Solving common Linux problemsProblem #1.
My sound doesn't work.
From what I can tell, this is a very common problem with Linux on a fresh install. The first thing you need to do is check and make sure that the volume isn't simply turned all the way down in your audio mixer settings. Having the volume turned down all the way seems to be the default setting for a lot of distros.
If that isn't the problem, then there are generally two different causes for the lack of sound. Either your sound card wasn't correctly detected and configured during installation, or open source drivers for your sound card simply don't exist. What you need to do is run the sndconfig utility (installed automatically with most distros) from the console as root. It will attempt to detect and configure your sound card. This works sometimes.
If this doesn't work you may need to replace your sound card with one that Linux can work with. The problem seems to be that many small "fly by night" companies make sound cards and sound chipsets. The either the companies don't last very long or their models don't stay in production long. Generally they only ever release drivers for Windows (that's where the market is). Many of the companies fold up and go out of business or obsolete a given model before drivers for other platforms are released. Major computer manufacturers like Dell and Gateway buy their components from the low bidder, and often wind up shipping their machines with orphaned or soon to be orphaned sound cards. Replacing your sound card with a compatible one may be your only option. Check the hardware compatibility list for whichever distro you plan to use to see what is known to work or not work.
Help! I don't understand the Linux file structure. Where are my files?
The Linux file structure is complex and very different from Windows. The average user really doesn't need to be an expert on the whole file system. The one thing you really do need to know is that your Home directory is like your "My Documents" folder in Windows. That's the default location where files you create or download from the web get stored. The quickest way to get to your home directory is to click on the little icon on the taskbar that looks like a little house. That will allow you to view and access the contents of your home directory. To learn more about the structure of the Linux file system, just Google for it.
I can't access the important data on my Windows partition from Linux.
Knoppix Linux, and some other distros, place icons on your desktop that represent the various hard drive partitions on your computer. Mounting is as simple (in most cases) as clicking on them. You may need to change the read/write status of the partition (be careful here). You can do that by right-clicking on the icon and choosing the option from the menu.
If you are using a distro that doesn't automatically add partition icons to your desktop, you just have to mount the partition yourself. This procedure works if your Windows partition is FAT16 or FAT32 First (as root) create a directory that you will use to access the partition. You can call it anything you like. Perhaps something like /cdrive to remind you that it is your Windows C: drive. Next you need to mount the drive with the command:
mount /dev/hda1 /cdrive -t vfat.
You should now have full read/write access to all the stuff on your Windows partition. You can mount the drive automatically every time Linux boots by adding the following line to your /etc/fstab file:
/dev/hda1 /cdrive vfat user 0 2
Make sure the /etc/fstab file ends with a cr or Linux will complain during bootup.
This should work for NTFS partitions too with most Linux distros. However, Micro$oft has never made the specifications for the NTFS filesystem public. People have had to reverse engineer the filesystem as best they could in order to create drivers to access NTFS partitions. These drivers are at best alpha grade software and not terribly reliable. So just to be safe, I wouldn't recommend writing to your NTFS partitions from Linux. Reading them is fine, but writing to them has a small probability of causing data corruption. In the above mount command, replace vfat with ntfs.
I can't access the important data on my Linux partition from Windows.
Of course you can't. As far as Micro$oft is concerned, there are no other operating systems on Earth besides Windoze. So if your data isn't on a Windows partition, it simply doesn't exist as far as they are concerned. Probably the easiest way around this problem is to create a FAT32 partition on your HD specifically for storing data that you need to access from both operating systems. Windows sees FAT32 partitions as a native format and will mount them as another drive in your My Computer window. To linux, a FAT32 partition is just another of the dozens of types of file formats it can handle with no problem at all. On all my computers that are set up as dual-boot systems, I have set up an extra FAT32 partition just for data and files both operating systems need to access.
Why won't XMMS play my MP3 files?
XMMS is a Winamp style multimedia player for Linux. It plays MP3 files just fine. However, if you installed a version of Redhat linux, or a distro based on Redhat, you got a crippled version of XMMS that won't play MP3s because Redhat is worried about being sued by the RIAA storm troopers. You can easily fix this problem by downloading and installing a new version of XMMS from http://www.xmms.org/.
Why won't Xine play my DVDs?
Xine is a multimedia player for Linux that is quite capable of playing DVDs. However, the MPAA storm troopers don't want people to be able to play DVDs under Linux. Why? Who the hell knows? Anyway, because of this lots of distros don't have the ability to play DVDs straight out of the box. You can easily fix this problem by going to http://xinehq.de/ and following the instructions there on how to make Xine play your DVDs.
How do I make my Numlock key come on automatically?
This is an annoying little problem I noticed with Linux right off. This web site explains how to fix the problem: http://startlinux.co.nz/articles/article_139.php. One change needs to be made to the information on that page. The file you need to edit in your HOME directory is
.Xclients-default, rather than .xinitrc as it says on that page.
I can't access the important data on my Iomega Zip/Jaz drives.
Actually you can. You just have to mount them. Detailed instructions can be found on the Iomega web site at: http://www.iomega.com/support/documents/10661.html