Posted: September 15, 2010 in REDHAT 5 LinUX

What is Linux?

Linux is a UNIX-based operating system originally
developed as for Intel-compatible PC’s.  It is now
available for most types of hardware platforms,
ranging from PDAs (and according to some reports, a
wristwatch) to mainframes.  Linux is a “modern
operating system”, meaning it has such features as
virtual memory, memory protection, and preemptive

Linux is built and supported by a large international
community of developers and users dedicated to free,
open-source software.  This community sees Linux as an
alternative to such proprietary systems as Windows and
Solaris, and as a platform for alternatives to such
proprietary applications as MS Office, Internet
Explorer, and Outlook.

As a result of this community, there is a very large
collection of free software available for Linux.
There are graphical environments (GUIs), office
applications, developers’ tools, system utilities,
business applications, document publishing tools,
network client and server applications — the list
goes on.

The best part of this community is that all code is
open.  This means there is no barrier to entry; for
any given problem, there are generally several
applications that solve the problem.  These
applications can also borrow the best parts from each
other to become even better.  An excellent example of
this is Galeon.  Galeon is a web browser which took
Mozilla’s web page rendering engine and integrated it
with a GTK frontend (instead of Mozilla’s normal

Linux specifically refers to the Linux kernel.
However, the kernel is useless without a set of tools
and applications to run on the kernel.  Linux is most
commonly distributed with this toolset and a
collection of applications in what is called a
“distribution”.  The most common are Redhat, Mandrake,
Suse, and Debian.  Distributions differ in three basic
ways: the process for installing the distribution, the
applications available, and process for installing and
managing these applications.

Why use Linux?

Reasons to Install Linux

* Configurability
* Convenience
* Stability
* Community
* Freedom


Linux distributions give the user full access to
configure just about any aspect of their system.
Options range from the simple and straightforward
(for instance, changing the background image) to
the more esoteric (for instance, making the “Caps
Lock” key behave like “Control”).  Almost any
aspect of the user experience can be configured.

Linux also allows the user to automate just about
any task.  Advanced scripting and high-level
programming are standard features.  Most
operations are accessible via these scripting
options.  Finally, Linux offers the ultimate in
configurability: the source code, to be modified
as you see fit.


While Linux takes some effort to get set up, once
it is set up, it is surprisingly low-maintenance.
management can simply be a matter of
running two commands in the shell.  Linux also
offers complete remote access.  This allows the
user to act exactly as if she is sitting at that
computer’s desk, potentially across town or on the
other side of the world.


Linux is based on the UNIX kernel.  It provides
preemptive multitasking and protected memory.
Preemptive multitasking prevents any application
from permanently stealing the CPU and locking up
the machine.  Protected memory prevents
applications from interfering with and crashing

Linux and related tools are also open-source.
This means that the source code is available for
the public to view.  There are literally hundreds,
if not thousands, of developers working on the
various pieces of Linux.  In this open development
process, bugs are fixed very quickly.  In
addition, bugs are fixed immediately, instead of
waiting for the next major release.  It certainly
helps that the people who develop Linux and
associated tools use their programs every day.


Linux is part of the greater open-source
community.  This consists of thousands of
developers and many more users world-wide who
support open software.  This user and developer
base is also a support base.

In Rice, there is the Rice Linux Users
Group (the group who are bringing you this
class).  We hold regular meetings where people can
bring up their Linux problems.  There is also the
newsgroup rice.comp.linux, where questions can be
asked or problems laid out any time, day or night.
This newsgroup is mirrored to the RLUG-discuss
mailing list, for RLUG members who don’t have
access to Rice newsgroups.

Worldwide, the Linux community is even greater.
There is a mailing list for just about every
project or piece of software in active development
— if you have a question about a program, who
better to ask than the person who wrote it?  There
are also newsgroups and web pages which have
collectively with the mailing lists probably
addressed every problem someone new to Linux has
encountered several times over.


Linux is free.  This means more than just costing
nothing.  This means that you are allowed to do
whatever you want to with the software.  This is
why Redhat, Mandrake, and Suse are all allowed to
sell their own distributions of Linux.  The only
restriction placed on Linux is that, if you
distribute Linux, you must grant all the
privileges to the code that you had, including
providing the source.  This prevents a corporation
from using the Linux kernel as the basis for their
proprietary operating system.


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