Monday, October 24, 2016

low-cost linux, no commitment

If you want to run Linux on our own computer, without it costing you anything (except perhaps the cost of a flash drive) and without it changing anything on your own system, there are two things you'll have to do first, and both of them will probably require a little research on your part:

1. Get a flash drive, anything 2 GB capacity or higher. Make it into a bootable Linux flash drive, choosing from any of a (very large) number of Linux distributions (maybe have a look at DistroWatch). I use Ubuntu and MX in the examples below, but other distros might be preferable -- Linux Mint, Knoppix, or Puppy Linux, to name a few. You'll want to refer to the specific distro's documentation for instructions on making the bootable flash drive.

2. Adjust the boot order in your computer's BIOS settings so that your computer boots from a flash drive if one's plugged in. You'll have to refer to documentation from your computer's manufacturer for info about accessing and changing BIOS settings.

After that, the rest is cake. Most of the time. Depends.

Anyway,  just turn off your computer, plug in the flash drive, and boot the computer.

If, for example, you chose to boot with a flash drive with Ubuntu on it, and then you clicked on the "Try Ubuntu" button, in a few seconds you'd be running a "live" Ubuntu session:

A distro like Ubuntu should pick up your wifi, or you can use ethernet, whatever. Shouldn't be much trouble to get online. First thing I do, open up Firefox and go to Gmail:

With a live Linux session, you can explore and learn about how things work in Linux.  Here, I've inserted another flash drive (named "ARCH_201311") and I'm viewing its contents with Files, Ubuntu's file manager:

With two tabs open in Files, I can copy the screenshots I'm using for this post to the flash drive ARCH_201311.

Or you can just open a web browser and handle your biz.

A shot of the MX-15 live session in action:

With Firefox, I can access Google Drive and other Google Apps, of course.

Here, I created a spreadsheet in Google Sheets, then saved a copy of the spreadsheet into the live session itself:

Whatever, once you shut down the system and remove the flash drive, you'll be able to boot your computer as normal.

(Also: Many distros have live sessions that are great for system maintenance, data recovery, drive partitioning, etc., but that's another topic.)

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