Big Tux!

What is Linux and what's the big deal about it?

Why Linux?

Let's face it computers and software can be finicky things and most of us have experienced the frustration of dealing with overpriced software that seems to never work well. We here at Recompute felt the same; if you are like us, and are tired of dealing with Microsoft and Apple's BS there is another way and it is called Linux.

Linux is a free open source operating system for computers. The operating system is the backbone software that your computer runs. Currently Windows and OSX (Mac) are the most common operating systems in the world, however Linux is the other choice in computer operating system. Most high performance computers and servers run Linux as it is a very solid and stable piece of software that is customizable as well as secure, especially when using the Internet as Linux computers do not get viruses.

Linux in is a very generic term as there are many versions of Linux, these versions are referred to as distributions or distros for short. There are hundreds of Linux distros, just like ice cream flavors, however a few always rise to the top as the most popular. The most common and widely use Linux distros are Ubuntu, Linux Mint (actual distro name) and Fedora. Think of them as the most popular ice cram flavors, vanilla, chocolate and strawberry. Regardless of the distro all Linux operating systems root from the same basic software code, just like all ice cream has the same basic ingredients.

Is Linux for me?

You may be saying to yourself that all you use your computer for is working on the Internet, email, music, photos and office work (word processing, slide shows and spreadsheets). Perfect! You are an ideal candidate for Linux as most computer owners fit this bill and Linux works great for all of these things. A big misconception about Linux, is many believe it is like DOS, where you have a blinking cursor and you have to type in all your commands, this is not true! Most distros look and act very similar to Windows or Mac OSX and take very little time to get used to.

We do want to note that Linux is not perfect and there is a bit of a learning curve, however once you understand a few basic principals you will be alright. If you can install software and trouble shoot problems using the Internet you are most of the way there. You do not have to learn code or be a super nerd to use Linux. There are lots of tutorials and support sites that help users troubleshoot and tweak their systems.

Where do I start?

One of the biggest hurdles in transitioning to Linux is where to start. Often there are hardware and software problems that novices just don't understand when trying to set up a computer to run Linux, which makes learning difficult. We recognized these hurdles and wanted to make it as easy for you to start using Linux. We decided to offer Ubuntu Linux as our standard operating system choice on the 2011 Recompute. The hardware and software has the bugs worked out and has been pre-configured work smooth from the factory. Getting started is as simple as turning on your computer.

Which distro is for me?

For beginners we recommend the most popular distros as a place to get started.

- Ubuntu is the 3rd most used operating system in the world (behind Windows and OSX). Out of all the distros it has the largest community of users and thus the best support. Ubuntu is based on a older version of Linux called Debian. It has many levels of options for customization and uses a Debian based file system, something you have to be conscious of when installing software.

- Linux Mint is the 4th most used operating system in the world, it is based off of Ubuntu, but is a little simpler to use. It is probably the best version for beginners to use as the options are limited and the menu system is easy to navigate. Linux Mint also uses a Debian based file system.

- Fedora is the 5th most used operating system in the world. Fedora is based on an enterprise (aka big business) Linux distro called Red Hat, where Fedora is the community version of the distro. Fedora looks and acts similar to Ubuntu, and has a smaller but very dedicated community of users and developers. Fedora is also the testing grounds for features that may or may not get integrated in to Red Hat. A major difference of Fedora is uses an RPM based file system.

Ubuntu comes standard on the 2011 Recompute, Linux Mint and Fedora can be substituted and installed by request.

For more information on Linux and the different distributions please see the links below:

- Linux New User Guides
- Ubuntu
- Linux Mint
- Fedora
- Linux Journal