Saturday, January 30, 2010

What is Linux?


This tutorial is written with the total Linux n00b in mind.
I've seen too many n00bs get totally left in the dark by asking what
the best distro is. They seem to only get flooded with too many
answers in so short a time. I'm a little bit of a n00b too, so I know
how it feels. I will cover a grand total of two basic distros. You may
learn to strongly prefer other ones (I do!) but this is just to get
you started. I touch on a number of topics that would be impossible to
go into in depth in one tutorial, so I encourage you to actively seek
out more about the concepts I make reference to.

What is Linux?

Linux is basically an operating system (OS for short). The Windows
machine you're (probably) using now uses the Mcft Windows
operating system.

Ok, so what's so different about Linux?

Linux is part of a revolutionary movement called the open-source
movement. The history and intricacies of that movement are well beyond
the scope of this tutorial, but I'll try and explain it simply. Open
source means that the developers release the source code for all their
customers to view and alter to fit what they need the software to do,
what they want the software to do, and what they feel software should
do. Linux is a programmer?s dream come true, it has the best compilers,
libraries, and tools in addition to its being open-source. A
programmer's only limit then, is his knowledge, skill, time, and

What is a distro?

A distro is short for a distribution. It's someone's personal
modification or recreation of Linux.

What do you mean by distros? I just want Linux!

Since Linux is open source, every developer can write his own version.
Most of those developers release their modifications, or entire
creations as free and open source. A few don't and try to profit from
their product, which is a topic of moral debate in the Linux world.
The actual Linux is just a kernel that serves as a node of
communication between various points of the system (such as the CPU,
the mouse, the hard drive etc.). In order to use this kernel, we must
find a way to communicate with it. The way we communicate is with a
shell. Shells will let us enter commands in ways that make sense to
us, and send those commands to the kernel in ways that makes sense to
it. The shell most Linux's use it the BASH shell (Bourne Again SHell).
The kernel by itself will not do, and just a shell on top of the kernel
won?t either for most users; we are then forced to use a distribution.