To explore Linux, you can have a dual-boot system so when you turn the computer on you are presented with a choice of OS. You can dedicate your computer to Linux or even have multiple “distributions” at boot time to suit different needs
You can also download a CD or DVD image file and boot that disk to install Linux on your computer or you can make a USB memory stick or DVD boot Linux while leaving your existing system alone.
The website www.distrowatch.com has descriptions, features lists, support, and download information on just about every Linux and FOSS (free and open-source software) OS that are freely available to us.
https://wiki.ubuntu.com/UbuntuHamsPackages has a list of Ubuntu supported amateru radio software. Currently there are just under 100 packages listed (that are also Debian supported, Ubuntu being a Debian derivative) and and additional 28 unsupported.
https://radio.linux.org.au/ has a database of Linux amateur radio software
As far as hardware goes, since rigs and external devices such as GPS trackers operate using published standards, Yaesu’s CAT and ICOM’s rig control, APRS gear, rotator controllers, and much much more are supported. Your mileage may vary.
Andy’s Ham Radio Linux Live CD is remastered version of Ubuntu Linux contains a lot of amateur radio software including Fldigi, NBEMS, Gpredict, earthtrack, xcwcp and qrq, XLog and cqrlog, flrig and grig, xnec2c, fl_moxgen, aa-analyzer, owx, VOACAP, glfer, Xastir, gqrx, gEDA, and more! A great way to try out various applications in a light weight Linux package!
There are a number of one-off systems, such as Harv’s Hamshack Hack and the aforementioned Andy’s Ham Radio Linux Live CD which are available to peruse Linux without modifying your computer. A “live CD” or DVD keeps the system on the external disk and uses RAM swapping to write temporary data during the session. When you reboot, your system reverts back to Windows normally.
Rasberry Pi‘s run about $35 without accessories and run Linux. You can hook them up to your HDMI television or monitor or go “headless” and use your existing PC to do almost anything on the Pi via remote access.
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