What is Linux


Linux is an Operating System, much like Windows; except that it’s not. To answer this question we need to take a step back and ask what is a computer?

Computers are a collection of software and hardware components that receive an input, process data and produce an output. PCs and laptops are just one variety of ‘Computers’. A washing machine employs a ‘computer’ (or maybe ‘computer mechanism’) that gets an input (program selection) processes data (pour water, turn drum, get soap) to produce an output (washed clothes). Scientists across the world use computers to try and solve problems ranging from how to combat the common cold to driving a very cool six-wheeler across Mars in search of life.

What is an Operating System?

Operating Systems (OS for short), are a collection of software packages that operate the system (the hardware) and hosts other software solutions (programs like Office and Internet browsers). Every piece of hardware in a computer needs software to operate it. Without an Operating System, there isn’t much we are able to do with a PC and that is what the Operating System does; it allows us to tap into the functionally of the hardware it is installed on whilst hosting software programs that add to the functionality we get out of a PC.

There are plenty of Operating Systems we can use apart from Windows and Linux. It is important to understand that each Operating System was designed to serve a specific function, however recent developments have seen these Operating Systems cross ways to specialize in different fields (whether that’s consumer or business).

Up until a few years ago, Linux was ascribed as a server operating system, one that only a super-geek that eats binary cereal for breakfast could operate. In the past few years however, huge leaps forward have been done with this Operating System to make it as user-friendly as possible and as a matter of fact you can now buy a new PC with Linux pre-installed.

Fundamentals of Linux

Linux is released under the GNU General Public License, meaning you get it for free, and you have the right to re-programme anything you don’t like (as long as you re-distribute the change you have made for free)! For this reason there are several versions of Linux one can get, each maintained by a community of people that develop a particular ‘brand’ of Linux (called distributions) in their free time.

Some of the major Linux distributions include fedora, ubuntu, debian & CentOS.

So what does Linux really look like?

We’ve taken a screenshot of a Linux Desktop using the Fedora distribution mentioned earlier and we have numbered some key components which we will compare to the Windows Operating system.

  1. This is the equivalent of Windows Start Button. The same type of information can be accessed here that is usually accessed on a Windows machine, from installed programmes to ‘Control Panel’.
  2. This is a short-cut to installed Applications.
  3. A bit like Windows Explorer but includes other network locations.
  4. A shortcut for Linux’s “Control Panel”.
  5. Network Status icon, just like the one found in Windows.
  6. Time and Calendar.
  7. Computer is the equivalent of My Computer.
  8. User’s “My Documents”
  9. Linux’s own Recycle Bin.
  10. Drive D: shortcut
  11. One of the more interesting features of Linux: Linux has not 1 but 4 separate desktops! So if one gets too cluttered and you need some clean space you simply roll overto a new desktop.

There are other differences for example Linux does not have a C Drive, it has what we call a root folder denoted by ‘/’ sign. The computer ‘Administrator’ account is called ‘root’ and much like a Windows Administrator, has complete control over the system.

Where does Linux get its name from?

Linux gets its name from Linus Trovalds, the person who built the Unix-like Linux kernel.

What does Unix-like mean?

Developed in 1969 by Bell Laboratories, UNIX is the operating system from which Linux is derived. Over the years UNIX has developed into many variations, notably MAC OSX, BSD, HP-UX and of course Linux. UNIX is now maintained by The Open Group that licenses its use to other companies for use.

Linux is Unix-like as it functions pretty much like a UNIX system.

What is a kernel?

Think of the kernel as the heart of the operating system. It is the primary module that connects the hardware to the software.

The kernel manages 3 very important functions within a PC: the CPU, RAM and any input/output devices that are attached such as keyboard and printers and as such is a very integral part of the OS.

Of course, these are just the basics when it comes to delving into the wonderful, wonderful world of Linux!

Contrary to Windows, Linux employs different file architectures and programs are installed in a way which is hidden from the general users’ eyes. We hope to have managed to clear the air a bit and helped you understand Linux a bit more.

We will continue to add more articles describing cool computer stuff from time to time taking you on a journey of the underworld of IT. In the meantime, visit our website at www.uniblue.com

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