Try Linux

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There are several ways to get started with Linux and Open Source software. Here are a few ways to get your feet wet without taking the plunge of a full Linux installation on your system.

1 - Try Open Source Software

You can get acquainted with open source software without installing the Linux operating system. Some of the most popular open source packages, like Open Office and GIMP can be run on Windows and Apple/Macintosh computers. Here is a list of programs you can try from your current operating system.
Open Office Office suite including word processor, spreadsheet and presentation apps
LibreOffice Office suite including word processor, spreadsheet and presentation apps
GIMP Photoshop-like image editor
Blender High quality video editor
Audacity Music/Audio editor
Firefox Web browser
Thunderbird Email client
VLC Audio/Video and media player.

2 - Try Linux without Installing

There are many "Live" Linux distributions that let you install and run Linux from a CD or USB stick. That way you boot your computer into Linux without touching your current installation. When you are finished, simply shut down your computer, remove the CD or USB drive and reboot. Your compute will be right back to your old OS.

There are several good "Live" versions. We suggest Ubuntu, Linux Mint Fedora and Puppy Linux (Click here for links). The Linux Foundation recommends The Five Best Linux Live CDs. Click Here for that link. There is also The Linux Live Creator, a utility to make a live Linux version from the distribution of your choice.

3 - Install Linux

We will write about taking the plunge real soon. Below is a list of some Linux distributions we have tried or played with.

Distro_____ ________ Description_______________
Arch "Arch Linux is a lightweight and general purpose, flexible Linux distribution that tries to Keep It Simple. It is an independently developed, GNU/Linux distribution that is versatile enough to suit any role." Arch is definitely a "roll your own" Linux distribution, better suited for people familiar with Linux in the command line.
Debian Debian is one of then oldest Linux distributions. It makes an Ideal server and generally uses the most bug free, stable (old) software packages. While Debian can be easily installed on most desktop and laptop computers it is better suited for more experienced Linux users.
Fedora Fedora is the workstation distribution of Red Hat Enterprise version of Linux. It uses the "K" Desktop Environment (KDE) which is considered by many to be a highly developed user interface with many useful utilities. My experience would add that Fedora is better suited for use on newer more powerful machines.
Gentoo "Gentoo is a flexible, source-based Linux distribution that becomes just about any system you need." It is another "roll your own" Linux distribution that installs a base system and then lets you put together a custom system from their package system. Definitely for experienced Linux users.
Mint "The purpose of Linux Mint is to produce a modern, elegant and comfortable operating system which is both powerful and easy to use." Mint is very popular with Linux geeks because of their work on a new desktop environment called Cinnamon. Linux Mint is based on the Ubuntu distribution and offers a variety of desktop environments in their quest to satisfy a wide range of new users. Mint is easy to use and install and a good distribution for first time users.
Puppy Puppy is a very small, light weight Linux distribution that is perfect to run from a CD or USB. It has an easy to use, graphic interface and can be installed on a hard drive, so it's a good distribution for older hardware. I recommend running Puppy from a "live boot" CD or USB drive to check out Linux without installing it on your system.
Slackware Slackware Linux is an advanced Linux operating system, designed with the twin goals of ease of use and stability." Slackware is an old distribution that I have used on machines that would accept no other version of Linux.
Suse Suse Linux is another enterprise version of Linux, like Red Hat. Suse bought Novell a few years ago and is a German company. OpenSuse just released a new workstation distribution after a bunch of years. They have given it a version of 42.1 and it has gotten some good reviews. I would guess it is much like Fedora since Suse and Red Hat cater to the same clientele.
Ubuntu Ubuntu is probably the most popular end user Linux distribution. It runs on a wide variety of devices from desktop and laptop computers to phones and tablets. Its default desktop environment (Unity) has received criticism and a reason why many folks have moved to Linux Mint. Other Desktop environments can be installed but that takes a little work. Ubuntu is easy to install and use, and is highly recommended for new Linux users (especially if you can stomach the Unity DE).
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