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The Linux FAQ

What is Linux? Linux is a Unix-like operating system developed by Linus Torvalds of University of Helsinki, beginning in 1991. It falls under the GPL, and is Free Software.
What is an operating system? An operating system is the core set of programs that handles your computer's key functions. Windows is an example of an operating system.
What is a Linux kernel? The kernel is the core of the operating system which handles basic functions.
What is a Linux distribution? It is a collection of compiled programs (binaries), programs and scripts that allows a user to install Linux onto a computer, albeit effortless.
What are the most common Linux distributions? What are their Pros and Cons?
Red Hat Linux
Commercial support from major vendors, RPM packaging. Large disk space consumption
Debian GNU/Linux
Most Free distribution (all Free software), dpkg packaging "for hard core believers in the politics of free software."  
Slackware Small. "It's the next best choice, if not better(?!), to RH for ease of initial installation. It's straightforward enough for
newbies to follow because it has this DOS-like simplicity to it. Only what a newbie needs to know are well presented. I still recommend the original fdisk or its successor over Disk Druid for newbies that want better control of the partitioning process.

"It's also the distribution that's the easiest to obtain along with RH from commercial sources in the Phils."

"Users of *BSD will feel right at home with this distribution."

No packaging system, harder to install new packages and bug fixes.
Which distribution's best for me? "The one used by those I work/play with most of the time with any distribution or the dist. used by those in close proximity to me. These are the people who could provide the social support I need to take advantage of a dist."
Why should I switch to Linux? "Because the license of such type of software would sit well with Filipinos' penchant of copying almost anything (literally and figuratively). No guilt feelings, no IPR violation with copyright notices used as "free passes"."
What is the GPL? What are the licensing conditions of Linux? The GPL is the GNU General Public License, which allows users to use and copy the software for free, but guarantees that programs derived from them also remain free. For more details, see <http://www.gnu.org>
Q: What hardware do I need to run Linux? Linux generally runs on x86 PC (such as Intel, AMD, Cyrix processors) platforms but has been 'ported' to other processing platforms such as Sun Sparc, PowerPC (RS/6000 and Macintosh), and Compaq Alpha among others.
Really, what can I do with Linux? Linux is a complete operating system. It has Internet facilities built in. However, you run other applications, both free and commercial. Major software vendors are shipping and porting (making compatible) their products for Linux.
Is Linux a command line system like DOS or is it more like Windows? The core system is based on the command line, but there is the X Window System with provides a Graphical User Interface environment. Window managers (such as Afterstep, fvwm, Enlighment) and desktop environments (GNOME, KDE) build on top of X to provide a total GUI experience.
Are there 'windows-like' Internet clients like Eudora, Netscape, etc. available on Linux? How about ICQ? IRC. Netscape is available for Linux. There are also graphical e-mail programs for X. There is no native ICQ for Linux, but the ICQ for Java will work if you download install the Java interpreter for Linux, and there are ICQ clones available. Free IRC clients are also available.
"Does X environment also have drag and drop capabilities ? Say I have a file with different formats, when I double click on the file, will it open the corresponding application it supposed to run on?" Yes, it does. Especially with GNOME and KDE.
If the system does not know what application to open, will it also give me the list of applications available on my system? (As far as I have tested with GNOME and KDE, they don't support this)
Can I play audio CD's on Linux? Can I run VCD and DVD CD's? Does it have an MP3 player? There is software to play audio CD's (cdp), VCD's (MpegTV, US$10 shareware), and a free MP3 player (X11amp).
Does Linux run on top of Windows? Does it replace Windows? Is it Windows-compatible? No. Linux is a completely different operating system. It has its own disk partition which is not compatible with DOS or Windows. Its programs are not Windows or DOS compatible but it can read and write DOS files. However, Linux can co-exists with DOS and Windows on the same computer, but not at the same time. You may configure your computer to choose upon boot time to load Linux or to start DOS/Windows. If you boot into Linux, you may access your DOS files in DOS partitions.
I use office productivity applications under Windows. Will these run under Linux? Can Linux programs read my files? The most common office applications (Microsoft Office for instance) for Windows will not run under Linux. But, there are software that can read these files, such as StarOffice and Wordperfect for Linux.
Will there be a high learning curve involved for Linux? If you are a Windows user, there are different paradigms to learn. At this point in time (IMHO) Linux is not yet ready for the desktop and "conquer the world".
Is Unix background necessary? Should the current windows user attend a Unix/Linux training to learn before becoming comfortable with Linux? Unix background is helpful, but not necessary. Linux training would help for a systems administrator, but for a casual user reading Linux books and online resources would be enough (IMHO).
Is Linux installation simply "point and click" like Windows? No, it is more technical than that. You have to know details about your hardware and ideas on how to configure your system.
So, is Linux for "techies" only? In a way, it is, but it is getting easier and easier to use.
If Linux is free, how do Linux companies make money? Selling support, documentation, value-added services, packaging distributions.
Is there some sort of certification program for Linux (like Microsoft and Novell)? Red Hat Software offers a certification program. There is currently none in the Philippines, though.
What online resources are there about Linux and free software? You can start with:
  • General: http://www.linux.org
  • Software: http://www.freshmeat.net
  • Technical: http://www.linuxhq.com
  • Discussions: http://www.slashdot.org
  • Some of the local Linux enthusiasts who have contributed to these Questions and Answers are Beng Asuncion, Paolo Dolina, Ryan Go, Resmon Gonzalez, Kelsey Hartigan-Go, Migs Paraz and Joshua San Juan. For more information about Linux in the Philippines, see http://www.linux.org.ph. It is one of the excellent starting points for learning Linux.


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