What is Linux and should I install it?

Linux is a free operating system. It's an alternative to using Windows. Should you use it?

What's an operating system?

Word, Minesweeper, and Photoshop don't know how to talk to your computer's disk drive or your computer's monitor. Instead, a low-level program called an operating system runs on the computer. When Photoshop wants to save a file to disk, it asks the operating system to save the file. When Photoshop needs to display a new picture on the screen, it asks the operating system to do this. When Word wants to print a document, it asks the operating system to print the document.

An operating system acts as an interface between your applications and your computer's hardware.

Some common operating systems include Windows, Mac OS, Android, and Linux.

What is Linux?

Linux is an operating system that's free. Microsoft doesn't own it. There are several different versions of Linux, but with most versions, volunteers maintain the software, fix the bugs, and release new versions.

Originally the only people who installed Linux were serious computer users and programmers. It was difficult to install and not many applications worked on top of Linux.

Over the years, however, computer users became disenfranchised with Windows and wanted an alternative. Because Macs are more expensive, Linux started to become an attractive alternative. While that happened, the Linux developers started making Linux more accessible to lay people. So, instead of being forced to choose between Windows or the more expensive Mac with Mac OS, Linux was added list of choices.

Today, some versions of Linux are easier to install than Windows.

Should I install Linux?

My husband uses Linux exclusively. His computer needs at home consist of surfing the web, playing a few web-based games, typing documents, and a couple of other little things.

I have Linux installed, but I also have Windows installed. My system boots into Windows unless I tell it to boot into Linux during the boot cycle. I can't switch completely over to Linux because I love using Adobe Creative Suite 5, and it doesn't work on Linux yet. (Some older versions can be made to work.)

Before you install Linux, ask yourself these questions.

1. What software do you run most of the time?

2. Is that software compatible with Windows?

3. Can you live without the software that won't work on Linux?

4. Are you okay learning a new operating system? While you don't have to use the command line, Linux was originally a command line system and the windowing system came later. Also, the windowing system feels different than the Windows and Mac OS windowing systems.