New User's Look at Linux

Without getting too technical Linux is a form of operating system that is open source and free to the public. It is primarily based off the Unix operating system architecture. Linux was designed by Linus Torvalds back in the 80's. For years the operating system was used mainly in a command line form and was not very user friendly at all. In fact, unless you were well versed in the operating system, it was hard for a beginner to do even the simplest of tasks like typing a document. Linux and Unix are widely used today for servers with specific tasks like NAS (Network Area Storage) or Website hosting. After a while they developed the UI (User Interface) more and more to accommodate even new computer users. With the code being open source, it leaves endless possibilities for countless people/vendors to come up with their own version of Linux. Because Linux is open source that means it is free to everyone and developed under the GNU (General Public License). Free is always better right? I am not sure about you, but I always believed that you get what you pay for. This doesn't mean Linux is useless because it is free but instead there will be troubles and workarounds needed to use it on an everyday basis.

What is Linux?

Linux BrowserDistros: Fedora is one version or "distro" of Linux that leans more towards the new or general user. Fedora is made by the makers of Red Hat. It was one of the first Linux versions I happened to play around with. It has a neat nice design and catchy user interface which appeals to new users but can also make you the object of some nerdy jokes. A friend of mine, that is pretty decent with Linux, once told me that Fedora id like Linux for n00bs. I would probably agree as most leet Linux users don't even use the GUI (Graphical User Interface) but instead just do everything through the terminal. The terminal is a way of doing tasks by way of command line. Although it looks cool to watch someone who knows their stuff navigate through the terminal, it is really no fun at all.

People like easy and they like things that look pretty. Fedora delivers on this in a pretty efficient manner. Fedora, along with other versions like Ubuntu or PCLinux OS, can be run either installed or run as a Live CD. Live CD's are pretty cool because the entire OS run off the CD and makes no changes to the PC. This is great to test out different distros without having to reinstall every time. I worked at a place once where our primary PC's hard drive died. We threw in a Linux Live CD and were up and running for most tasks that we needed to do.

Compatibility: Compatibility can be an issue sometimes when using Linux, however, most compatibility issues can be handled pretty easily. One of the best things Microsoft did with Windows 7 was increase the hardware compatibility. A lot of devices can just be plugged in and Windows will find the drivers for you. Linux however is not as developed in this regard and installing some things can be quite a pain. Now there are always exceptions to the rule. For instance, the last time I installed Ubuntu and Fedora on my laptop neither one installed the driver for my wireless card. After plugging the laptop directly into the internet and doing an update the card was found and installed properly.

I haven't looked too far into this to see how many devices it actually works with it but given the current situation Linux may be more on the ball then I may think. Software compatibility is another story altogether. Just as the operating system is free, some of the software is also free. There are lots open source/free software out there that can do most things that software for Windows can do. Open Office is an open source office program that, in most ways, can be compatible with Microsoft Office. If you need an email client like outlook, Linux has programs like Evolution. Not everything is going to be 100% compatible but neither is the compatibility between Windows and Mac.

Why isn't it more popular? Well, as I stated above, it is not the easiest thing to use or navigate. Not to mention the GUI development hasn't been the greatest until lately. There have been a few cases where EEE PC's (netbook like laptops) were sold with a Linux OS instead of Windows. This was to make the PC cheaper and smaller in size by not needing much hard drive space to run efficiently. They were not very popular because the normal consumer didn't quite understand how to use Linux and in order to make it compatible with their other Windows based PCs they had to use workarounds or change the way they use the PC.

Test it out! I would like to encourage anyone to give Linux a try. Using the Live CDs there is really no harm in trying. Personally, I would love to see Linux take off and more widely used among the average PC user and not just server administrators. Next time I purchase a laptop or PC I would like to be given the choice of Windows, Mac, or various Linux distros.

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