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by Gary

There are compelling reasons for Windows users to switch to (or at least evaluate) Linux, but when you know no other world than Windows or don’t want to even think about partitioning your precious hard drive, it can be one heck of a leap of faith! As a Windows user wanting to try Linux but scared of losing the world as I knew it, I found a risk-free method of trying Linux without threatening the installation of Windows safely installed on my PC.

Mandriva Move and Knoppix are two different flavours of Linux that reside entirely on a bootable LiveCD. Mandriva Move or Knoppix are not installed on your hard drive, they actually run from the CD without touching or threatening your Windows operating system in any way. This allows scaredy cats like me to experiment with Linux until my heart is content, then eject the CD and return to my Windows safety blanket just as I left it.

Mandriva Move (formerly known as ‘Mandrake’ Move) and Knoppix are both FREE of charge. You can download either of them (more on that in a moment) or find them on the cover CD of a computer magazine at your news stand. Current versions of both use Linux-Kernel 2.6 (the latest version) and KDE 3.2 (a Windows-style interface), as well as OpenOffice.org (a free Microsoft Office alternative). Internet browsing is via Konqueror amongst other choices, and MSN / ICQ / Yahoo Instant Messenger users can still chat to their buddies using Kopete. A comprehensive range of multimedia and other programs are also included, allowing you to perform most common online / offline tasks.

To give this scaredy cats introduction to Linux a go, you need to:

  • Download Mandriva Move or Knoppix (about 700MB);
  • Burn it to CD; and
  • Try it.

The downloads are free, but 700MB is a big ask unless you have a high-speed internet connection (hence dial-up users need to be really patient or spend a few dollars at the news stand on a Linux magazine with a cover CD). For the uninitiated, downloading either version requires a tiny bit of guidance to ensure you find the right file.

Firstly, the download is a single file with a .iso extension. Copies of the ISOs are downloaded from public FTP mirrors, which also offer you the option of using BitTorrent if that takes your fancy.

To download Mandriva Move visit the download page and scroll to the bottom. You want to follow the link in the table under the heading “Download from public FTP mirrors”. Scroll way down the page until you find the heading “Mandriva Linux Move Download Edition ISO image for i586 and higher processors” and select a mirror close to your part of the world. The subsequent page will show you a link to “Mandrakelinux-Move.i586.iso”, which is the file you want to save.

Knoppix is much the same to download. From the Knoppix Mirrors page pick one close to your location, then you need to find the correct file. At the time of writing the most recent version of Knoppix was v3.9, so I scrolled to the file “KNOPPIX_V3.9-2005-05-27-EN.iso” checking the language (EN is English, DE is German) and the file size (in the order of 700MB). Download the .iso file to your hard drive.

Once you have your .iso file you need to burn it to a CD. This couldn’t be easier using Nero or Easy CD Creator to turn your .iso into a fully bootable CD. Assuming you have one of these programs simply fire it up, select File / Open from the menu, navigate to your .iso file [if you can't see your .iso file simply change "File type" to "all files (*.*)"], and open it. From there the program will burn a bootable CD for you. A more detailed set of instructions can be found at LinuxISO.org. Note: Don’t fall into the trap of simply copying the .iso file onto a CD; you need to actually open the .iso from within your burning program as described above.

Finally, the magical moment for trying Linux. With your freshly-burnt CD inserted, shutdown / restart your PC. Upon start-up your new version of Linux will fire up, detecting your hardware and preparing itself for use. While this happens all information is being saved as RAM not ROM, which is another way of saying that nothing is being written to your hard drive and your Windows installation remains completely untouched.

There is only one way to go from this point, and that is to answer set-up questions, follow your nose, and don’t be afraid to try. You will see a Windows-style interface that functions with a Start menu like you are used to. Go for it – there is very little that can go wrong.

When you have had enough simply shut-down and eject the CD to get back to Windows. After some experimenting and learning you should be primed to research Linux further and see what you’ve been missing out on while you were wallowing in the Windows world!








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