I have never before used linux and am starting college as a cs major and would like to learn. I have no clue where to start. Should I use it as a virtual desktop or dedicate a cheap laptop to it? Which version? Best applications to learn? Any and all info would help

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I would highly recommend that virtualization approach. You can use VMWare or VirtualBox (free) to build your guest VMs. As you evaluate them and are finished, you simply delete without any additional configuration change on your host computer. This allows you to run multiple VMs at the same time and they can interact with your host OS as well as other hosts on the network, if needed.

Thanks for the info. I am still unsure which version of linux to use/is best for beginners. Also how much memory and such should I allocate to the virtualization?

Well it takes years to learn something like 'linux'. Go the virtualisation approach that JorgeM mentioned. Thre are free virtualisation sw such as Oracle's VirualBox and VMWare.
There are many flavours of linux, but they are all essentially the same. Some of the more famous distros are CenOS, Fedora and Ubuntu.

For memory allocation I suggest you use the defaults, but you will need a machine with a fair amount of grunt.

it takes a lot to learn the linux, i have a problem in my data source that my website ADVERT DELETED is concerns ill try configuring the priviledge of it but it takes a long time. can you help me in linux in the SERVER SIDE thanks..

commented: more spam, sigh... +0

@ams-fms what you want to know about configuration ?

Virtual Machines are awesome if you don't have a dedicated computer or are a little weary of installing side-by-side with windows as a dual-boot. If you just want to tinker, many linux distros also have LiveCDs these days; you put in the CD, restart your computer, and you boot right off the CD without making permanent changes to your computer.

I would recommend these distros in this order if your goal is pure CS...

1: Debian
Pro: It has a long linux tradition that many have copied, great software selection (especially for developent tools and IDE's), and that software is what you might call proven.
Con: Might seem older at first glance, but thats only because it doesn't try to be flashy.

2: Ubuntu
Pro: Built on Debian, but is kept more up to date. More tools (arguably to many), more cruft, MORE TOYS!!!
Con: Easy to work with, but if you have ADHD you will be distracted easily by the abundance of things you don't need.

What you learn next is not an application per-se, but an application that installs software packages for you. This is where linux can become very addicting, especially debian/ubuntu. You are looking for a 'package manager'. Some common package manager are Adept, Synaptic, aptitude (command line).

From there packages are categorized, so you wanna go to the IDE/Programming/Development sections and see what they have to offer.

Happy hunting.

I disagree with the VM approach. Unless you have a fairly new machine, VMs can be very slow. To truely get a feel for linux, I'd suggest using Ubuntu's Win Installer. I wouldn't worry about getting a whole new machine, that is unless you have a 40gb HDD or really plan on screwing up the OS. Ubuntu's Win Installer installs Ubuntu as a Win program which you can delete at any time by going into Add/Remove Programs and 'uninstalling' it. Ubuntu is also a great choice for beginners due to its incredible peripheral adaptability and it's great documentation. Basically, it will almost always accept whatever you plug into the machine, and if any error occurs, 30 people have already solved it on a forum somewhere. Good luck!

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