This page is out of date, and should be viewed as historical
I for many years recommend that my friends who are new to computing start with GNU/Linux as they don't have to unlearn MS windows. There is alot of complex stuff there if you want to explore it with Linux but you can choose to stick to straight forward visual menu / button based programs and find it easier and less frustrating than windows.
I am happy to come round to friends and set up GNU/Linux on their PC. I really recommend you try GNU/Linux if you can. All sort of versions of GNU/Linux which are basically recipes with from a big pool of ingredients, all picking many of same but blended in a different way. Check out http://distrowatch.com.
BLAG distro looked great but alast is no longer maintained.
But as I like KDE desktop I have recommended easy to install desktop distros that have KDE as default desktop, such as PCLinuxOS, OpenSuSE and Kubuntu.
If you want to try out Linux without installing on your hard one can use KNOPPIX which boots and runs from the cdrom. I used it to try out new software. It can be used as a rescue disk. As a way of running GNU/Linux desktop on a computer to access programs and files on another networked computer. There are many variants on these livecds. Dynebolic is worth checking and PCLinuxOS is one to watch.
The first main distribution I used myself was Mandrake. I started with 7.2 borrowed from a friend an than I got copy of 8.2 at EdLUG install day and since then up to Mandriva2008 download the iso from Mandrake/Mandriva website. Upgrade disks are same as full install disks. So I soon within a few months totally replaced using MS Windows on my computer with Linux-Mandrake.
The package manager makes installing stuff easy but you really need a high speed connection to take full advantage. Lots of different applications on offer.
SuSE has much going for it and has overtaken Mandrake on some of criteria I used. I use OpenSUSE at the moment.
You may be able to follow what I am doing with my computer on my Blog
At one point I went to a few meetings of my local Linux user group meetings. I first went to their install weekend event to meet some of them. Do get down to your local install weekend if one happens near you with your computer if you need help getting Linux on your computer and great way to meet people who can help you.
I was also involved with plans to develop a drop in free software lab to promote use of GNU/Linux, in combination with a base for Indymedia, it did achieve significant amounts but never really it's potential and I never found time to help it as much as I wished.
These pages can not keep up with fun and games of my GNU/Linux experience. At one point I considered doing the LPI exam..
Film about Linux
Penguin Liberation Front (hot goodies for Mandrake Linux)
Linux Dir on Open Directory
FreeBSD (another unix like OS for PC)
Linux is compatible with unix, often called a Unix clone, you may want to check out a critique of unix, and then hope for a free alternative such as Haiku OS
. Those coming from another angle may go for Minix 3, or even the Windows clone React OS.
or Software to run under Windows
also see internet and freesoft
other programs I have used or hope to use:
do away with keyboard for writing
translator - dictionary look front end
ultra fast web browser
Nano is free software verisn of Pico which is text editor used by pine it has a menu to promt you for commands so is good for beginners, but I just used vim (vi) and looked up commands on help sheet, I also have emacs ref sheet on may wall but ended up using vim more. I wish I had done vitutor (type vimtutor at command line) earlier as lots of time saving stuff beyond what I was using to begin with.
I once installed Slackware 9 distro of GNU/Linux which I got as cover cdrom with Linux User.
I liked it.
I would give copies to people as it is nice and compact and I really like KDE3.1 but I think need to tell / remind people the command lines they need to start after first logging in..
as this not prompted during install like most distros.
as it does not go into desktop at start up.
With that one can just feel way through install, which was nice surprise. If one has time nice to do install where it prompts you for each program and describes it, it is a learning experience and good to do with friends so can debate each program. It idea of vital and recommended can be amusing. It found all hardware ok.
Software to run under Windows