In this month's print edition of PC World, reader David Crickmer mentions he'd like to see a series about getting started in Linux. Since this blog largely revolves around the portly penguin, I thought I'd give it a go ...
first decision -- which "brand" of Linux to opt for -- can seem the
most daunting. Since Linux is free and open, anyone can create their own unique
release. Linux versions are known as distributions,
and the website DistroWatch.com
lists more than 4,000 of 'em!
You'll find Linuxes targeted at specific hardware from the latest netbooks to ancient PCs. There are Linuxes designed for specific purposes such as computer forensics or disk partitioning; Linuxes to run web servers and supercomputers; Linuxes for scientists, mathematicians and astronomers; Linuxes to build media players or backup servers; Linuxes for national, religious and political groups; and even Linuxes that mimic the look and feel of other well-known operating systems.
point to remember is that all
versions of Linux are based on the Unix operating system. I won't say
that once you've mastered one, you've mastered them all, but it's
certainly the case that once you're familiar with the way Linux works,
won't be daunted by any of
those 4,000+ distros!
They're all free, and if you don't like one, it's easy to replace it with another.
|This astonishing Linux time-line
charts the linkages and relation-
ships between many well-known
There are three main Linux desktops -- the desktop being the Graphical User Interface (or GUI) that forms the basis of your working environment. Gnome, (aficionados pronounce it "g-nome" as opposed to "nome"), KDE (short for the K Desktop Environment), and Unity (recently released by Ubuntu).
All have their particular strengths, but don't get too hung up on which one to pick at this stage. While some distros are desktop-specific, most allow you to install alternatives so you can try them all and see which you prefer -- which is exactly what we'll be doing a bit later on. (One of the neat things about Linux is that you don't need to reboot to change desktops. Just log out and log in again!)
Getting Hold of LinuxOK, so where do you get it?
Frankly, Linux is everywhere, and one of the easiest sources is the good old magazine cover disc. (This month's print edition of PC World features no less than three complete distributions!)
The other alternative is to download and burn your own CD or write it to a USB stick. A typical distro is around 600-650MB so you'll need a broadband account or a lot of patience. We're going to focus on Ubuntu for this series, and you'll find it's download alternatives here.
One of the reasons I recommend Ubuntu is that it's only tremendously popular and has great user support, but it also has three simple installation alternatives; you can do a straight download and install, run it from a CD or USB drive, or even install and run it under Windows.
|Why not run Linux from a CD or DVD?
In a word, performance. CD/DVD-ROM drives are utter slugs compared to hard disc drives. If you want to give Linux a reasonable run, use a USB-2 or USB-3 drive, but for my money, HDD is best!
I'm not going to give you chapter and verse on download and installation, mainly because Ubuntu do it so well! Really, check out their website. Simply select your preferred alternative and follow the instructions.
If you're still a little nervous, simply download and burn a copy to CD and next time I'll walk you through the installation process, screen-by-screen. I'll also show you how to default to your preferred operating system on boot, and -- heaven forbid -- deinstall Linux if you hate it.