cannot do anything

i'm new to linux, and altough it is quickly making sense to me, there is one prob; i don't know how to start ANYTHING. well except xwindows, but that won't start until i find out what video card i have, but i don't know how to view the suggested file, because i can't do ANYTHING! how would i view the file /usr/x11r6/lib/x11/doc/Monitors
also, does capitalization matter in linux? i think it does, but don't know for sure.
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cat /usr/x11r6/lib/x11/doc/Monitors
capitalization matters in file names
As any UNIX, capitalization matters on everything. You can't even log in if you type your password with the wrong case.
FYI: It really helps us if you will tell us what brand and version of Linux you are using. We refer to this as the "Distribution". For example:

RedHat 12.7
MyLinux version 2.0g
Slackware 0.7b

A little info about the hardware you are trying to set up can also get you a more complete answer. For instance, your processor type and video card info would help here.

J Crouchet
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deadpeteAuthor Commented:
my dist. is redhat 5.2, my processor is a 486 DX [mHz and brand unknown, but it is a compaq system], and i don't know what video card, and can't find it in the case, which is why i needed to open that file in the first place.
linux is extremely case sensitive so watch out
to view a file from the console use the command
pico /usr/x11r6/lib/x11/doc/Monitors
u can also edit files with this  
^ stands for ctrl key
so ^X = ctrl-X to exit
For using pico you'd need to have pine installed, though. Use "vi", it's the standard UNIX text editor. Just do a man vi before using it, for the acknowledgement of commands.
It really sounds like your video card is integrated into your mother board (gotta love compaq) so you will need to determine which video chipset you have.  You may need to examine the main board to find the video chipset.  If this fails, go to compaq's web site and do the support routine to find the specs on your machine.  Afterwards, go to

to see if your card is supported (it most likely is since it is an older machine).  Next, run Xconfigurator from the command prompt.  Now reconfigure your video card and monitor using the chipset information.

Good luck.
soory.  that url is actually
Welcome to the commmunity. Get to know the 'less' command it display the text on screen and allows you to scroll foreard and backward through the file. type q to exit. the usage is 'less <filename>'. Also learn to use the 'man <name>' command it lets you read man pages  for all kinds of commands and programs in linux.
us mc. It's like norton commander but for linux. You can edit/read stuff with it and it let's you see the files in the directery and it shows you one the screen which commands you can use like F10 to quit

Don't use vi. It's way to difficult for a newby. In the beginning you need the manual constantly. And i mean constantly

use ALT-F1 to ALT-F6 to change between different Virtuel screens so you can read the manuel for vi ( man vi )  on ALT-F1 and run vi in ALT-F2

To quit less and man press q
Why use "mc" while you have all the power of the UNIX commands at the prompt? It won't take an hour to learn the most common ones.

 DO NOT USE VI? What kind of advice is that? How can you learn if you don't try it? Here goes the same as above... It won't take more than a single cake receipt text for you mom to acknowledge all you need for a good start. VI is the most simple and powerful text editor there is for UNIX, so I guess taking the oportunity of using it from someone should be considered a crime!
Step 1. Since you already have RedHat 5.2 installed, go buy a copy of "Linux for Dummies," published by IDG books.  It comes with RH 5.2 (I know, you already have it) -- but the examples and basic lessons in that book are fairly accurate for the RedHAt 5.2 distribution.

Step 2. After you get the book, start prowling around at the user forum.  The reason is that you will begin to see that different distro's accomplish similar tasks in slightly different ways.  Even if you stay with RedHat, this exploration will begin to provide insight as to how to use Linux when you encounter something that's not spelled out in the book(s)...plural -- you need more than one.

Step 3. Buy some more cd's and experiment.  Most Linux books come with a cd in the back cover and you can get most of the latest distros for a couple of dollars at cheapbytes and linuxcentral.

Step 4. Switch to a newer distro in a couple of weeks (after you get some experience under your belt) so you can run the latest apps.

BTW -- Linux for Dummies will get you started on VI...IMHOP best way to go as you are learning...because it is the most universal text editor in the Linux/Unix world.  You need to know how to use it if you really want to administer Linux systems.

And also, after you play with Linux for a while, check out Slackware 7.0 as an almost polar opposite to the RedHat/Mandrake/Caldera approach.  You may appreciate having the latest libraries and kernels at your disposal without the attendant problems that often accompany the distributions that target the new Linux user with Windows-like automated utilities. Much of the "power and speed" of Linux/Unix is that it is already loaded with the tools to accomplish most computing tasks without hogging ram and disk space.  So , for example, you have to ask yourself, "Do I want an OS that inserts (big) graphical configuration utilities between me and the file systems -- or do I want to learn the rudiments of how the system works -- and edit files directly with something like VI?"

You pays your money and you takes your chances, but when you show up to work after a night of heavy thunderstorms, power surges, and general havoc, you might appreciate knowing what's behind all the automation.

Outstanding comment.
What you really need to do to get Xwindows up is to run Xconfigurator (note capitalization).

It should detect your card and set up what you need. You WILL need to know the specifications for your monitor because it cannot detect your monitor. If the monitor is not on the list you will need to choose "custom" from the monitor list and input the parameters. If you don't know them, look in the users guide that came with the monitor or go out to the web site of the manufacturer and look them up. You will need to know:

The max resolution your monitor will do and at what scan rate (example: 1200 x 1024 @ 70khz)

The vertical sync rate range (example 50hz-90hz)

If your card is not probably detected I would really suggest upgrading to RH 6.1 as many, many more cards are supported now than back with 5.2. Also, there have been other major changes that make the upgrade important. You can download it from, buy it for $70 or so or buy a rip off of it for $5-$10 from

Once that is done, type startx to start an Xwindows session. Then you can start finding out which desktop you like (KDE, Enlightenment, Afterstep, etc.)

J Crouchet

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Why should he buy the new distribution?  he can download the newest xfree86 from and still have the support for all the currently supported video cards.

If his card is not detected, it is likely because it is on the main board, and is may be a SiS chipset.  Those on the mainboard don't work right most of the time anyway.  If he needs to buy anything, it may be a new video card.
Between 5.2 and 6.0 there was a major upgrade to the kernel and various supporting libraries. These upgrades provide more and better suport for a variety of harware. KDE and Enlightenment saw vast changes. There were changes and bug fixes to numerous programs. I found that 6.0 had a few problems that bothered me, but they are cleaned up in 6.1.  Thus I recommended RH 6.1

If he wants his software prepackaged in RPMs, the latest, greatest versions of many software packages are getting harder to find as 5.2 RPMs. Even if you can find them you must realize that 5.2 is deprecated and packages for it will only get harder to find.

Sure, the guy could dowload any or all of these pieces seperatly, compile his own programs or even his own kernel.  If that is how he gets his thrills, great. Maybe it is a difference in philosophy, but I don't think we make a lot of friends for Linux by throwing every new user into the deep end. Let them have the choice, and go there when they are ready.

He can also download RH 6.1 for free directly from RedHat or from one of their mirrors. I also just checked the prices at Linux mall and they have the official RH 6.1 Standard edition for $30US or their own rip-off for $1US. Probably plus $5 shipping. Either way, price is probably not a barrier here.

However, I'll admit you may be right about the video card. <g>

J Crouchet
If, as is likely, the Xconfigurator included with RedHat 5.2 is unable to configure your on board video for the Xwindows system, there are alternatives.  This is where the books come in. You might then try "SuperProbe" to see if your video is recognized at all, and then you might want to try the rather spartan, but reliable xf86config utility to setup your mouse, keyboard, monitor and video card.

But what if that doesn't work either? Do you immediately start buying video cards and newer distros? In my opinion, for what little it is worth: No. At least, not just yet.  What video card are you going to buy, anyway? You certain it's going to work the way you want it to work?

It is easy to forget that Xwindows isn't even required for many basic tasks.  For example, your RedHat 5.2 distro will allow you to "surf the web" (Lynx), read and write e-mail (Pine), send and receive that email (sendmail and fetchmail), write a letter and then print it out (VI and the lpr command) without ever even installing -- much less configuring Xwindows.  

You need the books anyway.  Go buy a couple and get into some of the nuts and bolts of the Linux distro you already have for a couple of weeks. Don't spend any more money on distributions until you have learned how to perform basic tasks with RedHat 5.2.  Then get the cheap cds and begin to experiment with them.

You do that, and you will be answering other newbies questions on this and other forums before long.

It is really easy to fall into the trap of spending money you don't need to spend as you switch from one distro to another as you seek the latest version that is supposed to solve all your problems.  Read first, experiment on the cheap, spend the bucks after you are an informed consumer.  

Uninformed consumers are the basis for many IPO's -- whether in the field of computing -- or the latest fad in music -- food -- clothing -- you name it.  Let somebody else contribute the bucks.
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