Monday, 3 March 2008

Where to run Linux?

Ok I've decided to have a go with Linux, but where should I install it and what options are there, bearing in mind that I don't really want to burn all my bridges with windows (yet)?

There are a number of options:
  • Run Linux from a Live CD (leaves your Windows machine untouched)
  • Install on a second separate machine (make mine a Linux)
  • Make my machine a dual boot machine
  • Run inside Windows
I'm having a punt at all of these so I'll note a bit more on each option

Live CD
This straight forward enough as long as the machine's BIOS is set to boot from a CD-ROM before its hard drive. If it doesn't work straight off, most live CDs appear to offer you some command line options to try to get it to work. Based on a couple of runs at this I've found that the main draw back with the live CD is if your hardware is not a good match with the default configuration on the CD, you cant get full use of the system. For instance I could not get the full screen resolution running a live CD. Also may of the live CDs do not have the codecs for MP3 (since the mp3 codecs are not truly open source), so you cant listen to music. Some time in the future I might have a go at the run from memory stick thing to see if that will overcome this limitation.

Install on a separate machine
This may be the simplest safest option initially, until you get comfortable with Linux. Not only do you not risk your Windows machine, you also have the option of using your windows machine to browse the internet for support if you break Linux.

Dual Boot machine
If you have enough space on your hard drive or can add in a second one, this may be the best option. Ubuntu installer holds your hand very well when making a machine into a dual boot machine. More about this in a later post.

Running Inside Windows
There are a number of ways to approach this. The two key options here are running inside a virtual machine or running a distribution designed to run inside a running windows installation. From what I've been able to make out the distributions designed to run within windows are modified versions of Linux where the Linux kernel is run within a windows service and the storage is all held in a big file in the windows storage. I've decided to use VMware to run a linux virtual machine to play with this idea. I'm going to avoid the 'modified for windows' distributions as they are not standard (if there is such a thing with Linux) and I want to learn about the OS in as real a situation as I can. I've chosen VMware as I'm familiar with VMware from Running Windows Server in it, VMware also appears to be the best option if the host OS is Windows, and last but not least its free.

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