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Linux On WIndows: Get The Best Of Both Worlds

Looking for the best way to try Linux without giving up Windows? A new guide will give you plenty of food for thought.
Looking for the best way to try Linux without giving up Windows? A new guide will give you plenty of food for thought.Recently, I mentioned a LinuxLinks.com guide to a number of useful Linux-based data backup tools. Now, LinuxLinks is back with another software roundup, this time covering eight tools that support running Linux applications, or even a fully functional Linux desktop, on a standard Windows system. "The focus of this article is to evaluate applications which let users run Linux and Windows at the same time on a single Windows machine. The user can therefore become accustomed to Linux, learn all about it, yet retain the familiarity of their Windows environment. This provides a gentle transition to the Linux world. As the user becomes more familiar with the vast range of software available under Linux, he/she may become progressively less dependent on Windows, and come to rely more on the huge range of quality open source applications." The guide breaks these tools down into four categories: so-called cooperative virtual machines (including Portable Ubuntu for Windows, which I discuss in greater detail here); virtualization suites, including products from VMware and even from Microsoft itself); emulators, which simulate native Linux software libraries on a Windows system; and compatibility-layer software.

The emphasis here is on allowing desktop users to try out Linux and Linux-based software while still running Windows. While LiveCD Linux distros and Ubuntu's Wubi technology both offer great ways to try out Linux, they don't meet this critical requirement -- both methods require users to log out of Windows and to restart their systems in order to access their Linux-based tools.

This isn't a complete guide to such tools; it does not, for example, cover remote desktop software such as the popular VNC client. While these are often the best solution for companies that want to combine Linux and Windows desktop functionality, they aren't free since they depend upon a the use of a licensed Windows server.

None of these tools will satisfy every small business that Linux is the way to go. But that isn't the point -- the idea here is simply to make sure that companies have the best tools to evaluate Linux, and Linux-based software, as objectively and efficiently as possible. And on that count, these tools are an important addition to any small-business IT arsenal.