THE MAGAZINE

New in Plain Text : Test Driving Linux

By Peter Piazza

Every time you install a new program onto your computer, there is some risk that the program will not play nicely with the rest of the applications you’re running. So imagine the risks of installing a new operating system to see how it works.

There are none—if you rely on a new book by David Brickner. Test Driving Linux: From Windows to Linux in 60 Seconds comes with a CD loaded with a distribution of Linux called Move. Put the CD in the drive, restart your computer, and Linux will boot from the CD, installing nothing on your hard drive, so there’s no risk of files clashing or being corrupted.

It takes a few minutes for Move to load—that’s the drawback to having an operating system running from a CD—but once it’s running, it is as responsive as Windows. The graphical user interface, known as KDE, looks a lot like Windows, too. As Brickner notes, “KDE is designed so that users of other operating systems will feel right at home.”

Brickner walks users through every aspect of Move and the KDE desktop, from surfing the Web to managing files to using OpenOffice.org, a word processing and spreadsheet program.

You’ll have plenty of opportunities to customize the KDE interface; for example, you can use multiple desktops so that you can switch environments (including the background image and desktop icons) at the click of the mouse. If you want to keep these changes, you’ll need to use a USB token to store your preferences. The advantage of this is that you can bring the CD and token to any computer and keep the same Linux desktop.

The only caveat—and it’s a big one—is that during my test, I couldn’t get the CD to load Move on my laptop, even after I followed the troubleshooting suggestions (such as removing my PCMCIA card while booting). While it worked flawlessly on my office desktop, “the version of Move included with this book is unsupported,” notes Brickner, so there’s no place to call for assistance if you run into similar problems.

The book is available from O’Reilly Media for $24.95.

 

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