Give yourself the gift of freedom this holiday season

You may be getting ready for the holidays with some time away from the workaday world.  If you are the type of person who has the discipline to just shut down the computer and walk away for days or weeks, then good for you!  However, if you’re like me you may want to tinker and quietly play with a few things in the midst of the holiday chaos.  This is a great chance to experiment with the world of open source.

I know many people who say that they were interested in checking out Linux, but just didn’t have time to do anything during their work-day world.  Well… if you have some tinker time, why not check it out during the holidays?  You don’t have to do anything to your existing system.  Simply boot off of one of the Live CDs which are available for download.  The Live CD will bring your system up under Linux and connect you to the Internet.

One downside of this is that you won’t be able to save anything about your configuration, because everything will be running from the CD, which can’t save any data.  You might use a thumb (USB) drive to save a few things if you wish.  The point now isn’t to do a lot of major configuration.  You can do that if you decide to try a more permanent installation.  Here we’re just doing a test-drive and exploring what the different tools do.

There are three major Linux distributions that recommend:

  • Ubuntu Live CD.  I’ve been working with Ubuntu for a while and it is my personal favorite for desktop use.  Their package system is just so easy to use and provides a lot of automatic guidance for dependancies and such.  The only drawback is that some commercial software my not support Ubuntu yet.  That could force your hand.  Every once in a while I get a little confused about how to configure Ubuntu for some of the more geeky things that I want to do, but that shouldn’t be an issue for a test drive, and there are solutions for all those things if you decide to adopt it.
  • OpenSuse is the community version of Novell’s Suse Linux.  It’s the environment that I ran for a few years before I moved to Ubuntu.  OpenSuse is RPM based and will likely be compatible with most commercial packages– though they may only officially support the commercial edition.  I like Suse’s approach to Linux.  The configuration is pretty easy and it has a good online update facility.  If you know that your work environment is using Novell (Suse) Linux this would be a good choice to explore.
  • Fedora is the community version of Redhat.  I started on Redhat ages back, but eventually migrated to OpenSuse.  Redhat is generally well supported by commercial applications, though, again, they may require the commercial edition.  If you know that your work environment is using Redhat, Fedora may be a good choice to explore.

When you download and burn the CD, you will simply boot from it to activate Linux.  It’s likely that all of your hardware will be automatically detected.  You’ll be able to surf the net and experiment with different tools without having to do any reconfiguration of your system.  If you decide that you like Linux then you’re ready for the next step which is an installation.  All the Live CDs are capable of installing Linux on a local device.  You can even install on an external USB drive.

This is a great chance to explore Linux, and it will give you something fun to do if things get a little crazy and you need a breather.

Happy Holy Days!

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