This page is intended to give some information on what linux is and what you can do with it.

What is linux?

In short, linux is a free, unix-like OS (operating system). It is not unix and is not (directly) related to the Free Software Foundation or GNU. That said, they have a few things in common, namely:

  • Much of the software produced by FSF and GNU is worked on by many developers around the world
  • the software is free, with only a few limits to its use and distribution.

Linux was created in 1991 by Linus Torvalds as a replacement to Minix, another unix-like operating system which he felt was inferior. Although several hundred (thousand?) developers have since worked on both the kernel and other parts of the OS, Linus has maintained overall control of the kernel development.

Linux was originally written to run on Intel-based hardware (ie, desktop PC's) but has since been ported to other hardware platforms including SPARC (Sun Microsystem's processor) and Amiga.

Where to get linux

There are several ways to get linux. The easiest method is to buy a distribution CD from a supplier. This usually come with a boot floppy which installs a basic kernel and allows you to run some form of installer from the CD.

Alternatively, it is possible to download the OS from the internet and install from there, either performing the install via FTP or by copying the files to CD or an existing DOS partition and installing from there. In the past, all the files were copied to floppy and the installation came from that. However, software has grown in size such that floppies are no longer a feasible distribution medium, and even CDs are becoming obsolete as data sizes grow.

Some common distributions are:

  • Redhat software, probably the most popular distribution due to its simplicity of installation, including the use of RPM's to distribute packages.
  • Slackware linux. Still the "hacker's" version of linux. It is (reportedly) harder to get to grips with, lacking the simple tools that Redhat et al come with. However, many linux users swear by it.
  • Debian linux. Debian also has its own version of packaging software which is different from RPM.
  • S.u.S.E. linux. Not quite as common as RedHat, but it has a following, especially in its native Germany.

There are several other distributions, many of which are based on the above (e.g. Mandrake is based on Redhat.

File last modified: Saturday, 06-Mar-2004 14:12:08 GMT