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I Need Linux!

[ Linux ] Thanks to a complete (and I mean complete) collection of screenshots graciously sent in by Brent Terrazas, I have been enlightened as to my need for Linux. Looking over the screenshots, I see a great deal of variation — more so than any of the Mac or PC browsers at my disposal — in terms of how designs are rendered on various Linux-driven browsers. The obsessive-compulsive designer in me suddenly sees an incredible need for my own Linux setup — not only for design-testing and cross-browser compatibility purposes, but also because I have always wanted to learn the ways of the Jedi..

A long time ago, I had a copy of Red Hat something or other setup on a dual-partitioned laptop, but that has long since vanished into the ether. I still have those old Red Hat installation disks, but I am certain that there is a much better solution available and would prefer to go with something as current and flexible as possible. So my question to you is, what is the best way to go for setting up with Linux? I currently own three machines: a Sony Vaio running Windows, a Macbook running OS X, and an old trusty laptop PC running, yes you guessed it, Windows 98SE. Is it ideal (or possible) to setup Linux on one of these existing systems? Or would it be better to invest in a new computer (I think it would, but my wife would probably disagree) for the purpose of learning and using Linux? I have read about thumb drives and CD-based Linux operating systems as well; any advice on those?

And then, and most importantly, what is the best version of Linux (preferably open-source) currently available? I realize that I am probably opening a big fat can of worms by asking these questions, but I prefer to get input from people with whom a mutual resonance has been established, namely, my readers. Plus, assuming that I succeed in setting something up, I will be sharing Linux-related information here at Perishable Press, so whichever Linux version I end up with is the one that you will probably be reading about (from time to time). So chime in with your thoughts — I trust your advice and look forward to your hearing your ideas about this.

Jeff Starr
About the Author Jeff Starr = Web Developer. Book Author. Secretly Important.
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18 responses
  1. The free Intro to Linux book is a great place to start
    http://www.ischool.utexas.edu/mirrors/LDP/LDP/intro-linux/html/index.html

    Distrowatch lists all distros with download links
    http://distrowatch.com/

    Linux Documentation Project
    Many free book length guides
    http://www.ischool.utexas.edu/mirrors/LDP/mirrors.html

    Redhat has the best manuals and docs for any RPM based distribution
    http://www.redhat.com/docs/manuals/enterprise/

    Linux From Scratch lets you build your own OS
    https://www.ischool.utexas.edu/mirrors/LDP/LDP/lfs/LFS-BOOK-6.1.1-HTML/index.html

    The Gentoo Handbook is another invaluable community resource
    http://www.gentoo.org/doc/en/handbook/index.xml

    Hope this helps!

  2. Jeff Starr

    Thanks, Neal — that will definitely get me going in the right direction! :)

  3. Thomas Ingram October 18, 2008 @ 5:07 am

    If you just want to get up and running quick to check it out, or if you don’t care to learn (m)any things about Linux, try Ubuntu. They have a very nice live cd installer, meaning you can boot from the cd into a working desktop without touching the hard drive.

    On the other hand, if you are wanting to get your hands dirty, and plan on using the system for some time, please at least check out Arch Linux. It doesn’t have a fancy GUI installer, but the benefits of choosing Arch do include long-term stability and ease of upgrade/maintainence (among others). The package manager (Pacman) for Arch is the best one I’ve ever used. Plus it only installs exactly what you want.

    In the end use what makes you happy. The great thing about Linux is choice. Try several, and use the one you like best.

  4. Jeff Starr

    Great advice, Thomas — thank you for pointing out Arch Linux. I think I will start with Ubuntu, and then move into heavier waters with Arch after I have a good handle on the basics. I do plan on spending some time with Linux in the long run (would eventually like to drop Windoze), but for the short-term, I just need a way to test designs on Linux-powered browsers. Thanks again for the input — much appreciated!

  5. I didn’t see this comment yet, but if you would like to try Linux (relatively) hassle free, try WUBI (http://wubi-installer.org/devel/minefield/). It allows dual booting without the trouble of reformatting, yet doesn’t reside in a virtual machine.

    BTW, I really love the tips you provide here.

  6. Jeff Starr

    Thanks, Wingman — will definitely check it out! Cheers! :)

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