Linux & FOSS for the U3A community

Getting Started with Linux

Strictly, the term ‘Linux’ applies to an operating system kernel originally created by Linus Torvalds. However, it is commonly used to refer to this kernel, plus the other utilities and tools that turn it into a full operating system, plus a huge number of application programs that run on this OS.


There are many versions of Linux available to download and try for free, usually referred to as ‘distributions’.

Each distribution has a different emphasis. Some distributions are meant for beginners, others for experts, some for desktop use, others for real-time systems or servers. As a result, the included suite of utilities and application programs differs from one distribution to another.

The three most popular free distributions are compiled by Canonical (Ubuntu), Red Hat (Fedora) and Novell (openSUSE).

We recommend you get started by using the standard 32 bit Ubuntu desktop version:

  1. Download the free PDF version of the Ubuntu Pocket Guide & Reference from this URL: http://www.ubuntupocketguide.com/download_main.html . The download is a 2MB zip file.

We recommend that you actually print the guide, all 170 pages, so you have a hard copy in case there are problems with the install, and that you read through the guide before you start. At the very least print out Chapter One before doing an install (pages 19 to 36).

  1. Download the Ubuntu standard 32 bit desktop CD from this URL: http://www.ubuntu.com/ and burn the ISO image that you downloaded onto a CD (see instructions on page 7 & 8 of the guide).

  2. Boot your PC using the live Ubuntu CD you just created and check that it runs on your PC. Link to some advice on what to do if your computer doesn’t boot from the CD?

  3. Choose one of the install methods in the guide and install the Ubuntu Linux software.