GNU/Linux and You

GNU/Linux or simply "Linux" is a open-source operating system for your computer (please see our page on Free or Open-Source Software for a short description of open-source and the difference of what is today commonly called free software).

There are both commercial and non-commercial offerings of the Linux operating system (OS) for your computer. If you go commercial you will often times be given a small support contract with your purchase. If you choose to go with a community based Linux you will be able to get support on one of the many Linux forums that are available. The two most popular examples of these would be Red Hat Linux (being commercial) and Debian GNU/Linux (being community based). Both are very high quality Linux distributions in their own rights. Myself, I support our community based Linux distributions in my spare time. But both have their benefits and detraction’s. For example if you go with a corporate backed solution like Red Hat Linux then you will have to pay for your support. It is high quality and you can expect generally better support from them than Microsoft in my experience. It depends on your perspective if this is a plus or a minus as myself I have opted for the community based free support given by actual Linux users. Some may think that this is of a lesser quality but that will depend on just which forum you choose and what version or distribution of Linux you are using. Some are better than others. The Debian Users Forum for example will often have very knowledgeable members where as the Ubuntu Forums tend to have many new users helping other new users but not much experience to go on. This is just my experience so your mileage may vary.

There are many so called "user friendly" Linux offerings these days. You may have heard of Ubuntu Linux already. They aim to be the Microsoft Windows of the Linux world and their views on things reflect this. Myself, if you need a "user friendly" Linux distro. I would recommend either Linux Mint Debian Edition or PCLinuxOS. Both are very good at helping the new user adjust to a new system of things. Linux is not meant as a Microsoft Windows replacement but instead an alternative that sets you free to use your computer how you want to and with what software you need/want/desire.

While Linux is often said to be a "Server OS", I view it as a "Complete OS". This means I am free to use software tailored to the use of a desktop user or if I want I can make use of software used on many server machines. It is all in what one chooses to install and not in the OS title. Linux is just as effective on the desktop as it is on the server (depending on your needs). I use Linux as my everyday OS, it fill all my requirements and the software for it is often available free of charge as well, although if you prefer there are some places that make proprietary software for use on Linux. I tend to just make use of open-source software. This does not mean that it is not "commercial" software or that it was written by an undergrad or armature programmer as some would have you believe. Most programs written under an open-source license are of very high quality and written by professional programmers that (as a plus) use their own software so they know for the most part just how things need to be to be made the best use of. Unlike corporations that design software that the programmers hardly if ever use themselves.

The days have long since past that Linux was just an OS for the geeks. Yes, you still may have to learn some things anew but for the most part your day to day activities can just be click and go as long as you choose a Linux distribution suited to that purpose Like Linux Mint Debian Edition, PCLinuxOS, or (forgive me here) Ubuntu. Linux Mint and Ubuntu are based on Debian GNU/Linux, one of the 3 oldest Linux distributions still in operation and is completely community supported. All of the other distributions that started at the beginning are commercially supported/backed and as such support their corporate agendas instead of our communities needs being focused on. Corporate isn't always a bad thing, Red Hat puts out a high end commercial Linux with paid support and contributes back to the community massive amounts of support. I wish I could say that for all of the commercial GNU/Linux distros. Ubuntu, notably, contributes less to GNU/Linux than Microsoft does and they make a completely different operating system notably Windows(TM).

I have heard it said that the reason Linux is not plagued with viruses, mal-ware and Trojans is because the user-base is too insignificant. This has to be one of the largest misinformation tactics of the decade. The fact is that the Linux OS is the primary server platform for use on the internet. If anyone was going to be trying to attack, cripple or just generally infect something, those servers would be what they would be aiming to exploit. The facts are that Linux is just one of the toughest computer OS's to exploit. Is it venerable? Yes, as with all things one can usually find a way to exploit about anything. There have been roughly 100 (give or take) viruses that are or have been effective on a Linux system. Most of those were written in education institutions and are not out on the internet haunting people or their computers. Compare that with the viruses written for Windows that are or have been effective and you can see why Linux is the clear choice for security in comparison. There are literally tens of thousands of mallas programs that are effective against a Windows system as near any given time. Here I need to add a word of caution... It is not just the computer that needs to be secured but also the user. Yes, you read me right, the user needs trained in how to avoid infecting their computer. Some practices are just not safe on any computer or OS. For example someone willing to open an attachment sent to them in an e-mail that they receive from someone they don't even know is at very high risk to be infected on any OS they might be running. Always use safe computing practices no matter what OS you use. That said, one should never have to worry that they would get a virus from just opening an e-mail to read it or looking at some document. E-mail programs like Outlook, Outlook Express and Incredamail that run what ever code is there just should never be allowed on your computer. If you use them and are wanting to have a safe happy long relationship with your computer then I recommend you choose a better program to get your e-mail with. Thunderbird, Eudora, Claws Mail are all good programs and reasonably safe as long as you use your head. I may write a page exclusively dealing with those things but for now stay away from non-reputable sites and stop clicking on everything you possibly can just to see what it is. If you don't know someone is sending you some specific program, for goodness sake don't run it.

Ascetically speaking Linux could appear very different from Windows. If you are trying to migrate from Windows you are going to need to relearn all the things you learned in Windows all over again. Most people that use Windows are going to find this migration harder then those who have never used a computer before. A true fact. Sorry but Linux is just not Windows so if you are looking for a Windows "like" system then you will need to look else where as Linux is not it. There however is a free Windows clone being worked on called ReactOS. It is not ready for the public but if you help support it's development it could speed up the process and we might have a BETA to be using soon instead of the ALPHA that is currently available. GO REACTOS TEAM!! If you are coming from Mac OSX, your chances are far better at making immediate use of the Linux system as the Max uses a BSD OS under the hood of that glossy and highly polished exterior. BSD is a kin to Linux being a Unix based system. Linux is not "really" Unix but it is "Unix-Like" and based off of its design. So if you have interacted with the Mac shell you are miles ahead of the Windows users trying to migrate.

The information expressed here are the views of this author. While I hope you find them useful there maybe room for debate on a few issues. Please see my topic "Why I use Linux" for an insightful look into my opinions on things and the reasons I have made the switch.