Originally Published: Thursday, 20 January 2000 Author: John Spragens
Published to: corp_features/General Page: 1/1 - [Printable]

Trying Out Linux -- The Quick and Painless Way

Guest writer, John Spragens, explains how easy trying Linux can be -- with the help of VMware! He explains the nearly effortless process by which he was able to try the SuSE Linux distribution. If you have been considering Linux for your office...but are concerned about the time involved in installing Linux just to take a peek at its features and functionality, you probably don't want to miss this piece.

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Here's how I set things up to check out Linux this week -- between dinner and a healthy bedtime one evening.

I got the packaged version of VMware 1.0 for Windows NT and Windows 2000. Inside the package were two CDs. The first one contains the VMware software itself. Pop that CD in your CD drive, and you get a screen with buttons to run the basic installation steps. It took just a few minutes to follow the automated, two-step process of installing VMware and installing the license.

The other CD has a preconfigured setup to run SuSE Linux in a virtual machine. (Other Linux distributions will be available in the future.) It's set up as two files compressed together into a self-extracting archive. You may navigate to that file using Windows Explorer, then double-click it. Pointers for doing this come on an instruction sheet that's in the VMware package. This will unpack the two files you need into a directory on your hard disk.

The main file is a big one, so the unpacking process takes a while. Go get a soda or catch a few minutes of the news while it's running. You won't see anything interesting on the screen. If you've ever tried installing Linux yourself, tracking down the various details you need to know about the hardware on your computer and feeding them in correctly during the installation process, you'll be very happy with the boredom of this approach.

When everything's unpacked, just click on the configuration file -- the little one with a file name that ends in .vmx -- and VMware will start up and launch your Linux virtual machine. Click the Full Screen button on the VMware button bar, and Windows slips into the background as Linux takes over your screen. The desktop is enough like Windows that you can explore the system on your own. It's not just a bare operating system; it includes business applications and games as well as system administration tools.

I also found my LAN connection to the Internet was live with no fiddling, so I could click the Netscape icon on the desktop and go. This is a case where your mileage may vary. Different offices and home computing setups use different ways of connecting to the Internet. Some approaches will require extra configuration of the VMware or Linux setups or both. But if your Internet connection is through a LAN and if computers on the LAN get their Internet addresses (IP numbers) from a DHCP server (your network administrator can tell you), your connection to the Net should just be there, as mine was.

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