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Beginner’s Guide: Run Linux like any other program in Windows

Beginner’s Guide: Run Linux like any other program in Windows
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    There are many reasons people are hesitant to try Linux. The biggest of these reasons is that installing Linux generally requires people to do a list of difficult and unfamiliar tasks. However, I am going to introduce “virtualization” which is a fancy term for running Linux like any other program in Windows. The following article will guide you through the process of setting up Linux so you can run it like any other program in Windows. Don’t be intimated, these directions are designed for the absolute beginner and will not require you to do anything unfamiliar, threatening, or permanent to your computer. When you are finished you will be able to run Linux like any other program in Windows and share files between Linux and Windows.

    The first step is to install VMWare Player. This is a free program and it installs just like any other Windows program. You can go to the VMWare player homepage and download it. You will have to answer a short survey.

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    The second step is to download Linux. There are many different kinds of Linux with varying programs and setups. Understanding this can be difficult if you have never tried Linux. You can compare the different versions of Linux to Windows XP. There is Windows XP Home, Windows XP Professional, and Windows XP Media Center Edition. When you download Linux, it will be in the format of .ISO. Don’t worry if you have never seen this file type before. I will list several different versions of Linux below. You need to download only one version. The different flavors of Linux differ in size and thus, how long they will take to download. For the remainer of this tutorial, I will be using a version of Linux known as Fedora. However, it is 682MB in size and can take a long time to download. If you do not want to wait for Fedora you can complete the remainer of this tutorial equally well with any other version of Linux. Please note that this list is by no means exhaustive and there are hunderds of other versions of Linux available. I wanted to compile a short list to make choosing easier:
    Fedora (682 MB)
    Ubuntu (698.4 MB)
    Suse (679.3 MB)
    Damn Small Linux (50.8 MB)
    Puppy Linux (84 MB)

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      The third step is to setup VMWare to communicate with Linux. You need to do this by downloading a file from Wolphination.The following is the direct link: OS.zip. After you download OS.zip extract its contents to your C: drive. You should now have C:OS. Inside the OS folder I want you to put your version of Linux. So on my computer, inside C:OS I have OS.VMX, OS.vmdk, and FC-6-i386-livecd-1.iso (this is shown above). We are almost ready to run Linux for the first time.

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      The fourth step is to setup your VMWare configuration file. This file is called OS.VMX you need to right click on this file and select “Open with…” and choose Notepad. On the line that says ide1:0.fileName “C:Your file” you need to change this to point to the Linux version you downloaded. So in my case it would get changed to C:OSFC-6-i386-livecd-1.iso. Now resave the file and you are ready to go. Click on OS.vmx and VMWare will open and Linux will start. It may take a minute or two for Linux to fire up (depending on how much RAM your computer has).

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        Congratulations, you can now run Linux like any other program in Windows! In order to create a shortcut to put on your desktop, right click OS.VMX and choose Create Shortcut. Drag the shortcut to your desktop (or the location of your choice) and Linux will launch when you click it. My shortcut is shown above.

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        Sharing files between Linux and Windows
        Using Linux on Windows will be much more helpful if you can share files between Linux and Windows. This process is really easy to set up. The first thing you need to do is to create a “New Folder” on your Windows desktop. Right click on the folder and choose “Sharing and Security…”. On the following screen, choose “Share this folder on the network” and “Allow network users to change my files.” This will let Linux read and write to the folder.

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          In Linux, go to Places >> Network Servers and you should see your computer. Double click on your computer and you will see all your shared folders. Any data you would like to be used in both Linux and Windows should be saved into this folder.

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          Please feel free to pose any questions in the comments. We will walk you through any portion of this process if you get stuck. Enjoy!

          Notes: the following notes are somewhat technical in detail:
          1. The download links listed above are for “Live CDs.” Live CDs allow you to use Linux without installing anything on your hard drive.
          2. If the mirrors linked to above are very slow, you can find alternative download links on the homepage of each version of Linux.
          3. Since Linux will be running as a Live CD, if you powerdown and exit the virtual machine (exit VMWare) you will lose your information. However, there is a way around this. Simply choose “suspend” and VMWare will suspend and exit your virtual machine state. This will not take any memory and will allow you to “save” data to your virtual machine.
          4. The above steps work equally well on Linux and Mac.

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          Last Updated on August 20, 2019

          Becoming Self-Taught (The How-To Guide)

          Becoming Self-Taught (The How-To Guide)

          Most of the skills I use to make a living are skills I’ve learned on my own: Web design, desktop publishing, marketing, personal productivity skills, even teaching! And most of what I know about science, politics, computers, art, guitar-playing, world history, writing, and a dozen other topics, I’ve picked up outside of any formal education.

          This is not to toot my own horn at all; if you stop to think about it, much of what you know how to do you’ve picked up on your own. But we rarely think about the process of becoming self-taught. This is too bad, because often, we shy away from things we don’t know how to do without stopping to think about how we might learn it — in many cases, fairly easily.

          The way you approach the world around you dictates to a great degree whether you will find learning something new easy or hard. Learning comes easily to people who have developed:

          Curiosity

          Being curious means you look forward to learning new things and are troubled by gaps in your understanding of the world. New words and ideas are received as challenges and the work of understanding them is embraced.

          People who lack curiosity see learning new things as a chore — or worse, as beyond their capacities.

          Patience

          Depending on the complexity of a topic, learning something new can take a long time. And it’s bound to be frustrating as you grapple with new terminologies, new models, and apparently irrelevant information.

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          When you are learning something by yourself, there is nobody to control the flow of information, to make sure you move from basic knowledge to intermediate and finally advanced concepts.

          Patience with your topic, and more importantly with yourself is crucial — there’s no field of knowledge that someone in the world hasn’t managed to learn, starting from exactly where you are.

          A Feeling for Connectedness

          This is the hardest talent to cultivate, and is where most people flounder when approaching a new topic.

          A new body of knowledge is always easiest to learn if you can figure out the way it connects to what you already know. For years, I struggled with calculus in college until one day, my chemistry professor demonstrated how to do half-life calculations using integrals. From then on, calculus came much easier, because I had made a connection between a concept I understood well (the chemistry of half-lifes) and a field I had always struggled in (higher maths).

          The more you look for and pay attention to the connections between different fields, the more readily your mind will be able to latch onto new concepts.

          With a learning attitude in place, working your way into a new topic is simply a matter of research, practice, networking, and scheduling:

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          1. Research

          Of course, the most important step in learning something new is actually finding out stuff about it. I tend to go through three distinct phases when I’m teaching myself a new topic:

          Learning the Basics

          Start as all things start today: Google it! Somehow people managed to learn before Google ( I learned HTML when Altavista was the best we got!) but nowadays a well-formed search on Google will get you a wealth of information on any topic in seconds.

          Surfing Wikipedia articles is a great way to get a basic grounding in a new field, too — and usually the Wikipedia entry for your search term will be on the first page of your Google search.

          What I look for is basic information and then the work of experts — blogs by researchers in a field, forums about a topic, organizational websites, magazines. I subscribe to a bunch of RSS feeds to keep up with new material as it’s posted, I print out articles to read in-depth later, and I look for the names of top authors or top books in the field.

          Hitting the Books

          Once I have a good outline of a field of knowledge, I hit the library. I look up the key names and titles I came across online, and then scan the shelves around those titles for other books that look interesting.

          Then, I go to the children’s section of the library and look up the same call numbers — a good overview for teens is probably going to be clearer, more concise, and more geared towards learning than many adult books.

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          Long-Term Reference

          While I’m reading my stack of books from the library, I start keeping my eyes out for books I will want to give a permanent place on my shelves. I check online and brick-and-mortar bookstores, but also search thrift stores, used bookstores, library book sales, garage sales, wherever I happen to find myself in the presence of books.

          My goal is a collection of reference manuals and top books that I will come back to either to answer thorny questions or to refresh my knowledge as I put new skills into practice. And to do this cheaply and quickly.

          2. Practice

          Putting new knowledges into practice helps us develop better understandings now and remember more later. Although a lot of books offer exercises and self-tests, I prefer to jump right in and build something: a website, an essay, a desk, whatever.

          A great way to put any new body of knowledge into action is to start a blog on it — put it out there for the world to see and comment on.

          Just don’t lock your learning up in your head where nobody ever sees how much you know about something, and you never see how much you still don’t know.

          3. Network

          One of the most powerful sources of knowledge and understanding in my life have been the social networks I have become embedded in over the years — the websites I write on, the LISTSERV I belong to, the people I talk with and present alongside at conferences, my colleagues in the department where I studied and the department where I now teach, and so on.

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          These networks are crucial to extending my knowledge in areas I am already involved, and for referring me to contacts in areas where I have no prior experience. Joining an email list, emailing someone working in the field, asking colleagues for recommendations, all are useful ways of getting a foothold in a new field.

          Networking also allows you to test your newly-acquired knowledge against others’ understandings, giving you a chance to grow and further develop.

          4. Schedule

          For anything more complex than a simple overview, it pays to schedule time to commit to learning. Having the books on the shelf, the top websites bookmarked, and a string of contacts does no good if you don’t give yourself time to focus on reading, digesting, and implementing your knowledge.

          Give yourself a deadline, even if there is no externally imposed time limit, and work out a schedule to reach that deadline.

          Final Thoughts

          In a sense, even formal education is a form of self-guided learning — in the end, a teacher can only suggest and encourage a path to learning, at best cutting out some of the work of finding reliable sources to learn from.

          If you’re already working, or have a range of interests beside the purely academic, formal instruction may be too inconvenient or too expensive to undertake. That doesn’t mean you have to set aside the possibility of learning, though; history is full of self-taught successes.

          At its best, even a formal education is meant to prepare you for a life of self-guided learning; with the power of the Internet and the mass media at our disposal, there’s really no reason not to follow your muse wherever it may lead.

          More About Self-Learning

          Featured photo credit: Priscilla Du Preez via unsplash.com

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