it is entirely possible to explore linux WITHOUT affecting your windows/mac installation. a number of linux distributions ("distros") are complete operating systems, with various application packages, on a CD rom that runs COMPLETELY in memory. they do not touch your hard disk in any way ... unless YOU tell them to. since they do run in RAM, it would be good to have at least 256 megs of memory - more would be better, of course; less would be very very painful and slow. (you can try with 64megs, but you will be thoroughly disappointed. 128 megs will work, but you must have patience.) how this works is that the programs are stored, on the LiveCD, as archives that must be decompressed to run. this takes place in ram and the program is run from ram. this means that starting programs will be slower than running them from your hard disk. (technically, they will actually run faster since they are in ram, but if ram is limited, the entire program can't be fully uncompressed and still leave ram for data storage or processing. they will also start slower because they have to be uncompressed.) i think that i'd like to toss this idea out to the Family as a sort of "class" or "group project" or something. since these LiveCDs don't affect the hard drive, folks can fire them up, play with them, and even surf with them! (yeah; you can get here from a LiveCD!! there will be a couple things that will have to be configured, in some cases. it is also probable, actually, intended, that the LiveCD will find your internet connection and set it up for you so you can surf straight away.) if any problems or questions develop, it is a simple matter to shut down the distro, pull the cd out of the drive and reboot right back into your familiar environment and toss up questions and/or comments. the biggest reason i haven't suggested this before is because there are so many choices. PCLinuxOS and Ubuntu are the latest two that i have been playing with. (descriptions) Ubuntu LiveCD PC (Intel x86) and Mac (PowerPC) and 64-bit PC (AMD64). PCLinuxOS LiveCD these files are all over 600 megabytes in length! download the file of your choice and burn it to cd. if there is anybody that is interested in exploring this, step right up and fire off all your questions, comments and reviews.