This note was written as an accompaniment to installing GNU/Linux2 on an Intel-family PC (not an Apple). It assumes that you run Windows of some sort and that you know little or nothing about what's inside the case of your computer, but are interested in learning (by reading Section 2, for starters). Because of the nature of multi-user operating systems, it is necessary for you (as the system administrator) to understand something about how your computer works, both in terms of software and at the level of hardware.
This note is skeletal, but self-contained. Sections of this note are meant to be read independently, to an extent. GNU/Linux, like anything complicated, requires background information and cannot be absorbed quickly, though learning it need not be painful. It is easier to remember information when it is presented in several light coats rather than in one comprehensive pass. Many concepts below are simplified, though not to the point of serious inaccuracy, and are sometimes introduced more than once. Terms in italics are technical terms that are subsequently defined. Terms in ``quotes'' are more-or-less self-explanatory, and are not defined. Filenames and commands are written in a typewriter font. Commands must be typed exactly as they appear, including case and punctuation. Do not add or delete any spaces in commands (see dire example below).