You are a computer user who is fed up with Windows. You heard about the marvels of Linux, you were impressed when someone actually ran this Linux Distro-thing from a CD, and your eyes glittered upon seeing the multiple desktops, the Compiz/Kwin effects, and the quantity of programs included in the OS. So, you are sure that you want it. With conviction, you ask your friend to install Linux and, in the process, several strange questions begin to hit you as karate chops. The most memorable, without any doubt, is:
-Do you want a dual boot?
(Dual, as in...two?) Dumbfounded, you ask yourself what "a dual boot" is while the image of a cat wearing, well, a pair of boots, pops up in your mind.
The Linux Jedi looks at the question marks in your eyes and, knowing that you are no Anakin Skywalker, decides that it is better to introduce you to the Way of the Penguin gradually. So now you know that you will be able to start your computer using either Windows or Linux by means of a special Kung-Fu move called "GRUB" and, after seeing the penguin in your system, Obi-Wan goes away until he becomes a lost dot in the distance. You are there, concentrating, left on your own to master every technique that you heard you were capable of and, to be honest, you can hardly wait.
YOUR FIRST TRIAL
You mastered the GRUB; Linux is right there on your screen. With your chest full of satisfaction, you decide that you want to practice some familiar saber moves. You browse the Web--by using Firefox, Chrome, or Konqueror-- and you see this wonderful picture of Tux that you want to keep. Thus, you download it and, a proud Padawan, you close the browser to look for your new image on your desktop, following your Windows training... WAIT A MINUTE! The file is missing! There's NOTHING on your desktop. With a little uneasiness, you think of a solution: to open "my computer" to look for your picture somewhere else...so you open the menu to discover that there is nothing like a "my computer" icon. With a paralyzing fear, you see the way-too-familiar face of Bill Gates on the screen. He is wearing a very appropriate Darth Vader helmet and extends his hand to you as he utters gravelly:
"I am YOUR FATHER"...
This is pretty much how I felt when I tried to locate my files in Mandriva the first time I used it, a year ago. As a desperate Luke, I ran away from Vader and stumbled on the home partition. Of course, I had absolutely no clue of what /home/ meant. I navigated the folder DOCUMENTS to see, well, nothing. So I went up a couple of levels. I found this red folder labeled ROOT and I said to myself "AHA! Now we are talking!" After opening several cryptic directories there (in which I found some funny-looking files with strange names and lots of empty folders with stranger names), I was completely baffled by this arcane puzzle. My Windows experience was that folders had to contain something. Why did Linux create so many empty directories? "Why is Linux so difficult?", I thought.
Then it hit me. LINUX IS NOT WINDOWS. If I wanted to locate anything, I had to understand the file structure of the system.
For those migrating Windows users that might feel like I did, this compass summarizes the basics.
WHERE TO GO?
1. ROOT (/)
Represented by / , this directory is YOUR SYSTEM. Do not do anything here until you know how to use your light saber appropriately, Jedi in training.
2. HOME (/home/you)
This is where your personal files are found in Linux. When you work in Linux, your documents, downloads, music, and videos will be stored here, inside a folder with your session name.
3. ETC (/etc)
Here, you will find system files that you will probably have to tweak to get certain things done in Linux. Again, stay away from this folder until you can handle the powerful light saber (konsole).
4. Media (/media)
This is important. If you plug in a USB drive, use a DVD, etc, your files will be found here. Your Windows partition is also mounted here, which means that you can access your Microsoft Office documents from this folder. But be careful; if you delete them in Linux, don't expect to find them in the Windows recycle bin.
With a little practice, you will be able to find your way in the Linux file structure and you will understand why it is so convenient. Then you will love Linux and you are going to see that, for computer standards, it is truly like using the Force!