|Ubuntu Live CD Desktop|
You may have heard about Linux. Perhaps you imagined it as a clunky DOS-like command line system, used by uber-geeks in dark basements and server rooms to perform their geeky techno-magic.
In truth, Linux has matured into an easy to use operating system, complete with a vast eco-system of free software that rivals Windows and Mac in simplicity and beauty. It rarely needs a reboot and viruses are virtually unknown.
Canonical has just released Ubuntu 11.10, it's latest version of the popular Ubuntu Linux distribution. It calls itself 'Linux for Human Beings' and it aims to be one of the most newbie friendly Linuxes. It's innovative 'Unity' GUI (graphical user interface) is designed for simplicity and functionality.
Ubuntu is not shareware or spyware. It is a full-featured system which is provided free of charge through 'Open Source' licensing.
Open Source is a philosophy as much as a license. It gives developers the right to use and build upon the progress of previous developers. Unlike proprietary software, the source code is provided for review, modification and distribution.
This type of collaborative development leads to rapid progress and innovation. Linux runs everything from desktop systems and smart phones to toasters and super-computers.
You don't have to install Ubuntu to try it out on your computer. Many Linux distributions are offered as 'Live CDs/DVDs which run completely off your CD/DVD player. They come with a full library of software pre-installed for everything from a MS Office compatible Office suite to photo editing and email.
Linux Mint is based on Ubuntu, but includes popular software, like Flash, Java and proprietary video drivers by default.
Simply download and burn the .iso (disk image) to a CD/DVD. Drop it in your computers' CD/DVD drive and reboot. Most everything works 'out of the box.' Video, sound, wifi, printers and networking. You can explore Linux and enjoy all the free software without risk. Simply eject the disk when your done and the computer reboots as before.
These live CDs are a great tool for malware infected Windows computers. In a pinch, they can provide you with a fully functional and secure system, loaded with the latest software and hardware drivers. Use them to back up files from a dying hard drive or fix a borked master boot record. At least you will have a working system until you can get Windows fixed (again).
Use a Live Linux CD to clean an infected Windows system yourself. Boot using a live CD and simply visit a reputable online virus scanner like TrendMicro, Bitdefender, Kaperskey, or use a free malware detection tool kit like the Kaspersky Rescue Disc.
If you choose to keep Linux on your computer, most Live CDs will walk you through installation, either completely replacing Windows or along side it (called dual-booting).
So head on over and download one of these great free systems. Explore thousands of free software titles from games to utilities. Keep the live CD handy to rescue malware crippled Windows computers or retrieve data from an unbootable hard drive.
You don't have to be a geek to enjoy the freedom that Linux systems offer. They are simple to use, virtually virus free and solid as a rock.
And while you're at it, take a moment to remember Dennis Ritchie, a father of C and Unix, upon which most modern computing is based. He passed away last week, but these fundamental contributions will live on. RIP and thank you from all of us.