Linux OS (Operating System)
Linux is the best-known and most-used open source operating system. As an operating system, Linux is software that sits underneath all of the other software on a computer, receiving requests from those programs and relaying these requests to the computer’s hardware.The Linux open source operating system, or Linux OS, is a freely distributable, cross-platform operating system based on Unix that can be installed on PCs, laptops, netbooks, mobile and tablet devices, video game consoles, servers, supercomputers and more.he Linux OS is frequently packaged as a Linux distribution for both desktop and server use, and includes the Linux kernel (the core of the operating system) as well as supporting tools and libraries. Popular Linux OS distributions include Debian, Ubuntu, Fedora, Red Hat and openSUSE.
For the purposes of this page, we use the term “Linux” to refer to the Linux kernel, but also the set of programs, tools, and services that are typically bundled together with the Linux kernel to provide all of the necessary components of a fully functional operating system. Some people, particularly members of the Free Software Foundation, refer to this collection as GNU/Linux, because many of the tools included are GNU components. However, not all Linux installations use GNU components as a part of their operating system. Android, for example, uses a Linux kernel but relies very little on GNU tools.
Linux was originally developed for personal computers based on the Intel x86 architecture, but has since been ported to more platforms than any other operating system.Because of the dominance of the Linux kernel-based Android OS on smartphones, Linux has the largest installed base of all general-purpose operating systems.Linux is also the leading operating system on servers and other big iron systems such as mainframe computers, and the only OS used on TOP 500 supercomputers (since November 2017, having before gradually eliminated all competitors). It is used by around 2.3% of desktop computers. The Chromebook, which runs the Linux kernel-based Chrome OS, dominates the US K–12 education market and represents nearly 20% of the sub-$300 notebook sales in the US.Linux also runs on embedded systems—devices whose operating system is typically built into the firmware and is highly tailored to the system. This includes TiVo and similar DVR devices, network routers, facility automation controls, televisions,video game consoles and smartwatches. Many smartphones and tablet computers run Android and other Linux derivatives.
How does Linux differ from other operating systems?
In many ways, Linux is similar to other operating systems you may have used before, such as Windows, OS X, or iOS. Like other operating systems, Linux has a graphical interface, and types of software you are accustomed to using on other operating systems, such as word processing applications, have Linux equivalents. In many cases, the software’s creator may have made a Linux version of the same program you use on other systems. If you can use a computer or other electronic device, you can use Linux.
But Linux also is different from other operating systems in many important ways. First, and perhaps most importantly, Linux is open source software. The code used to create Linux is free and available to the public to view, edit, and—for users with the appropriate skills—to contribute to.
Linux is also different in that, although the core pieces of the Linux operating system are generally common, there are many distributions of Linux, which include different software options. This means that Linux is incredibly customizable, because not just applications, such as word processors and web browsers, can be swapped out. Linux users also can choose core components, such as which system displays graphics, and other user-interface components.
What is the difference between Unix and Linux?
You may have heard of Unix, which is an operating system developed in the 1970s at Bell Labs by Ken Thompson, Dennis Ritchie, and others. Unix and Linux are similar in many ways, and in fact, Linux was originally created to be similar to Unix. Both have similar tools for interfacing with the systems, programming tools, filesystem layouts, and other key components. However, Unix is not free. Over the years, a number of different operating systems have been created that attempted to be “unix-like” or “unix-compatible,” but Linux has been the most successful, far surpassing its predecessors in popularity.
Who uses Linux?
You’re probably already using Linux, whether you know it or not. Depending on which user survey you look at, between one- and two-thirds of the webpages on the Internet are generated by servers running Linux.
Companies and individuals choose Linux for their servers because it is secure, and you can receive excellent support from a large community of users, in addition to companies like Canonical, SUSE, and Red Hat, which offer commercial support.
Many of the devices you own probably, such as Android phones, digital storage devices, personal video recorders, cameras, wearables, and more, also run Linux. Even your car has Linux running under the hood.
How can I contribute to Linux?
Most of the Linux kernel is written in the C programming language, with a little bit of assembly and other languages sprinkled in. If you’re interested in writing code for the Linux kernel itself, a good place to get started is in the Kernel Newbies FAQ, which will explain some of the concepts and processes you’ll want to be familiar with.
But the Linux community is much more than the kernel, and needs contributions from lots of other people besides programmers. Every distribution contains hundreds or thousands of programs that can be distributed along with it, and each of these programs, as well as the distribution itself, need a variety of people and skill sets to make them successful, including:
- Testers to make sure everything works on different configurations of hardware and software, and to report the bugs when it does not.
- Designers to create user interfaces and graphics distributed with various programs.
- Writers who can create documentation, how-tos, and other important text distributed with software.
- Translators to take programs and documentation from their native languages and make them accessible to people around the world.
- Packagers to take software programs and put all the parts together to make sure they run flawlessly in different distributions.
- Evangelists to spread the word about Linux and open source in general.
- And of course developers to write the software itself.
How can I get started using Linux?
There’s some chance you’re using Linux already and don’t know it, but if you’d like to install Linux on your home computer to try it out, the easiest way is to pick a popular distribution that is designed for your platform (for example, laptop or tablet device) and give it a shot. Although there are numerous distributions available, most of the older, well-known distributions are good choices for beginners because they have large user communities that can help answer questions if you get stuck or can’t figure things out. Popular distributions include Debian, Fedora, Mint, and Ubuntu, but there are many others.
Why is the Linux operating system better?
When it comes to operating systems people have always hailed Windows and Mac OS X as the two front-runners of the OS battle. However, due to recent efforts of the ever-growing Linux community, this scenario has changed only to accommodate Linux as a beleaguered underdog. Thanks to its escalating popularity amongst desktop users worldwide, the open sourcehas already been deemed as a serious competitor to Windows and Mac OS X . Similarly on the server side, many corporations are switching to due to its reliability and speed. So then, what is it that makes Linux so special when contrasted with other OS’s namely Windows and Macs? Why are many people switching to an operating system that is not only free but is not even backed by any multi-million dollar corporation?
Why not Windows or Mac OS X?
Ok, let us tackle the problems with Windows and Macs first. Windows, developed by Microsoft Corporation, is the Operating System with the largest market share. However, this doesn’t make it the best when it comes to quality and consistency as it is constantly marred with problems of viruses and malware. Also, the initial investment in a Windows PC is much higher than what a consumer expects to pay. First it is the cost of the hardware itself, then the cost of the license to run Windows, then an Office program, and finally to protect it all, a decent antivirus software. In short, the license may carry an affordable price tag but the expenses finally pile up to burn a large hole in the consumer’s pocket. As for computers that come with Windows pre-installed, the cost of antivirus, Office utilities and other non-free programs usually overrides the buyer’s budget. Furthermore, the version of Windows provided is usually Home or Business edition, which lacks many features the Ultimate version provides.
Coming to Macintosh computers, they, unlike Microsoft, prefer to sell their software bundled with their own hardware. claims that their design, feature-set and stability are much superior to any of Microsoft products; even if it comes at a very high price point. Nevertheless, Macs, despite their holier-than-thou attitude towards Windows and Linux, are far from being the perfect computers. Consumers and Microsoft employees frequently complain that Macs are significantly overpriced than a normal laptop/PC. Apple does have many quality programs for its users but most of them are highly priced and are not open source. Furthermore, Apple has gained notoriety for making closed, locked-down Mac exclusive products thus creating a walled garden of their own.
Note: The points mentioned above are not intended to offend any Windows or Mac lovers. I’m merely pointing out that Windows and Macs, contrary to popular belief and marketing claims, are far from being perfect and flawless products.
After pointing out all the downsides of Windows and Macs, I come to the main point, that is, why should anyone switch to Linux. We all know that it is for geeks, don’t we? Besides, how good can an OS be if it completely free and open source? Let’s tackle all these questions one by one.
Myth 1: Linux is just for geeks
Linux is for everyone. While Linux based distributions like Ubuntu, Linux Mint and Fedora are developed with the non-technical user in mind, Slackware and others appeal to the more geeky ones. Believe it or not, installing is actually easier than a Windows installation , and using it requires no special skills.
Myth 2 : Linux can’t handle Excel, Word, Powerpoint
Linux can handle all the major file formats when it comes to documents as it comes with a powerful opensource Office suite called (soon to be replaced by Libreoffice). So, apart from doing all the spreadsheets, presentations, and word processing out of the box, Linux can do tasks like publishing, image editing using only free and open source applications.
Myth 3 : Linux is free, so it sucks.
Many people think that Linux, because it is free, cannot be considered as a ‘product’, and thus, it may not be as good as Windows and Macs. This belief however, is completely wrong. Linux is the result of contributions by millions of users from all around the world, and it is through their incessant efforts that Linux continues to be free. Besides, what’s bad about being free anyway? After all, the best things in life are free; aren’t they?
Myth 4 : Desktops are dead, so is Linux
With the rapid emergence of smartphones, tablets and a myriad of handheld devices running powerful softwares, the popularity of desktops is slowly falling. However, this process is slow, and many have denied the fact that desktops will get replaced by devices like tablets; at least for the next 5 years. Whichever way the paradigm shifts, Linux enthusiasts won’t be disappointed as almost all the next-gen gadgets being developed are already capable of running Linux. Consider for example, Android smartphones which are rapidly overtaking Apple’s iphones; these devices are running on Android Operating System which is based on … yes, you guessed it right … Linux. Also when it comes to tablets, Android powered tablets have started appearing in the market ready to take on Apple’s ipad. Finally, with the steady growth of Linux based netbooks, one can without any doubt, conclude that whatever happens to desktops, Linux isn’t dead or dying; it is in fact, the future.
Myth 5 : But Linux can’t handle my favorite software XYZ which is windows-only.
Linux maybe not be capable of running a particular program like Photoshop, but it does have an opensource alternative with equivalent features called Gimp. Many such closed-source programs exist to which Linux provides great open source alternatives. A good way to find those is through site which provides a list of quality alternatives to many leading applications. Furthermore, a popular software called Wine makes it possible for Linux users to run many Windows programs without any virtualization or emulation. If that too, doesn’t suit the user, he or she can always try dual booting which many Linux users do.
Myth 6 : Linux can’t do gaming
Windows, unlike Linux and Macs can always boast of the thousands of games it is capable of running. However, that doesn’t mean gaming is an Utopian concept to the Linux world. Many indie developers have started developing games for Linux , and of course many games that run on Windows work flawlessly on Linux thanks to softwares like Wine, PlayonLinux and Transgaming Cedega. ’s a list of the much-awaited games for Linux in 2011. Also, Steam now works flawlessly and natively on Linux making the OS a hotbed for new innovation in gaming
Myth 7 : Linux lacks support.
While Microsoft and Apple both boast of an excellent support, Linux, by default doesn’t offer any professional support. To make up for the lack of support, Linux offers multiple ways of seeking help; one such way is through forums .The Linux community is very large and simply posing a question in a forum, one gets a reply within a few minutes and sometimes seconds. Don’t believe me? Try asking a valid, Linux related question on and a helpful reply will come quicker than you expect. For the impatient ones, there is IRC; that is, internet relay chat, where many developers and users hang out to helping other users. If that isn’t adequate, one can always buy offered by Ubuntu, which comes at a fair and reasonable price.
Top Linux Operating Systems
Arch Linux is a rolling-release distribution that has been around for all 14 years of the Distrowatch rankings.
A rolling release distribution for the power user, Arch has grown in the presence and boasts one of the largest software repositories.
Stand out features include the AUR and incredible documentation.
Championed by a large community this distribution provides everything the experienced Linux user could ever need.
It took until 2010 for Arch to hit the top 10 and its highest position was in 2011 when it reached 6th position. This can be largely put down to the complexity of the distribution.
CentOS is a community version of Red Hat Linux which provides all of the stability and power of its parent.
It has been around for quite a while but only hit the top 10 distributions in 2011.
It is a good solid distribution without frills and perfect for home and business use.
Damn Small Linux
Damn Small Linux (DSL) has been around since about 2003/2004 and its main selling point is that it has an incredibly small footprint.
The download size of DSL is just 50 megabytes and for a few years it was in the top 10 distributions but it slipped out of the list in 2009 and has been falling ever since. It’s the highest position was 6 into 2006.
The main issue with such a small image is that it requires a lot of setting up to get it to do anything. A novel idea but not much real world substance.
Debian is the only distribution to have been in the top 10 since 2002.
Its highest position is 2 and that is its current ranking.
Debian is a founding father of Linux and it provides the base for many of the other distributions available today including Ubuntu and Linux Mint.
Used by professionals and large businesses makes it a key distribution for people thinking of getting into Linux as a career choice.
It is relatively easy to install and is highly customizable and it is easy to use.
Dream Linux was around up until 2012. It is hard to find information about it.
The screenshot was taken from LinuxScreenshots.org.
Dream Linux hit the top 10 rankings in 2008 and it must have been the 3.5 releasethat was responsible for its rise.
Based on Debian Lenny, Dream Linux came with the XFCE desktop environment with an option to install the GNOME desktop.
The best tribute that can be given to this Brazilian distribution is from Unixmen who described Dream Linux as fast and beautiful.
Elementary is a relative new comer to the block. It first reached the Distrowatch rankings in 2014 and currently sits at number 7 which is its highest position to date.
The key to Elementary is the visually pleasing and highly aesthetic desktop.
The concept is simple, keep it simple.
Fedora is an offshoot of Red Hat. It is every Linux enthusiasts dream distribution because it is completely cutting edge, bringing all of the new concepts to the table first.
As with Debian, it is a good idea to use either Fedora or CentOS as they provide the perfect platform for anyone wanting to get a career in Linux.
Fedora was one of the first distributions to introduce both Wayland and SystemD.
It is relatively easy to install and the GNOME desktop is easy to use. However, it isn’t always the most stable.
Fedora first entered the Distrowatch top 10 in 2004 and hasn’t been below 5th ever since peaking at position 2 in 2010.
In 2002 Gentoo was the 3rd most popular Linux distribution. Of course, that was a time before graphical installers.
Gentoo isn’t for the faint-hearted and is used by a core community of people who live to compile code themselves.
It dropped out of the top 10 in 2007 and currently sits in position 34.
Technically speaking based on hits per day it is only slightly less popular than is was back in 2002 but the popularity that Linux has gained means easier to use distributions will always jump ahead.
A niche distribution for the full on Linux geek.
Knoppix is a Linux distribution designed to be run from a DVD or USB drive.
It has been around a very long time and first hit the top 10 in 2003, peaking at its highest position of 3rd before dropping off the list in 2006.
It is still going and is currently on version 7.6 and it resides in position 55.
The one thing that has been consistent in the past 14 years is the obsession with making Linux distributions that look like Windows.
One of the very first was called Lindows but the name had to be changed because it was too close to a certain other company’s trademark.
Lindows only appearance in the top 10 was in 2002 at position 9 although it went on to become Linspire.
Lycoris was a desktop Linux distribution based on OpenLinux Workstation and designed to look a lot like Windows.
Even the background was designed to emulate Windows XP.
Lycoris was at position 8 in the rankings in 2002 and maintained the top 10 position in 2003 before disappearing into obscurity.
Mageia started out as a fork of Mandriva (one of the most popular distributions in the early noughties).
Still, one of the biggest distributions around Mageia is designed for ease of use with a simple installer and decent repositories.
Mageia first appeared in the top 10 in 2012 where it peaked as the 2nd most popular distribution of the year.
It has remained in the top 10 ever since although for the past 6 months it has dropped to number 11 proving once and for all that it is one thing getting into the top 10 but a completely other thing staying there.
Mandrake / Mandriva
Mandrake Linux was the number 1 distribution between 2002 and 2004 and there is a good reason for that.
Mandrake was the first Linux distribution that I ever successfully installed and it was the first to be compatible with hardware devices such as printers and modems. (for the young-uns out there modems were things we used to connect to the internet for the full 56k experience).
Mandrake changed its name to Mandriva and was a top 10 distribution until 2011 when it sadly came to an end.
Mageia picked up the mantle and instantly became a hit.
There is still a project called Open Mandriva available.
Manjaro is currently my favorite Linux distribution.
The beauty of Manjaro is that it takes Arch Linux and makes it simple for the average ordinary everyday dude.
It first hit the top 10 distributions in 2013 and is set this year to finish in its highest position.
Mepis was a top 10 distribution between 2004 and 2007 and peaked at position 4 in 2006.
It is still going today and is based on the Debian Stable branch.
Mepis claims to have the easiest installer around and it comes as a live distribution for trying it out before you dive in completely.
The current number 1 distribution in the Distrowatch rankings.
Linux Mint’s success is down to its ease of use and the traditional desktop interface.
Based on Ubuntu, Linux Mint takes it to another level with good innovation and it is very stable.
Linux Mint first hit the top 10 in 2007 and hit the top spot for the first time in 2011 (probably due to the initial Ubuntu Unity disaster) and it has stayed there ever since.
In the early 2000’s there was a distribution called SUSE which secured a top 10 space up until 2005.
In 2006 OpenSUSE was born and it quickly took over the mantra.
OpenSUSE is a stable distribution which is suitable for everybody to use, with decent repositories and good all round support.
It peaked at number 2 in 2008 and it remains in the top 4 today.
There are two versions available, Tumbleweed and Leap. Tumbleweed is a rolling release version whereas Leap follows the traditional release method.
PCLinuxOS first hit the top 10 in 2004 and it remained in the top 10 until 2013.
It is still a really good distribution which follows the mantra of being easy to install and easy to use. The hardware compatibility is also very good.
PCLinuxOS has a great support network and its own monthly magazine.
It is currently sitting just outside the top 10 distributions in 12th position.
Puppy Linux is one of the most innovative Linux distributions ever created.
Designed to run off a CD or USB drive, Puppy provides a full Linux desktop solution with hundreds of great little tools for just a few hundred megabytes.
Puppy has its own tool for allowing other distributions to be based on it and a whole raft of them sprung up including LXPup, MacPUP and Simplicity.
The main Puppy distribution had two versions, one binary compatible with Slackware called Slacko and the other binary compatible with Ubuntu.
Its creator has concentrated recently on a new distribution called Quirky.
Puppy first hit the top 10 in 2009 and stayed there until 2013. It currently sits in 15th place.
Red Hat Linux
Red Hat is a commercial distribution used by large businesses all around the world.
In the early 2000s, it was in the top 10 distributions occupying the 2nd place for 2002 and 2003 before dropping out of the top 10.
Red Hat remains popular in the business world but more casual users are more likely to use Fedora or CentOS which are community versions of Red Hat.
If you are planning a career in Linux then at some stage you are likely to end up using this distribution.
Sabayon is a Gentoo-based distribution and it largely does for Gentoo what Manjaro does for Arch.
According to the website Sabayon is designed to do the following:
We aim to deliver the best “out of the box” user experience by providing the latest open source technologies in an elegant format.
Sabayon first hit the Distrowatch top 10 in 2007 where it peaked in 5th place. It dropped out of the top 10 in 2011 and it currently resides in 34th.
Slackware is one of the oldest distributions and remains popular amongst its core users.
It was started in 1993 and according to its website, it has the twin goals of ease of use and stability.
Slackware was in the top 10 Distrowatch rankings between 2002 and 2006 peaking at position 7 in 2002. It currently sits in position 33.
Sorceror was in the Distrowatch rankings in 2002 peaking at position 5.
Little information can be found about it except for the fact that it used magic words as a way of installing software.
As with Red Hat in the early 2000s, SUSE was a top 10 distribution in its own right peaking at number 3 in 2005.
SUSE is a commercial distribution which is why openSUSE was born as a community distribution.
It was started in 1992 and according to its website, it became the leading distribution in 1997.
In 1999 it announced partnerships with IBM, SAP, and Oracle.
SUSE was acquired in 2003 by Novell and openSUSE was born.
Ubuntu first became prominent in 2004 and quickly rose to the number 1 spot in 2005 where it stayed there for 6 years.
Ubuntu took Linux to a whole new level. In 2004 Mandrake had top spot with 1457 hits per day. When Ubuntu took number 1 spot in 2005 it had 2546.
Still one of the most popular distributions today Ubuntu mixes innovation, a modern desktop, good support, and hardware compatibility.
Xandros was based on Corel Linux and was in the top 10 distributions in 2002 and 2003 albeit in 10th place.
Yoper was an independent distribution which hit the top 10 distributions in 2003.
It was built for i686 computers or better. According to Wikipedia, its defining feature was a set of custom optimizations aimed at making it the fastest distribution.
Unfortunately, it quickly disappeared into obscurity.
Zorin is a Linux distribution which provides the user with a custom desktop changer.
The user can choose to emulate many other operating systems such as Windows 7, OSX and Linux with a GNOME 2 desktop.
Zorin came in 2 flavors including the main version and a LITE version for older computers.
It peaked at number 10 in 2014, although its current 6-month ranking is 8th.
The current version available is 9 from the website based on Ubuntu 14.04. There were versions 10 and 11 but they are no longer available for download.