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Some facts about downloading Linux

Linux, together with a set of GNU programs, is an operating system. That is, Linux is not a single program or a suite of tools. Most "versions" of Linux, known as "distributions", are available to download free of charge. However, there are some things you should know about downloading and installing Linux:

First, you don't have to actually install Linux in your hard disk to use the Linux operating system. There exist several "versions" of Linux that can be downloaded and burned to a CD. These variants of the Linux operating system, known as "Live CD" versions, will boot Linux directly from the CD on systems that are capable of doing this. (most PCs manufactured in the last 7 to 8 years will allow this). Memory requirements vary, so please consult our list of Live CD distributions on our distributions page (choose the option 'Live CD' from the 'Category' menu). There are several popular Live CD distributions, such as MEPIS, Knoppix and Slax. Most major Linux distributors (SUSE, Mandriva, Ubuntu) also offer Live CD versions of their products.

If you're interested in running Linux indefinitely or permanently, you can also download versions designed to be installed on your hard disk. Here is some information you should know.

  • You should have a high-speed Internet connection (T3, T1, xDSL, cable modem). Trying to download a major vendor's version of Linux will most likely be a frustrating experience with a dial-up modem connection.
  • You'll need the ISO images or a DVD image for the distribution you want to download which you must then copy or "burn" into a CD or DVD.
  • If you already run another operating system, you must re-partition your hard disk in order to install a "standard" Linux distribution.
  • When you download Linux from the Internet. You are not entitled to that particular distributor's technical support. You will have to look for the documentation that you need in order to resolve any problems you might run into or seek appropriate help on websites or in other Internet forums.

    In other words, if you don't have a high-speed connection to Internet or a drive that writes to blank CDs or DVDs, then downloading is probably not the best way for you to get a full-featured Linux distribution. You can, though, depending on your location, get Linux free in magazines or from retailers that will sell you a distribution on one or more CDs at very low cost. Distributions obtained in this way do not usually include documentation or support. There are also many books that include a Linux distribution.

    If you don't know how to partition a hard disk or you have very little experience with installing and maintaining an operating system, you can still install Linux fairly easily by purchasing a boxed set. In this case, the cost of Linux system increases, but on the other hand, you will be provided full documentation, step by step installation instructions and in many cases free technical support for up to 90 days by phone or e-mail.

    If you're still not quite sure you want to make the leap to Linux, you may want to at least get a feel for how it looks. This can be as simple as using your favorite Internet browser. Both OSDir.com and Linuxquestions.org have screenshot galleries that will give you an idea of the look and feel of many Linux distributions. This can be helpful when choosing which version of Linux is right for you.

    Regardless of the way in which you obtain a Linux distribution, we at Linux Online feel that switching to Linux will be a positive experience. You will see your knowledge of computing increase at the same time as your productivity. You will be able to do much more with your computer and at a fraction of the cost of proprietary operating systems.

    For more information, we also recommend you read our Linux Online FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) and our page: So You Want to Use Linux? which talks about Linux migration.

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