Here’s some basic info for those wanting to make the move to Ubuntu or another Linux distro. Once you get your head around the folder structure differences to what you’re used to in Windows, you’ll see it’s all quite easy. Basically, you just need to get familiar with some basic concepts like “mount points” and “privileges” (or “permissions”), and remember that while paths (or addresses) in Windows contain \ (backslashes), in Linux it is like the internet, so / (slashes) are used.
Hard drives are not represented as “C:” and “D:” like in Windows, as they are actually accessed from folders serving as “mount points”. So, in effect, other drives, including your DVD drive, are seen as folders in your Ubuntu system, not as separate drives. While the root of a CD or DVD in Windows would be represented as D:\, in Ubuntu and other Linux distros, it would be something like /media/cdrom0 (mount points will vary, but generally found in either /mnt or /media, depending on your distro or Ubuntu version).
The User Folder
In Windows, they’ve increasingly made it difficult to locate your files without using their shortcuts. Back in Windows 95, most of your stuff could be found in C:\My Documents, but by XP it had changed to C:\Documents and Settings\YourName\My Documents. With Vista it changed yet again, this time to C:\Users\YourName\Documents, and will no doubt keep users guessing with each upgrade.
In Ubuntu and most Linux distros, you can always count that every file you own is located in a folder within /home. All other users of the computer will also have their own subfolder within it, and only the owner of each can view and edit files therein. Your documents will be in /home/yourusername/Documents, pictures in /home/yourusername/Pictures, videos in /home/yourusername/Videos, music in /home/yourusername/Music, and so on.
Also, most programs will store their configuration files in hidden subfolders of your user folder. While some settings files will occasionally be in system folders, generally they’ll be in folders like /.mozilla-thunderbird (the . before marks it as a hidden folder, which you won’t see in Nautilus – the default file manager – unless you enable the displaying of hidden files and folders).
System Folders & Permissions
The root of your Ubuntu drive or partition is /, and most of the subfolders belong to the system, or root. In fact, besides the /home and /tmp folders, the rest is controlled by root, so you do not have permission to edit, move, create or delete files in those folders. For that, you need to either log in as root (not recommended), or become the super-user to achieve your goals.
Most people don’t need to go poking in the guts of the system, and as for tweaking programs by manually editing config files, as I mentioned most programs keep all that in your user folder, so you can edit and delete those without need for root privileges.
You’ll see that while Windows does not even recognise a Linux or Mac OS partition, in Ubuntu you can not only access your Windows and Mac drives (and other Linux partitions), but easily write to them as well. This means that if you have a Windows installation, you can access files from that drive while in Ubuntu, and even edit and save them back there. So you can get to all your pictures, etc, without having to reboot, and many file-types will open in compatible programs in Ubuntu (eg: .doc files will open fine in OpenOffice.org Writer).
Ubuntu is much better with the array of different media storage devices out there than its counterpart. For example, while Windows can handle most devices connected via USB, most versions cannot recognise a drive has been connected via eSATA. Trying to find a way to get eSATA support in XP proved a long and unrewarding process (ie: a big waste of time), while that support is just built into Ubuntu.
Basically anything that can be connected to a computer and has some kind of storage capacity can be accessed in Ubuntu. Don’t be surprised if some devices that need drivers and software in Windows are mounted in Ubuntu without need for anything.
And if you’ve had USB sticks suddenly lose most of their capacity in Windows, and formatting them there did nothing (or actually made it worse), try wiping them in Ubuntu, as I’ve fixed a couple that way!
If you’ve ever fiddled with the Windows boot menu or looked at partition information for some reason, you would know that the paths or addresses are actually quite long and complicated compared to the C: you see in My Computer.
In Linux, they’re short and pretty straight forward, which you can see if you open Gnome Partition Editor (sudo apt-get install gparted if you haven’t already got it). Your drives will have names like sda or hda (depending on hardware and Ubuntu version), and the “a” represents the first drive (or Primary Master, if you have older IDE drives). Therefore, your second drive would be sdb/hdb, and other drives would follow in alphabetical order.
Similarly, the partitions start with “1“, so the first partition on the first drive would be /dev/sda1, while the fifth partition on the third drive would be /dev/sdc5, and so on.
For more information on working with devices and partitions in Ubuntu, like finding out UUIDs via the terminal, through to a great graphical disk usage analysis program you can use, check out this page.
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