I have occasionally caught myself talking to them like a Grandpa talking to his grandkids about walking to school...uphill...bothways...in the snow. Why? When I first loaded Linux things were very different. Sure, it was a lot easier when I started (about 11-12 years ago) than in the really early days of distributions like SLS. My first distro was Red Hat 7 (the *original* Red Hat before the Fedora Project). Even though some things were less magically auto-configuring as they are now, it was still pretty easy to install and use for someone who was already a Windows and Macintosh 'power-user'. It wasn't until I got 'bored' with Red Hat/Fedora and moved on to Slackware did I really learn about Linux.
I used Slackware exclusively for several years before moving on Ubuntu (and eventually, most recently back to Fedora/Red Hat). I initially moved on from Slackware because I was at the point where I truly understood the system, and just wanted something that was more magically auto-configuring, with a more robust package manager, and with more pre-built packages in the repositories (with proper dependency resolution). I'm glad I had that experience with Slackware though...because...without it, I don't think I would have ever really understood how a Linux distribution works the way I now do.
Really (I feel kinda 'old' saying this) folks who only started with a distro like Ubuntu, Mint, Fedora or openSUSE, that just works with a few mouse-clicks after booting from a LiveCD/USB just don't get exposed to the underpinnings of the system in the same way. Sure, you can go seek out the innards, but how many really do? Even if you want to learn, it's just harder to do (or it seems that way to me).
The funny thing is, now, I look at distros like Slackware and Arch and think of them as 'simple'. Why? Because there is no magic happening anywhere. You can easily see where everything is and what it does. They really aren't hard even though they are thought of as hard distros. Sure they are less automatic, but I wouldn't call that hard. My truck is a straight-drive...I don't find it hard, just less automatic. Same difference, really.
My advice to someone wanting to use Linux? Download one of the top-5 distros, load it up and compute away. Simple as that. My advice to someone wanting to learn Linux?
- Use it. Don't dual-boot. MAKE it do what you need it to do. Don't give up.
- Install a hard (ahem...less automatic) distro. Slackware, Arch, Debian, even Gentoo (if you have the patience for emerges).
- Make that hard distro work. MAKE it do what you need it to. Don't give up.
- Either stick with the hard distro, or move back to an easy distro.
- Break stuff, then FIX it.
- Ask for help. Join Mailing-lists, IRC channels and Internet Forums. You'll meet some cool people..and some jerks...just like 'real-life'. Learn from the cool people and ignore the jerks (unless they have good info).
- TEACH back to others what you learn.
- Become a part of the Open Source community.
- Learn the difference between Open Source, Free Software and 'Freeware'.
- Use what distro/desktop environment/text editor/insert some other app here that makes you happy; Not what makes some anonymous internet person happy.
- Argue with those anonymous internet people about what you think is best.
- Change your mind. Try different things. You would've never known you liked Chocolate Ice Cream if you never tried it.
...and most importantly...
Regardless of whether I'm using a computer for pleasure, learning or for work, I'm always having fun. That's how I know I'm in the right career. I love computers...I'm fascinated by them. I like teaching them new things, and I like them to teach me new things.