For this book, I will be basing a great deal of the desktop on KDE version 3.2. (KDE 3.1 is very similar, too.) From the Linux installation perspective, this implies that you are planning to run a modern Linux distribution and not some disks you've had lying around for the last three years. An up-to-date release of your favorite distribution, whether it is Fedora, SUSE, Mandrake, or something else, is essential.
A modern Linux installation is easy. I will go so far as to say that it is even easier than installing Windows. For the most part, you boot from your CD-ROM drive, click Next a few times, and you are running Linux. Okay, perhaps there is a bit more to it than that, but not much. Linux will, for the most part, auto-detect nearly all devices on your machine and automatically configure them optimally.
Getting Ready for Your Installation
If your machine has Windows already installed and you have documents, spreadsheets, pictures, or music files that you wish to keep, now is a good time to back them up, either on diskette or burned to a CD-ROM. Even if you plan on preserving your Windows installation for a dual-boot system, it's always prudent to have a good backup if you are going to be doing major work on your hard disk. You might also want to take advantage of all that hard work that was done in pre-installing Windows and make notes on all the hardware in your machinethe type of network and video cards and anything else you can think of. You do that by clicking the Start button, selecting Settings>Control Panel, then double-clicking the System icon. Now, walk through the hardware profiles, and take some notes. Odds are you won't need it at all, but you can never have too much information.
The average Linux installation takes about 30 to 60 minutes, although I have seen it take as little as 5 minutes on a really fast system. That's a fully network-ready, configured, all-set-to-work machine with no rebooting every few minutes to load another driver. It doesn't get much easier than this.
That said, unless you are feeling particularly adventurous, I would highly recommend that you read through this chapter once before actually starting.