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Beginners Guide to Linux

written by: jlwallen•edited by: Rebecca Scudder•updated: 6/24/2009

Computer users are beginning to flock to the Linux operating system. Whether for cost cutting, security, or reliability Linux is an outstanding alternative. But many people have little to no exposure to Linux. This series of articles will help get you up to speed on what Linux is, and how it is used

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    History of Linux

    The Linux operating system began back in 1991 when Linus Torvalds needed a MINIX-like operating system he could run on standard computer hardware. What Linus eventually created (with the help of an ever-growing community of developers) was the Linux kernel. Since the kernel is the heart of the operating system, what would eventually become the operating system built on the Linux kernel would take on the name "Linux".

    Linux is a modular operating system that has a strong foundation in the UNIX operating system. This foundation is where Linux gets much of its security, reliability, and functionality. This UNIX-like foundation, however, is also where Linux retains a reputation for being far too complex for the average user.

    Because of the way in which Linux began, it quickly developed a strong sense of community. That sense of community has translated to an enormous "user group" that gladly welcomes new users. This community acts as a good source of help through mailing lists and forums.

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    Is it user-friendly or not?

    Anyone who has ever dealt with the Linux kernel knows that the kernel itself is not a playground for new users. But it's a rare occasion that a user has to actually do anything with the kernel in modern Linux distributions. Why is this? On top of the Linux kernel you will find many applications that serve as bridges to the kernel. The graphical desktop is one such bridge. And with the evolution of the Linux desktop has come a level of user-friendliness many other desktops can not touch. Yes, it is true, the Linux desktop is very friendly to new users.

    Of course there are distributions of Linux that are more geared toward new users.

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    What is a distribution?

    You can think of a distribution as a different flavor or version of Linux. Much like Microsoft has Windows 3.1, Windows 95, Windows 98, Windows XP, and Vista; Linux has Fedora, Ubuntu, Mandriva, SuSE, PCLinuxOS, gOS, and many more. Some of these distributions have major differences and some of them have minor differences. But each distribution is built upon the Linux kernel.

    The most user-friendly distributions are Ubuntu, PCLinuxOS, and Mepis. The more difficult distributions are Gentoo, Fedora, and Slackware.

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    What to Expect

    In this series of articles you can expect to become familiar with the fundamentals of the Linux operating system. You will learn about different distributions, different desktops, different package managers, different administration tools, and how Linux differs from Windows and Mac. Once you have completed this series, you will feel comfortable enough with Linux to use the operating system day in and day out.

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    More on Bright Hub

    There are plenty of Learning Linux articles on Bright Hub. Check out the Learning Linux channel where you will find all types of content to help you get to know the Linux operating system.