Introduction to Linux
I first started using Linux back in the days when Red Hat 7 was the latest and greatest. I started using it because I wanted to be able to tweak my operating system more than windows would let me do. I wanted to be proficient using regedit but there was like no documentation at all about the windows registry. Compared to Linux windows is like a book with two pretty covers but all the pages are white with the contents of the book written in white ink. You can’t do anything with the stuff inside of windows.
Let me be perfectly honest with you, Linux is not for everyone. You may think that Linux is not for beginners or new computer users, but that is not the case. If setup right, Linux can be much easier to use than Windows. Linux is not for those who want to be able to play their windows games without problems, use their webcams without problems, or run Microsoft Office and other windows only programs. Let’s look at a short list of pros and cons and then you can decide what you think is best.
|Many free programs come with Linux that makes it possible to do things you’ve never thought imaginable
|Some software only works on Windows
|Great stability and reliability, one program cannot bring down the system
|Some poorly written open source programs will crash occasionally (but when they do you can actually submit a bug report.)
|Drivers for almost every piece of hardware ever made is included with the operating system
|Some really new pieces of hardware don’t have drivers yet
|Tons of programming resources for every computer language written
|Some programs can be difficult to install since they need to be compiled from source
|Unlimited flexibility and customization since the source code is available
History of Linux
Linux was written by Linus Torvalds, Linus started out by just enjoying programming an operating system for the x86 processors. Linus was very familiar with the 386’s internal workings and had been using an operating called Minix for most of his computing needs. Minix was written a university professor who wanted an operating system that his students could learn from. The source code was provided but it was not freely redistributable. When Linus started working Linux some other Minix users were interested and started contributing to the project. The rest, as they say, is history. Many different programmers hopped on the band wagon and started developing Linux.
Let me clarify something here. Linux refers to the kernel or core of the operating system, this is what Linus developed. When most people say Linux they are not just talking about the kernel but the kernel combined with the graphical user interface and all the other programs that go along with it. When you’re talking about this it would be proper to so GNU/Linux. GNU is an organization that developed all the free tools that make Linux able to do stuff. Before Linux came along the GNU tools were used in commercial Unix, when Linux came along it was possible to offer a completely free operating system.
So by this time you probably just want to know how to get Linux so you can pass your own judgement on it. There are many ways to install Linux and may places you can get it. In the early days it was very difficult to install Linux but in recent years it has gotten much easier. To install Linux you first need to download what is known as a distribution. A distribution is a collecting of Linux and all the related software on one CD (or several Cd’s or DVDs). The best Distribution I have ever used is known as Ubuntu. You can download CD images of the latest distribution from the Download page. Ubuntu is the only distribution that I know of that offers free Cd’s. They will actually ship you the operating system absolutely free, no shipping charge either. You can place your order at Ship it.
If you download the ISO’s then you will need to burn them to a CD. You can do so using a CD burning program such as Nero. Windows does not have ISO burning support so third party software is necessary.
Linux is hard to install
The truth is Linux is not any harder to install than any other operating system. It is true that Linux used to be very difficult to install but for the last couple years Linux has progressed so that it is possible to effortlessly install Linux alongside windows in a dual boot configuration.
Linux is only for programmers and hackers
While it may be true that many hackers and programmers use Linux. The truth is anyone can use Linux. I believe that Linux can be much easier to use than windows or other operating systems.
There is no support for Linux
Some people think that because Linux is not “owned” by anybody that it is impossible to get support for it when it doesn’t work. This is as far from the truth as you can get. Using Windows it is impossible to even send in a bug report to Microsoft let alone get help when something doesn’t work. With Linux I have been able to directly e-mail the developers of the application I have been having problems with and get a reply in a few days. This not possible with any closed source program.
There are no games available for Linux
Unfortunately there is some truth to this claim. Many games do not work with Linux unless they specifically ported to the Operating System. However, there are many games that have been ported. Id software is the main company that ports they commercial games to Linux but there are many more. It is also possible to get many windows games to run on Linux using wine which is an application compatibility layer that include good DirectX support. I have installed Warcraft III, World of Warcraft, Command and Conquer and many other games to run on Linux using wine. There is also hundreds of open source games available for Linux, they are not quite as large as their commercial counterparts but many of them are fun and unique. See the Linux game tome for a database of all the open source games available for Linux.