Linux Introduction


Linux is a freely-distributable clone of the Unix operating system. Although 'Linux' should arguably be used as the name for only the core component, most people happily refer to the whole system as Linux. 'Distributions' of linux include extra software to allow you to do useful things with your computer, some distributions are general-purpose, others are highly optimised a specific task.

Linux exists as 'free' software because it has been written by people cooperating around the world who agreed to share the software they wrote for mutual benefit.


There are many distributions of Linux, the more popular general-purpose distributions include all software to satisfy most requirements. (All the software you should expect to be included in a full operating system). Mandrake, SuSe, Redhat and Debian are popular general-purpose distributions. These all include software for using email, word processing, accessing the Internet, playing music, creating images. The software included is usually very similar in each distribution, differences are usually found in how the system is installed and configured, and how software is installed or removed.

A common way to install is using CDROM/DVD images, CDROM images can usually be downloaded from the Internet for free. Many people prefer to buy a boxed version which comes along with a manual. These may be available from a book shop or computer shop. Computer magazines also often have cover-disks with full operating systems.

A full install of Linux requires the use of hardrive space, this usually means you will have to make space available on an existing hardrive, or buy a new hardrive for your linux system. Many people prefer to use Linux along side their current operating system using a dual-boot machine - this is relatively painless to achieve with commercial distributions.

Live-CD distributions

This is probably the easiest way to try linux, live-CD distributions are available which run directly from a CDROM without the need to store information on the hardrive. Examples are Knoppix and Gnoppix distributions, both can detect what hardware you have and allow you to try a large range of software.