faq - linux

| basics | applications | installation | open source | point of view |

basics

1) What is linux?
The easiest answer is that linux is an operating system (like unix or mswindows or macintosh). Technically, linux is actually the kernel, the core of the operating system – similar to the engine of a car. Linux Torvalds of Finland, with several other people working with him, wrote linux with the goal of having a unix running on the Intel chip. By releasing this kernel as open source, Linux paved the way for different applications and utilities to be put together to make a complete operating system.
2) What is GNU/Linux?
This is the gnu utilities (system programs) and the linux kernel (base operating system) working together to make what we call linux. In 1983, even before linux was created, Richard Stallman had started a movement (and an organisation) called GNU. Many think that linux should really be called "GNU/linux" ... or maybe "glinux"! But that's just too hard to say, so we say "linux", and remember in our minds that half of it – the half we actually work with! – is "gnu".
3) Why should i use linux?
May you should, and maybe you shouldn't! It depends on what you want to do. An operating system is just a tool. Like any tool, different ones are best for different jobs. The things linux is good for are: 1) Free or small cost; 2) You can customize the look however you want; 3) You can get many applications free or at small cost; 3) Programming tools are built in; 4) Very powerful command-line environment and editors; 5) You can modify the code; 6) Very secure; 7) Very stable; 8) Excellent as server (web, mail, etc.).
Disadavantages of linux can be: 1) Unfamiliar and having to learn some new things; 2) May not be able to share files easily at workplace; 3) May not support all hardware that you would like to have. 4) May not have some games or applications that you would like to have.
With MSWindows or Apple, you have to pretty much take whatever the company gives you, and use your computer according to what that OS provides. With linux you are free to try anything you want, and use the computer for anything you can think of, big or small. Some people like that feeling.
4) What is KDE, GNOME, etc.
The desktop and gui (graphical interface) are not part of the linux kernel. Many people write guis for linux, so you have a choice of many different designs and functionality. The K Desktop Environment (KDE) and GNOME Desktop Environment are two popular ones today. A desktop environment isn't just the wallpaper and icons, but also includes the applications, controls, look and feel of the interface (menus, buttons, etc.).
5) What is a distribution (or distro, or flavor)?
On top of the operating system, you generally have many applications. For example, in MSWindows you have tools like a word processor, calculator, etc. Linux, the operating system, comes bundled with many applications too. The selection of the desktop and these applications is chosen by the vendor. So a Red hat distribution can have a very different feel than SUSE or debian. A very popular distribution these days is Ubuntu, because it is has an attractive GUI (graphical interface). Underneath all are linux, and the command-line environment will be pretty much the same.
6) Does GNU/Linux handle all hardware?
It handles most modern hardware. Linux today supports USB, USB 2.0, Firewire, SCSI, wifi, CD writing, and many other devices. The only thing that keeps it from handling all hardware, is if a manufacturer will not give out the specs for the hardware. Then it takes longer for linux programmers to write the drivers. Luckily many device vendors these days are writing linux drivers for their devices.
7) What is the difference between unix and linux?
"unix" is a general term, covering all versions of unix. All unixes have a powerful command-line interface (also called CLI, or CUI) and they can also have a GUI
8) Do i have to know C programming to use unix or linux?
No you don't. You don't have to know any kind of programming at all. C programming comes to mind when we think of unix and linux for several reasons: The same people who invented the C language also were involved with the development of unix; unix is written in C; and unix is an excellent programming environment and so is used by many C programmers.

applications

1) Can i run linux applications on mswindows and windows apps on linux?
No, not directly. They are two different operating systems, and don't speak each other's language. However there are tools which allow you to run mswindows on top of linux. Some of these are Win4Lin, WINE, CrossOffice. Going the other way, Cygwin is a great app that allows you to use command-line linux programs in mswindows.
2) Is there an office suite like MS Office for GNU/Linux?
Yes: OpenOffice.org does everything that MS Office can do, including exchanging files with it.
3) Are regional languages possible in GNU/Linux?
yes. Linux (meaning, the desktop and its applications, including OpenOffice) have support for regional languages.
4) Is there something like PhotoShop in GNU/Linux?
Yes - it is called the GIMP. It comes automatically with most flavors of linux.

installation

1) How do i install GNU/Linux?
You install pretty much the same way as installing MSWindows or Macintosh. We usually install from CDs. The installer will usually take care of partitions, installing other applications, etc.
2) Is there some way to use GNU/Linux without losing my MSWindows?
Yes. One way is to try a "live CD distribution" (such as Knoppix or Gnoppix or Ubuntu). These boot off the cd, without installing anything on your system. Another is to use Cygwin or other linux emulators, which run in a window of your MSWindows.
3) Can i install GNU/Linux on my machine and also keep my MSWindows?
Yes you can. You can install linux in a separate partition (section) of your hard drive. It is easiest if your drive has already been partitioned, and MSWindows was installed in the first partition. Then it is pretty easy to choose that partition in the linux install.
4) Can i install GNU/Linux on my Windows machine if it hasn't been partitioned?
You can, but it's a little trickier. You have to make Windows move into one part of the drive so you can make a partition for linux. There are tools like Partition Magic to do this. Be sure to back up your data first!
5) How much space and system does GNU/Linux need?
Just like any other OS, it totally depends on what programs you want to run. If you want a full graphical interface, play games and music and videos, you will need at least a Pentium 4 1Ghz, 512MB RAM and 20GB hard drive. On the other hand, many peecees are running firewalls or small servers, on a 486 with 16MB of RAM.
6) Does my peecee need anything extra to install linux?
No.
7) What is LILO? What is GRUB?
These are called boot loaders. LILO is the LInux LOader, and GRUB is the GRand linUx Book loader. The boot loader boots your machine into the operating system. It keeps track of the partitions on which the operating systems reside, and enables you to have multiple operating systems on your disk and choose which one you want to run.

open source

1) What does it mean that linux is "open source"? And "free"?
"open source" means that anybody can get and view and change the source code. It is "free", that is, nobody *has* to pay for it, also people can make special versions and sell them if they want to.
2) Where do we get the "source"?
You get the source code along with the linux. That
3) Is the linux company run by one person or many?
That's one of the big differences about linux. It is not a company. It is not a business. It is like many other things that are working on computers, especially on the internet: it is written by a loose group of people, no company.
4) Then who makes those RedHat, Fedora, SUSE operating systems?
The Red Hat company takes the gnu/linux core, adds some nice and pretty stuff on top of it, and sells it Many other companies do the same thing, only Redhat is one of the most well-known these days. Fedora is a version of Red Hat's linux. SUSE is another company making their own version. You or i could make a version of linux to sell (if we knew C and drivers and things like that :)

point of view

1) Why would i like linux better than mswindows?
When linux doesn't work, it's always been broken in a sane way. I can diagnose the problem and fix a config file and be pretty confident that the problem isn't coming back. I may not have understood the problem beforehand, but after I get a handle on it the solution is obvious. Windows, on the other hand, has never made any sense when it breaks. I suspect that Windows is as rational and fixable as Linux underneath, but it's even harder to figure out the obscure tweaks that may be needed to fix it, which leaves you with solutions like "install the driver again and hope it doesn't break this time" or "try reformatting". "Linux is not and will never be Windows. Windows is a consumer grade toaster-OS You can't really change anything and that's the way consumers want it. linux is a developer grade erectorset-OS. Change it any way you want. Flexibility frightens the consumer. They want everyone to have the same OS as they have themselves so they can feel as if they fit in." (http://linux.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=06/09/25/1724213&)