What is Linux?
The linux operating system is found around the world on desktop computers, laptops, tablets, phones, and more. It powers the vast majority of the world’s web servers and drives everything from Roku devices to refrigerators, automobiles, and even supercomputers. The technology behind linux is used by a huge community of users and by commercial vendors such as Canonical, SUSE, and Red Hat.
The underlying code for a Linux-based operating system is free, and its components can be freely combined to create different Linux distributions. Those distributions can vary widely in the combination of tools and software packages that are included with them, though most will include the GNU operating system tools (see below).
Linux is based on an open source license. This means that the program is free to download, install, and run on any computer with the appropriate hardware and a modern graphics card. In addition, most Linux-based systems follow the copyleft stipulations of the GNU General Public License, which require any software built on top of a Linux kernel to be released as free and open source. The licenses that govern most of the other software packages in a Linux system can differ between distributions, but they all allow developers to make money off their work.
Most modern distributions offer a centralized location where applications can be downloaded and installed. Ubuntu Linux uses its GNOME Software application, Elementary OS offers the AppCenter, and Deepin has its own apt-get software management tool. While these tools do not offer a complete replacement for a fully functional desktop environment, they do provide users with a simple way to manage the installation of new programs.
In order to function properly, any Linux-based system requires a range of other software, including libraries, filesystems, and networking utilities. This software allows the operating system to communicate with other systems and to mount files created on other machines. This functionality, along with the kernel and a variety of user-interface components, are what set Linux apart from other operating systems.
Because of the wide variety of software available for linux, each distribution is unique. Some are geared towards newbies and others toward experts, while some are focused on performance and others on aesthetics. Each of these different versions of linux can be modified to meet specific requirements by adding or removing software packages.
Aside from varying software options, most of these different versions of linux offer a number of differences in how they are managed and maintained. For example, some will offer a graphical interface for system updates and installing software, while other will only be accessible via the command line.
If you are a newbie, consider using a Linux distribution such as Ubuntu, Linux Mint, or Elementary OS. This type of distribution is designed to be user-friendly and will come with a modern desktop environment that can be customized to suit your needs. If you have advanced computer skills, try a more technical and customizable distribution such as Gentoo or CRUX.