What is Linux anyway?

Most people are familiar with Windows or MAC, but there's an alternative that you should consider.

by Pete
Published: Updated: 8 minutes read

Linux, often touted as an operating system, plays a pivotal role in managing hardware resources within your computer. While it might share some similarities with widely-used systems like Windows and macOS, Linux boasts several distinctions that set it apart.

Components of a Linux System

A Linux system comprises several integral components, such as the kernel, system libraries, and system utilities. The kernel serves as the central control unit, managing resources and facilitating communication between hardware and software elements. System libraries consist of software routines that enable programs to interact with the kernel, allowing for various operations like input/output, networking, and memory management.

On the other hand, system utilities encompass specialized programs for tasks like file system management, process control, and performance monitoring. Additionally, Linux systems may include graphical user interfaces, applications, and various tools and utilities.

How is Linux different to Windows?

Linux and Windows, both operating systems, serve as the backbone for computer operation. Nevertheless, significant disparities exist between the two. A key distinction lies in their source code accessibility. Linux follows an open-source model, providing the code freely to the public for modification and distribution. In contrast, Windows maintains a proprietary, closed-source approach, keeping its code confidential.

User base varies as well. Linux is favored by developers and CLI (command line interface) aficionados, whereas Windows caters to general consumers with its user-friendly GUI (graphical user interface). Linux is also acclaimed for its stability and security, stemming from its open-source nature and collaborative development by a global volunteer community. It is notably less susceptible to malware and viruses.

Additionally, the two operating systems differ in their software ecosystems. Windows offers a wide array of software, including proprietary programs, while Linux provides a smaller yet predominantly open-source selection that is modifiable and distributable.

How is Linux different to MacOS?

Linux and macOS are both operating systems that power computers but exhibit distinguishing characteristics. Much like Windows, Linux adheres to an open-source philosophy, offering its source code for public access and modification. Conversely, macOS relies on proprietary code that is not available to the public.

User preference diverges as well. Linux primarily caters to developers and CLI enthusiasts, while macOS enjoys widespread use among general consumers due to its user-friendly GUI and seamless integration with Apple’s hardware and software.

Linux also offers greater customizability thanks to its open-source nature and community-driven development. This level of user control enables fine-tuning of the operating system to meet specific requirements. The software ecosystems of Linux and macOS differ too, with macOS featuring a broader range of software, including many proprietary Apple programs, while Linux provides a more streamlined selection of mostly open-source and customizable software.

Is Linux right for you?

When considering Linux as your operating system, here are some factors to weigh:

  1. Customizability: Linux allows for extensive customization, making it ideal for users seeking a tailored experience.
  2. CLI vs. GUI: Linux is favored by CLI users, so if you prefer a GUI, you may face a steeper learning curve.
  3. Software and Hardware Compatibility: Ensure your essential software and hardware are compatible with Linux.
  4. Operating System Familiarity: Linux may pose a learning curve for those new to operating systems, but it’s rewarding for users comfortable with troubleshooting.

The choice of the right operating system ultimately hinges on your specific needs and preferences. If you’re new to Linux, consider trying it via a virtual machine or live USB to get a firsthand feel for its capabilities.

How can you get started with Linux?

There are many resources available for learning about Linux, including:

  • Online tutorials and documentation: A quick search online and on YouTube will turn up a wide range of tutorials and documentation on Linux, covering topics such as installation, configuration, and basic commands.
  • Books: There are many books available on Linux, ranging from beginner’s guides to more advanced technical references. You can find books on Linux at your local bookstore or library, or you can purchase them online. Try Amazon as online alternative.
  • Online courses: There are many online courses available that can teach you about Linux, including both free and paid options. These courses can be a good way to learn at your own pace and often include interactive exercises and quizzes to help you test your knowledge.
  • Linux forums and communities: There are many online forums and communities where you can ask questions and get help with Linux-related issues. These can be a good way to get personalized help and learn from others who are using Linux.
  • Try it out: One of the best ways to learn about Linux is to try it out yourself. You can install Linux on a spare computer or use a virtual machine to test it out without making any permanent changes to your system. This can be a great way to get hands-on experience and see what Linux is all about.

Finally, the cost

Linux stands out as a cost-effective choice. Given its open-source nature, Linux is generally available at no charge. Some companies may offer Linux distributions for a fee or provide technical support services, which can add to the cost. However, in comparison to proprietary operating systems like Microsoft Windows or macOS, Linux typically offers substantial savings.

Should you opt for Linux, you can download a distribution for free from the internet or acquire a pre-installed version from a vendor. The latter may include additional software and support, but even then, the overall cost of using Linux remains budget-friendly.

In Conclusion

This is but a snippet, or an overview, of what Linux is. I recommend reading How I chose my first Linux distro and A Windows guy switches to Linux to understand where I landed in terms of what Distribution I use and also what Desktop Environment I landed on. From there, read 7 of the best Linux Desktop Environments in 2022, where I list out 7 of the best places to start if you’re planning on moving away from Windows (or MAC), or even if you’re just curious. Welcome to Linux. :)

This is only a brief summary of what Linux is. To understand where I landed in terms of what Distribution I use and also what Desktop Environment I settled on, I recommend reading How I choose my first Linux distribution and A Windows guy switches to Linux. From there, read 7 of the Best Linux Desktop Environments in 2022, where I list out 7 of the best places to start if you’re looking to transition away from Windows (or MAC), or if you’re simply interested. So, say hello and welcome to Linux.