-------------------- What is Linux? --------------------Don't quote me on anything I say... I do have a Bachelor's Degree in Computer Science... but I'm still no expert. But Linux is an operating system, just like Windows XP, or Windows Vista (not in design but in the idea of what an Operating System is...). Linux is an off shoot of Unix, an old operating system that came about back in the day to compete with MS-DOS. Arguably, Linux can been seen as the GUI (Graphical User Interface) version of Unix, as Windows can be seen as a GUI of MS-DOS. Much like Windows has different versions (i.e. 95,95,2000,NT,XP,Vista, 7, etc), Linux has several different flavors such as Red Hat, Gentoo, Free BSD, Solaris, Cent OS, Ubuntu, and many many more; some which are free, and some which require a license. We are going to learn how to install Ubuntu, the flavor of Linux which, in my opinion, offers the easiest transition from Windows to Linux.
-------------------- Where do I get Ubuntu? --------------------Ubuntu is free software and can be downloaded from www.ubuntu.com
Once on the site, determine whether you need Ubuntu for a desktop or a laptop, and whether you need a 32-bit version or a 64-bit version (If you are uncertain as to what your processor can handle, simply grab the 32-bit version since 64-bit processors are backwards compatible and can run 32-bit OSes just fine.)
Once this is determined, download Ubuntu in the form of an ISO image.
-------------------- How do I install Ubuntu? --------------------Once the download of the ISO is complete, burn the image to a disc (CD or DVD, which ever your computer has a reader/writer for). If you are unsure how to do this, check out my last tutorial, The Basics #3, and install the appropriate software and the follow the instructions accordingly. After this is complete, stick the disc in your computer and reboot.
At this point you should be prompted with some options from the Ubuntu CD. The cool thing about the Ubuntu image you just burned is that you can choose to run a live CD of Ubuntu which allows you to play with and use Ubuntu without altering your computer At All... once you shut your computer down and remove the disc, your normal OS will boot up as if nothing happened.
If you are Not prompted with Ubuntu options (aka the CD did not run), this is because your CD/DVD drive is Not set as your #1 boot device. If this is the case, you can either permanently change the boot order in the Bios (see How To Access and Alter Bios) or catch the option to change the boot order just that once as your system boots up (see Changing Boot Order).
-------------------- The Installation --------------------The installation is actually insanely straight forward and involves like 8 steps... I will edit this tutorial with exactly what to do at each step in a few days once I download the Ubuntu ISO myself and run it in a VM to see what exactly is asked etc etc... Don't worry though, this really is an easy step.
***** This happened to me a few times and my friend... Your following the install options and going along, and upon choosing your user name and password it just hangs, not allowing you to choose "Next"... even though everything is filled in and it isn't telling you anything is wrong. This is something that needs to be fixed by the Ubuntu community... luckily it isn't any big bug that will have you stuck for ever, it is just Ubuntu failing to tell you something: Your user name Cannot have capital letters in it. If you go back and make everything lowercase and with no spaces or any strange characters, the "Next" button will become available and you can continue on to complete the installation. *****
Good Luck All! If you go to try this and run into any problems, post a comment with your problem and I will help troubleshoot your issue.
PS. - The "How to Access and Alter Bios" and "Changing Boot Order" Tutorials are coming soon... in the meantime I am sorry if you were offended by the temporary link. ; )