What is Linux?
Linux is a UNIX® clone OS based on Minix, created in
1991 by Linus Torvalds from the University of Helsinki. Torvalds
controls all changes and releases of the Linux kernel.
For close to three decades, Linux has been one of the most
commonly used and most reliable OS for servers in the market, no
matter what paid third-party reports that are plaguing the
Most Linux distributions (distros) include a
collection of programs that run on the Linux kernel like X, KDE,
GNOME, other desktop environments, LibreOffice and various codecs.
Under the Linux name, you can get RHEL (paid subscription,
enterprise licensing), Fedora, CentOS, Ubuntu (my distribution of
choice), Mandriva, Debian, Slackware and many others tailored to
your needs and/or desires. In the past, you could buy the disks
for any distribution from the developers or third-party vendors.
Nowadays you would most likely download the distribution
(distro) in a live .ISO or .IMG file
that can be burnt to a USB drive.
Before trying to install Linux, get a full inventory of
what your computer has. In the past, you might have had to help
the installer recognize the hardware. Nowadays the installer
takes care of most the configuration (config).
Since most distributions are live, you can boot into the OS
and test it before install it. If you decide to install it,
there is usually a shortcut on the desktop that calls the
installer. You could also reboot and select to install it and
sit back. The only thing you would have to decide is if you want
to format the whole drive or share it with another OS.
In the past, you were advised to assign twice the RAM as
/swap. Nowadays new hardware and versions of Linux do
not need this rule of thumb anymore. As mentioned before, you
can now sit back and relax.
There are still distributions for total nerds that demand you
to compile each file in the installation like Slackware (one of
the original seven distributions) and Arch Linux to create a
tailored installation for your hardware with only the drivers
and other libraries needed (no bloat, small installation). For
more information, you can visit DistroWatch to see what
distributions are new and are the trendy for about an hour
— very similar to Windows.
Some vendors have started to offer single-board computer
(SBC) units. For example, the Raspberry Pi Foundation released
its Raspberry Pi 1 Model A in February of 2012. After several
generations with a price tag under $50, several projects have
used Raspberry Pi hardware like Kano (2013), which designed a
system for children to learn how to build computers and laptops
as well as to code. Most of these SBC units run their own
tailored Linux distributions.