Getting Started with Linux


I've been working with Windows systems lately, but I have experience with Unix and C/C++ going back 15 years. I want to start working with Linux for a certain project, but I am a little bit confused/overwhelmed by the amount of information on the web. Could anybody give me some pointers and answers to the following?
a) Can I download Linux absolutley free?
b) What are the differences between the different flavors of Linux? Do they include C/C++ compilers? Editors?
c) Can I install it on a plain PC? What are the minimum requirements?
d) Pardon my ignorance, but... does Linux have a graphical interface or is it command driven like good old Unix?
e) Any recommended books or online training for a jumpstart?
f) Any other suggestions?

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CaseybeaConnect With a Mentor Commented:
a) Yes, you can obtain tons of linux distributions absolutely free of charge.
b) See - that may help explain the differences.   Primarily, the differences lie in the packages included, the interface for installation, etc.
c) Various linux distributions have various requirements-- but yes, you can install it on a plain PC, you can also install it on an existing PC that runs windows- dual boot.
d) Linux does indeed have a graphical interface available-  referred to as X-Windows, or simply "X".
(e,f) The best way to get started with linux and see it, touch it,feel it, is to boot what is called a "live cd" version of linux.    My favorite: knoppix (see:

With a live-CD version, you simply boot off the CD, and VOILA:  linux!   NOTHING installed on your PC, *no* changes to your existing windows setup ,etc.   Totally harmless and totally cool.

Later on, once you play with linux and get a feel-  and read tons more, you can then get started with installing linux on a plain pc or whatever.

Meanwhile- go get knoppix and fire it up.
Jan SpringerConnect With a Mentor Commented:
a) yes
b) the different flavors are usually a personal preference with regard taken to OS and applications updates.  they include compilers (most likely gcc which is a cc and cc+) and editors (ex: vi, nano)
c) a generic yes to a plain PC, you have to make sure that your components are Linux compatible.  usually finding the linux drivers can fix a video/ethernet/whatever problem.  to get the minimum requirements, check the hardware requirements pages of the OS you are interested in.
d) there are a few GUIs (KDE and Gnome are popular)
e) I like O'Reilly books
f) now this could be a really long list :)  can you better define how you will use this box?
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