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Choosing a Linux Distro

A window manager is somewhat like the dashboard and steering wheel of your car. If you want something fancy, with lots of point and click and a windows style "WYSIWYG" (What You See Is What You Get) interface, then go for Gnome or KDE (which will make you feel at home if you just shifted from Windows or MacOS). Of course, if KDE and Gnome are a bit too heavy for your computer, you can switch to something lighter like IceWM, Blackbox etc. Your Linux CD will have several window managers available, and all of them are available for download off the Net.

A hardcore Linux junkie will prefer a powerful engine and transmission to a fancy interface and stick to the "command line" shell prompt. In the shell, you get things done by typing all sorts of (at first) obscure looking commands like cat, grep, rm, sed, awk, all with several dozen options each. It's your choice of course, but we warn you that the sheer power you experience using the shell prompt is somewhat addictive.

Back to "Distros"

Continuing the same "Linux is a car" note, we don't suppose you'd want to build a car yourself by buying an engine, a transmission, a chassis, nuts, bolts, a welding torch etc. etc ... you'd rather go to a few car dealers, check out the make and model you like and write a check. Here too, plenty of makes and models are available. The more famous ones are Red Hat, Mandrake, SuSE, Caldera, Slackware and Debian. Okay, so they are numerous. Don't fret, choosing from them is not so difficult.

First, see what you need in your distro. Ask yourself a few questions. Do you want it easy to install and packed with all kinds of programs to make maintenance easy? Do you want all the latest and greatest user software (lots of it)? If so, we would recommend Mandrake (http://www.Linux-mandrake.com). It's just like Red Hat (my second choice in this case), but has a far better user interface and configuration options. Mandrake is basically an enhanced and `prettied up' Red Hat. If you can get Caldera (http://www.caldera.com), try it.