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 OSs for servers in the market,
no matter what paid third-party reports that are plaguing the
Most Linux distributions include a collection of programs
that run on the Linux kernel like X, KDE, GNOME, Cinnamon or
other desktop environments as well as LibreOffice and other
office or home utilities. Under the Linux name, you can get RHEL
(paid subscription, enterprise licensing), Fedora, CentOS,
Ubuntu, Mint (currently my distribution of choice), Mandriva,
Debian, Slackware and many others. When Linux became popular
(c. 1995-99), you could buy disks for any distribution from the
developers or third-party vendors. Nowadays you would most
likely download the distribution of your choice as an
.ISO and burn it to USB drive.
dd if=linux_image.iso of=/dev/sdb1
Because there many distros in the market (mostly
based on a parent distro — for example, Linux
Mint based on Ubuntu, which is based on Debian — learning
Linux is not necessarily learning how to use the GUI installed
in the distro of your choice. Learning Linux is
learning how to operate the command language interpreter or
shell. Just like the number of distros, there are
several shells available for UNIX® and Unix-like OSs.
Bourne shell (sh) was developed by
Stephen Bourne for Bell Labs in 1979 for Version 7 Unix. The
prompt is $ in user mode
(user@foobar:~$) and # as root using
sudo -i (root@foobar:~#).
Bourne Again shell (bash) was developed by Brian Fox for
the GNU Project in 1989 as a replacement of the 1979 Bourne
shell. It "incorporates useful features from
the Korn shell (ksh) and the C shell (csh)" (GNU Project, Sep. 2020).
Bash is the most used and most commonly pre-installed in
many Linux distributions. This is the shell that I have
used most and therefore I am most comfortable with.
KornShell (ksh) was
developed by David Korn for Bell Labs in 1983. It is
backward compatible with bash and
partially compatible with C shell.
Almquist shell (ash) was developed by Kenneth
Almquist in 1989 as a replacement for the Bourne shell in System V4 (BSD).
C shell (csh) was developed by Bill Joy
in 1978 for 2BSD. The prompt is % in user
TENEX/TOPS C shell (tcsh, pronounced
tish) was developed by Ken Greer at Carnegie
Mellon University in 1975 and merged tcsh into
csh in 1981. Mike Ellis at Fairchild
A.I. Labs expanded tcsh with command
competition in 1983. Other key developers include Paul
Placeway and Christos Zoulas. It is backward compatible
Z shell (zsh) was written by Paul
Falstad in 1990 while studying at Princeton University.
It is named after then-Princeton professor Zhong Shao.
In 2019, Zsh became the default shell in macOS.
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.
Boot from the USB drive 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.
Depending on the distribution (distro), you might
need to update your installation right away. If the
distro is based on Debian and it has apt as in
the case of Ubuntu and its derivatives like Linux Mint, you
might want to run the following on the console as root (sudo
apt-get update &&
apt-get upgrade -y &&
apt-get autoclean -y &&
apt-get autoremove -y &&
apt-get purge -y &&
I would recommend doing the latter on a daily basis.
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.