Linux background, history and distributions

Introduction to Linux

It is important to know some basic Linux background before working with Linux operating system, especially if user has no experience of Unix-based operating system. Unlike Windows operating system, Linux was designed to be a true multitasking operating system. It was designed to be a network operating system like Unix. Let's look at the basic Linux background and history below.

Linux background and history

What is Linux? Linux is a free multitasking, multi-user network operating system that behaves like Unix. That means Linux is not UNIX. It is a UNIX-based operating system. It was designed specifically for the 386(x86 Intel CPU) platform and released under GNU General Public License. That's where Linux really interesting. The x86 Intel cpu means affordable and GNU GPL means free.

The Linux history is very interesting. It started with a talented student who wrote a source code and then share it with the world to let everyone have the same excitement as he is. He was right about that. Many programmers interested to try and they compiled and improved the source code and gave him feed back.

Here is the Linux history's fact. Linux was created by Linus Torvalds in 1991 when he was a student at Helsinki University, Finland. He developed an operating system source code and post about it in Minix news group. The date is August 25 1991. That's how it was started. The feedback is good and lead to the source code version 0.01 available on September 1991. Later, the source code was available in ftp and spread around the world.

There are many complete history of Linux available in the Internet. But there is one very well-written, and I have fun reading it is by Ragib Hasan from University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Many years passed by, and Linux has become a very popular operating system. Today, many great network programs, security tools and servers including DNS, Email, Web server similar to those available in Unix were developed by programmers and hackers around the world. Even though those programs and tools are not real UNIX but they behave like one. Which means they are secure, stable and they are continually developed and patched by talented programmers in the world. Linux community has growing bigger and bigger everyday. Support can be found anytime in the developer's website, forum even in blogs. Nowadays, Linux can be installed on many architectures such as ALPHA and SPARC.

Linux Distributions

There are many Linux distributions around. You can try them all if you want because they don't cost you a penny. Major Linux distributions are Slackware, Debian and Red Hat. Red Hat has become commercial but they provide resources for hackers to develop Fedora, which continue the last Red Hat version 9. Many Linux distributions today based on these major distributions. Beside Fedora which is based on Red Hat, there's Ubuntu which is based on Debian. Other well-known Linux distributions are openSUSE, Mandriva, centOS and Gentoo. To learn more about each of the distribution's history, specification and requirement, you can check their official website.

Hackers community has developed Linux for desktop as well. Desktop operating system is an end user operating system, has graphical user interface like Windows XP. This operating system is use to do office job, multimedia, database job and so on. There are two excellent graphical user interface in Linux which are, KDE and GNOME. Why is this a good news? Because other than servers and other networking jobs, and only used by certain people, it can be everybody's operating system as well. Remember that it's free.

Although Linux desktop is popular in Linux community and has been used as an excellent workstation, the popularity of Linux desktop among public going up recently is noticeable. Most Linux distributions offer kde and/or gnome in their official releases, but the famous and excellent one is UBUNTU. Here is a link to Ubuntu official website. The Ubuntu team has done a very good job. The graphical installer is fast enough which only takes less than 30 minutes of installation process. The desktop is clean and tidy, plus many marvelous desktop wallpapers designed by Linux community. It is a complete desktop (operating system) contains whatever you need to do your job including office applications (word processor, spreadsheet processor and presentation), editing photos, musics, videos, browsing internet, email and so on.

The new distribution Linux Mint also a great Linux desktop operating system. Check out their website at Linux Mint.

If you are a Linux beginner then it doesn't matter what Linux distribution you pick. All Linux distributions have their own community and online forum support. Just don't forget to get a documentation on how to install it. However, if you are not ready to install and use Linux as your main operating system, you can try Linux from a live cd. Knoppix is one of the great Linux live cd which is based on Debian. Ubuntu installer also can be run as a live cd. Just insert the Linux live cd into the cdrom drive, reboot your operating system and change boot sequence to boot the cd first.

For more information on Linux distributions and live cd, check website.

Let's get it started

Now let's move to the next step, get your ISO image by download it from developer's website. If you need extra documentations or HOWTOs, you can get it from The Linux Documentation Project at and many more from google search engine.

Before you put the installation CD into your CD-ROM drive, there are still a few things for you to take note.

  1. Have you back up your data in the HDD?
  2. Do you have all the documentations by your side now?
  3. Have you fill out the pre-installation checklist?

Our next tutorial will guide you to prepare the final stage before the installation begin. Check what the Linux pre-installation checklistis and make sure you completed all the requirement needed because we don't want to get stuck in the middle of the installation, do we?

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