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What is Linux? Everything you’ve always wanted to know



Key Takeaways

  • Linux is an open-source operating system known for its flexibility and customization options.
  • Linux differs from proprietary operating systems like Windows or Mac OS in terms of cost, customization and control, support and ecosystem, and user interface.
  • When choosing a Linux distro, consider your purpose and use case, user experience preferences, and the availability of support and documentation.


You may have heard about Linux and how it powers computers, smartphones, web servers, and other computing appliances but haven’t got enough information about it and why it’s become so popular over the years. You may also be interested in using Linux but haven’t got enough clue as to which version makes the perfect sense for your use case.

We’ll leave you with all the information you need to understand what Linux is and answer other relevant questions you may have about it.


What is Linux?

Linux is a Unix-like open-source operating system based on the Linux kernel. It was first launched in 1991 by Linus Torvalds and has since grown into a popular platform used by about 32.8 million around the globe.

Often, there appears to be confusion about whether Linux is a Kernel or an operating system. So, let’s clarify that. Linux is primarily a kernel, making it a core operating system component. So, when people talk about Linux in a general sense, they are often referring to the Linux kernel. However, to create a complete and usable operating system, the Linux kernel is typically combined with various software utilities, libraries, and user interfaces, collectively making up a Linux-based operating system. These complete operating systems often come as Linux distributions or Linux distros for short, package the Linux kernel with additional software to provide a functional and user-friendly environment. However, for the purpose of this piece, I will be discussing Linux in the operating system context.

Linux is known for its flexibility and customization options as an operating system. This flexibility is achieved through a modular design. You can tailor it to suit various purposes, such as desktop computing, running servers, or even powering mobile devices like Android phones.

One of Linux’s defining features is its adaptability to different user preferences and needs. You can interact with Linux through both a command-line interface, where you type text commands, and a graphical user interface (GUI) that offers a more visually appealing way of using a computing device. This versatility makes Linux suitable for many users, from tech-savvy professionals who prefer command-line control to those who prefer a familiar graphical environment.

Core differences between Linux and other proprietary operating systems

Linux shares many similarities with other operating systems like Windows, Mac OS, and iOS. However, unlike these operating systems, Linux offers a more collaborative development model, where a global community of developers contributes to its ongoing improvement and customization. This open-source feature allows users to modify and distribute Linux freely, making it a cost-effective and customizable solution for individuals, businesses, and organizations.

The table below summarizes the difference between Linux and proprietary operating systems.

Feature Linux Proprietary OS
Cost Typically free Requires licensing fee
Customization and control Highly customizable Limited
Support and ecosystem Community driven Rely on vendor support
User interface Command-line and GUI and easily configurable Standardized interface, less configurable.
Licensing Model Open-source Proprietary

How to get started with the right Linux distro

Linux distros are like different variants under which the Linux OS is distributed. Each Linux distro is tailored to meet different needs and preferences. Some of the widely used Linux distros include Debian, Ubuntu, Linux Mint, Fedora Linux, Gentoo OpenSUSE, and so on.

Given the number of Linux distros available, you might be confused when looking for the ideal distro for your needs. So, below are some factors that should shape your choice of a Linux distro.

Purpose and use case: If you’re starting out with Linux, you should determine your primary purpose for wanting to use a Linux OS. Are you setting up a server, a desktop workstation, a multimedia center, or an embedded system? For instance, if you need a stable and secure server environment, you might choose CentOS or Ubuntu Server. Specialized distros like Kali Linux, Parrot OS, and BlackBox Linux are designed for ethical hacking and penetration testing, so they are better for power users.

User Experience: Consider your level of expertise and the user interface you prefer. For a user-friendly desktop experience, options like Ubuntu, Fedora, or Linux Mint are popular choices. Some distros offer a user-friendly experience with graphical desktop environments like GNOME or KDE, making them suitable for beginners.

Support: Some Linus Distro, like Arch Linux and Ubuntu, have more active community support than others. You should check the size and activity of the distro’s community and the availability of documentation and support resources.

Why use Linux?

One of the main reasons to use Linux is that you don’t have to pay a licensing fee. Linux is free to use, and most of its software is open source, which means you can save money on licensing fees and enjoy free access to a vast software library.

Using Linux also gives you access to better customizability. If you fancy tweaking systems to suit your specific needs, you might want to try Linux, as it makes that possible.

Linux is inherently more secure than some other operating systems. Since the source code is open to all, it is easier to pick up malicious lines of code when hackers try to inject some into the code base.

If you’ll be using the Linux OS for the first time, it’s a chance to learn something new. There is a satisfaction that comes from learning something new and using it to perform valuable tasks. Using Linux offers you a chance to experience this rewarding feeling.

FAQ

Q: Can I run Linux alongside my Windows operating system?

Yes, you can use Linux alongside your Windows OS by setting up a dual-boot system, which allows you to choose between the two during startup.

Q: What software can I use on Linux, and how do I install applications?

Linux offers a wide range of free and open-source software, and you can install applications using package managers specific to your distribution or through graphical software centers.

Q: Is Linux suitable for everyday users, or is it mainly for tech enthusiasts?

Linux is suitable for both everyday users and tech enthusiasts, with user-friendly distributions like Ubuntu and Linux Mint making it accessible to beginners, while advanced users can harness its power for specialized tasks.



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