3. 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 Red Hat Enterprise Linux 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 3.1 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 3.2 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 3.3 Documentation for Linux Gurus.

3.1. 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:

The Red Hat Enterprise Linux Installation Guide and the Red Hat Enterprise Linux Step By Step Guide are excellent references for helping you get a Red Hat Enterprise Linux system successfully installed and initially configured. The Red Hat Enterprise Linux Introduction to System Administration 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:

3.1.1. 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.

3.1.2. 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.

3.2. For the More Experienced

If you have used other Linux distributions, you probably already have a basic grasp of the most frequently used commands. You may have installed your own Linux system, and maybe you have even downloaded and built software you found on the Internet. After installing Linux, however, configuration issues can be very confusing.

The Red Hat Enterprise Linux System Administration Guide is designed to help explain the various ways a Red Hat Enterprise Linux system can be configured to meet specific objectives. Use this manual to learn about specific configuration options and how to put them into effect.

When you are installing software that is not covered in the Red Hat Enterprise Linux System Administration Guide, it is often helpful to see what other people in similar circumstances have done. HOWTO documents from the Linux Documentation Project, available at http://www.redhat.com/mirrors/LDP/HOWTO/HOWTO-INDEX/howtos.html, document particular aspects of Linux, from low-level kernel esoteric changes to using Linux for amateur radio station work.

If you are concerned with the finer points and specifics of the Red Hat Enterprise Linux system, the Red Hat Enterprise Linux Reference Guide is a great resource.

If you are concerned about security issues, the Red Hat Enterprise Linux Security Guide is a great resource — explaining in concise terms best strategies and practices for securing Red Hat Enterprise Linux.

3.3. Documentation for Linux Gurus

If you are concerned with the finer points and specifics of the Red Hat Enterprise Linux system, the Red Hat Enterprise Linux Reference Guide is a great resource.

If you are a long-time Red Hat Enterprise Linux user, you probably already know that one of the best ways to understand a particular program is to read its source code and/or configuration files. A major advantage of Red Hat Enterprise Linux is the availability of the source code for anyone to read.

Obviously, not everyone is a programmer, so the source code may not be helpful for you. However, if you have the knowledge and skills necessary to read it, the source code holds all of the answers.