A "macho" Linux user might just jump in and install a random Linux distribution on any available hardware. In contrast, a real Linux geek uses hard-learned knowledge to plan a Linux installation. A quality plan can help the geek manage the system throughout its life cycle. Once tested, that system can be replicated in the enterprise, saving cost and time. In this chapter I provide guidance that can help you harness your experience before you install.
The latest Linux distributions are easy to install on most modern hardware. I've found few annoyances within the installation routines for the Linux distributions I know. But there are related topics that merit careful attention. Ideally, every hardware component that you own is certified by the Linux distribution of your choice. But we live in the real world. For example, many geeks have to deal with bosses who want Linux installed on the cheapest possible laptops (translation: hardware that depends on Microsoft driver libraries with few available Linux drivers) with all the latest features, such as wireless support and working high-resolution displays.
The choice of Linux distributions can be difficult. Your manager may not have heard of your favorite distribution. If you choose a cost-free version of Linux, you generally have to download gigabytes of data, and "everyone" wants the latest distribution when it's released. While there are brand-name distributions that may get a corporate stamp of approval, they may also break your budget. Unless you can afford to rely exclusively on support from Red Hat or Novell/SUSE, you need to know how to interact with the Linux community in order to solve some of the annoyances I touch on in this book. While flames may seem to be the norm to many, there are several principles that can maximize the quality of response from the community, which I'll list at the end of the chapter.