When you purchase a computer the chances are that it comes with
MS/Windows pre-installed, and tuned by the manufacturer or retailer to
run well on the particular hardware. Drivers for the audio, video, and
CD-ROM, will have been included in the installation. The computer is
ready to switch on and boot into MS/Windows. It will just work
To run GNU/Linux instead of MS/Windows (or in addition to MS/Windows)
you often need to install the system yourself. This entails obtaining
a distribution of GNU/Linux, perhaps as a LiveCD to first test without
installing, then installing it, and configuring the device drivers to
suit your hardware.
The GNU/Linux Operating System is built on the Linux kernel. To
install GNU/Linux on your PC you could start with installing the Linux
kernel and then compiling and installing the GNU tools and other
essential software that makes up the operating system. This is not
for the light hearted, and luckily this is not the usual path for
installing a GNU/Linux system!
Many people have put a lot of effort into packaging things together
into Distributions so that installing GNU/Linux is more
straightforward. Distributions typically provide the whole system as
a collection of packages from which you can choose. Some packages are
mandatory, and form the base installation. Other packages are then
installed as you need them.
In this chapter we review the options available in selecting a
distribution of GNU/Linux to install. Chapter 4 will
then step you through the installation process.
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