Sunday, January 07, 2007


Another step towards escape!

The toughest cage to break out of is your own mind. One reason so many people think they can't live without MSFT products is they have never seen a Windows-compatible PC run anything but MS-Windows. We can fix that right now, with no risk and no commitment. You need a blank CD.

Go to and choose a nearby download site, and download the file dsl-3.2.iso (or whatever version it's up to) from the "current" directory. This 50 MB file took six minutes on my ADSL line.

Burn this CD image onto a CD with your favorite CD burning program. I picked Damn Small Linux because it fits on a business card CD, but you can put it on a regular CD if you like. I burn CDs with K3B (from but you might use Nero. The file you downloaded is a raw, bootable disk image. It needs to be written to CD that way. Copying it as a file into a new CD file system will not work. It's a whole file system, itself.

Insert the CD in the computer to boot (or reboot) the computer. If you bought a generic PC locally made, or someone has reinstalled its operating system since it left the factory, the computer's motherboard "CMOS settings" (BIOS settings) are probably correct already. If you bought the PC by mail from Dell or Gateway, it will probably just boot into MSFT Windows without looking for a bootable CD first. You'll have to go into the BIOS settings (watch the screen during a reboot. It will say something like "F2 for SETUP" and you have to hit F2 right then. It could be DEL or ESC.) and find the boot settings, or "boot priority." Set your BIOS to look for a CD-ROM before trying the hard drive. When the computer boots off the Damn Small Linux CD, you'll know it. It goes straight from the motherboard BIOS into Damn Small Linux. MSFT never runs.

There is a Damn Small Linux "splash screen" with a boot prompt boot: in the lower left. Hit Enter and sit back and watch.

Durn Small Linux takes a little while to scan your computer and figure out how to run there. It prints a bunch of chatty messages about a bunch of modules it can't find. Ignore all of that. Then the screen goes dark, and comes back on with a fine crosshatch with a big X in the middle. That's the X Window System from MIT. Damn Small Linux' desktop takes over. A lightweight Web browser called Dillo opens to a page about getting started.

You can safely explore this system. It won't touch your hard drive until you tell it to. If you have DSL or cable TV Internet access, you may already be connected. Try Firefox. It's got a launcher on the desktop.

When you're tired of Damn Small Linux, click the right mouse button to get a pop up menu. Click on "Power down" and select Shutdown or Reboot. Damn Small Linux will shut down its desktop and eject the CD. When you boot again, there's no trace that Damn Small Linux was ever there. But you'll never see that MSFT splash screen (with the clouds and the giant Windows logo) quite the same way.

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