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Try Linux

If you'd like to boot Windows right out of your life, it may be time for you to try Linux. Ubuntu Linux is an easy-to-use Linux version (called a "distribution" by those in the know). And the easiest way to get started is with a Live CD--a version of the OS that boots and runs straight from CD, so you don't have to install anything on your hard drive.

To start, download the CD image for the Live CD version of Ubuntu. Burn this disc image to a CD-R disc using a program such as ISO Recorder. If you can't download the 632MB file, Ubuntu will send you a disc for free.

Next, reboot your system and go into PC Setup, also known as the BIOS; you usually do this by pressing a certain key shown in the first screen you see when you turn the system on. Look for the boot sequence; if necessary, change it so that your CD drive comes before your hard drive. Save the changes, reboot the PC, and insert the Ubuntu Live CD.

You should see the Ubuntu logo and a 'Boot:' prompt; press Enter to boot into Linux. After Linux loads and configures your hardware, you'll see the X Window screen, a user interface to Linux that works a bit like Windows. You can access programs from the Applications menu (Ubuntu comes with the open-source productivity suite OpenOffice 2 preinstalled), and you can reach the Internet by selecting Applications, Internet, Firefox.

If you decide you like Linux, you can install the OS alongside Windows to create a dual-boot system that runs either. Our resident Linux guru Matthew Newton offers more insight into Ubuntu in his column. Also, read his take on the pros and cons of the competing KDE and Gnome Linux desktops, and his review of the free Xfce desktop environment for Linux.

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