Linux is a computer operating system.
Technically, Linux is an operating system kernel, the core or engine of an operating system that handles the bottom-level things like file systems, input out devices, task scheduling etc.
The Linux kernel can be combined with software from other sources (for example command line interfaces, graphical user interfaces, web servers, web browsers, office suites etc.) to form a complete operating system.
Most commonly, the Linux kernel is combined with software from the GNU Project, an organisation which creates free software.
This operating system is commonly called Linux, due to the Linux kernel being one of the most important parts of it, but some call it GNU/Linux, because the GNU software part of the operating system is also an important part of the operating system.
Although the GNU part of the operating system is important and some may prefer to call the
operating system GNU/Linux, for simplicity this article will call the complete operating system
Linux is open-source software, meaning that its source code, the recipe for the software, is available for free for anyone to view, use, modify, redistribute and sell.
By itself, an operating system kernel is not much use.
So organisations, companies, and other groups combine the Linux kernel with software from other sources (most importantly from the GNU project) to form a complete operating system.
Organisations, companies etc. which do this are called Linux distributors, and the complete operating systems which they create are called Linux distributions.
There are many Linux distributors.
Some examples of Linux distributors are the company Novell and the non-profit organisation Debian.
There are many Linux distributions.
Each Linux distribution is targeted for a specific use, for example desktop and server.
Some Linux distributors add their own unique software to their Linux distributions, like graphical software installers or graphical configuration tools.
The most popular Linux distributions are Ubuntu, SuSE, Debian, Mandriva and Fedora.
Advantages of Linux:
1. It is open-source software, meaning it's source code is freely available for anyone to view, use modify, redistribute or sell for free.
Most Linux distributions are free.
2. It has very good support:
Most Linux distributions have good free support, in the form of web forums and irc channels.
Commercial Linux distributors like Novell provide professional paid support for their Linux
Also there are many websites with free Linux tips, tutorials and guides.
3. Linux is multi-user.
Unlike Windows which had multi-user cabability introduced later, Linux was designed from its beginning to be multi-user and multi-tasking.
On Linux, each user has its own private folder called a home directory.
Files in a user's home directory cannot be viewed by any other user (with the exception of the root (administrator) user) without that user's permission.
Also, Linux multi-tasks much better than Windows, and can process more than one task at the same time.
4. Linux has excellent security.
Linux has excellent security.
Linux's security is much better than Windows' security.
On Linux, every file has a set of permissions.
File permissions are rules which state which user, or group of users, can view, read, read-write, and execute that file.
Also, on Linux there is an administrator account called the root user.
Only the root user can view and modify all of the files in the file system.
Normal users can only view and modify the files in their individual home directory.
The root user is only used for administrating aand configuring the system.
There are very few viruses and malware for Linux.
If a virus or malware does get onto a Linux system, it has a very low chance of doing any damage, because of Linux's permissions system.
5. Linux has a large amount of software
Linux has a large amount of software available for it, most of which is free.
The software is usually equivalent to similar software available for Windows and Mac.
Examples are web browsers (Firefox and Opera), Email programs (Thunderbird, Evolution, Kmail), Text editors (Kate, Kwrite, emas and vim), programming languages (nearly every programming language), programming and web design software (Bluefish, Kompozer and Quanta Plus), Web server software( Apache, MySQL, PHP), and video players (Mplayer and VLC media player.)
Although Linux is still behind Windows in gaming, there are some good games available for Linux (Battle for Wesnoth, SuperTux, Chromium, Frozen Bubble, SuperTux Cart and Open Arena).
Also, some Windows software can be run on Linux natively without the need for Windows, using a free Windows compatibility layer called Wine.
The software Wine supports includes Microsoft Office 2003, Photoshop CS2, and some games including Star Wars Knights of the Old Republic and Star Wars Jedi academy.
6. Linux user interface
Unlike Windows which has a single user interface which has few customizability options, on Linux there is no single user interface.
Linux has at the basic level a command-line user interface, but there are many graphical user interfaces available for Linux.
These range from simple (Xfce) to complete graphical user interfaces which are equivalent to and in some aspects are superior to the graphical user interfaces of Windows and Mac OS X.
The two most popular desktop environments are KDE and GNOME.
KDE and GNOME have several features including ones not available in Windows or Mac OS X, and they are polished and easy to use while being extremely powerful.
If you have a supported graphics card, GNOME and KDE can use 3d transparency and fading features which are superior to those available on Windows and Mac OS X.
KDE desktop environment
GNOME desktop environment
7. Interoperability with other operating systems.
Linux is highly interoperable with other operating systems.
A Linux computer can exist beside computers running other operating systems on the same network.
Also, Linux supports most of the document and other standards used on Windows and Mac.
8. Linux is Internet-ready
Linux is Internet-ready and is highly compatible with the Internet.
Linux was designed from its creation to support networking.
Most web servers run Linux.
Linux has two of the best web browsers available, Mozilla Firefox and Opera.
Firefox and Opera on Linux support most web browser plugins, including Flash and Java.
Most web related software, including Apache, MySQL and PHP, have Linux versions.
Below is a screenshot of the Youtube video sharing website displayed in Firefox on the Ubuntu 9.04 Linux distribution
9. Linux is multimedia ready
Linux has several good video players, including the excellent VLC media player.
VLC media player is a very good media player software that can play nearly every audio and video format, as well as CDs, VCDs and DVDs (including encrypted DVDs).
Also, Linux has some good graphics programs, including GIMP, a free image manipulation program with nearly all the features of Adobe Photoshop, and Blender, a free 3d graphics program.
Also, Linux has some good photo management tools, including DigiKam, a photo viewing and management tool similar to Apple's iPhoto.
Things you can't do in Linux
Although Linux has many features and has many advantages over other Operating Systems, there are some things you can't do in Linux.
There are few commercial games available for Linux.
There are some solutions to this problem:
Some Windows games can be run without the need for Windows on Linux, through a free Windows compatibility layer software called Wine, or indirectly on Linux by running them on Windows in a virtual machine inside Linux.
Also, another solution is to dual-boot Linux with Windows, so you could use Windows for gaming and still use Linux when you want to.
2. Hardware support
Although Linux supports a huge amount of hardware devices, there are some hardware devices that Linux does not support yet.
This is usually because the manufacturer of that hardware does not create a Linux driver for that hardware device, or does not release the specifications of that hardware device, preventing Linux developers from creating their own driver for that hardware device.
Examples of hardware devices that Linux does not support yet are
some USB modems, some printers, and some graphics cards.
Trying out Linux
If you want to try out Linux but dont want to install it, then you can try a Linux LiveCD, which is a Linux distribution which runs directly from a CD without the need for installing it.
Examples of Linux LiveCDs are Ubuntu, SuSE and Mandriva.
Choosing a Linux distribution
There are many Linux distributions, so I have listed below a few Linux distributions which are good for beginners.
Ubuntu is a community-developed Linux distribution founded by South African enterpreneur Mark Shuttleworth and funded by his company Canonical Ltd.
Ubuntu is based on another Linux distribution called Debian, but is different form it in a number of ways including being easier to use.
Ubuntu is designed for both desktop and server use, and comes in a desktop version and a server version.
The desktop version is designed to be easy to use for people new to Linux.
The CD for the Ubuntu desktop version is both a LiveCD and an installation CD.
Ubuntu has one of the largest number of available software of all Linux distributions.
Ubuntu has a very easy to use software installer program, and installing software on Ubuntu is easy.
Ubuntu also has support for a large number of hardware.
If a computer has a capable graphics card, Ubuntu starts 3d animation effects out of the box.
Ubuntu is also designed to be easy to install and use for people new to Linux.
Ubuntu has a service called Shipit which allows you to order Ubuntu CDs for free (including free postage).
OpenSuSE is a free Linux distribution created, developed and funded by a company called Novell.
OpenSuSE has a number of unique features, including a central system configuration utility called YAST.
YAST (which means Yet Another System Tool) is a system configuration utility similar to Windows' Control Panel and Mac OS X's system preferences utility.
YAST allows easy installation, management and uninstallation of software.
YAST also allows configuration of hardware.
OpenSuSE comes in a DVD version containing both GNOME and KDE, which is the main version, and two LiveCDs, one using GNOME and the other using KDE.
Linux usually is in the form of a CD or DVD.
Below I tell how to get an Ubuntu CD.
Ubuntu's CD is a Live CD and installation CD hybrid.
The Live CD desktop has a utility to allow installing Ubuntu to the hard drive, if you want to install it.
You can get a free Ubuntu CD through Ubuntu's Shipit service, which is on the Ubuntu website, or you can download an Ubuntu disc image and burn it to a CD to create an Ubuntu CD.
Well, thats the end of my article on Linux, I hope you liked it.