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Linux today is very different from what it was even less than a decade ago. While a few companies employed it as a server, a Linux desktop was rarely heard of for the average Personal Computer (PC) user. That has now all changed. One of the most important facts that a newbie can learn is that Linux comes in many "flavors" known also as distributions (distros) most all of which are based on GNU/Linux. Most often you'll simply hear that it's based on the Linux kernel. There are a few distros out there that are still best suited to programmers, but the most popular ones will provide you with a Linux desktop that's often more simple to use than Microsoft (MS) Windows. Selecting the right distribution can be a little daunting, but it's nice to have many options. Reading What Is The Best Version of Linux for Newbies? offers helpful tips for novices contemplating a switch to this system.
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What Is the Linux Desktop Like?
Just as Graphical User Interfaces (GUI) dominates in Windows, likewise most people with a Linux PC do all of their work without ever using a command line. While the knowledge to work on a command is certainly very valuable for complete administrative control over the system, it's not absolutely required for most operations under Linux today. If most people would stop to think about it, the average Windows user doesn't know how to fix things when they go wrong either- as they often do. If you choose one of the well-known distros such as Fedora, Ubuntu, or openSUSE, you'll probably be surprised to see self-explanatory, colorful icons just as you do under Windows. What's more is that, unlike Windows, you can safely experience the Linux desktop without ever installing the system by taking advantage of what are known as live Compact Discs (CDs). You simply place the CD in the tray and reboot. A very simple menu offering you some choices such as the option to run the CD live or to install will appear so that you know exactly what's about to take place before things start running.
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There Is No Need to Be Afraid of a Linux PC
Linux today is so automated that there really isn't a reason to be afraid of it anymore even if you're an average user that has no interest in learning things such as how to work on a command line. It won't break your computer; it won't cause it to explode or connect you to strange networks. If you run the safe live CD's, they won't erase your Windows installation or delete any data you have stored on your local disk. You won't get a black screen with cryptic messages nor will you see a blank screen with nothing but a blinking cursor. I've met people who were so intimidated by even the thought of using any operating system on their PC other than Windows that they didn't pay enough attention when Linux was mentioned to even get the pronunciation correct. A Linux PC, or I should say, a PC running Linux will provide the average user who isn't a gamer with all of the applications they need. MS Windows compatible word processing, wizards to get you connected to the Internet, software for burning CD's and Digital Versatile Discs (DVD's), Instant Messaging (IM), Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) and so much more come bundled in the popular distros.
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Who Uses Linux and Why?
The Linux desktop experience has been so rewarding for many who set up their own or purchased a Linux PC that it's no longer uncommon to encounter, particularly in larger cities, average PC users relying on some flavor of this popular open source operating system. Linux today is embraced by many because most distros are easily obtained free of charge, they tend to be very stable, much less targeted for malware, and offer the freedom to view and modify the source code. This is probably an advantage mostly to developers and businesses that often have the need to customize software, but the freedom is at least there. Linux today is the operating system of choice for many large businesses and governments and their agencies as well.
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Burlington Coat Factory is a retailer in the United States with nearly 300 stores in 42 states. This company purchased more than 1,000 computers preloaded with Linux and opted for the highly customizable Applixware office productivity suite. Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A implemented a pilot project that called for testing a Linux-based system for connecting thirty of their dealers with their factory. The pilot proved so successful that they decided to connect all 1,200 dealers. The wildly popular search engine, Google, relies on a customized version of Linux. The United States federal courts have switched to a Linux-based system to handle case management and tracking as well as probation and pretrial services. The government of Mexico City came to the conclusion that they could no longer justify funding for the use of MS Windows. They considered the success that their school system had with Linux as well as that of vehicle licensing agencies. They decided to use the large amounts of money saved to fund social welfare programs. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), USA, has long been a user of Linux and open source software. The U.S. Navy relies on Linux clusters to run sonar systems on nuclear submarines. The federal government of Brazil has embraced Linux along with a rising number of other nations. A Linux PC is easy to set up and the Linux desktop is robust enough for the home and small business user because Linux today is an economical choice for a powerful and reliable operating system.