Linux is a free Unix-style operating system created by Linus Torvalds in 1991 with the assistance of developers around the world. Linux is a unique operating system as it is developed under the GNU General Public License. This means its source code is freely available to anyone to download, use and change. Contrast this to Mac OS X, Windows XP and other versions of Unix where users must pay a license fee and are unable to modify the system.
Linux was designed to provide personal computer users a free or very low-cost operating system comparable to traditional and usually more expensive Unix systems. Linux also has a reputation as a very efficient and fast-performing system and is used as a server operating system in many installations. Like other versions of Unix (including Mac OS X), Linux is also virtually void of viruses and spyware that plague all versions of Windows.
There are many distributions of Linux including Debian, Red Hat and Gentoo. A version of Linux gaining in popularity is called Ubuntu. Ubuntu’s tag line is ‘Linux for humans’. It aims to provide a complete and polished Linux desktop solution on a single CD that is easy to install, easy to use and free.
I downloaded and installed Ubuntu Linux on my Mac over the weekend and was very impressed. Installation was easier then Windows XP and Ubuntu ships with all the applications you need to get going, including the great open-source web browser Firefox and OpenOffice – a free, open version of Microsoft Office.
Linux is a great alternative operating system that will continue to see strong growth due to its increased security and free, open source availability.