As I endeavor to continue down the road of learning Linux more fully, I figured the next major step I needed to take was to dual boot my laptop. With doing this, I no longer will default into Windows shudders, and instead default into a Linux distro of my choice.
So Mannnnnnyyy Distros, how do I choose?
The biggest decision you can make is which distro to pick. There are so many out there! The way I started to decide was out of the two big branches, Debian and Redhat, which would I benefit the most from? To me, a Redhat distro would give me the most bang for my buck. This now gives me limited obvious choices; Fedora or CentOS. The best choice for me ended being Fedora. I believe being on the bleeding edge of the updates to the Redhat distributions will give me an advantage in the long run. I also enjoy how slick the desktop environment with Gnome and how well it integrates into the distro. While there are a few hiccups with everything being as fresh and new as can be, the trade off was worth it.
How to make Windows play nicely
You always hear horror stories regarding Windows and Linux dual boots and how Windows just does not like to play nicely. Fortunately I did not have to deal with this issue. I started first by shrinking my current volume in Windows by running "diskmgmt.msc" and keeping the unallocated space as is. The unallocated space would become my Fedora space Fortunately, Fedora also can use UEFI boot, so I only had to disable secure boot in the BIOS, as well as the fast boot in Windows.
The most difficult part of installing Fedora is creating the bootable USB in the fashion Fedora recommends. This is the only way to enable UEFI boot for installation. Without doing this step, Fedora can only install with a BIOS startup, creating some major issues when working with Windows. This was the major issue I had for quite some time before I realized I was trying to boot in two separate ways. So before anyone starts installing, please ensure you have two compatible boot modes.
Once you have created your bootable USB, installation is really simple. You press the appropriate function key that allows you to choose a 1-time boot option for the USB. Next you choose to install Fedora. Fedora will find the unallocated space you created while you are in Windows. You can go more complicated and manually partition everything in the install, or simply allow Fedora to do its thing, and automagically partition as necessary. Overall, it is quite painless.
What I've learned
I've been quite nervous to dual boot, which is what has made me put it off for so long... However, after completing the process, I'm quite glad I've done it. I've realized I can do just about everything I need to in Fedora. There are some kinks because I've chosen such a bleeding edge distro, and getting things set up takes longer than expected, but I've learned a lot about Linux through it. It is nice to have my Windows safety net as well, in case I really can't do something in Fedora but I have yet to run into that situation. I would highly recommend doing this to any one serious about learning Linux. There is no better way to learn than to immerse yourself into whatever you want to learn.