Q:

How do CD-R and CD-RW work? Can you overwrite them or are they permanent? Are they a "magnetic" media?

A:

CD-R (compact disc-recordable) and CD-RW (compact disc-rewritable) are two different types of compact discs that you can use to store data. A CD burner records computer data by way of a laser that etches a long spiral pattern into the reflective surface of the disc. This pattern can then be read back by an optical sensor inside a CD drive or player.
This type of data storage is called optical media, and it is different from magnetic media, where electromagnets instead of lasers are used to encode the data. Hard drives and diskettes are examples of magnetic media.
While both CD-R and CD-RW discs fall into the category of optical storage devices, there are differences between the two. The typical CD-R disc allows for a one-time only recording session with permanent results: You get all your data together and copy it to a blank CD-R disc, and that is the last time you can use that disc. CD-RW, as its name suggests, allows you to use the same disc many times.
Although CD-R discs Are the less flexible of the two, they are typically less expensive and work on a wider range of computer drives and CD players. The CD-Recordable FAQ page at www.cdrfaq.org has extensive information about just about anything related to recordable and rewritable compact discs.

Q:

I keep seeing major software programs offered for low prices by e-mail. Is this a hoax?

A:

If the offer seems too good to be true - especially in unsolicited e-mail messages from companies you have never heard of - it probably is. Software pirates have been known to advertise illegal or outdated copies of well-known programs by e-mail.
Always purchase software from established retailers. When buying software from an online store, check to see that the order form is part of a secure Web site. Look for a URL that starts with https:// and has a locked padlock icon at the bottom of the browser window.
Antivirus programs are often offered by scam e-mails. Symantec, the maker of Norton ANtiVirus, has set up a page on its Web site about how to avoid buying pirated software at www.symantec.com/spamwatch.
Circuits invites questions about computer technology, by e-mail to QandA@nytimes.com. This column answers questions of general interest, but letters cannot be answered individually.

Reader comments posted to this article may be published in our print edition. All rights reserved. This copyrighted material may not be re-published without permission. Links are encouraged.

Comments are currently unavailable on this article

▲ Return to Top