Pick a Free OS

The penguin inside

We all know Linux is great ... it does infinite loops in 5 seconds.

-- attributed to Linus Torvalds

I'm sure that anyone even remotely interested in computers must have heard

of Linux by now. Some have wondered what it is, others have tried

installing it. Yet others play with it now and then. Some people bless it

and some curse it. Some are scared of the apparent need to learn arcane

commands. Others would rather type `find / -name mailto.pl -print' than

search through a GUI file browser.

But there are many who wonder -- Just what is Linux? Linus Torvalds, the

man behind Linux, says that it is not the cure for world hunger. It is an

operating system, somewhat similar to Unix. What most people call Linux is

actually a core (the Linux kernel, which is all that Linus really

developed) and a whole bunch of utilities, applications, TSR's, and

what-not.

All these are packaged together as a distribution. There are many

distributions available like Red Hat, Slackware, Caldera, SuSE, Mandrake.

The list is endless ( See http://www.ldl.cx).

These distributions typically have a version number that has nothing to do

with the kernel version. For example Red Hat 6.0 comes with kernel 2.2.5.

The kernel version is the actual Linux version and new releases typically

take place at intervals on the order of a week or two -- meaning quick

bug-fixes.

Linux's strong point is the open-source nature, which means that the

kernel source code (which just happens to be C) is open for all to view

and modify. According to proponents of the open source method, this is

good because the bugs are caught quickly, and anyone who can read C can

understand and create extension to the system.

Most of the applications and utilities are distributed under the GNU GPL

, which means that they are also open. This is why a

Linux system as a whole is often referred to as "GNU/Linux". Open Source

(yes, capitals) and Linux often go hand-in-hand, to the extent that

GNU/Linux is one of the first platforms for which any new Open Source

program is written.

Those who are daunted at the prospect of learning countless arcane

commands have a choice. Linux may be used via a CLUE (Command Line User