Free Help from Tech Experts

Geeks To Go is a helpful hub, where thousands of volunteers serve up answers and support. Check out the forums and get free advice from the experts, including malware removal and how-to guides and tutorials. Converse about Windows 10, get system building advice or download files... Go to forums >>

Linux Terms You Should Know

Confused?

In GNU/Linux For Newbies of this guide, you saw some of the basic stuff and a little bit of history of what GNU/Linux is all about. Now, lets see some basic Linux terms you should know about.

1. Kernel

The kernel is a program that constitutes the central core of a computer operating system. The kernel provides basic services for all other parts of the operating system like memory management, process management, file management and I/O management. It has complete control over everything that occurs in the system. The user does not directly interact with the kernel. The user can interact with the kernel via a shell. The GNU/Linux systems use the Linux kernel.

2. GRUB

A bootloader is a computer program that loads the main operating system or runtime environment for the computer after completion of the self-tests. The GRUB is one of the many boot loaders available, it stands for Grand Unified Bootloader. It was developed as part of the GNU Project. GRUB works well for a wide variet of Operating System, even Windows. (though Windows Bootloader doesn’t allow other OS’es now)

3. File System

A file system can be thought of as similar to the index of a book containing the exact physical location of every piece of data on a hard drive. Without a file system, information placed in a storage area would be one large body of information with no way to tell where one piece of information stops and the next begins.

Some popular used file systems are FAT, NTFS, ReFS for Windows. HFS+file system for Mac and ext/2/3/4 for GNU/Linux.

Linux File System

4. Partitions

A hard drive can be split into different segments that act independently. Each such segment is called a partition. Partitions enable users to use multiple operating systems to run on the same drive in different partitions. Partition information is stored in the partition table (the classic Master Boot Record, and the modern GUID Partition Table – the better choice!)

 There are 3 types of partitions:

  • Primary
  • Extended
    • Logical

Primary partitions can be bootable and are limited to four per disk. If you require more than four partitions, an extended partition containing logical partitions is used. The extended partition is also counted as a primary partition so if the disk has an extended partition, only three additional primary partitions are possible. You can have any number of logical partitions within an extended partition. It is customary to create primary partitions sda1 through sda3 followed by an extended partition sda4. The logical partitions on sda4 are numbered sda5, sda6, etc.

5. Distros

A GNU/Linux distribution (or distro for short) is an operating system built on top of the Linux kernel and often includesa package management system. Unlike Windows or Mac OS X you do not need to choose an OS version that they are offering. In Linux world you could grab the source code for the Linux kernel, GNU shell utilities, Xorg X server (provides the GUI for the OS), and every other program on a Linux system and make an OS that suits your style. It might take a considerable amount of time and work to do that though.

Linux distributions do all that hard work for you, taking all the code from open-source projects and compiling it for you, combining it into a single operating system you can boot up and install. When you want to install new software or update to new versions of software with important security updates, your Linux distribution provides them in precompiled, packaged form. These packages are fast and easy to install, saving you from doing the hard work yourself. And you do need need to restart your computer after an update!

 6. Command Line Interface

A command-line interface (CLI) lets you control the computer using numerous commands in the form of successive lines of text (command lines). The CLI has no icons or pictures, and often is so simple that even a mouse will not work — it relies on the keyboard. Bash is the shell, or command language interpreter, for the GNU/Linux operating system.

7. Desktop Environment

A desktop environment provides a complete graphical user interface (GUI) for a system by bundling together a variety of X clients. The X Window System provides the foundation for a graphical user interface. Prior to installing a desktop environment, a functional X server installation is required. X provides the basic framework for a GUI environment like drawing and moving windows on the display device and interacting with a mouse and keyboard.

8. Window Manager

A window manager runs on top of the X Window System and controls the placement and appearance of windows in a graphical user interface. Most window managers are designed to help provide a desktop environment. They work in conjunction with the underlying graphical system that provides support for graphics hardware, pointing devices etc.

9. Su & Sudo

Superuser (su) is a special user account used for system administration. The equivalent name may be different in different operating systems, example; root, administrator etc. In operating systems that employ the concept of a superuser, it is recommended that most application work be done using an ordinary account or standard account which does not have the ability to make system-wide changes.

sudo is a program for Unix-like computer operating systems that allows users to run rograms with the security privileges of the superuser. Its name is a concatenation of su (super user) and “do”, or take action.

10. Repository

A repository is nothing but a storage location for all the verified packages (softwares) that are made available by a distro. All software can be downloaded and installed for its repository. This is a key reason why Linux is known to be “almost” virus free. Most major Linux distributions have their own official repositories and they are mirrorred all around the world.

<<Part 1

GNU/Linux For Newbies

GNU/Linux

 

I’ve been on GNU/Linux (popularly called Linux) only for a few months. I’m not an advanced user but I’m not a newbie anymore. So I think this would be the best time to write a guide for newbies. So here you have it GNU/Linux for Newbies. This guide will be split into parts.

A Brief History

GNU was launched by Richard M Stallman, founder of the Free Software Foundation in 1983. It is an operating system put together by people working together for the freedom of all software users to have complete control over their computing. The primary and continuing goal of GNU is to offer a Unix-compatible system that is 100% free software. GNU is a recursive acronym meaning GNU’s Not Unix – a way of paying tribute to the technical ideas of Unix, while at the same time saying that GNU is something different.

The Linux kernel was compiled from scratch by Linus Torvalds in 1991. It is written mostly in C. After FSF created GNU, the only missing part was a kernel that wasn’t free. While FSF was working on a free kernel called GNU Hurd, Linus Torvalds provided the last piece of software that would make GNU complete, a kernel.

What is GNU/Linux?

GNU/Linux is an operating system. The most important part of an operating system is the kernel. In a GNU/Linux system, Linux is the kernel component. The rest of the system consists of other programs, many of which were written by or for the GNU Project. The Linux kernel alone does not form a working operating system, the term “GNU/Linux” is more appropriate to systems that many people casually refer to as “Linux”.

Why GNU/Linux?

First of all, GNU/Linux is free! Users have immense freedom of choice in their software. You can even change your own desktop to suite your style. GNU/Linux is also less likely to crash, better able to run more than one program at the same time, and more secure than many operating systems. With these advantages, Linux is the fastest growing operating system in the server market with more than 90% market share. More recently, Linux has begun to be popular among home and business users as well.

Or if you have an old PC lying around, there are many lightweight Linux distros that can revive its functionality. Many modern Linux distros can run with as little as 64MB of RAM (some even less). Linux is virus free! (almost) Sick of malware that constantly infects systems and causes problems? Linux is for you! Linux is just plain more fun to use with all its features and c

Is GNU/Linux right for me?

Are you a hardcore gamer? Sorry, Linux might not be for you. Though there are many great games in Linux and Steam has started to make its presence felt in the Linux Gaming Market, its still not on par with Windows. There might be a lot of Industry Standard software that you need to use that run only on Windows. Printing can be a pain in GNU/Linux. Linux software still has very experimental CMYK features. This is getting better, but it’s not really satisfying for professional use yet. If these are your main uses, then GNU/Linux is not be for you.

If web browsing, some gaming, simple photo/video editing and a little bit of everything is what you usually go on doing. Hands down, GNU/Linux is better than Windows. If you care about security at least a little bit, switch to GNU/Linux!

GNU/Linux Distro Tree

The below is a very basic GNU/Linux distro tree. There are more than a 1,000 different GNU/Linux distros to choose from.

Linux Distros

Which distro is right for me?

If you have been on Windows a long time and want to make that big switch to Linux, I suggest you start with one of the Debian based distros. I started off with Linux Mint, and I think you should too. It is the perfect choice. Though others like Ubuntu are just as good. Naturally, the rest of the guide will be focused on Debian based distros, though most apply on other distros as well.

A comprehensive coverage of all GNU/Linux distros can be found at DistroWatch. Or you could take the distro test to see which distro is for you.

Part 2 >>

Don’t Be Scammed by Fake Tech Support Calls

It’s happened to me a number of times. The phone rings, and often the caller id display reads “Private.” Upon answering, I’m greeted by someone with a heavy Indian accent who informs me that he/she is calling from the Windows Support Center, and that for several weeks my PC has been sending out many error messages. This caller wants me to allow remote access to my computer so the errors can be analyzed, then fixed remotely, for a fee.

telemarketer

If you get one of these phone calls, hang up. First off, there are no “Windows Support Centers” that monitor error messages from your PC. They just don’t exist. Secondly, neither Microsoft, nor any of its partners, will place unsolicited calls and offer to fix your PC. The real purpose of these calls is to gain access to your PC. From that point, the caller could install malware to capture personal data, or alter settings to make your PC less secure. They’ll also show you fake alerts and problems in event viewer, in order to dupe you into paying for repairs. Once they have your credit card information, not only are you charged for unnecessary services, but you’ve just provided your credit card information to a scammer.

What if you’ve already succumbed to one of these calls? First off, change your password for your computer, bank accounts, email, etc., but don’t do this from the infected computer. Make the change from another PC. If your credit card has been charged, call your credit card company and work with them to reverse the charges. They can also work with you to monitor your card for fraudulent activity. Scan your computer with whatever antivirus program you use (you do use one, right?), and if you’re concerned, you can ask for help here at Geeks to Go! to help ensure that your computer is clean.

If you want more information about these types of scams, then visit Microsoft. For more information about telemarketing scams in the US, visit the FTC.

Leaked: Nokia’s Android Smartphone

nokia-normandy-leak-evleaks-635

Guess who’s joining into the Android Club? Yes, Nokia has finally realized that Windows alone cannot save the face of Nokias fortune. This has been rumored around for quite a while now, but recent image leaks show that this just might be true. Nokia might just bring out their first Android Smartphone. The body of the device similar to any of the current line of Lumia devices, which just means it looks nice, feels sturdy and is colorful. I’m definitely a fan of Nokia’s hardware design, and a huge fan of Android, I think this could be the start of real magic!

nokia-normandy-android-interface

Leaks of Nokias Android phone, codenamed Normandy, were originally published in November, but a number of recent images have provided a closer look at the hardware and software. Vizileaks has published what appears to be a near-final hardware unit, and some of the apps it can run. Thanks to Evleaks, we’re getting a closer look at the UI on the Normandy.

Nothing is confirmed on the hardware yet, but it is rumored to have a Snapdragon processor, with 512MB of RAM, a 5MP camera. The images found also show two SIM Card icons, this clearly shows that this phone is not for the US or Europe. Asia might be the target market of the Nokia Normandy. If Nokia can just upgrade the hardware a bit and get the pricing right, it might be a mighty contender to the newly launched Moto G. Let’s wait & watch.

The Blackphone: No more snooping around

blackphone

In a time where Privacy is just a myth, Silent Circle & Geeksphone have announced the formation of a new Switzerland-based joint venture and its first surveillance-thwarting product, the Blackphone. This Blackphone runs a new security-oriented version of Android called PrivatOS. They claim that the Blackphone will put privacy and control directly in the hands of the user.

The Blackphone will be a carrier and vendor-independent smartphone that will allow consumers and businesses to make and receive secure phone calls, exchange secure texts, transfer and store files, and video chat without compromising privacy on the device. But all this is possible only if both the users have the Blackphone smartphone.

Though nothing has been revealed on the specs of the phone, the company claims that the hardware is a “top performer”. More importantly, there isn’t a lot of detail yet about how the privacy measures are going to work other than encrypted messaging, “secure telephony”, and privacy measures baked into the hardware, including on the CPU.

Happy 10th Birthday Geeks to Go!

10-years

Wow, has it really been 10 years? While the domain had been registered earlier, the forum admin “Joined: 22-May 03”. That’s the day the forum was started, and the day I consider this site began. 10 years ago today! (Coincidentally, it’s also my son’s 5th birthday. Happy Birthday Hudson!) While I briefly considered making a big production of this 10-year milestone with contests and giveaways, I always hesitate to put too much focus on the site itself, and some temporary sponsors. This is really a story about our volunteers and the wonderful service that they provide.

Thanks to all the staff, moderators, teachers and admins. All of whom are volunteers, and a without whom this site would not be possible. You’re all awesome!

It seems a good a time to recall some history, and how this site came to be. I remember being online, and reading an article on Forbes about one of the fastest growing franchises in the USA called ‘Geeks on Call’. I was gainfully employed in sales, worked often from home, and really liked my job. But I always had a passion to learn more about computers (thanks mom and dad). I thought the on-site computer repair business model was a great concept, and started searching similar URLs on a whim. As I recall, geekstogo.com had just expired a few days earlier. I quickly registered it, and to my surprise, actually ended up owning it.

Read the rest of this entry »

How to Install the Enhanced Mitigation Experience Toolkit (EMET)

A recent zero-day exploit in Internet Explorer affecting IE 6, 7, 8 & 9 (not 10) requires action on your part. You could stop using IE and use an alternate browser. An even better idea, install the free security tool, Enhanced Mitigation Experience Toolkit (EMET). Deploying EMET will help to prevent a malicious website from successfully exploiting issues like in Security Advisory 2757760. EMET in action is unobtrusive and should not affect the Web browsing experience.

1. Download EMET Setup.msi to desktop, download folder or other convenient location.

emet-download

2. Double click EMET Setup.msi to run

emet-setup

3. Read the welcome screen and click Next

emet-setup-1

Read the rest of this entry »

The Number 1 Most Powerful Windows 8 Shortcut for Power Users

Much has been written about the lack of a Start button in Windows 8, but if you’re a power user you may find the lack of start menu items like My Computer and Control Panel just as troubling.

Type Windows key Windows logo key + X (or mouse to lower left hot corner and right click) for the following menu:

windows-key-plus-x-8

Here is the list of options:

Read the rest of this entry »

How to Disable Java in your Web Browser

Recently a “zero-day” exploit was discovered in Java. Oracle typically follows a quarterly patch cycle meaning a patch may not be available until mid-October. 3rd party applications like Java are frequently exploited, and it’s a good idea to unplug it from your browser. This will prevent infection from this and future exploits.

To disable Java in Chrome:

Type chrome://plugins/ into the address bar. Scroll down to Java and click Disable.

chrome-java

To disable Java in Firefox:

  1. Click the Firefox button.
  2. Click Add-ons.
  3. On the left menu click Plugins
  4. Click the Disable buttons next to Java Deployment Toolkit and Java™ Platform

Read the rest of this entry »

Windows Phone 8—The Last Piece of the Puzzle?

Windows Phone 8

Yesterday Microsoft unveiled he Windows Phone 8 to developers. It looks a lot like Windows Phone 7, but looks can be deceiving. It’s much more than an incremental update. Pull back the new home page tiles, peek under the bigger, shaper screens, look past the new multi-core CPUs and you’ll find a new operating system kernel. Not just any kernel, the same kernel as Windows 8. Yes, the same kernel used by the soon to be released desktop operating system, and the recently announced Surface tablet.

If you think only a geek could love a kernel, you might be right, but it holds significant meaning to Windows Phone users and developers everywhere. Significant because the computer in your pocket, if it’s a Windows Phone 8, now has the same file system, graphic drivers, networking, security, browser, and multi-core support as your desktop computer. Most importantly, it runs native code.

Read the rest of this entry »