Beginning Linux for Windowsphiles (Part 1 of 3)

So here’s the dealyo:

You absolutely can’t claim to be a computer geek if you don’t know Linux.  It’s impossible.

  • Impossible like a square circle!
  • Impossible like saying “I can’t say a word in English”
  • Impossible like saying “My brother was an only child!”

It’s not going to happen!  And that why I’m going to get you fit for Linux.  By the time you finish this mini lesson you’ll have the confidence you need to tackle that enigmatic black screen with the blinking cursor.  You’ll also be brave enough to replace your PC with a Linux box.

Yup!  It’s that good.  Check it.

But before we dive into the Linux operating system we need to cover three things:

  • What’s the deal with Open Source software?
  • What are the most popular distros?
  • The ubiquity of Linux

Let’s do this!

Free that costs money

Linux has two types of free:  there’s gratis which means:

I’m giving you this bag of chips

And there’s libre which means:

I’m giving you this bag of chips and you can bake and sell your own chips using my recipe

So here’s the thing: A lot of people think open-source software can’t be sold – but that’s not true – open-source software can be sold for cash.  You just need to include the source code with the sell.  The point of open source software is that your right to modify and distribute the software is free.

You get the source code which you can freely modify and change as you see fit.  The word “free” in the context of open source always refers to rights.

For example, Red Hat Linux is linux with a price tag.  It’s free in the sense that Red Hat is required to freely distribute the source code with the distribution (distro) but it isn’t free to use.  You still have to pay for it.

But check this out: CentOS decided to take the open source code from Red Hat, tweak it a little and repackage it as a new breed of linux.  CentOS is free both ways: cost and rights.

Red Hat costs money because you’re paying for support not the software itself.  You still have the legal right to modify and redistribute the source code anyway you want.  As long as you include your modified source code in the distro you’re good to go. And that’s what the smart folks at CentOS did.

It’s like going to a pub and having the bar tender tell you it’s on the house.  You leave with a smile and realize you just got a kickass deal.  Nothing beats free beer!  This is analogous to CentOS.  You don’t pay a dime to use it.

But let’s say a week later you return to the pub to thank the bartender and he says, “Hey, take another pint on the house.  And here’s the ingredients and a certificate that gives you the right to produce your own version of our beer using your own techniques”

So he hands over the pint, slips you a piece of paper that looks like legal document and says “Looks, like it’s your lucky day buddy.”

Your glance at the piece of paper and you see the beer recipe and a bunch of legalese that says you’re free to redistribute the beer using your own brand.  You’re also free to sell it as long as you include this legal document and the beer formula with your new creation”  That’s Red Hat!

Got it?

This Linux concept of free can trip a lot of people up so if you get this you’ll be a step above the rest.

The big guys

There are more flavors of Linux than there are flavors of Jelly Belly.  Okay, maybe there’s not that many but amid the flurry of Linux variations five reign supreme:

  • Red Hat
  • CentOS
  • Debian
  • Ubuntu
  • SUSE Linux

The Red Hat and CentOS flavors of beer taste the same because CentOS used the Red Hat recipe to brew it.  Similarly, the Ubuntu linux distro tastes the same as the Debian distro because it was derived from Debian.

Linux is everywhere

Do you have a Galaxy S5?  Linux is inside.  A Google Nexus?  Linux is inside.  A Kindle?  Linux is inside.  A Roku?  Linux is inside.

The traffic control system in San Francisco?  Yup, Linux is inside.  The New York Stock Exchange?  Linux is inside.  Air traffic control systems? Yup, those run on Linux too!

Thank God the aviation industry isn’t relying on Windows XP to prevent our planes from careening into each other.

The Bottom Line

Linux is the world’s preeminent open-sourced operating system.  It’s everywhere, has been around for decades; new branches are spawned every year.  Linux is not going away.

Businesses rely on Linux to run mission critical applications and consumers use Linux without even realizing it (hint: Android anyone?)

That’s why I want to make you more valuable to the world by helping you develop and fortify your Linux skills.  Whether you’re a tyro or a expert, going through this tutorial series will give you everything you need to kick butt in Linux.

In the next guide, we’re going to dig into the details of open source licensing because there are different types that you need to understand before we can jump into the command line.  Check back tomorrow for the second part in the series and share you thoughts below.

I want to hear from you!

What do you think about the open-source movement?  Is it a smart idea?  Can you think of any drawbacks to the open model?  Let me know in the comments below!

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