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Time for the annual installation of Linux. As last year it's Mandriva, formerly Mandrake. Unlike Windows and OSX, there are dozens of Linuxes - distributions they are called - which come in all sizes and with different graphic user interfaces, although Gnome and KDE are the two most popular - actually one too many.

For a tenner I ordered DVDs for Mandrake, and for a new distribution called Ubuntu, from Cheeplinux. And that is exactly what I got: two DVDs. No helpful or otherwise instructions. Just great, especially if you are a complete newcomer to Linux.

A terse email exchange later and I was watching Mandriva install itself - it having taken over a spare bit of my hard drive. Pretty much a no-brainer - until I tried to install two monitors: one for writing on, the other for images or research material.

Once you start using two monitors you can't stop, and with Windows and OSX it's done with a few clicks of the mouse (and another monitor).

Not with Mandriva, or any Linux distribution. It's so complicated, uncertain, relies on relentless Googling, and searches through obscure techie chatrooms that after a day I gave up. Maybe next year. But not with Mandriva - or from Cheeplinux.

sutherland. lyall@btinternet. com

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