Linux is a free and open source software computer operating system. The Linux kernel was first released in 1991 by Linus Torvalds. It is also know as GNU/Linux because of the work done by Richard Stallman since 1983, without Stallman’s contribution the kernel alone would not suffice as a full operating system.
Distrowatch.com lists 300 different Linux distributions on their website. Because of the open nature of Free and Open Source Software anyone can take the source code of a distribution, change it, add to it and republish it as a new distribution with a new name.
This website will only support some of the most used and popular distributions including the following:
If you are new to Linux and want to experiment with this new operating system you may have many questions. In this article I will attempt to answer some of these questions.
You’ve heard about Linux. So, what is it?
Linux is an operating system like Windows, it allows you to run applications, connect network devices, printers etc.
Can I run windows applications on Linux ?
The quick answer is no, you have to use applications specifically designed for Linux. But a Linux project called WINE makes it possible to run some Windows applications on Linux. You will have to consult the WINE site @ http://www.winehq.org/ to find out which Windows applications can run on Linux.
If I install Linux do I have to erase my current Windows installation?
No, you don’t have to erase your current Windows installation, you can run both. When you switch your computer on you can decide whether you want to use Windows or Linux. You have to be careful when you install Linux or you may accidentally erase your Windows and lose all your information. It is therefore recommended to use a Linux “Live-CD” until you have enough experience to install Linux.
What is a “Live-CD” ?
A Live CD is a CD/DVD from which you can boot. Linux will then run from the CD/DVD and will not change your current installation. The disadvantages are that the system runs slower than when it is installed and you will have to save your documents that you create on a USB stick.
Where can I get hold of Linux ?
Linux is freely distributed with some magazines. You are also allowed to download Linux but the downloads are relatively large, approximately 300MB to 900MB. The best is to order a CD on-line, you will not pay for the software only for the CD/DVD and the postage and an admin fee for creating the CD.
When I browse on the Internet for Linux I get many results for different Linux distributions. Which Linux is the best ?
It is not possible to say which Linux is the best as there are different distributions for different purposes.
If you have old hardware you may want to try a light distribution like Puppy Linux. If you have enough horsepower and you want a lot of eye-candy you may want to try Mageia, Fedora or PCLinuxOS. If you want to run a server I would recommend Centos. If you are new to Linux and you need a lot of support I would recommend Ubuntu, OpenSuse or Linux Mint because the forums are the most active on the Internet.
The best way to decide which Linux is best for you is to experiment with a few different distributions.
Where do I get software to install on Linux and how is it installed?
There are literally thousands of software packages available for Linux. In most distributions software can be installed by simply selecting a package from the package manager. You will need an Internet connection for this. If you don’t have an Internet connection software can be copied to a CD or USB disk and installed either via the package manager or by following the software’s instructions.
A good site to consult to get an idea of the software available for Linux is: http://linuxappfinder.com/
What can Linux and other Free and Open Source software be used for?
- Internet Browsing (Firefox)
- Email ( Mozilla Thunderbird)
- Office Applications (Open Office)
- Music (Amarok)
- Movies (Mplayer)
- Graphics (Gimp)
- and much more …..
- Web server (Apache)
- Database server (MySQL / PostgreSQL)
- Proxy server (Squid)
- File server (SAMBA)
- Windows Domain Controller (SAMBA)
- Virtualization (VirtualBox)
- Cloud computing
- and much more ….
Where can I find more information about Linux and Open Source Software ?
Try the following Websites: