The answer should be pretty clear.
Download a copy of Linux, burn it to a CD or DVD and install it on a computer or in a virtual machine. You can't learn Linux without having a Linux system at your disposal. The first thing that you do in any operating system training class is install the operating system now you'll have the jump on your classmates. Installation is a learning process in itself and you'll find it easy but very different from a Windows installation.
Once you have that shiny new Linux system installed, what do you do with it? Sure, you find it simple enough to log in to the graphical login screen, poke around at the familiar menus and test a few applications, but beyond that how about getting to know some meatier details about this new operating system empowering your computer. You'll need to know a few basic things, such as how to navigate the filesystem, how to set up user accounts and how to install software. Be sure to familiarize yourself with the following hit list of topics:
- Account Administration
- Software Maintenance
- Filesystem Layout
- Command Line Interface
Now you need some instruction. Googling "learn Linux" yields more than 19 million possibilities, but knowing which of them is reliable is another daunting task. To avoid any malware issues, rip-offs or other malicious occurrences, stick with the big names in Linux: HP, IBM, Novell, Canonical and Red Hat.
For free training, HP and IBM are your best choices. They offer huge repositories of documentation, free online classes and instructor guidance. The list below offers links to those and other recommended learning resources. Canonical's training isn't free but it is relatively inexpensive ($50 for the online Ubuntu Desktop course). Novell offers free courses based on its SUSE Linux Enterprise Server. Red Hat courses are very expensive, with live classroom training weighing in at $2,500 per class and eLearning courses at just over $1,000 each.
Other sites offer training and tutorials but quality and content vary greatly, often leaving a new learner confused. They aren't all bad or poor quality, but look first to those resources that are in the business of using and supporting Linux themselves. You'll enjoy a richer learning experience by tapping into the same established learning resources that attract corporate training buyers.
Another place to look for help is right in your own community in the form of user groups or special interest groups. These groups offer a safe haven for newcomers in the form of one-on-one instruction, install fests, monthly meetings, gaming sessions, build-your-own box sessions and much more. Check your local newspaper or online city guide to find out where the geeks and gurus go when they leave their basements.
If your training budget is gone, you now have refuge among the best offerings in the business &3151 some free, some inexpensive and some well, some haven't quite caught up with these leaner, meaner times in which we live, but all are practical options for your training needs. A free operating system and free training more frugal words were never spoken.
Ken Hess is a freelance writer who writes on a variety of open source topics including Linux, databases, and virtualization. You may reach him through his web site at http://www.kenhess.com.