For some people, Linux is one of those things that they just have to try, but haven’t quite got around to. With the open source operating system becoming more and more popular, however, there is every chance of being left behind. Considering that almost all Linux distros can be downloaded legally and at no cost there is no need to be left wondering “what if?" – you can get in early and enjoy Linux in any of its desktop guises.
One consideration that many have concerning Linux is whether to make the switch from Windows in one fell swoop. After all, years of using one particular operating system is bound to leave you afraid of change. Fortunately, Linux operating systems such as Ubuntu make it very easy for you to try them out without installing.
When you download a Linux distro and burn it to CD-ROM, if you insert the disc while Windows is running you will be given the opportunity to either install Linux as an application within Windows or run it as “live" from the disc following a reboot (the third option is, of course, to restart your computer and install the OS on the hard disk drive).
This Live CD method allows you to try out Linux without installing it, and is a great way to get started, although bear in mind it isn’t reliable for use as a permanent operating system.
Another way in which you can try out any of these open source operating systems, however, is via a virtual machine. This option offers a more permanent solution without forcing you to change from Windows or Mac OS X before you’re ready.