Ubuntu learning 2: Follow the Experts Path

So I started out with a lot of confidence that I could simply scour the Internet for command line codes and I would be able to accomplish whatever I set out to do… bash taught me a lesson!

< Bash, (bourne again shell) is the name for the command line used in most versions of Linux like Ubuntu. >

I was learning about encrypting my home folder and read a suggestion on how to make it so your password verification files is located on a USB drive.  This way no one could log into the account without the USB drive plugged in.  I thought I knew enough about command lines to be able to follow the directions.  After all, I’ve used DOS commands before and I could wing it!

At about a quarter to midnight I had typed some commands, moved some files and, with my confidence way up, I restarted my computer.  I nearly cried out in triumph when I saw my user login prompt!  Then I entered the password, struck the enter key with rakish confidence, and waited… a while.  Confidence waining.  Login prompt came back up.  I made sure I put in my password correctly.  More humbly pressed the enter key.  Still no go.

I went to bed.  The next day I learned that I really messed up.  There was no way to get the encrypted home folder back.

< The Home folder in Ubuntu is where a user saves everything! >  

So I inserted my Live CD and made a last ditch attempt to see the home folder from a boot disk.

< Using a Live CD to access files on a hard drive is standard procedure, if you don’t encrypt your folders and can’t decrypt because you moved the encryption passphrase file! >

It didn’t work.  I was out of luck.  Fortunately I set up an UbuntuOne account and saved my writing there so the only loss was the applications I installed.  Easy enough to download again, just a few hours lost and a lesson well learned!

This experience has caused me to step back form the fancy encryption tricks I was going to tackle first in my learning process.  Humbled by this experience, I’ve rediscovered the point of “teacher” in learning.  I don’t mean that I need to start taking a class and sit at a computer with another human being next to me in order to learn.  What I mean is that in order to learn complex concepts, it is best to follow an experts entire train of thought.  I figured I could piece it all together from the ground up (with a bit of arrogance at how far off the ground I already was).

Since this experience I’ve sought out more extensive resources rather than forum posts and 5 minute YouTube video.  I found a few guides, PDF’s, e-pubs, and the like.  I read a chapter of each and assessed their style and content level.  I’ve decided on the Ubuntu Pocket Guide and Reference by Keir Thomas.  I have been able to find what I need, and get even more.

Lessons learned:
Follow the “experts” train of thought. It may be a bullet train and you need to get on at the station, if not you will only get splattered.  When learning without much prior knowledge, you need to take a more complete route anyway.

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