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You Can Switch to Linux!

I've written about Linux in Maximum PC quite a bit over the last three years. You see, I'm intrigued by the prospect of a free, open operating system, one that's available for everyone to use and modify to suit their own purposes. Rather than a monolithic operating system vendor telling me that Iím not allowed to do something, there's an entire community of developers who are working to make whatever features I want possible! To me, thatís the essence of what computing should be about ó enabling choice.

Which brings me to the biggest problem with Linux: the paralyzing number of choices every user must make. There are literally tens of thousands of apps for Linux, ranging from vital software that every end user needs ó web browsers, word processors, and Wi-Fi drivers ó to the very trivial. Frequently, youíll find 15 applications that do exactly the same thing, so youíll need to experiment and discover which is best suited for you.

Writing a comprehensive Linux guide is a daunting process ó and largely unnecessary. The Linux community does a great job of documenting most of its software, whether it's the developers actually writing docs or the end users figuring things out and sharing the acquired info with their pals. All the information you need to get running is out there, if you know what to search for on Google, that is.

And that's where I come in. Books have been written with solutions for all the potential pitfalls the Linux-switcher faces. However, those books are outdated the moment a new version of Linux is released. Instead of just telling you what to do, Iím going to tell you how to do things and explain why you're doing them. I'm going to focus on the things that are truly a challenge (and poorly documented), but still give you a head start on the easy stuff.

Before you get started, you need to be prepared to be your own support system. While you can usually get help with Linux problems on different message boards on the web, before you do that, you need to make the effort to solve your own problems. Linux DIYers donít have much sympathy for people who donít make an effort to help themselves.

Getting Started

With modern tools, getting Linux on your hard drive is simple - at least compared to the bad old days. If you're like me, you've probably installed Linux a few times, mucked around with it for an hour or two, changed the theme, and maybe browsed the web a little. Then, when it was time to work, you jumped back to Windows, and all was right with the world.

Things are much easier now than they were in the early days of Debian, Slackware, and Red Hat. Modern distros such as Ubuntu and SUSE LED install with crucial applications (web browser, photo editor, email client, word processor, etc.) and support for most hardware out of the box. With Ubuntu, you can boot off the CD to determine whether or not your rig will work with the OS before you make a single change to the hard drive. You can tell if you're going to have a problem before you hose your system, which is always a good thing.

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