How to Experiment with Linux
I'm not a big fan of Fedora Core, despite how many people swear by it. But anything redhat has huge visability -- that's a major problem in my opinon.
If you want traditional 'enterprise' Red-Hat, go with Centos (a debranded version of RHEL).
This article is more oriented towards power windows users. My thoughts on the matter is that an inexperienced computer user familiar with windows is more likely to be unable to make the transition by themselves.
The subject of the email in question was a windows power user who wanted a version of linux that supported Firefox, flash and java, and wasn't sure what version of linux to use or how to install linux.
There are two ways to try linux now without needing to blow away a windows partition. The first is with a virtual machine and the vmware player. It lets you run 'virtual' computers which can use different operating systems. Most of the common distros are available in this form (FC, SUSE, Mandriva, Ubuntu/Kubuntu, Debian, Gentoo, Centos). It's a great way to get a feel for one, but at the same time it doesn't tell you whether the distro will support your hardware. And VMPlayer can get annoying during extended use.
That's where the live CDs come in.
I would recommend trying out Ubuntu and/or Kubuntu, at least one of Centos, Mandriva and SUSE, while Fedora Core and Debian are pretty much 'required reading'.
I'd recommend trying out different distributions from the list at VMTN ( http://www.vmware.com/vmtn/appliances/directory/ ) -- mostly the six I've mentioned but others if anyone feel up to it.
Just be aware that most of the things in the VMTN directory aren't distros -- they're 'appliances' in the sense that they're a version of a single piece of server software. So, stick to the distros (particularly the 'Desktop' installs, not the 'Server' ones).
Then, you can try out the live CDs for the distros you like best. Using a live CD is simple. Pop it into the CD drive, reboot the machine and boot from the CD. It's nondestructive to the data on the hard drive, and is a pretty good gauge of the distro's hardware support.
The best way to download any of these massive files, of course, is bittorrent.
If anyone decides to install Unbuntu/Kubuntu, I'd recommend also using a setup script for it called 'Automatix'. An article about it is located on linux.com
Once you've got a feel for using linux, then comes the time to install it. Preferably you've got a spare computer to try the install process on. If not, then back up everything you consider valuable before you start, as things *can* go wrong.
Ubuntu/Kubuntu install processes in Dapper Drake are very smooth. Linux install processes are getting better and more user-friendly all the time. One important issue to consider is hardware support. This is not a column for that, unfortunately, and there is much literature around the 'net. Google is your friend. The short version is: if you've got 6-12 month old hardware (most of us do, unless you've got a bleeding-edge hardware configuration) you're probably in the clear.
So be adventurous, and give one of these distros a try where there's little or no risk.
For ubuntu and kubuntu 'Dapper Drake', the live CD and the desktop install CD are now the same disk. You do the install *from* the live session.
For more information, view the Kubuntu 6.06 LTS release announcement here.