first time installation linux

I'm sure this question has often been asked but I haven't found a specific answer.
At long last after 20 years of Windows I've decided to install and learn Linux...
How do I start? Where can I download the installation files? What's the best Linux to start with? Red hat?
Should I put them on a CD and install on a preformatted hard disk DOS style?
Can I start the installation from a DOS command? In other words is there an equivalent to install.exe or WINNT.exe in the installation files?
I'll be putting it on to a PC which I'll keep for the purpose of learning Linux.
I'll need a Linux driven word processor and Excel equivalent.

If I can do this and start to learn how to use Linux I'll set up series of PC's so that people coming to our center can try it out.
Thanks in advance
Keith
keithbraithwaiteAsked:
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ridConnect With a Mentor Commented:
Another quite nice distribution is Ubuntu (http://www.ubuntu.com/). It comes on one CD (you download an .iso file and burn to a CD) and supports many systems. The OpenOffice suite is included, which will give you a word processor that handles .doc files and also a spreadsheet program that can read and create .xls files.
/RID
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rindiConnect With a Mentor Commented:
You can get a copy of knoppix. This CD boots directly to a linux, together with many apps, and only needs this CD. You don't need to install anything to HD. It has very good plug'n'play and is ideal to get to know linux. If everything works out there is a script on the CD which will copy the system to HD.

http://knoppix.net

There are also DVD versions which include more apps, but I think the CD version includes almost everything you need.
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keithbraithwaiteAuthor Commented:
I'll try the Knoppix though I do want the Linux exclusively installed on a PIII box I'll be keeping it on. Some years back I downloaded Knoppix but never got it to run.
I've downloaded abuledu_plm_1.0_20051122.iso from http://www.abuledu.org (I need a french version). The CD boots and everything installs as far as ejecting the CD at the end but then nothing happens...
I'll get on to them about it.
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rindiCommented:
I don't know abuledu, but with knoppix you can also change the language to french or german or other major languages. If you download a current knoppix version it'll be likely to work better than the old one from some years back, as hardware support will have improved.
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keithbraithwaiteAuthor Commented:
OK - I'm downloading it now
I'll be back to you
K
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keithbraithwaiteAuthor Commented:
I'll try that too. I'm getting quite a collection!
For you people who are used to Linux it probably seems strange, but I haven't the faintest idea of what awaits me on screen once Linux is installed - I expect everything to open like magic...
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ridCommented:
As for ubuntu, the install is text-based, but there are just a few basic things to enter, nothing a windows-savvy person should have any problem with. Once installed, it starts up to a GUI login screen (the default setting requires a login) and then it's pretty much a standarg GUI, perhaps with a "Mac-ish" flavour. Programs are in the Programs menu... Basic usage, as browsing the internet, running a word processor etc is pretty much like windows or OS/X or something. There are lots of things to learn, though, if you want to go deeper; many powerful network tools are available as an example. Also, running a terminal (command line interface) gives you quite a lot of things to try. Have fun!
/RID
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keithbraithwaiteAuthor Commented:
Is a GUI something like "General User Interface" ? It's a term I don't know...
I'm on to ubuntu now...
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ridCommented:
Ehm... sorry for the shorthand... I think it means a "Graphical User Interface"; point-and-click, like :)
/RID
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keithbraithwaiteAuthor Commented:
OK - thanks
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rindiCommented:
It also depends on the ubuntu version you install, one uses gnome as GUI, the other (kubuntu) uses KDE. In my point of view KDE is the better GUI and more adjustable, you can make it look more like windoze than mac.
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keithbraithwaiteAuthor Commented:
OK! I've got ubuntu up and running. (a second attempt on a different box seemed to be going well and then it got stuck with an error message that something was going too fast and it restarted a section just to get back to the same error some minutes later. I'll try that box again when I get back to it next week.)
I'll be looking at Knoppix as well.
I'll split the points
many thanks
Keith
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