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Introduction to Linux - A Hands on Guide
This guide was created as an overview of the Linux Operating System, geared toward new users as an exploration tour and getting started guide, with exercises at the end of each chapter.
For more advanced trainees it can be a desktop reference, and a collection of the base knowledge needed to proceed with system and network administration. This book contains many real life examples derived from the author's experience as a Linux system and network administrator, trainer and consultant. They hope these examples will help you to get a better understanding of the Linux system and that you feel encouraged to try out things on your own.
Click Here to receive this Complete Guide absolutely free.
Linux by itself is just a kernel, that part of an OS that abstracts the hardware and offers a programming interface to be used by applications/libraries, with the most known library that is using the kernel interfaces being the GNU C library (Glibc).
On top of the kernel you will find a collection of tools and libraries that will give you the advanced functionality, like a command interpreter/shell, string processing tools, ... . On desktop Linux systems this part is usually taken by the GNU tools and the Bash shell, but you can find other environments on embedded systems or mobile devices, like an Android phone.
If you want to have a graphical user interface you need a display server that gives you basic window handling and drawing capabilities. This is on desktop systems usually the X server (aka X Window System) using the implementation from the X.org project, but nowadays replacements are in development that fit better for modern hardware, like Ubuntu's Mir or X.org's Wayland.
On top of the X server you will usually find window managers (like Openbox, Fluxbox, WindowMaker, Enlightenment, Awesome, i3, fvwm, XMonad, ...) or fully fledged desktop environments (like KDE, Gnome, Unity, Cinnamon, Mate, XFCE, ...), that give you enhanced capabilities do manage windows and virtual desktops (+ commonly used tools like calculators, text editors, ..., in case of the desktop environments).
This kind of modularity is common to all UNIX-like operating systems, only that you will see different parts replaced with other implementations on different UNIX systems, you won't find the GNU tools by default on most (if not all) BSD systems, but their own implementation of these tools.
One big difference between Linux and Windows is that Windows is really geared to the personal computer: that's what it was intended for. Yes, you can get server and embedded versions of Windows, but they're not as good for the job: that's why only about 30% of servers (mostly in small companies) have Windows.
In contrast, Linux is found on supercomputers, mainframes, servers, personal computers, smart phones (i.e. Android), and embedded computers. Your router and digital TV are probably running it. That's where the modular nature of a Linux system, that Tobi outlined, comes in handy: you just get what you need. The servers and routers don't need the X-window system. Eliminating unnecessary stuff, like the open source model, make things far easier to develop and debug.
On PCs, reasons for using Linux vary. The Gendarmerie in France use Linux for security reasons, NASA and the International Space Station for reliability, Brazilian schools for economy. Many home users will have similar preoccupations. A South African may use it because that's what they used at school. Some of us just slipped into it: my path was Sinclair QL running QDOS (like Linus Torvald himself) > Q60 double booting QDOS and Linux > PC running Linux alone.