12 very basic questions about Linux

What is Linux?

Linux is an operating system, that is, software that allows you to interact with your computer and gives your computer instructions it can understand.

Who makes it?

Linux is not made by a single person or company. Its core, known as kernel, was started by a Finnish man called Linus Torvalds in 1991. He still directs the project, but he's not the only one working in it any more. The rest (which means all the additional programs made to help the computer communicate with you and work) is made by millions of volunteer programmers around the world.

Why do they make Linux?

Linux started as a university project, but now it is made to offer a free alternative operating systems in the market. Linux is not the only free alternative operating system, but it has turned into the main one over the last two decades.

Why is it free?

Not every Linux distribution is free, but most are. They are free because their creators wanted to release them for free. There is nothing to distrust about it.

If they is free, does it mean they are basic or of low quality?

No. It's the very opposite, actually. The fact Linux is a free project in which everybody can contribute attracts hundreds of programmers around the world. They get together, agree on improvements or new ways to do the same things, and they just make them happen. Linux is becoming more stable and secure day after day.

So I wouldn't be able to use it unless I am a programmer...

No, again. You can download and use a Linux distribution without being a programmer. You don't need to be a programmer to contribute either. Linux communities are very active and need a lot of things. If you ever want to help, I'm sure you will find something to do.

What is a Linux distribution?

We are all different, we don't do the same things the same way. The Linux world is not different. People get together in groups and prepare own versions of what a Linux operating system should be. They call this a distribution, or distro.

Are all Linux distributions usable?

Yes, every active and stable Linux distribution is meant to allow users to do whatever they need or wish to do, from surfing the Internet to drawing, from writing a music score to carrying out complex statistical calculations, not to mention playing. Keep in mind that Linux is just the operating system, the platform in which you will install the software you need to use, the grounds from which you build your system.

Is it hard to install the software I need? Does it cost?

It is usually as simple as pointing and clicking, or as writing one line in a console. In my opinion, software installations are easier in Linux than in Windows. As for cost, most Linux software is free, but there are other paid alternatives too.

Can I do everything I do with my current operating system?

Yes, but you won't use the same software. You will need to get use to new software names. On the bright side, almost all those new names are as good as (and sometimes even better) than the commercial software you might be used to.

What about viruses for Linux?

There are not viruses for Linux. Even if there were, you would need to grant them permission to damage your computer. It's no brainer nobody will do that. It's a closed case.

Can I try Linux before using it?

Yes, download any distribution with a liveCD or liveDVD and run it from your computer. All distributions have a section explaining how to do this.

What Linux distro should I start with?

That question deserves an article itself, actually.

Computers and the Internet + General