Tip

Instant Linux for Windows admins means no installation

Many Windows administrators want to try out Linux without having to install an entirely new operating system alongside XP, or reformatting their hard disk.

Now there's a way to get "instant Linux" – with the free software called Knoppix.

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It runs straight from a CD, so you don't need to do any installation at all. Just boot your computer from your CD, and what you get is instant Linux.

The simplest way to get started with Knoppix is to download a CD image, burn it to a CD, then boot from the CD. To obtain the latest version of Knoppix, download the CD image from one of Knoppix's mirrors or send away for a CD. If you have a broadband Internet connection and a CDR/RW drive, simply download the CD image; it's the best way to get Knoppix. This collection of mirrors provides CD images in ISO form over HTTP, FTP or rsync.

When trying to decide which CD to choose, it helps to understand the scheme Knoppix uses for naming CD images. For instance, take this sample ISO filename: KNOPPIX_V3.5-2004-08-27-EN.iso

Deciphering the filename can yield a lot of information. In the example above, KNOPPIX is followed by the current version (3.5). Next is a date stamp, which indicates the CD image's release date (in our example, August 27, 2004). These date stamps indicate the incremental version. Next is the language code (in this case EN for English).

Select the latest version of Knoppix by clicking the filename. Downloading the 700MB file can take anywhere from a few hours to a day, depending on the speed of your broadband Internet connection and the current load of your mirror.

You can burn the Knoppix ISO to a CD using your favorite CD burning software. It is important that you select Burn Image or an equivalent option on your CD burning software. Do not select the option to burn a data CD, as it will end up with a CD containing a single ISO file, which will not boot.

About the author: Rahul Shah currently works at a software firm in India, where he is a systems administrator maintaining Windows servers. He has also worked for various software firms in testing and analytics, and also has experiences deploying client/server applications in different Windows configurations.

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This was first published in August 2006

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