Linux is an operating system with a very wide range of variants. In the Linux environment, they are called distributions, or ‘distros’ in short. Often enough, the abundance of choice can be as much of a hindrance as a lack of it. This makes it boil down to evaluating yourself for what kind of user you are, your general needs, any specific issues and ease at working in a certain kind of environment. This is what makes choosing a Linux distro an important part of a foray into the Linux environment.
An absolute newcomer can be assumed to have little or no idea about how Linux works. He/she may also share the common misconception that Linux is only meant for absolute technocrats, and entails a great deal of coding. Avoiding such mental blocks can only be made possible by exposing a novice user to the more mainstream (and popular) Linux distros that abound in the tech world. An example of a widely used distro is Ubuntu. It is based on the Debian GNU/Linux distribution and, as is the case with most distros, it can be easily downloaded as free and open source software from the internet. It has been extensively well designed and has a wide range of developers who create apps for it, and offer expert advice on the issues one might face when using Ubuntu. What makes it truly unique is that the consistently high standard advice offered is completely free of cost, and encouraged. This is because the promoted ethic is to make Ubuntu a do-it-yourself operating system for every user, whether he’s a newcomer or an expert. There are other Linux distros that share the same approach as Ubuntu, but lack the same widespread appeal, such as Fedora, Mandriva and openSUSE. However, they have their own plus points, and might appeal to different niches.
A general tip for a newcomer would be to actually experiment with Linux distros using the live CD feature, as a way of finding his/her own feet in the Linux environment. The way to go about this would be to order a CD (Ubuntu is shipped by Canonical Ltd. for no cost at all, subject to availability), or to download an ISO image from the distro’s official site, and to burn it to a CD/DVD. Then, rebooting a computer with the CD inserted into the tray would bring up a set of options for the boot process, of which ‘Boot from CD’/’Use Live CD’ should be chosen. This feature essentially loads up the entire Linux operating system in your computer, letting you work with it and use it according to your wishes. There will be no harm done to your computer (in case anything goes wrong) as your computer will boot as normal after you shut down your computer and remove the CD from the tray. This is a handy way to get a feel of the Linux environment in general, and the distro you’re trying in particular.
As a newcomer, you need to let go of the stigma attached with non-proprietary operating systems, and try to be proactive in the way you approach a new environment. Mainstream Linux distros have incredibly good hardware integration, busting the myth that finding the right drivers on Linux for your printer or modem is nigh on impossible. The consistent advice/support ecosystem, coupled with the frequent and comprehensive updating process, makes mainstream Linux distros an interesting choice for the more adventurous newcomers around!