Linux is a better way to run your computers. It is reliable, secure, and flexible. It s surprisingly easy to install. It s easier to use than most people think. It s highly customizable. It s built for networking. And because you can download the latest complete Linux operating system for free, the price is right.
For many people, Red Hat Linux is Linux. That isn t quite right. Linux is based on software developed by a worldwide community of volunteers. Much of the initial work was spearheaded by the Free Software Foundation ( www.fsf.org ). Originally it was developed as a clone of the Unix operating system. Today, it is so much more. It s evolving to meet the needs of a wide variety of people, such as aerospace engineers , movie makers , theoretical physicists, and consumers. Yes, consumers. Even Wal-Mart is selling computers with a version of Linux.
Strictly speaking, Linux is just the kernel, the part of the operating system that allows your software and hardware to communicate. But oh, what a kernel! You can customize it in thousands of ways and update it for new features. Properly configured, it can optimize the effective speeds on your computer.
Red Hat Linux is a distribution, which includes the basic Linux operating system with a number of free applications. These include a fully featured office suite, as well as graphics and multimedia programs that can satisfy most users. Comparable Microsoft programs cost many hundreds of dollars ”for each computer.
Linux is fast becoming the major alternative to Microsoft Windows. As a server, it includes all the tools that you might need to configure and administer a wide variety of networks. It has the backing of some major companies, which as of this writing includes Oracle, Dell, and Hewlett-Packard. IBM has invested over a billion dollars in Linux. More and more companies are adopting Linux: as a server, and as a desktop operating system.
For those who are dedicated to the Apple Macintosh, remember that the latest Mac OS X was developed from an operating system closely related to Linux, the Berkeley Standard Distribution (BSD).
There is no one company behind Linux, but you can get support. Red Hat offers a good support system; other companies do as well. If you participate in the give and take of the Linux community, there are thousands of developers who will bend over backwards to help you. This chapter covers the following topics:
Introducing Red Hat Linux 9
A short history of Unix and Linux
Exploring the kernel
Why choose Linux?
The role of a Linux computer