January 23, 2005
This article was first published on Cooltechzone
After last week’s introduction to Linux, we shall take our first steps into the world of Linux. Many of us have thought of installing Linux, but have hesitated because the idea of installing a completely new OS, and creating new partitions is a scary one. Some of us have had bad experiences, such as accidentally destroying the main partition and losing all our data. These sorts of horror stories tend to make a new user think twice before installing a Linux OS.
Well, for all those of you who have felt this way, a Linux LiveCD might just be the answer. As the name implies, this is a version of Linux which boots directly off the CD, without touching your hard drives at all. You can use it to learn about Linux, or to see whether your hardware will cause problems if you do decide to install Linux on your machine. They also make a great rescue disk. In case your Windows installation crashes, it’s trivially easy to boot off a LiveCD, and save your files on a CD-R or on the network.
There are many, many LiveCD’s available. Some of the best known ones are Knoppix , Gnoppix,Mepis, the Suse Live CD, and the Mandrake Move Live CD. These are all freely available, and you can use any one you like. For the purposes of this article, we will be using the Mepis LiveCD.
One caveat before we begin. Using a Live CD is a RAM intensive operation. Since the entire OS runs off the RAM, the more RAM you have, the better. You should have at least 256 MB of RAM. Anything less would just be an exercise in frustration. So keeping this in mind, let’s begin.
The ISO image of the CD is freely available at www.mepis.org. Download it, and burn it using your favorite program. Remember to burn it as an image. Once this is done, reboot your computer and set it boot from the CD. You will have to do this in the BIOS settings of your computer. Usually you have to press “Del” or “F2” or something similar. Look for a message which flashes at the bottom of your screen when you start it. “Press Del to enter Setup” is a common one.
Navigate to the Boot menu and make sure that the first device in the list is your CD/DVD Drive. An example is given above.
Once you have this figured out, reboot the machine with the Mepis CD in the drive. You should see a screen similar to the following.
Choose the second option ( 2.6.7 Kernel) and press enter. If you have problems using it, then you should use the first option. After this, you will be presented with a nice splash screen.
If you like, you can press F2 to see the boot messages, or you can watch the progress bar fill up. After Mepis has finished booting up, you will be able to log in as either the root user or a demo user.
The password for the demo user is “demo”, and for the root user it’s “root”. ( Type these without quotes). Login as the Demo User. After logging in, the Mepis desktop appears!
Congratulations! Now you have a fully functional installation of Linux running. Now that’s it up and running, what can you do with it? Mepis comes with a full set of necessary software. The bar at the bottom has icons to some of the more commonly used software. From left to right, these are
- The K menu – Similar to the start menu in windows.
- Show Desktop
- Home – This opens your home directory.
- Internet Dial Up- This is a shortcut to Kppp, an Internet dialler. In case you have a dial up connection, you’ll need it.
- Mozilla Internet Browser.
- Mozilla Email Client
- Kopete Instant Messenger – This is a nifty little multi-protocol messenger that lets you connect to various IM services. Yahoo, MSN, and AOL are supported, as are ICQ, and many others.
- Open Office Writer- This is the freeware equivalent of MS Office. OpenOffice is a fully featured Office Suite which is mature enough to be used in a work environment. It opens Word (.doc) files with ease, and has some unique features like in built export to to PDF.
- Text Editor – A notepad like text editor.
- XMMS- The X Multi Media System is a Winamp Clone for Linux. Anyone who has used Winamp ( and who hasn’t?! ) will be perfectly at home with XMMS.
- K3B- This is a very user friendly CD/DVD- Writing Software. The interface is similar to Nero Burning ROM, and is easy to use.
The K menu contains all the software included. If this is your first time using a CD based Linux Distro, you are bound to be surprised by the amount of stuff they manage to pack into one CD. Mepis comes with around 1000 packages. You can really get the feel of working with a full install.
The possibilities of using it are limitless. We would suggest that new users take it easy and explore the interface, the menu’s and so on, safe in the knowledge that if you don’t like the system, you can simply reboot the machine and go back to whatever OS you are using.
Take some time to look around and generally see what a good Linux distro looks like. In the next article we will be looking at installing a linux distro to your hard drive. We hope you enjoyed your first step into the world of Linux.