Are there any Linux distributions that come pre-loaded with hands-on, guided tutorials or other learning software aimed at teaching a new user how to work with Linux?

I'm aware that some distros are naturally easier for new users to pick up than others, but I'm particularly hoping there's one out there that directly teaches the user. I've tried going the independent "learn by using" route with an Ubuntu VM, but would find it much more helpful and fitting to my personal learning and motivational mechanisms to have something that could guide me through the process.

To be a bit more specific, I'm not just looking for a general "Linux for Beginners" tutorial (although that also would be a good start). I'm hoping to eventually be as familiar and comfortable in Linux as I am in Windows (System Administrator).

  • By pre-loaded, do you mean that you are not going to be on-line? That is, why would you need such material to part of the install? – tshepang Mar 17 '11 at 0:34
  • My recommendation is that for each sysadmin task you knew how to do in Windows, try do it on Linux, and if you fail, ask here on this site. – tshepang Mar 17 '11 at 0:36
  • @Tshepang - Truly "pre-loaded" packages would be ideal and an indicator of a distro that was really put together as a teaching system. However, having links to and support for appropriate online content included could serve the purpose as well. – Iszi Mar 17 '11 at 0:38

I started to make this as a joking comment, but I'm actually going to go ahead and make it a serious suggestion. Check out Linux From Scratch, which isn't a distro per se, but rather a book and toolkit for building your own running Linux system from source, without a distro.

If you were new to computers in general, this clearly would be jumping right off into the deep end. But if you're a competent sysadmin with another OS, it really shouldn't involve too much that you can't handle. And it will give you a good, hands-on understanding of what you really need underneath the shiny KDE or Gnome hood to make the system actually work.

At the GUI level, modern Linux distributions are basically almost like Windows or OS X, but with a whole host of different conventions and oddities that will drive you crazy (until, we hope, you grow to love and/or tolerate them). And because it's put together from the work of tens of thousands of different developers, sometimes the integration isn't perfect and the underlying bits poke through.

So, consider starting from the underlying bits and see where that gets you.

  • 4
    Tell us the joke. – amphetamachine Mar 17 '11 at 1:58
  • @amphetamachine — well, the joke is, literally, "Hey, there's Linux From Scratch!". But then I starting thinking, and the result is the above answer. – mattdm Mar 17 '11 at 2:07
  • 6
    (And to explain the joke: it's kind of like if someone asks for a tutorial on driving a car, and you answer with ehow.com/how_4622896_build-internal-combustion-engine.html) – mattdm Mar 17 '11 at 2:09
  • I am glad you posted...I promptly downloaded the new book and plan on going through it as my next project. – Mr. Shickadance Mar 17 '11 at 15:05

One distro I can think of that was made to be a teaching system is Linux From Scratch. Its aim though is to show you how to build (from source code) the entire GNU/Linux system from scratch, rather than just to teach you how it works. By the time you've finished, your understanding and appreciation of building an OS will be higher than at the moment. You will of course need a host (a running OS) in the early stages.

Another system that sort of fits your learning thirst is Arch Linux. Its makers claim to try hard to avoid customizing it, leaving you to do it yourself. It has extensive documentation from its wiki site, which is more documentation than provided by any other distro I've seen. Note that that wiki is periodically packaged as arch-wiki-docs (or arch-wiki-docs) if you want to view it locally.

Note that you can achieve pretty much anything with any distro you choose. There's tutorials and manuals all over the place. That is they are not that much different from each other. They run similar underlying technologies.

  • Perhaps this needs to be posted in a separate question, but could you recommend an appropriate set of FOSS tools to build LFS on a Windows host? – Iszi Mar 17 '11 at 2:09
  • @Iszi, cygwin might do it, but I've not tried. – djeikyb Mar 17 '11 at 2:54
  • You don't actually have to be online for Arch's wiki, because it's periodically packaged up into the arch-wiki-docs and arch-wiki-lite packages. – Xiong Chiamiov Nov 21 '13 at 23:40
  • Thanks @XiongChiamiov, I changed the Post to take into account your Comment. – tshepang Nov 22 '13 at 15:37

One of my first distros was Slackware. It was immensely helpful to have The Linux Documentation Project (TLDP) as part of the base install. The topics are broad and varied. They deal with specific problems. They're not aimed at the casual user. You must be curious and have an aptitude for computers.

Alphabetical index of HOWTOs: http://tldp.org/HOWTO/HOWTO-INDEX/howtos.html


There is DVL (Damn Vulnurable Linux) distro (info here). As description says it is "stuffed with broken, ill-configured, outdated and exploitable software" 'cause of its goal "to teach and demonstrate a variety of security topics, including reverse code engineering, buffer overflows, shell code development, web exploitation, and SQL injection"


I teach Linux, I use a mix of Ubuntu Desktop and Ubuntu Server to get the students going. Later I introduce CentOS, the architecture is similar to many commercial network appliances (Sourcefire IDS)

One of the only distro that is built from the ground up for learning is Floppix (floppix.ccai.com/labs.html)

But any distro will work, all Linux distros have commandline (terminal)

3 great free references are: 1- www.learnlinux.org.za/courses/web-courses.html 2- linux-training.be/downloads/ 3- wiki.ubuntu.com/ (look for the server guide)

I know this is late for the original poster, but anyone else should benefit! Linux is the OS of the future.

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