Included with this book is a full-featured Linux distribution called Knoppix.
Knoppix is a Debian-based Linux distribution that runs entirely from your PC's CD-ROM drive (though slower than if you actually install Linux). That's right. You can run Linux on your system without having to change your system or uninstall Windows.
This CD is full of great software, some of which I will be covering in this book. You'll have access to email applications, Web browsers, word processors, spreadsheets, games, and more. In fact, you should be able to follow along with this book and do many though not all of the things I talk about without having to install Linux at all. The bootable CD is a fantastic introduction, but there are limitations.
The first limitation is one I have already mentioned, but it bears mentioning again. The CD does run much slower than a hard-disk install, so keep in mind that the performance you experience from the CD is not indicative of the performance you can experience from a Linux hard-disk install. At their fastest, CD-ROM drives are no match for even the slowest hard disk drive. Furthermore, because this bootable Linux does not install itself on your hard drive, you are limited to the packages on the CD. In other words, you can't add or install any new software. If you are truly ready to make the move to Linux, consider installing a full distribution, a topic I will cover in the next two chapters.
Want to Try Linux Right Now?
Loading Knoppix is easy.
Take your CD and insert it into your CD-ROM drive. Shut down Windows, and select Restart. Make sure your PC is set to boot from the CD. Knoppix boots up to a nice, graphical screen with a simple boot: prompt, from which you can simply press <Enter> and let Knoppix do the rest; this is an amazingly simple install.
The boot process is all text, but it is certainly colorful because Knoppix identifies devices, disks, sound cards, and so on in different colors. At some point, the screen will go dark as your video card is configured and X, the Linux graphical user interface, is started. If the screen doesn't respond instantly, don't panic. Give it a few seconds. If nothing has happened even after you've waited a while, it is possible that your video card is one of the rare ones not included in the distribution. Never fear, most (if not all) modern cards support VESA. Reboot and type the following at the boot prompt.
Once the system has booted, you can start playing with Knoppix. You can speed things up a bit right off the bat by letting Knoppix create a swap file in your Windows partition. This won't hurt anything on your system. All it does is allow Linux to use some of your disk space as though it were real memory. That is what we mean by swap space. Doing this is easy. Click on KDE's program launcher (the big K in the lower left-hand corner), and move your cursor up to the KNOPPIX entry in the menu. There are four submenus here; one of them is Configure; under that menu, you'll see an entry labeled SWAP file configuration. Click this option, and you'll get a nice little warning that you are about to create a file named knoppix.swp on your existing DOS (Windows) partition. Click Yes, after which you'll be asked for the size of your swap file in megabytes. What qualifies as a good size depends on how much real memory you already have, but taking the default is probably a good bet.
While we are busy looking at the Configure menu, notice that you can configure a printer and sound card, as well (both local and network connected).
Before I move on, I'd like to point out one final item on this KNOPPIX menu, Save KNOPPIX configuration. As you go along, you'll be making some changes, such as configuring printers or setting up your network. Using this menu option, you can save all of these configuration details to a diskette. The next time you boot Knoppix, make sure the diskette is in your drive and enter this command at the boot prompt:
One of the other items under the KNOPPIX menu is Network/Internet. From here, you can setup an ADSL/PPPOE connection (for your local phone company's high-speed service), a dial-up modem, a network card, and so on. For network access, simply choose whatever makes sense for your setup, and answer the questions that follow. I will be covering Internet access and network tools later in the book.
I'm going to leave the discussion of Knoppix right here. Using this bootable Linux and this book, you should be able to get a pretty good handle on Linux without sacrificing your system but at some point, you will want to go further. Although you could just skip to Chapter 4 and continue with your introduction to Linux, you might still want to read the other two chapters. They discuss where and how to get a full Linux distribution and how to install it.