Everything you always wanted to know about Linux, but were afraid to ask

* O'Reilly's "Test driving Linux: From Windows to Linux in 60 seconds"

If you haven't already done so, I'll bet you would really like to try out Linux, right? You want to see for yourself what all the hype and hoopla is about. But a couple of things have held you back, haven't they?

First, there's the time involved in installing and configuring a Linux distribution. The installation isn't for the faint of heart, either. Maybe you saw Nick Farrell's article in The Inquirer (U.K.) describing his problems with installing Linux (http://www.theinquirer.net/?article=22756). Then there's the need to find a machine to use, which you'll need to return to Windows after looking at the open source operating system. You probably don't have that many spare machines sitting around, do you?

No need to worry about those things anymore.

Tim O'Reilly and his merry band of publishers have just released, "Test driving Linux: From Windows to Linux in 60 seconds," a book and CD combination by David Brickner.

Note: This is not a typical "white cover with a picture of an animal" O'Reilly publication. (Browse to ftp://ftp.ora.com/pub/graphics/book_covers/hi-res/059600754X.jpg for a look at the cover.)

What you get is a bootable CD containing a fully configured Linux distribution called "Move", which is a customized version of the Mandrake distribution. (Mandrake recently changed its name to Mandriva, http://www.mandrakelinux.com/ .) Just insert the CD, turn on the computer, and in a few seconds you're running Linux. Nothing gets written to (or removed from) your hard drive. In fact, it's impossible to install the distribution to a hard drive. You can use a USB memory key to write configuration data so you can keep experimenting with Linux in between running the standard Windows desktop.

This is just a desktop version of Linux, so there are no server apps (mail servers, Web servers, etc.), and it is limited to the KDE desktop environment (no Gnome, which I like better because it's more "Windows-like"), but that's certainly enough to give you a taste of the Linux experience.

The 300-plus page book tells you all about Linux, the specific distribution on the CD, and the tools and utilities that are included. Best of all, it assumes you have no knowledge of Linux but are familiar with Windows (which describes lots of you, doesn't it?), so it explains things with few cryptic abbreviations and TLAs (three-letter acronyms) and uses terms familiar to most Windows users.

Head over to http://www.oreilly.com/catalog/tdlinux/ where you can see the table of contents and read a sample chapter. Then buy yourself a copy ($24.95 list price) from your favorite technical bookseller. It's interesting, enlightening, educational - and a bit of fun.

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