10 things users must know about Linux

Well, frankly speaking nobody is perfect, and in the current discussion not everyone is a tech-savy geek. But does that mean they don't have right to feel and enjoy the 'best' things in life (in this discussion, the same pertains to technology). Over the years, many people have switched from Windows to Linux primarily owing to freedom that the latter provides. But, the question remains- is the 'average joe' in you truly familiar with what Linux really is?

10 things users must know about Linux

This goes out to all the people who have heard the term Linux and want to know a bit more but have no clue where to begin. Here are 10 things users must know about Linux:

What is Linux?

"Linux is a Unix-like computer operating system assembled under the model of free and open source software development and distribution. The defining component of Linux is the Linux kernel, an operating system kernel first released 5 October 1991 by Linus Torvalds." is how Wikipedia puts it. Most of you will probably have the Windows operating system that has seen a number of versions over the years. Now Windows is an Operating System, while Windows Kernel or the Windows NT Kernel is basically the engine for it. From the Windows NT Kernel multiple versions of Windows are formed including the home, professional and ultimate editions. 

Now coming to our point: there is a common misconception that Linux is an Operating System (or as even Wiki calls it). Linux is however the engine that spawns a whole host of different operating systems known as distributions.

What is a distribution (distro)? 

The distribution is in fact the actual operating system. So you could look at it like this. There are multiple distributions each aimed at a different target audience. The difference between Linux and Windows is that there are hundreds of choices of Linux distributions with majority of them being free.

How do I know which distribution is right for me? 

This basically comes down to personal preference. A lot of distributions provide live CDs which makes it possible to insert the CD into you CD drive and restart your computer and it will boot straight into the Linux distribution. Simply try out all the functions without worrying about messing up your Windows installation and if you like it you can then install it. However, blindly downloading distributions is not advisable for newbies. You can always visit www.distrowatch.org that convineantly lists the top 100 distributions. Further, the search tool can be used to search on the distribution type. 

Searching on 'older computers' provides a list of distributions that run well on older computers. Then there are distros for gamers, education and so on. Each distribution has a description which states the major goals of the projects. You can also see screenshots and read reviews.

For first timers however, Ubuntu, Linux Mint or Zorin OS might be useful!

What is a desktop environment? 

A desktop environment is simply a series of menus, taskbars, windows and keyboard shortcuts that you use to start and run applications. Linux offers an abundant choice of desktop environments. The main desktop environments in use are Unity, Cinnamon, Mate, Gnome, KDE, XFCE and LXDE. 

Where can I get Linux distributions? 

Most distributions of course come free, however, some distros make it more complicated than others when choosing what to download. Ubuntu is fairly easier since there is only one desktop choice (Unity) and so you simply get the choice to download a 32 bit version or a 64 bit version. 

How do I install Linux but keep Windows? 

Some Linux distributions can run from inside Windows or as well as Windows without affecting the Windows install at all for those of you still wanting to hold on to Windows while trying out Linux. For instance, Ubuntu has the Wubi installer which runs Ubuntu from inside Windows. While, many other distros enable you to install the Linux distribution alongside Windows so that when you boot your PC you can choose whether to use Windows or Linux.

Can I still run my Windows applications? 

WINE enables you to install Windows applications within the Linux operating system and run them straight from within Linux. While, VirtualBox enables you to install a copy of Windows within a virtual machine whereby you can install the Windows applications you wish to use.

Is my hardware supported by Linux? 

The answer is a yes! The best thing however is to try out the live version of a distribution first and test all your hardware. 

How do I get support for Linux? 

The major distros have forums that you can go to for help. If the forums don’t work then there are the ICQ chat rooms. Then there is of course Google and Youtube.

Why would I want to use Linux instead of Windows? 

If your machine is running slowly or it is getting older then you might not be able to upgrade to a later version of Windows. However, the current version of Windows will eventually lose support and there is every chance security holes will be found and not plugged. Moving to a version of Linux that is designed for older computers will give you peace of mind that you are running on an operating system designed for you. 

Source: Everyday Linux User 

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