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Getting Started w/ Linux  RSS feed

 
Ray Marsh
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I have an old Pentium 120 PC w/ 16mb ram and a 500mb hd. Is that enough to tinker around with Linux?
Also, what is the recommended way to get started?
The extent of my Linux knowledge is... I can spell it!
Thanks in advance.
 
Frank Carver
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The processor is fine, but the RAM and Disk are a little small. Linux can run quite happily on such a machine, but you probably won't be able to choose a "typical" install on many current distributions.
As a bit of background, Linux is free, and consists of a "kernel" and lots of associated programs. Many of these associated programs are what might be considered integral parts of other systems (command-line interfaces, device drivers, GUIs, filing systems etc.) as well as applications, servers, programming tools, games and so on. Because there are so many optional parts, Linux can be configured in an almost infinite number of ways. Rather than face that, most people use a "distribution" which someone else has put together. There are hundreds of available distributions, some of the better known ones are Red Hat, Debian, Caldera, SuSE, Mandrake and Corel. For getting to know Linux, any distribution will do, but be prepared to change once you have a better idea of the strengths and weaknesses of the various distributions and how they match your needs.
If you know anyone locally who has a Linux system, the cheapest way to try it is to borrow an installation CD and have a go. Unlike commercial software, most distributions actively encourage users to share CDs, so don't feel that you might be "pirating" it.
If you can't borrow a CD, there are plenty of suppliers who offer the latest distributions very cheaply (less than $5). Do a net search for "cheap linux" or something similar. Don't feel tempted to pay a lot more for corporate packaging and "support", the basic product is just the same.
You may find that you have problems installing Linux on a machine with a small RAM and disk size, but if you go with the absolute minimum installation to start with, you can then try adding extra stuff as you go along. Don't install X-Windows, GUIs, games, office applications and other big stuff at first.
Don't give up. My first Linux box was a 486 with 8MB RAM and 200MB disk and it worked fine as a web server for several years. Remember that there are some Linux distributions which run in 8MB or less or even fit on a single floppy disk!
 
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