The Linux operating system has a large number of contributions available, most for free, to the average user. Distributions differ in size, memory requirements, and types of software included.
Most popular distributions today like Ubuntu, Fedora, and others build their platforms using generic, and other more specialized applications to enhance their competitiveness with respect to their competitors.
It is fairly simple to find server and client / desktop versions of a distribution you may be interested in by using you favorite search engine. Linux OS images are very large, so be prepared for lengthyy downloads. You will most likely download files with the extension.iso. This is a disk image, ready to burn to DVD or use with virtualization software.
You will need to decide whether you want to install a desktop version of the software, or a server version. Server versions usually do not come with pretty windowing systems, that make desktop versions more user friendly. Server versions are trimmed-down, and usually only offer terminal access to the system's services. Although somewhat primitive, shell access to the server is actually a very powerful tool for the system administrator.
Once you have your disk image, you may want to consider using Virtualbox to create a virtual machine from the.iso. If you have a machine that can accommodate the load, this may be easier.
Installation requirements will vary with the distribution you selected. On average, you will need 10 GB of free disk space, and 512 Mb of RAM. You may need more to install Linux with X-Windows running. Be sure to read the installation instructions that are packaged with the distribution.
To be sure, there is a Linux distribution for almost every need. If you need Linux to work in a small environment, you can find a distribution that will fit the bill. If you are working with security issues, you can find a Linux distribution specifically created with security in mind. Do your homework, and get the system that is most appropriate for your situation.
Installing Linux is very straight-forward, although the disk partitioning can take some time, depending on the size of your new volume. Follow the prompts, reboot when requested, and start your new Linux system.
On some systems, Ubuntu server for example, you will need to run updating utilities after installation. This will insure that you have the latest versions of all software. One of the most important of these components is the kernel. The Linux kernel is the heart of the operating system, and contains the basic instructions that control how the machine operates. You want to make sure that you have the latest version of the Linux kernel. As your updates scroll by, you will notice references to the kernel, and it's current update status.
If you are expecting network connections after installation, make sure your network interface card (NIC) is installed properly and receiving and sending signals. This can be tested by using the PING utility in Linux. Type the following at a terminal window prompt:
The 127.0.0.1 IP address is the loopback address on the NIC. If it is working, it will respond to the PING messages with a success reply. Of course, this all assumes that the firewall on the system allows PING messages at all. You may need to enable your NIC card, and make adjustments to your firewall, after Linux is installed. Check your documentation for specific instructions.
After you have installed Linux, updated the kernel and other essential software, installed any applications updates, and enabled your network connections, you are ready to use you new Linux machine.
You can find installation instructions for most Linux distributions on the distribution site, and on some independent sites that publish this type of information.