Starting with Linux

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I presume you've heard of Linux, or you wouldn't be reading this, so I'll tell you what Linux is not first!

1) It's not about to topple the mighty Redmond empire at Microsoft any time soon

2) It's not for geeks only, like many believe

3) However it's not for people who aren't willing to adapt either - or do a little thinking for themselves

4) It's not for hardened gamers, not that it can't do games, because it can and very well too. It's just that you won't be able to go down 'Gamestation' or similar and pick up the latest game in Linux format.

This is what Linux is....

1) A free viable alternative to Windows (although there are a few commercial versions too)

2) A guaranteed way to avoid Windows based nasties like Viruses, Trojans, Worms, Malware, Spyware etc

3) A customisers dream. There is no default GUI (Graphics User Interface) as in Windows, you get to choose from at least 10 different ones, but in terms of popularity, there is a main 4 which most people use - which are
KDE, Gnome, XFCE and Enlightenment.

OK, so that's what Linux is - and isn't, but how do I get hold of it you're saying ?

You can install Linux and use it multi booting with Windows, but for a beginner there are several alternatives to getting a taster of Linux without having to partition your drive.  A 'live' CD or DVD is a good choice. Basically you boot from the CD/DVD and the entire operating system runs from the CD/DVD (and RAM) and doesn't interfere with Windows at all. It runs outside, or instead of Windows i.e you don't run Windows first.

To get hold of a 'live' CD/DVD you can either download an ISO which you have to burn to CD/DVD, order one ready made for a small copying fee, or browse your local newsagents for a PC magazine that includes one on the cover mounted CD/DVD.  I dare say some enterprising person is selling them for a modest fee on Ebay too ( hmm makes a mental note to check that out ;o))

Linux isn't just Linux btw It's not a single entity, it comes in many different 'flavours' called distributions - or 'distros' for short. There are at least 400 different versions of Linux and obviously choosing the right one is quite difficult if you're new to Linux. There are many versions because each one is targeted at a different audience or a specific one anyway.  Some claim to be beginner friendly, others concentrate on supporting just one language, some are designed to work on old or very old computers, some try to mimic Windows which I find ludicrous personally, while others claim to be faster and more secure.

Let's concentrate on those designed for beginners though.  (all sizes are approximate)

Ubuntu (and it's many variants of Kubuntu, Xubuntu etc etc)
I personally feel it's hyped out of all proportion and not as beginner friendly as it should be. But it's a popular 'distro' and one a lot of people cut their Linux teeth on  (700 MB)

PClinuxOS ( and my favourite variant of it - Granular)
The number one choice IMO  If you try this and can't figure it out, or can't get on with it, then there really is nowhere to go for you - this is as easy as it gets in Linux**  (700 MB)

Wolvix  (for older PC's without the power to run PClinuxOS smoothly)
A nicely done 'live' CD based on the popular Slackware Linux  (450 MB)

Puppy  (for really old PC's)
Bring that old Windows 98 based PC back to life with this amazing little 'distro' ( 100 MB)

The sizes are the space they occupy on a CD

There are many more, but that's enough to get you started, and if you get the Linux bug, you can always use a re-writable CD/DVD and try one of the dozens of  others

The Ebay guidelines tell me not to insert links, but just put 'distrowatch' in Google to find the main site for downloading Linux ISO's from. Linux is 'Open Source' i.e it's free (and legal) No serial numbers, no trials, no time limits - just free software

** With the exception of Xandros perhaps. This is a commercial 'distro' though, but if you search hard you can find the Xandros OCE (Open Circulation Edition) which is just as good - install only though
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