Let's face it: simple familiarity with "Windows NT and No More" is no longer enough. Linux is here, Linux is big, and you need to know Linux!
Even if you do not (now) use Linux every day, the day will soon come when Linux enters your workplace and you
will be at least partly responsible for keeping it humming. But how do you begin? A few bits of hard-won advice:
(0) There's no good business reason to "ditch" Windows:
No matter how you feel about Bill Gates, if you own a copy of Windows and it's doing useful work for you, there is no need to "throw it away." Unless and until you find that there is absolutely nothing you intend to do that either requires Windows or works-best there, keep it.
You can learn Linux quite well, without throwing-away your existing setup.
(1) Don't touch your Windows computer:
that computer, for doing whatever it does and for giving you quick-n-easy Internet access when you have a
and need to
. It's probably also useful for getting-paid, and is likely to be so for quite some time. Instead, grab another
computer out of your closet. If it was built within the last few years, it should be just fine. If you don't have one, it's usually very easy to find a recently-built surplus machine.
(1a) If you can't get a second computer, get a second drive:
Usually your BIOS will be able to specify any installed hard-drive as the boot-device. You can install Linux entirely onto that second drive, and leave Windows precisely where and how it is. "Never the twain shall meet." If your computer doesn't have two disk-interface chains on the motherboard, a hard-disk driver expansion-card costs next to nothing ... and with it you can
boot another drive.
(1b) Learning how to make Windows and Linux work together
is a very
useful skill! Having two machines around at the same time is an excellent way to study that.
(2) Get a distro, and fool around with it:
Kick the tires. Push the knobs and see what happens. You can use DistroWatch
for a good run-down on the available distributions. All of them can be downloaded.
(2a) Strongly consider working offline to the Internet!
At least at first. Bingo... now you have a completely isolated world that no one can touch and that will stay exactly as you left it for as long as you wish. (Your existing [Windows] computer will provide all the Internet access you may need while working.)
(3) Prepare to be overwhelmed:
Remember, this is a spare
computer, or a spare drive. You can trash it and it won't hurt anything. (And actually, you won't
"trash" it.) The Linux system will blow your mind, several times!
It will make you feel very uncomfortable at first, "cast adrift." Be prepared to feel that way -- it's okay, it will pass. You will find yourself overwhelmed with details that you could
explore, and if your usual problem-solving approach is "depth first" you can simply get lost and forget just what it was that you were originally trying to find.
(4) Keep a diary:
Write down what you did - what you learned - what questions you have. As soon as you have written something down on paper, you won't "lose" it. Now you can choose
whether to explore something or to defer it to some other time.
(5) Prepare to be completely blown away!
The more you learn about Linux, the more it will astound you. There is a reason
why people are so enthusiastic about it. Another nice benefit is that, as you begin to understand how this rather amazing system works -- and after all, the entire source-code to everything is right there for your inspection -- the more you will understand Windows.
(6) Get to know the "search" feature of this web-site:
This site is probably one of the very best on the Internet. Almost any question you may have .. has been asked and answered already. Use this resource to its fullest advantage.