If I may, I would point you down the path I took getting to know Linux.
Step 1- To answer your first question, let me point you to http://www.linuxiso.org
where you can find download links to the most popular distributions (distro for short). Yes, try a Live CD first- Knoppix is the most popular and hence, the most updated. As mentioned, it runs off of the CD so you can give linux a 'test drive'. No, it doesn't cost you money, but for your convenience, you can buy CD's, Books, etc. that will make things easier. You will have to pay for (and probably already have) a good net connection to download all those humongous .iso files and some CD-r's to burn them on. What it will really
cost you is Time.
Step 2- If Knoppix or some other live distro turns your crank and you want more, your next step is to start reading
. Really. A lot. Reading about it prepared me for the harsh reality of having a Linux system in my face. When the forum regulars start ranting "RTFM" they mean it. I've seen too many forum posts along the lines of 'Linux $ux0Rz- it doesn't do (insert desired task) followed up by "RTFM!" and "Yes it does, just (insert techie explanation here that could be answered by doing a little research)". Trust me, be prepared. Read about the "guts" of Linux so you know exactly what you're dealing with; the command line interface, the tools available from there, filesystem, man pages (Linux's version of 'help'). Go to your library and see what Linux books they have. They will probably have a Red Hat book (an ok place to start) get that one and if they have a Debian book or The Linux Cookbook or Linux in a Nutshell definitely get those (FYI Knoppix is an offshoot of Debian
and now Ubuntu
). Go for the free Linux books available on the 'net. There's a whole lot to read atThe Linux Documentation Project
, look under "Guides"and "HowTo's". I highly recommend 'Introduction to Linux - A Hands on Guide' by Machtelt Garrels. It's a tad old, but still relevant and info-packed Edit:
(has recently been updated). Also Learn Unix in Ten Minutes
is a short, great read. And while you've got your Knoppix system up and running, read the howto's and help files there. Figure out a few mundane things like setting up an internet connection, printing, etc. Go to theKnoppix Forum
or your friend Google will give you a zillion hits to whatever questions you might have.
3- Now that your head is exploding, play some more, get comfy with Knoppix (or any Live distro you may have chosen) and get ready to dive in headfirst.
When going dual-boot:
-Rule 1: Install Windows first. If you install second, Windows will get all 200-pound gorilla on you and wipe out whatever you have going. Linux plays nice and happily goes to the corner you send it to.
-Rule 2: Find out what Lilo
are and choose which one you would rather use as a boot loader, which is what will let you choose between Windows and Linux at boot-time.
-Rule 3: Learn about re-partitioning (if you don't already know) what it is and how to do it as safely as possible to make room for Linux. Learn about and choose a filesystem to format your new partition with. NTFS support is incomplete in Linux as yet, but there are many workarounds so stay tuned.
-Rule 4: If at any point, you are not sure you know what you are doing, stop and read some more, ask more questions and maybe consider doing this whole process on a "play" box, a computer you don't mind making mistakes on. Don't put the screws to your working box with your really important files on it unless you've backed them all up and are ready to give Windows the heave-ho.
4- If all goes well and you have a working Linux system that successfully dual-boots to Windows (if that's how you have it set up...) then pat yourself on the back, go out and do something with a friend or a group of friends entirely not involving computers for at least a few hours. I have found that Linux auto-installs cobwebs in my head and I found that a beachcombing session or a hike in the woods or a dip in a cool swimming hole clears them out pretty good. Welcome to Linux. Buy a bumper sticker.