How to Try a New Operating System
Did you know that you can try out the Linux operating system at no cost and without installing it on your hard drive just for fun? Linux comes as a “live” distribution meaning that it runs from a boot disk over the top of, but not using your present OS.
In other words, you put it on a DVD or a thumb drive as an ISO, reset your computer boot order if necessary, and try it!
You hear a lot of talk about a Linux OS called Ubuntu and how easy it is to run. For a beginner, this is only partially true. Most beginners want everything to work easily right from the start. Ubuntu is missing any proprietary type of media player including flash. Although it is easy to remedy this, if you really want out of the box, I suggest that you try Linux Mint.
Mint comes prepackaged with integrated proprietary or patented media codecs. That way you can use Firefox out of the box, and go watch CNN or YouTube with little or no hassle.
Mint recognizes wired and wireless networks, and most wireless cards work with it.
If you use the DVD method of trying this out, be certain to understand that it runs very very slowly. Put in the DVD, start the computer and come back in about 6 minutes. Your desktop will await you. The usb flash is much faster!
One of my favorite things about Linux has always been the workspace changer. If you are productivity oriented, there is absolutely nothing like this. It gives you multiple total desktops at the click of a button. I have kept separate ones for browsing, writing, command line, and photo editing. They can be set up so that each one has its own wallpaper, and its own programs running in the taskbar. You can configure each taskbar with what you want running. You can even run the same program in more than one workspace. For example if you are listing something on ebay you can have your browser open in one workspace to allow you to do research, you can have office and the listing work area in another, and you can be editing photos in another, and have your email up too. I have even kept one up with nothing on it but a slide show of my favorite relaxing photos.
Another thing to try out is right clicking on the taskbar and choosing the ‘add to panel button’. There are a lot of helpful tools in there- a few of which can be seen in the photo.
There are many things in there including a drawer you can stuff recent work into (see it outlined on the bottom of the picture) , and a force quit button that allows you to kill a misbehaving application.
Going to the main menu allows you choices of places, system, and applications. Places allows you access to your main computer drives (not recommended for beginners as you can delete a Windows system file by accident). System allows you access to the package manager (software installation tool for Linux), the command terminal, and the control center which allows you to set such personal preferences as wallpapers, and even how your keyboard responds to your touch. Applications gives you access to just about everything available.
Gimp, in the graphics section, is an amazing photo editor very similar to PhotoShop.
Like it? Want to install it? Exit. After you back up all your personal stuff, and be certain you have your Windows rescue disk ready along with a rescue partition and/or Windows DVD. Then you can reboot and hit the install button. It will give you a choice to keep your present system intact and have a dual boot. I’ve rarely seen anything go wrong here, but it can, so I suggest you be prepared. To me a much better choice is to install it in a virtual machine in Windows while you learn- an excellent solution. You can find these free online. Virtual Box is one of the better ones.
There are thousands upon thousands of programs available for Linux including Windows emulators for those programs you cannot find anywhere else except for Windows.
All else said and done, Linux is an exceptional operating system. Android is derived from it as was Mac originally. There is definitely a learning curve to it however, and it does take time to become reasonably proficient. Last, but not least, if you are running Windows XP, this might be an alternative for you rather than to buy a new operating system. Downloading and using Linux is free. If you don’t want to download it and set up an ISO, you can always go looking for it on ebay. It comes either in usb flash or DVD form.