MacOS and Windows are the two most popular desktop and laptop operating systems. They are the two central operating system options that dominate the desktop and laptop market today. But have you heard of the alternative to these two options? It's called Linux and it's completely free and very powerful.
What is Linux? It could be your next operating system of your choice.
A brief lesson on Linux history
When Terminator 2: Judgment Day was a big hit in cinemas in 1991 and Intel's first 32-bit processor, the 80386, became a popular chip in PCs, the Windows operating system was still a child. Unix was the most widely used operating system at the time, both commercially and in academic settings.
However, Unix was simply too expensive for the individual. A free UNIX version called MINIX was available, but didn't take full advantage of Intel's 32-bit chip. It could not be changed or redistributed even though the source code was freely available. These factors prompted a student from the University of Helsinki to create their own platform.
Give birth to Linux. A computer science student named Linus Torvalds wrote the first signs of Linux specifically for his Intel 386-based computer running MINIX. He did not create a complete operating system, but a so-called kernel that does not depend on the higher-level MINIX operating system.
This kernel is not popcorn
What is a kernel? If an operating system were a planet, the kernel would be its core. It's the underlying code that manages everything on your PC – the processor, memory, storage, your peripherals, etc. When you talk about how Windows 10 is deployed on all types of devices, it means that Microsoft has the same kernel or kernel used. It is the basic layer of an operating system.
The next layer above the kernel is then called the shell or interface for entering commands into the kernel. Under Windows you will see the attractive graphical user interface (GUI) on the planet's surface every day. Below that is a layer for rendering the GUI or desktop, a layer that manages background services such as printers, wireless connectivity, notifications, etc.
What Linus Torvalds created was just a core, which he eventually called Linux and uploaded to an FTP server. First released under its license, Linus then decided to pair it with a shell called Bash, which was itself created under a free software license called GNU General Public License (GPL). Eventually, the Linux kernel was deployed under the GNU GPL itself, and developers flocked in to create open source layers for it and in turn provide a complete, ready-to-use operating system.
Believe it or not, Linux is everywhere
Since the Linux kernel comes under the GNU GPL, it is often used outside the PC area. You can intercept it while driving cars, kitchen appliances, streaming devices, household appliances, IoT (Internet of Things) devices and much more. Most of the Internet depends on Linux through the Apache HTTP Server platform installed on Internet servers, which is based on the Linux kernel.
That is, Apache and the other examples mentioned are distributions or distributions of Linux. A distribution is a uniform group of components, at the center of which is the Linux kernel. However, these versions are not all the same despite sharing the Linux kernel. Microsoft does something similar with Windows 10, although the company keeps the kernel behind closed doors. Depending on the hardware, Microsoft mainly sells different distributions: Windows 10 Pro / Home, Windows 10 Mobile, Xbox One, Windows 10 Enterprise, Windows 10 S etc.
It is a delicious Linux buffet
Since the Linux kernel can be used free of charge, you can get different "variants" of Linux-based platforms. That is the nice thing about Linux. The platform consists of several components that were developed by the Linux community. Therefore, not all Linux-based operating systems are the same, although they use the same kernel.
For example, more than ten different graphical interfaces are created for the Linux platform. Examples include popular solutions such as Unity, GNOME, KDE Plasma, Pantheon and Fluxbox. However, many distributions also contain proprietary components, so you cannot distribute or edit the programs, although they can be used for free. More than 75 different distributions are currently available, but only a dozen are recommended by the Free Software Foundation as 100 percent free software.
Here is a list of the most popular Linux-based distributions you can currently use:
Of the platforms listed above, Ubuntu is probably the most commercially used Linux distribution. You can purchase it as an alternative to Windows 10on desktops and laptops from OEMs, including solutions from Dell, Lenovo, HP, and Acer. System76 is a company dedicated to making laptops, desktops, and servers based on the Ubuntu distribution.
There are Linux-based operating systems on devices that you use every day, but which cannot be downloaded and installed immediately. Android and Chrome OS are prime examples.
The Android platform is mainly provided on smartphones and tablets and is now also installed on desktops and laptops. Google’s Chrome OS platform is only installed on the popular, affordable Chromebook laptops. However, since it's based on the open source Chromium OS project, you can still find variations of Chrome OS to download and use.
In the meantime there are also Linux-based distributions that were created explicitly for the server market. These include Red Hat Enterprise Linux for data centers, SUSE Enterprise Linux Server and the non-desktop version of CentOS.
There is also love for gamers
Almost a decade ago, game developer Valve Software, the company behind the widespread Steam distribution platform, set about developing an operating system because CEO Gabe Newell didn't like the way Microsoft controlled the Windows-based gaming ecosystem . He wanted the games market to remain an open platform, so Valve introduced the Linux-based SteamOS operating system in September 2013.
Unfortunately, Valve's Steam Machine initiative has had no effect. Despite the disappointment with Steam Machine, Valve remains committed to improving, supporting, and delivering SteamOS as a Windows alternative for PC gamers.
Linux with raspberry flavor in your Pi
Even the Raspberry Pi computer board has an operating system based on the Linux kernel. If you're not familiar with Raspberry Pi, it's a single credit card sized board that contains everything you need to create a small computer. There are endless uses for the small $ 35 PC, from an educational Minecraft laptop to a surveillance system to track annoying squirrels.
The power supply of the Raspberry Pi is a spin-off from Debian called Raspbian, which has been optimized for the device. There are other operating systems for the Raspberry Pi, such as Ubuntu Mate, RISC OS and even the Windows 10 Internet of Things Core. However, it should be noted that Raspbian is the operating system recommended by the Raspberry Pi Foundation.
In addition, the Raspberry Pi Foundation launched the Raspberry Pi desktop in late 2016. This desktop is based on Debian and the graphic pixel interface, which was first introduced in the Raspbian operating system of the Raspberry Pi. It can be installed on any PC or Mac and immediately contains learning, programming and general applications such as Python and Sonic Pi.
The pros and cons of Linux
As with any operating system, there are advantages and disadvantages to using a Linux distribution. The main advantage is that Linux-based distributions are more secure since hackers generally target Windows-based PCs. In addition, excessive processes usually don't run in the background, making the platform feel responsive and programs perform better.
On the other hand, the latest hardware, which Linux-based distributions immediately support, is not shown because the manufacturers mainly focus on Windows and MacOS platforms. In addition, finding answers to your problems requires more investigative work than usual. So if you don't buy a device with a Linux distribution already installed, you will only get technical help from the Linux community.
On the software side, many popular programs for Linux distributions are simply not available. The same applies to games, although the Linux library is slowly growing thanks to Valve's SteamOS platform, among other things. You also need patience to understand how the Linux platform works, what tools and alternatives are available, and how you can gain more control over the PC by learning new commands.
Again many distributions for different skills and needs. If you prefer an install-and-go situation, Ubuntu may be the best Windows alternative (or Elementary OS if you're working on MacOS). Unfortunately, choosing the right Linux distribution for your skill and needs may be more daunting than learning how to use your selection.
Linux is the quiet child of the trio
Ultimately, Linux is the quiet kid in the room, while Windows and MacOS struggle to talk about each other. All three present their unique advantages and disadvantages, but the calm child has an army of solutions, while the two big mouths offer proprietary experiences behind walled gardens.
Nevertheless, Microsoft has become a bit friendlier with the quiet child in recent years. The company made Ubuntu available in the Windows 10 Store in 2017 and integrated the bash shell into Windows 10 a year earlier.
If you want to make Windows or MacOS redundant, you should consider the extensive Linux-based options that are available to you. Determine your requirements and skills before taking the plunge, because even if the operating system is easy to use, leaving familiar desktop territory is a complicated process. You want to find a solution to make the transition less painful so that you can work on a Linux distribution in no time.