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Introduction To Linux

What is Linux?

Linux is a very powerful and stable computer operating system. As of today, most of the websites on the world wide web run under Linux. The purpose of this article is to introduce you to Linux and help you decide if it is for you.

Linux essentials

Linux can be downloaded for free, but you'll have to pay a small amount if you prefer to buy it at retail. If youíre getting Linux for more than two or three PCs, you can also get training and support for a small fee if you need it. Else itís the Linux community on the web to your rescue. 

If you want to learn how to use Linux, you donít have to give up Windows. Simply have Linux installed on a separate partition and you can switch between Windows and Linux. There are a couple of Linux versions that also run off CD-ROMs: Xandross and Knoppix.

You donít have to be a "computer geek" to work with Linux. There are several graphical desktop environments that let you work in Linux as you would in Windows.

Linux's role in decreasing PC prices

Most PCs come bundled with an operating system. Linux is an open source operating system. This means that the Linux source code is available for everyone to see, work with, change, and develop their own applications to run on it.

The deal with this open source arrangement is that you should share the knowledge you gain and place the software you create in the public domain. The Linux operating system itself is free.

Compare this to the small fortune that people spend on other operating systems and you'll easily recognize the value of Linux. When a PC manufacturer bundles Linux and Linux based software with a computer, it reduces your out of pocket costs considerably. 

Linux was developed by Linus Torvalds of Finland, along with a group of programmers from the open source software movement. At that time, Linux was mostly something that only computer aficionados worked with.

But over the years, these Linux enthusiasts (about 50 million of them) worked on it and shared their knowledge about it with the rest of the tech world. Several Linux versions have been developed which are nearly as easy to use as Windows. And, of course, developers are still free to work with the code and enhance it. 

Linux is growing rapidly each year. With a passionate developer community supporting it, large companies like IBM and HP are pledging their support for it. Itís no wonder that Linux, the wonder operating system for servers of the past, is now beginning to make it to the desktop.

PC prices are falling on a regular basis, and you now have more choices of operating systems and applications. From being an OS that only computer professionals had heard of, Linux has made a transition into the lucrative and high profile home computer market.

One of the reasons people are beginning to switch over to Linux is simple economics. It's free! From a tiny user base of a few thousand techies, Linux has grown to close to 50 million users, and it's finally beginning to loosen the grip that Microsoft has on the operating system market.

Linux is based on the commercial operating system UNIX. Both of these OSs utilize command line management. System administrators use text commands all the time, but they aren't meant for regulars users.

UNIX and Linux aren't all just command line based. UNIX has had a practical graphical user interface for 30 years. And since its inception, Linux has always had a GUI as well, in fact there is actually a choice of Linux GUIs. 

Linux Versions

Many companies working on Linux have developed what are called Linux distributions. These are Linux versions that are compiled, packaged, and released with various additional software added in. 

The most popular Linux distributions include Red Hat, Mandrake, Corel SUSE, and Debian. Itís just like having different flavors of ice cream. True to the spirit of open source, if you download the distribution from the companyís Website, it is completely free.

But the Linux distribution packages are usually quite large so it may be to your advantage to pay a small fee and get the DVD-ROM from the company. These companies compile the Linux packages, make installation hassle free, bundle some great applications, throw in a manual, and provide any support you need. Of course they do charge a small fee for all this. 

Just remember, Linux stands for freedom of choice, freedom to redistribute, install a new feature, or even modify the source code. Thatís the spirit of Linux being open source! 

Linux has several advantages over Microsoft's OSs. There are no blue screens and virtually no viruses. Linux has better security support for multi-users, allows you set up a stable server, internet gateways, etc. And it still serves as a great desktop workstation!

Combine that with the fact that it's free, and you'll realize that you wonít lose anything by giving Linux a try. You get fast, free support on the web and you donít even have to get rid of Windows. Just install Linux on a different hard disk partition and switch between the OSs as you please!

Pawan Bangar is the technical Director of Birbals.com.

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