Linux is most often compared to Microsoft Windows. Linux is also replacing other Unix-style operating systems described earlier in Table 1.2 . Four factors make Linux a better choice for many users and organizations: cost, reliability, flexibility, and support.
You can download Red Hat Linux for free from the Internet. This cost difference can be significant when compared to the thousands of dollars associated with many other Unix-style operating systems. It s still a significant advantage when compared to the continuing licensing costs of Microsoft operating systems.
It isn t enough just to consider the price of the operating system. You should take into account the other costs, generally associated with the time for installation, configuration, and support.
Red Hat Linux 9 includes installation options suitable for everything from a home desktop to a network server. For more information, see Chapter 03 . This is one operating system distribution that you can use to install Linux on a wide variety of computers.
Red Hat also offers several heavy-duty server products based on what was originally Red Hat Advanced Server. It includes much of the same software that s available in Red Hat 9. One variation is Red Hat s Stronghold Enterprise Secure web server. For more information, see www.redhat.com .
Red Hat Linux has one additional cost advantage: The CDs are loaded with a number of fully featured applications. For example, OpenOffice is a fully featured office suite, with all of the features that most users could ever want. Red Hat includes several other free applications that can save you hundreds of dollars.
As you install Linux over the next few chapters, you ll learn that the process is not difficult. If you re installing Red Hat Linux on a group of computers, you can use the kickstart techniques described in Chapter 05 to automate the installation process.
Since Red Hat Linux 9 can be installed on most PCs without a problem, the discussion of hardware in Chapter 02 might seem extreme. However, if you re an administrator responsible for installing Linux on several computers, mistakes can quickly get expensive.
To make any operating system useful, you need to install and configure it. Whether you re configuring a desktop computer at home, a workstation for your users, or a server for your corporate network, the basic configuration process is the same. Linux has always had the command-line tools with the flexibility to satisfy most Linux gurus.
With the redhat-config-* tools described in Chapter 19 , Red Hat Linux now offers the graphical tools that can help administrators of other operating systems make the transition.
Linux is reliable. There are reports of Linux servers that run for several months at a time without reboots. Imagine never having to reboot your computer after installing new software. Imagine being able to stop a runaway program without rebooting your computer. That is the power of Linux.
Linux is not perfect. Mistakes happen. We describe troubleshooting techniques throughout this book. If you ever have a problem booting Linux, you can rescue most systems with your Red Hat Linux installation CD (without reinstalling Linux).
Linux is a flexible operating system. The Red Hat Package Management (RPM) system makes it easy to add more software as needed. For more information on RPM packages and the rpm command, see Chapter 10 . The redhat-config-packages tool described in Chapter 19 makes this process of software management even easier.
You can optimize the Linux kernel using the techniques discussed in Chapter 12 . An optimized kernel makes everything faster in Linux, from the boot process to networking. With the right techniques, you should always have an easily accessible working kernel; in contrast, small errors when changing the Microsoft Windows Registry can be disastrous.
Linux is easily upgradeable. You can keep an older version of Linux up-to-date with the latest in kernels , applications, and other software. The rpm and up2date tools described in Chapter 10 help you with this process.
Very good support is available for Linux. Unfortunately, many administrators and IT managers are intimidated by the lack of a single source of corporate support, like Microsoft. But remember, Microsoft support is not free.
If you purchase an official Red Hat Linux boxed set, you qualify for a limited amount of support. You can purchase additional support from Red Hat or from a third-party vendor such as Linuxcare ( www.linuxcare.com ). Some of the large companies behind Linux, such as IBM, also provide support for Red Hat Linux as installed on their systems.
There are two bonus sources of support for Linux. Because Linux is open source, administrators can often fix many problems. If you re working with a closed-source system, you can t even look under the hood.
Since Linux is developed by a community, there are many in that community who are anxious to make their name by solving new problems. Their insights are available online. It s quite possible that the answer to your problem is already available in the Internet newsgroup database, accessible through groups.google.com .