This is not as hard you might think. You can keep your existing Windows® setup and still have Linux. There are a number of 'live' CD based distributions. These CDs will allow to try out Linux without installing it on your computer. I keep a number of them in my briefcase as emergency boot CD's. FYI, these CDs helped two people who had virus infections. It allowed me to safely boot their machine and copy their documents to a CD burner. If you want more info:
- Damn Small Linux - Great mini distribution. This comes with the basics and is an excellent way to see Linux work.
- DistroWatch - Link to all Linux distributions
- Knoppix - Excellent overall distro. Comes with all of tools (other than a virus scanner) you will need. Office package, CD Burner software, multimedia (XMMS - MP3 player), file manager. Can read Windows® drives (read only mode for HPFS file systems).
We use Mandrake Linux on two of our machines at home. Jane does not ever want to go back to using Windows®. My work in supporting Jane has also gone down as the machine is not crashing on a regular basis (actually it has never crashed since I converted her in 2003), no need to update our virus scanner or firewall on a regular basis (sometimes daily in our other Windows® machines during a bad virus outbreak). The only thing I need to do is to regularly check for patches and install them (Mandrake 10.1 has a piece of software that sits in my task bar and lets me know when there are patches). I regularly have a browser, email, XMMS (MP3 player) and K3B (CD Burner) running all at the same time without noticably slowing down the machine. Linux also has virtual desktops so we can organize our work on multiple screens (this has to be seen to be understood and appreciated).You have a number of desktop environments to choose from. Jane prefers KDE. I use XFCE as it is a small and light environment and allows me to run both KDE and Gnome software.
What is on My Linux box:
- Amarok to play MP3;
- Doom - Good games are available;
- Firefox Browser - Built-in pop-up blocker and other great features;
- Gaim - IM for Hotmail and ICQ;
- GFTP - File Transfer Protocol program;
- GIMP - Image manipulation;
- GQView - Image viewer;
- GTK-Gnutella - a P2P application;
- J-Pilot - Interface with my Palm Pilot;
- K3B - CD Burner software;
- MC - Midnight commander. Similar to Norton Commander;
- MPlayer - Plays movies;
- Open Office;
- Screem Web development environment;
- Scribus - DTP;
- SMB4K - Allows my Linux box to talk to my Windows file server;
- Thunderbird mail;
- XSANE - Frontend to my USB scanner;
- and a large number of other packages!
Is Linux perfect? No, but, it is much more stable and secure right out of the box. It comes with a large number of free software packages. It is almost at the point where a person who is using Windows® can convert themselves over to Linux without any help.