Giving Linux a spin for the first time - Part 1

It hasn't always been easy to use Linux. Once upon a time, you had to meddle with text-based installers and really had to know the inner workings of how Linux works to get things up and running, so naturally, it's normal to be a bit daunted if you're thinking about giving Linux a try.

Thankfully, those days are long gone and now it's easier than ever to give Linux a try. You need almost no techie knowledge now to download an easy-to-use Linux distribution, burn it to a CD and give it a try (even if you don't want to install it just yet!).

Now, of course there are many distributions (different versions of Linux) that are good for this task, but we'll choose Ubuntu in this example because, well, it's popular, easy for newbies and it has an awesome system where you boot straight off the disc into a fully working OS, but you can install it as well if you want to, all from the same disc!

I'll also assume you're currently running Windows XP as your primary OS on a standard PC, and just want to take Linux for a spin, and don't want to commit to installing just yet (but remember, you can install Linux alongside Windows no problem if you want to later!).

System requirements

OK, what are we going to need? Windows users can check your specs by pressing Windows key + Pause/Break to bring up System Properties.

  • A computer with a fairly modern processor (Pentium III or later, or AMD Athlon should do fine - also anything over 600 MHz should run Ubuntu acceptably)
  • At very least 128 MB of RAM, but 192 MB is better and 256 MB and above are great!
  • A broadband internet connection to download the CD, or a house so they can send you a free CD

It's download time!

So, let's download the desktop disc of Ubuntu right now! There are, at the time of writing, two versions available. We're going to choose the older, but more stable and supported 6.06 version for this tutorial, but you should get virtually the same results if you choose 6.10.

Go to this page and choose a download location that's close to you. Once you click on that link, you'll be shown a page with a list of the different versions.

We need to choose the PC (Intel/x86) Desktop CD version (it's for Intel and AMD and all compatible processors, don't panic if you're not on an Intel chip!). Note that this is a full CD's worth of download, that's approximately 700 MB. That means you most definitely require a broadband connection, as it'll take just over 1 and a half hours on a 1mbit connection.

But hey, if you don't have broadband or don't want to download, the friendly Ubuntu folks will send you a CD to your house free of charge. Check out this site for details.

Burn, baby, burn!

Run that download through and you'll end up with a nice .iso file which you need to burn to a CD. But wait! Don't just copy the .iso file onto the CD, it's special and needs to be handled in a special way. If your CD burning software has a 'Burn Image' option, use that on the .iso file and burn it to a blank disc.

Don't panic if you can't find a 'Burn Image' option though, there's a freeware tool for Windows called ISO Recorder which will do the work for you.

Once you've got your new Ubuntu disc burnt and ready to go, it's time to get started!

Giving Ubuntu the first boot

Booting Ubuntu is generally a simple case of inserting your new shiny CD into the drive and restarting your computer. With a bit of luck, you should get going in no time.

However, if you run into trouble, take a look at the following steps (if it's working for you, skip to the next section!):

  • Check your computer is set up to allow booting from CDs. To do this you have to enter the BIOS (setup) of your computer. Unfortunately every computer's BIOS differs, so I can't give definitive instructions, but you probably have to press Delete, F2 or another key while your computer is starting up to get into the BIOS.
  • If it fails at first, give it a reboot and try again. Most boot problems are one-off hiccups in my experience, so give it a try again if it fails the first time.
  • If you still can't get in (seeing kernel panics?) then you might have some unsupported hardware. This should be quite rare, but post a comment below and hopefully the FOSSwire team can point you in the right direction. Alternatively, you can ask a question at the online Ubuntu support desk (remember be kind and provide as much info as you can - these guys don't get paid for helping you!)

So, now we're up and running in Ubuntu!

That's about it for Part 1, but keep watching this space for Part 2, coming very soon to FOSSwire! In Part 2 we'll look at exploring the Ubuntu interface and using the programs, and how to save your data when you're done.

Part 2 and Part 3 are now ready for you to read!

(Oh, if you're wondering, choose System > Quit to shut down Ubuntu. The system will shut down and the disc will then eject. Remove the disc and hit Enter to switch off your computer. Couldn't leave you without that - :P)

If you liked this tutorial, look out for more coming on FOSSwire. So why not subscribe via email, a feed reader of your choice, or via IM now to get the latest tutorials delivered to you!

Avatar for peter Peter Upfold -

Peter Upfold is a technology enthusiast from the UK. Peter’s interest in Linux stems back to 2003, when curiosity got the better of him and he began using SUSE 9.0. Now he runs Linux Mint 9 on the desktop, runs a CentOS-based web server from home for his personal website and dabbles in all sorts of technology things across the Windows, Mac and open source worlds.

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Discussion: Giving Linux a spin for the first time - Part 1

  1. # Posted on 12 January 2007 at 06:14 AM

    [...] Unlike some tutorials, it’s not necessary to have read Parts 1 and 2, but you can if you want as they’ve got some good background material and could help you a bit. [...]

  2. # Posted on 12 January 2007 at 06:14 AM

    [...] This post follows up from Part 1, so read that first if you haven’t already! [...]

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