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Trying it out for the first time

Two important things need to be stated up front:

First, this articles is not meant to replace the user guide. I will try and be as general as possible, while still presenting useful information. Do consult the user guide to the Linux distribution you are checking out, as you will find important information there.

Second, nothing can go wrong. You will be checking out the live preview of the Linux system, not installing anything. No need to be afraid of losing any data on your existing operating system.

Most state-of-the-art Linux distributions come with a live preview. You can download it as a disk image (ISO) and burn it to a CD/DVD or have its contents copied to a flash medium (depending on the type of hardware you are using). Only when are you've checked everything and are 100 % comfortable with the distribution you may then proceed with the installation. You don't even have to prepare these live previews yourself, you can order them for a small fee from an e-shop and try out several flavours of Linux at the same time, without having to worry about verifying the download. You can get fully localized versions with your time zone, keyboard layout and dictionaries in your language preinstalled. If you have extra resources, you can even get a refurbished laptop from an auction site with the Linux of your choice preinstalled and play with it there.

Let's get the latest version of Linux Mint (I have chosen the torrent download), prepare the USB flash drive and some of the utilities recommended for your existing operating system to format the drive and create a bootable USB. These utilities are already a part of the Linux system.

Now that we have the live preview installation media (either a USB or a CD/DVD), we need to tell the computer to boot from it, instead of from the hard drive itself. As I've already mentioned, you won't lose any data and your existing system will remain intact. This is, none the less, the trickiest part. You need to hold the F2 key (or the combination of the Fn and F2 keys when on a laptop) on most computers to get to the settings where you can change the boot sequence, i.e tell the computer where to look first when it starts the operating system. Follow the instructions on the screen and move through the options with arrow keys. Make sure the USB or DVD drive (depending on the type of hardware you are using) is at the top of the boot sequence, confirm the settings and click Save. Your machine will now boot from the external medium by default. On a Mac hardware, there is no need to alter anything, just hold down the alt key early on in the start-up process and the USB drive should appear next to the main drive as an option to choose from.

Having the hardest part behind us we can now sit back and enjoy the welcome logo as the new operating system starts... Of course, the graphical environment that now opens up is only the proverbial tip of the iceberg. All the vital system settings and programming components are stored in text files and all the action takes the form of textual commands. Being a distribution aimed at beginners, however, Mint wisely puts the graphics to the forefront and keeps the hard core components hidden from view. We will get to them eventually in the following articles.

copy left Johanka Piskovská, 2020