Pick a Free OS

The penguin inside

Environment or Interface (CLI) -- white-on-black screen and a prompt where

one types commands) or a GUI (Graphical User Interface using a mouse or

other pointing device).

The GUI doesn't completely insulate the user, though. A certain amount of

CLI is always helpful when using Linux. Hard-core Linux users report using

the X Windowing System merely to get multiple terminals on the same screen

-- and literally tens of virtual terminals on various virtual desktops.

Most tasks are faster and easier from the command line anyway.

As for the arcane commands, not to worry. Most full distributions come

with a set of electronic documentation. Type `info' (without the quotes)

to get started. More documentation is in `/usr/doc/' and man pages are

always available. New software comes with its own documentation.

A local Linux Users Group (LUG) is a good place for new as well as old

Linux users to find help. An India-wide LUG exists, and several cities

around the world have their own LUG.

Speaking of software, Linux supports almost every type of software anyone

might want. From programming to word-processing, from games to web

development, we have it all.

For the programmers, a C and C++ compiler called the GNU C Compiler (man

gcc) is available. One can also get compilers or interpreters for Pascal,

Fortran, Perl, assembler, and even basic. Java runtimes are also

available.

For the office desktop system, we have a full office suite called

StarOffice, developed by Sun Microsystems. Many other word processors,

spreadsheets are also available -- Free!.

The TeX typesetting language and its macro package LaTeX may be used for

professional quality typesetting. If learning a new language just to write

a project (it's worth it, though) daunts you, use the LyX GUI front-end.

Databases are supported, from the simple yet powerful MySQL right up to

the heavyweight Oracle. MySQL is sufficient for desktop users and dynamic

web sites. Few home users would actually need a full database management

system, but it is a useful thing to have around. Besides, some good

programs require MySQL.

Games. Every home user wants games. There are umpteen tiny games, many

text-based, right up to commercial packages like Quake III Arena, and for

good measure, everything in between. But there are so many other

interesting things, that games are often neglected.

Multimedia is a weak point with Linux. Sure, sound works after a few